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Highlights from our first Children’s and Young People’s Cancer Research Conference

Sophie Wedekind
by Sophie Wedekind | News

29 November 2023

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Group of attendees talking at the Children 's and Young People's Cancer Research Conference at The Royal Society


Cancer Research UK held its first Children’s and Young People’s Cancer Research Conference at the Royal Society in London on 14th November 2023.  

Scientists and researchers from across the UK shared updates about their work to improve how we understand and treat children’s cancers. The in-person event also encouraged awareness and promoted connections across the UK’s children’s and young people’s cancer research community. 

Professor Pam Kearns, Director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham presented on how new ways of running clinical trials can help us test potential drugs for children and young people’s cancers as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible. She also summed up why events like this are so important. 

“The way we’ve been working, for the last decade really, is waiting for the crumbs from the adult drug development table. We’re getting better, but what we actually need now is we need the drugs developed for children’s cancer specifically,” said Kearns.  

“We need to take what we now know about the biology of children’s cancer and work with the organisations in the room (and particularly Cancer Research UK) and say how can we develop drugs for those targets that only happen in children.”  

Kearns and other speakers emphasised what can be gained by bringing all those working in children and young people’s cancer together, including other charities and funders, such as the Little Princess Trust, Children with Cancer UK, and the Teenage Cancer Trust. In a roundtable session, researchers, students and funders also discussed possible solutions to the challenges around children and young people’s cancer research.  

From left: Shaumya, Sarah and Dr Catherine Elliott (Director of research and partnership at Cancer Research UK) talking
From left: Shaumya, Sarah and Dr Catherine Elliott (Director of research and partnership at Cancer Research UK)

Hearing patients’ perspectives

Improving children’s and young people’s cancer research also means centring the experiences of those affected by these cancers. The conference included talks from 2 members of the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Insights Panel, Shaumya and Sarah, on their experiences of cancer and how they’re helping to shape the charity’s work. 

Sarah shared the story of her son, Talan, who was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma aged 18 and died 16 months later. She spoke passionately about the need for better awareness of childhood cancers and for more research to help improve treatments. 

“A true highlight for me was opening the day with a panel discussion featuring Sarah and Shaumya. It was an emotional but important session, making sure we put patients’ perspective at the heart of the day and our continued efforts to drive progress for better survival and long term quality of life for all children and young people affected by cancer.”

- Dr Laura Danielson, Children’s and Young People’s Research Lead at Cancer Research UK.
Shaumya standing in front of a poster for Cancer Research UK's Children's and Young People's Conference, reading 'Different challenges, same determination.'
Shaumya

 

Shaumya is currently a medical student in Glasgow and joined the CYP Insights Panel after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 18. During her treatment she started doing patient advocacy work, becoming passionate about age-appropriate care and being a voice for it.  

“Being diagnosed with cancer as a young person brings with it a unique set of challenges, and the broader impacts are often lifelong. I believe that patient involvement is the best way to further understand the perspectives and priorities of young people and therefore improve their cancer care,” said Shaumya.

That progress can’t be achieved by one scientist alone. It requires communication and collaboration across a wide variety of people and organisations. This is part of Cancer Research UK’s dedication to collaborating with others, driving forward progress so all children and young people can live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.

Conferences are an important way to share the progress we’ve made so far and spark the connections needed to push forward future research. While it might be Cancer Research UK’s first Children’s and Young People’s Cancer Research Conference, it certainly will not be the last. 

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