BBC’s award winning documentary series, Horizon, will follow the work of The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in their hour-long episode “Horizon: Defeating Cancer” airing on Tuesday 10 April.
The film focuses on the organisations’ pioneering ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach to cancer medicine, as well as groundbreaking research at the ICR and state-of-the-art treatments used at The Royal Marsden.
The ICR and The Royal Marsden have been working together for over 100 years to improve the lives of patients diagnosed with cancer and today form Europe’s largest comprehensive cancer centre. By working as one integrated centre, the two organisations are able to translate basic science quickly and effectively into clinical benefit for patients and to use observations from clinical trials to drive further basic research.
There are three key elements featured from The Royal Marsden:
Dr James Larkin - breakthrough treatment for advanced melanoma
A Phase III study led in the UK by Dr Larkin and his team at The Royal Marsden brought about a major breakthrough in the treatment of advanced melanoma – vemurafenib. This new drug is an example of the collaborative relationship between The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research.
Dr Nick Van As - CyberKnife
The BBC had unprecedented access to CyberKnife when it performed its first treatment on a patient at The Royal Marsden. The Royal Marsden is one of the first NHS Trusts to install the latest model of the robotic tool, which offers precision-targeted cancer treatment.
Mr Chris Ogden - the Da Vinci S
The Da Vinci S has been termed the ‘vanguard’ of surgical treatment for prostate cancer. It can cut and manipulate tissue through a tiny hole, and so reduce the pain and blood loss caused by open surgery. The BBC filmed while Consultant Surgeon Mr Chris Ogden and his team performed this advanced keyhole surgery.
Each part of the programme followed a patient from The Royal Marsden, filming them at home in the run-up to their treatment and during their hospital visits.
The programme-makers also interviewed three key ICR scientists to learn more about the research driving new treatment successes.
Professor Paul Workman – cancer drugs
The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic cancer drug discovery team. Professor Workman explains the team’s high-tech, creative approach to designing innovative new drugs acting on important cancer targets, which has led to the discovery of 16 new preclinical drug development candidates over the past six years, with six drugs progressing into the clinic in The Royal Marsden. Abiraterone – designed and discovered at the ICR and developed clinically in the The Royal Marsden – was approved last year for metastatic prostate cancer in North America and Europe.
Professor Nazneen Rahman – cancer genetics
Changes in our DNA are an important cause of cancer, and the ICR has identified more genetic changes linked to an increased risk of developing cancer than any other organisation in the world. Professor Rahman explains why understanding the genetic basis of cancer can have a huge impact on patients’ lives through screening, diagnosis and new treatment approaches.
Professor Richard Marais - cancer biology
The challenge of cancer biologists is to work out which genetic mutations are key to cancer’s growth and spread, and which are unimportant “passenger” mutations. The programme reveals how Professor Marais and colleagues at the ICR discovered the mechanisms by which the mutated BRAF gene drives cancer development in around 50 per cent of malignant melanomas, ultimately leading to the development of vemurafenib.
The documentary will air at 9pm on BBC Two, Tuesday 10 April. It will then be available to watch again, for at least a week, on www.bbc.co.uk/horizon. More information on the all the science featured in the programme is available on the ICR website.