Our Funded Research

Other / Multiple Cancer Types

Using an antibody 'smart bomb' to help the body fight cancer

With Dr Francis Mussai

Our immune systems detect and fight abnormal cells, like cancer or cells infected with viruses, every day. A lot of childhood cancers can manipulate immune cells, called suppressor cells, so that the anti-cancer response is switched off, leaving the cancer to grow and multiply.  If we could target these suppressor cells, it could be a safer treatment with fewer side effects.

Dr Francis Mussai at the University of Birmingham has developed a treatment that targets suppressor cells. The treatment uses antibodies that help the immune system recognise the suppressor cells and kill them, allowing access to the cancer cells. In this project, the researchers will investigate how well this treatment works, with the hope to use their data to move into clinical trials.

Project title: Targeting Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells (MDSCs) and Tumour-Associated Macrophages (TAMs) with the anti-CD33 immunotoxin Gemtuzumab ozogamicin to restore anti-cancer immunity
Lead investigator: Dr Francis Mussai, University of Birmingham
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded: January 2019
Award: £94,060.69

Read More Here

Reducing the side effects of chemotherapy

With Professor Lucy Donaldson

A chemotherapy medicine called Vincristine is used to treat several types of childhood cancer. However, there are side effects that come with this, including pain and pins-and-needles in the patient’s hands and feet. This is because the chemotherapy can damage nerves, as well as attacking the cancer.

Professor Lucy Donaldson at the University of Nottingham wants to find a way to prevent these side effects, as patients can struggle with pain from their treatment for years later. Her team have created new chemicals that could prevent the nerves being damaged. They plan to test whether these chemicals can stop the nerve damage and reverse long-term pain. This project is first step in developing completely new ways of stopping the long-lasting pain and nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. These experiments could contribute to new drugs that would improve the lives of people after cancer treatment.

Project title: Can we reduce or eliminate the sensory nerve damage caused by vincristine chemotherapy? Potential novel adjunct neuroprotective/analgesic therapies.
Lead investigator: Professor Lucy Donaldson, University of Nottingham
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded: August 2019
Award: £95,820.30

Read More Here

Identifying new drugs for the treatment of retinoblastoma

With Professor Majlinda Lako

Retinoblastoma is a common type of childhood eye cancer. Many of the treatments for it have serious side effects, and if the cancer returns there aren’t many more options. This all shows that there is a clear need for new treatments with fewer side effects.

Professor Majlinda Lako and her team at Newcastle University have been looking at the genetics of retinoblastoma cells. They have found the genetic triggers that lead to healthy cells becoming cancerous and identified which drugs could target these triggers. Now, the researchers are ready to test the new drugs they found. Whichever drugs are the most successful will then be tested to see whether they can reach the retina of the eye through the bloodstream, and how long they work for once there. Professor Majlinda Lako hopes this project will revolutionise retinoblastoma treatment.

Project title: Harnessing the power of patient specific organoids to discover new therapeutic treatments for retinoblastoma
Lead investigator: Professor Majlinda Lako, Newcastle University
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded: July 2022
Award: £199,902.00

Read More Here

International clinical trial to test the use of dye during children’s cancer surgery

With Mr Max Pachl

Surgery is an important part of the treatment for many young people with cancer, but it does not always go as planned. Parts of the tumour can be left behind or missed, other organs can be damaged when the surgeon tries to get all the tumour out.

Mr Max Pachl from the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham wants test the use of a special green dye in childhood cancer surgery. The dye glows when looked at with light from special cameras. This means the surgeon can see exactly where the tumour is, making it easier to remove all of it and to avoid damaging to healthy organs.

In this project, a computer will randomly choose which patients will have the dye used in their surgery and which will not. This is so that the results can show if there is a difference between using the dye and not, such as less damage to healthy tissue or more tumour successfully removed. Mr Max Pachl hopes that the results will show whether using the dye makes surgery easier and safer so that more children can be helped.

Project title: GLOSurgery: indocyanine Green and near infrared fluorescence in Paediatric Oncology surgery. A randomised, multinational, multicentre study.
Lead investigator: Mr Max Pachl, Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded: July 2022
Award: £656,327.63

Read More Here

Protecting young hearts from chemotherapy-related heart problems

With Dr Roisin Kelly-Laubscher

Some types of chemotherapy, like doxorubicin, can cause damage to the patient’s heart – but doctors often don’t have a choice because they need to fight the cancer. However, if they could give another medicine at the same time which would protect the heart, it could help prevent long-term health problems for children.

Dr Roisin Kelly-Laubscher at University College Cork plans to find out whether a medicine, called ethanolamine, could protect the heart if given before doxorubicin treatment. Her lab knows that this drug can decrease damage caused by doxorubicin one type of heart cell in the lab, called fibroblasts. However, there is another type of cell, called cardiomyocytes which are more important to protect. In this project, Dr. Kelly-Laubscher will see how the medicine affects these heart cells, then find out what dose and timings would work best. She hopes that this project will help take this treatment one step closer to clinical trials, where it can help real patients.

Project title: Protecting young hearts from drug-induced cardiotoxicity.
Lead investigator: Dr Roisin Kelly-Laubscher, University College Cork
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded:  July 2023
Award: £52,097.00

Read More Here

Investigating nanomedicines to make treatment safer for children with cancer

With Dr Marie-Christine Jones

Medicines which treat cancer can have a lot of side effects and even cause long-term health problems because they also damage healthy cells. We really need new and safer treatments. One way to do this could be with nanomedicines, which use tiny particles to deliver the anticancer medicines. These can be safer because they can slip through the gaps in tumour blood vessels, which are especially leaky – these tiny medicines struggle to get through healthy blood vessels to attack normal cells.

Dr Marie-Christine Jones at the University of Birmingham wants to look at the use of nanomedicines in children, as they are currently mostly used for adults. This project aims to understand how nanomedicines work for children, learn more about leaky blood vessels, and test nanomedicines in leaky blood vessel models to find out which ones would work best.

Project title: Nanomedicine stratification to decrease the toxicity of anticancer treatment in children.
Lead investigator: Dr Marie-Christine Jones, University of Birmingham
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded:  July 2023
Award: £49,313.43

Read More Here

How does MYCN change the way genetic information is read in childhood cancer?

With Professor Karim Malik

Cancer cells grow out of control due to changes in their genetic instructions. These instructions tell a cell how to behave, so when there are changes it can cause serious issues that lead the cell to become cancerous. Sometimes parts of the instructions, called genes, are incorrectly switched on or off. This changes what proteins the cancer cell makes, which has a big impact on how it behaves. In some cancers, this is caused by there being too much of a protein called MYCN. Not only can this protein turn instructions on or off, but it can also change the way they are followed.

In this project, Professor Malik wants to find out how MYCN alters the translation of these instructions into proteins. He is focussing on a specific way that MYCN does this, which has not been studied before. Professor Malik believes that this work assessing how MYCN alters how genetic instructions are read and followed, will lead to new ways to diagnose and treat children with many of the different cancers that involve MYCN. 

Project title: The tRNA epitranscriptome: the missing link in MYCN-driven tumours
Lead investigator: Prof Karim Malik, University of Bristol
Funded by: The Little Princess Trust
Funded:  July 2023
Award: £49,916.00

Read More Here

The MBE for voluntary groups was awarded to The Little Princess Trust by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.