Little Princess Trust News
Working together for children with liver cancer
'Greatest number of patients' will improve knowledge
Childhood cancer research is very important – it is the only way that we can improve treatment and care for children with cancer.
However, it’s not always easy to get funding for childhood cancer research, or to actually work on.
Because different types of childhood cancer can be quite rare, it is difficult for researchers to gather a big enough ‘sample size’ to conduct meaningful research.
Sample size just means how many different things researchers can look at, whether it’s the number of cancer samples they can use in the lab, or the number of patients involved in a clinical trial.
Bigger numbers mean that the research is more likely to represent all of the different types of patients and cancer found across the UK or even the world.
In terms of new treatments, this means that we can know how the treatment works for lots of different patients, including for people who have different genetic errors and subtypes of that cancer.
However, it can be really hard to find enough patients with some types of cancer. For example, there are only around 20 children diagnosed with liver tumours each year in the UK.
This is quite a small number, which makes it a lot harder for research to make an impact.
So, what’s the answer? Collaboration!
Professor Keith Wheatley and Sarah Pirrie run the biggest clinical trial for children and young people with liver cancer by working with researchers in 12 other countries. Because the trial is international, they have managed to recruit almost 450 patients.
With such a big sample size, the team can investigate multiple different ideas at the same time.
The impact of the trial could be huge for children.
The trial is looking at six main ideas, including testing new treatment combinations, seeing whether some patients could safely have less chemotherapy, and looking at the side effects of treatment.
It is an exciting opportunity for the research community, having so many patients who have consented to research, as it gives researchers the opportunity to analyse patients’ cancer samples in projects that run alongside the trial.
This means that the trial will not only provide information about current best treatments but will also uncover more details about how liver tumours behave.
The impact of the trial could be huge for children with liver cancer, for example changing treatment protocols and identifying possible new treatments.
The Little Princess Trust funding for the trial will finish soon, but the researchers are already planning their next clinical trial.
The data from the trial is still being analysed, but this work will provide answers to so many of the questions surrounding liver cancer.
Keith and Sarah’s work will provide the evidence that will help doctors choose the very best treatments for their patients.
You can find out more about this project here.