Trust funds vital study into cancer

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A STUDY funded by a Wallsend based charity has shown that a simple genetic test could help young cancer patients.

The Chris Lucas Trust was set up in March 2001 by Lynn and Lynn Lucas, of Wallsend, following the tragic death of their son from rhabdomyosarcoma.

The trust raises funds to continue the vital work of a senior post doctoral scientist who focuses exclusively on rhabdomyosarcoma.

The research position, which the trust has funded exclusively since 2005, is based at The Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research.

A study led by The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has shown that a simple genetic test could help predict the aggressiveness of rhabdomyosarcomas in children and should be introduced into clinical practice.

The test would lead to changes in treatment for many patients, allowing some children to escape potentially long-term side-effects whilst giving others the intense treatments they need to increase their chances of survival.

Treatments for the cancer left Chris with serious side-effects including weight loss, difficulty walking and a painful mouth.

Chris’s mum Lynn said: “Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cruel disease since children can go into remission thinking they have won the battle then find out months later it has returned even more aggressive.

“The current treatments have some dreadful side effects, which children have no choice at present but to tolerate.

“This test could help some children avoid this suffering, making sure only those who really need it receive intense treatment.

“We received a fantastic update from our research funding press release from Royal Marsden ICR.

“It looks like all our funding is making a difference.”

In the study, Cancer Research UK and La Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer, Dr Shipley’s team analysed data for thousands of genes from 225 rhabdomyosarcoma samples.

This identified a panel of 15 gene alterations that could be used to predict how patients responded to treatment.

However, these gene changes were mostly linked to the presence of the PAX3/FOXO1 fusion gene, which is much simpler and cheaper to test for than the other alterations. The test would involve scanning for the presence of the fusion gene in a sample of the patient’s tumour.

Combining the fusion gene test with two existing standard measures of risk for rhabdomyosarcomas – the patient’s age at diagnosis and the tumour’s stage of development – gave a simple but highly effective prognostic test.

A spokesman for ICR said: “Having better information about how aggressively the tumour is likely to behave can help doctors to tailor treatment for each patient that balances the need for effective treatment with the side-effects of such treatment.”

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