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A new treatment for childhood cancer

Louis Chesler appearing on Panorama_Image credit: BBC, 2015_Image credit: BBC, 2015

Dr Louis Chesler is a leading figure in the development of new drugs for hard-to-treat childhood cancers. He was inspired to choose a career in finding new treatments for children with cancer because it means he can make a long-lasting contribution to their lives.

Panorama features a research programme led by Dr Chesler that has led to the development of new drugs for ‘ALK-positive’ childhood cancers. Although cancers in children are often grouped according to where a tumour arises in the body, they can also be categorised depending on which genetic mutations are present in a tumour – for example mutations to the gene ALK, which is commonly found in treatment-resistant neuroblastoma but also in a range of other cancer types.

The BBC filmed Dr Chesler in our ‘mouse hospital’ – where members of his team carry out trials of new potential ALK-targeting drugs in mice before aiming to trial the most promising candidates in clinical trials at The Royal Marsden and elsewhere.

Sophie, the young girl featured in Panorama and one of Dr Chesler’s patients in his Marsden clinic, was given an ALK-targeting drug developed thanks to this work – and responded well to the treatment. It was a huge inspiration to Louis and his team to see that Sophie responded so well.

Panorama also features a joint project between Dr Chesler and Dr Gabriela Kramer-Marek which aims to improve the technology used to monitor the effectiveness of potential drugs in mice. This project could lead to new targeted drugs for childhood clinical trials. The BBC filmed a high-pressure live experiment in our PET scanner room, where Dr Kramer-Marek’s team was up against the clock to generate image data before the radioactive samples used to produce them decayed.

Dr Chesler works closely with several other teams across the ICR – including Dr Simon Robinson’s team, which is pioneering new ways of using magnetic resonance imaging technology to evaluate the effectiveness of potential drugs.

He is also a passionate advocate for our policy work to speed up the development of new treatments for children with cancer, for instance through supporting our call to remove a European Union loophole which allows companies to avoid testing potentially life-saving drugs in children.