Paediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer

Research aims

The department of Paediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer comprises approximately 50 scientists and clinicians from a variety of disciplines organised into 8 research groups with a shared remit to understand more of the factors that determine the development, behaviour and response to treatment of cancers in children and young people. Specifically, our research aims are:

  • To understand the genetic and environmental factors that predispose to cancer development in children and young people
  • To describe the patterns of incidence of these cancers
  • To understand the personal, psychological and social challenges faced by young people with cancer
  • To identify genetic alterations characteristic of individual cancer types and to understand their biological roles
  • To investigate the utility of disease biomarkers
  • To shift treatment toward more targeted therapy

Total research grant income for the Department is approximately £2 million per year, currently made up of 5 programme grants and over 30 project grants. The research groups are spread between the Christie Hospital, the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre and the Stopford Building. We also have active research collaborations within the Faculty, across the University and with colleagues throughout the UK and internationally.

Broad themes

Research within the Department can be described in terms of the broad themes of:

Teaching

Undergraduate and postgraduate teaching have a strong focus within the Department. Members of research staff provide teaching and act in a Clinical Advisory role to undergraduate medical students. At any time, there are several postgraduate students working towards MDs or PhDs within the Department.

Clinical services

There is a close interplay between cancer research and the provision of clinical services to children and young people with cancer from Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and South Cumbria. Several members of the Department have clinical sessions at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and the Christie Hospital and the Department contributes substantially to numerous national and international clinical trials of childhood and adolescent cancer.

Background

In the 1960s, average 5-year survival for childhood cancer was around 25%. Since that time, co-operative study groups around the world have improved survival by investigating the effects of alterations in multi-agent chemotherapy regimens, surgical approaches and radiotherapy protocols, frequently in the context of multi-centre, randomised, controlled clinical trials. The results of these collaborations are current average 5-year survival figures in excess of 70% for children and 75% for adolescents and young adults.

Childhood and young adult cancer constitutes a host of different diseases. Each is associated with its own pathogenesis, therapeutic challenges and outcome figures. Thus, while survival as a whole has improved, there are still many types of cancer for which cure is still a long way off and others for which long-term survival is achieved only with serious and sometimes devastating treatment-related effects.