Health & Lifestyle

Cancer Research UK-funded drug trials may spare kids from lifelong chemotherapy negative effects

Beaming with pleasure in a rainbow-coloured gown, it is onerous to think about that eight-year-old Holly Hughes has suffered leukaemia twice.

Aged simply two she was identified with some of the frequent childhood cancers – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which impacts white blood cells – and confronted gruelling chemotherapy and steroid remedy. It left her so weak she wanted physiotherapy to be taught to stroll once more.

And final yr she was identified with one other type of the illness, acute myeloid leukaemia, or AML, which impacts the bone marrow. But now she is flourishing – a shining instance of the more and more constructive prognoses for kids identified with frequent cancers at the moment.

Overall 90 per cent of youngsters with leukaemia now survive no less than 5 years. The remedy, nonetheless, is aggressive, with many potential negative effects. About ten per cent of youngsters with AML, for instance, find yourself with everlasting coronary heart injury from the poisonous chemotherapy – some even want transplants. But most chemo may cause infertility, lung issues, listening to issues and might even result in secondary cancers rising a long time later. In some instances, kids lose their lives to those problems.

ALL SMILES: Holly Hughes, eight, with her little sister Summer, two, and brother Harry, four

ALL SMILES: Holly Hughes, eight, together with her little sister Summer, two, and brother Harry, 4

Professor Louis Chesler (pictured), head of the Centre for Paediatric Experimental Medicine on the Institute for Cancer Research in London, says: ‘There is a big want for a lot much less poisonous therapies for kids. Chemotherapy and radiation are used at excessive doses, which produces numerous injury to tissue and to main organs. We want to maneuver on and perceive how new medication would possibly work in kids’

But a revolution in most cancers analysis is starting to deal with this, decreasing the impression of chemotherapy on younger, growing our bodies. The astounding developments imply that kids throughout the nation are surviving most cancers with fewer negative effects than ever earlier than.

Holly participated in a ground-breaking Cancer Research UK-funded trial investigating whether or not a brand new drug might permit medical doctors to decrease the dose of poisonous chemotherapy. Other analysis tasks goal to see if surgical procedure alone may very well be sufficient to treatment some kids. Some discover genetic therapies, hoping they will cease ailments forming within the first place.

Professor Louis Chesler, head of the Centre for Paediatric Experimental Medicine on the Institute for Cancer Research in London, says: ‘There is a big want for a lot much less poisonous therapies for kids. Chemotherapy and radiation are used at excessive doses, which produces numerous injury to tissue and to main organs. We want to maneuver on and perceive how new medication would possibly work in kids.’

Heartwarming tales equivalent to Holly’s are being highlighted at the moment as a part of the Mail’s Fighting To Beat Children’s Cancer marketing campaign, in partnership with Cancer Research UK. The marketing campaign is elevating cash for very important analysis into cancers that have an effect on kids and younger folks, and we’re asking readers to dig deep. The trials outlined right here show that, finally, the remedy might now not should be worse than the illness.


Researchers at University College London Hospital are investigating whether or not some kids with a uncommon kind of lymphoma could be spared any chemotherapy by any means.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a most cancers which impacts the immune system, and about ten per cent of instances are often known as nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL).

The tumours develop when white cells referred to as lymphocytes multiply within the lymph nodes and develop uncontrolled, and might unfold to different components of the physique.

Most kids with it should have surgical procedure to take away the affected lymph nodes within the chest, neck or beneath the arms, or chemotherapy. Some older teenagers have radiotherapy as a substitute.

This is extremely efficient, saving 90 per cent of sufferers.

But beforehand, among the chemo medication used led to coronary heart and lung injury and elevated the danger of stroke. It additionally typically resulted in fertility issues.

An worldwide examine, referred to as EuroNet PHL-LP1, is now whether or not surgical procedure or low-dose chemo is perhaps sufficient to treatment kids and teenagers. Children on the trial are given surgical procedure first and are solely given chemo – simply three rounds, and at a a lot decrease dose than common – if there’s nonetheless most cancers remaining. No radiotherapy is used.

TRIAL SUCCESS: Elliot Abel, now 23 from Essex, during treatment with a low dose of chemo after being diagnosed with cancer in 2013 at age 14

TRIAL SUCCESS: Elliot Abel, now 23 from Essex, throughout remedy with a low dose of chemo after being identified with most cancers in 2013 at age 14

Associate Professor Ananth Shankar, paediatric oncologist at University College London Hospital who’s main the UK arm of the examine, explains: ‘Some of the earlier chemo was very, very poisonous and excessively intensive. The majority of sufferers who died did so as a consequence of negative effects from remedy or secondary most cancers brought on by the remedy.

‘Most survive into their 20s and 30s however then face cardiac issues afterward brought on by the remedy.

‘It’s a double whammy to the guts if kids additionally obtain radiotherapy. There have been extreme downside with fertility, too.’

One of those that benefited from the examine is Elliot Abel, from Essex, who was identified with NLPHL in 2013 at age 14 after discovering a lump on his thigh.

Today, aged 23, Elliot just isn’t solely cancer-free, however he is been spared the worst of the negative effects, having had minimal poisonous chemo.


In the Seventies, only a third of youngsters identified with most cancers survived, now it’s greater than three-quarters.

Elliot’s father, David, 57, informed The Mail on Sunday that medical doctors have been amazed at how properly Elliot responded to the low-dose chemotherapy. Just a few days earlier than Christmas 2014, he was informed he wanted no additional remedy.

‘Just over a yr after he was identified, we have been informed he was absolutely in remission,’ David mentioned. ‘He had some hair loss, which nonetheless impacts him a bit, and nausea after each chemo session. He additionally needed to freeze some sperm samples in case his fertility was affected. We do not know the result of that but. But in any other case he was spared some horrible issues.

‘I’ve seen children with burns to their pores and skin from radiotherapy, hair that hasn’t come again and children who’re actually low from all of it. For teenagers, that is so onerous. It’s onerous to place into phrases how fortunate we really feel. It’s like we received the lottery.’


Neuroblastoma, which develops in nerve cells within the chest or stomach, is most frequently identified in kids beneath 5 and is notoriously powerful to deal with. Particularly aggressive, it requires some of the intense and poisonous remedy regimes for any most cancers.

This includes surgical procedure, chemo and radiotherapy, typically with lengthy hospital stays and a myriad of harmful negative effects which might linger for all times, together with lung and listening to issues.

Despite this harsh remedy, solely half of youngsters with the highest-risk type of the illness, who’ve a selected gene, will survive.

But analysis funded by Children With Cancer UK in Sheffield has been investigating whether or not focused medication used for girls with breast and ovarian most cancers may very well be a far ‘kinder’ different for these kids.

The medication, referred to as parp inhibitors, are at present used to deal with ladies with the mutated genes BRCA1 – which affected Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie – and BRCA2. But the examine suggests additionally they work for neuroblastoma instances linked with one other genetic abnormality.

The bonus is the medication do not have an effect on wholesome cells, and in adults they’ve had few negative effects.

‘Children with one of these neuroblastoma at present obtain among the most intense remedy used for any kind of most cancers,’ mentioned Dr David King, paediatric oncologist at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

‘This analysis may imply extra kids survive the illness and want much less poisonous remedy.’


For kids with acute myeloid leukaemia, affecting the bone marrow, remedy requires poisonous chemotherapy that may trigger everlasting coronary heart injury and, over time, coronary heart failure. The kind of chemotherapy medication used, referred to as anthracyclines, are essential to spice up survival, which for some kids is as little as 40 per cent.

In high-risk instances equivalent to Holly’s, the illness have to be put into remission earlier than sufferers can have a stem cell transplant to revive their immune system. But a Cancer Research UK trial, referred to as MyeChild 01, is investigating whether or not extra kids survive if one other drug, referred to as gemtuzumab ozogamicin, is given alongside chemo.

The new drug, a so-called focused remedy, locks on to a protein on the floor of leukaemia cells and releases a tiny dose of chemotherapy immediately into the cell, minimising the injury to wholesome tissue.

The trial goals to learn the way a lot of this drug can safely be given alongside the poisonous chemo.

Future trials may then have a look at decreasing the poisonous chemo dose to guard the guts.

Holly, from Rugby, Staffordshire, took half within the trial final yr after she was identified in February 2021. After recovering from a special type of blood most cancers – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia – as a toddler, her mother and father have been informed there was solely a 5 per cent probability it could return.

But it got here again, albeit in a special, rarer kind. Seeing Holly endure from the negative effects of remedy the primary time round meant her mom, former nurse Christina, 32, who has two different kids – Harry, 4, and two-year-old Summer, was decided to do every little thing she may to restrict additional injury.

‘Holly went from being an energetic toddler to not having the ability to stroll due to the steroids she was taking,’ mentioned Christina.

‘She needed to be taught to stroll once more and so they actually affected her temper and behavior. She misplaced her hair from the chemo, which additionally made her actually sick and drop pounds.

‘So once we have been supplied the trial to take this new drug, we needed to take it. We needed to do something we may to assist.’

Holly spent six months in hospital being handled, together with a stem cell transplant in May final yr, and rang the bell to sign the top of her remedy two months later. She is having common coronary heart monitoring which exhibits no indicators of issues to date.

‘Even if the trial hasn’t helped Holly, it should assist different kids down the road,’ mentioned Christina.


When Oliver Bell was born earlier this yr, his mother and father feared the worst. An ultrasound scan had discovered a 6cm lump on his thigh, which medical doctors mentioned was more likely to be an childish fibrosarcoma – a smooth tissue most cancers which would wish surgical procedure adopted by chemotherapy.

But because of groundbreaking DNA evaluation from a pattern of Oliver’s blood, carried out at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, little Oliver was spared any remedy in any respect after assessments discovered the lump was, the truth is, benign.

This form of evaluation, often known as entire genome sequencing, can present essential details about the tiny mutations in most cancers cells that are driving the illness.

RELIEF: Baby Oliver Bell with parents Michael and Sara

RELIEF: Baby Oliver Bell with mother and father Michael and Sara 

Oliver’s mom, major college instructor Sara, 26, mentioned: ‘For the primary eight weeks after Oliver was born, we lived with the prospect of most cancers dominating all our lives and chemotherapy being the subsequent step. Two weeks after his entire genome check, every little thing modified. We discovered his tumour is benign and getting smaller with out remedy. We could not be extra relieved.’

At almost six months outdated, scans present that Oliver’s tumour has shrunk naturally from the 6cm initially discovered to simply 1cm.

Whole genome sequencing is proving revolutionary in kids’s most cancers. In one examine on the NHS East Genomics Hub in Cambridge, performing the assessments helped inform medical doctors which remedies would work greatest on every baby, and meant some kids wanted less-intensive remedy. Paediatric oncologist Professor Matthew Murray mentioned: ‘It means essentially the most kids are cured with the least negative effects and due to this fact can lead essentially the most fulfilling lives, not solely in childhood however into maturity.’

A examine referred to as SMPaeds, half funded by Cancer Research UK, can also be utilizing genetic sequencing to match kids with superior cancers to ground-breaking trials.

The subsequent part of the trial will examine utilizing liquid biopsies – easy blood assessments – for genetic evaluation, as a substitute of invasive surgical procedure to take away samples of tumour, which additionally take longer to course of.

Prof Louis Chesler, who’s main the trial, mentioned: ‘Relapsed cancers could be very aggressive and we lose a 3rd of youngsters earlier than we get their genetic outcomes again. We want one thing fast. We hope to get to a stage the place blood check outcomes come again in the identical day and children get on to a brand new remedy quick.’


British researchers are investigating genetic clues which could predict the event of leukaemia in kids.

Studies have proven that one in 100 kids are born with two genes fused collectively in a tiny fraction of their blood cells. In a few of these kids, this irregular gene interacts with a 3rd gene, triggering a course of which results in the event of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most typical kind of childhood most cancers.

A workforce at University College London has now discovered {that a} drug can block the genes from interacting.

Professor Tariq Enver, a director at UCL Cancer Institute who’s main the analysis, mentioned this seems to cease the method that sparks the creation of leukaemia cells. Even if the drug is launched after leukaemia cells have developed, it additionally seems to kill them.

While the mission, funded by Children With Cancer UK, is at an early stage, Prof Enver mentioned his goal was to have the ability to establish kids prone to the illness, even within the womb or at delivery, and intervene to cease leukaemia ever growing.

‘The remedy for this illness is damaging,’ mentioned Prof Enver.

‘People say it is curable in most youngsters, so why hassle? But for those who can goal the method which causes leukaemia, you cease kids from ever having to expertise any of it.’


Be assured that 100 per cent of your donation will fund Cancer Research UK’s work into cancers affecting kids and younger folks. Here are examples of the kind of exercise your donation will assist.


£10 may shake up remedy choices for mind tumour ependymoma, most typical in beneath fives. Currently, the survival price for kids is simply 60 per cent. If 40 folks give £10, it may fund at some point of a scientific trial.


£20 may assist researchers discover out if new most cancers remedies work, funding information analysts’ time in addition to very important gear. If 100 folks give £20, it may purchase refined equipment to check most cancers.


£30 may assist fund employees for scientific trials that convey new medical remedies to kids. This sum may fund one hour of time with a senior analysis nurse – serving to get extra kids on to trials.


The Daily Mail is delighted to be supporting Cancer Research UK by our fundraising enchantment.

100% of all cash raised will assist Cancer Research UK’s work into cancers affecting kids and younger folks, in order that extra 0-24 yr olds can survive most cancers with a superb high quality of life.

If you want to make a donation

BY CHEQUE: Make cheques payable to Cancer Research UK (Daily Mail) to, Cancer Research UK, PO Box 1561. Oxford, OX4 9GZ.


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