Oscar Sawyer

We get many letters here at Cancer Research UK but it’s not every day that an eight-year old writes us a letter suggesting a clever way we might go about tackling cancer.

Oscar Sawyer wrote us this letter a few months ago with a very interesting idea. He suggested taking DNA from slow growing cells and putting it in a person with cancer, so that the cancer cells would grow more slowly, giving more time for the cell’s DNA checkers to spot the mistakes and help fix the cancer cells.

Oscar letter 1

Original letter from Oscar: Dear Cancer Research, My name is Oscar and I am 8 years old and I go to Saltsord Primary School. I am interested in biology. I have an idea in how to beat cancer. Take some D.N.A from an animal that has slow dividing cells and put it into a human with cancer then these cells will slow down so it can be cured. I will draw a picture for you. Picture 1: The cancerus cell is going to clone Picture 2: The cancerus cell has divided Picture 3: The cancerus cell is growing 1 mm per hour. This is slower than normal so the D.N.A. checkers can check the D.N.A. for the errors easier to correct them. From Oscar Sawyer

We were so thrilled and surprised by Oscar’s letter that we responded with a letter of our own.

We explained that, while we can’t exactly use slow-growing cells to treat cancer, parts of Oscar’s ideas are already being used in existing treatments, like Herceptin, that target cancer cells and help slow the growth of cancer.

We also suggested that Oscar look into a molecule called P53. Oscar’s mum, Jo Chambers, told us Oscar raced off to the library to learn more. What did he find out? We wanted to know – so we asked him.

Here’s what he told us:

“Amy at Cancer Research UK asked me to find out about P53 which is a gene. It is called the guardian of the genome.

“P53 heals cells stopping cancer by stopping cell growth and correcting cell deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or killing the cell if the damage is really bad.

“If the P53 is faulty then that means it can’t heal the cell and this happens in 50 out of 100 cancers but if you are lucky your P53 will still be working.

“Plus I’ve read about viruses. They might cure cancer by acting like a normal virus but when they spot the cancer they infect the cancer cells and poison them.”

Looks like Oscar is becoming a promising young cancer researcher.

We think it’s fantastic that the next generation is taking an interest in cancer research and it’s encouraging to think people like Oscar might become the scientists of the future.

We can’t wait to hear what other ideas Oscar comes up with next.