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Discovery Club learns of “lost tribe” of young adult cancer patients

Professor Winette van der Graaf

Members of our Discovery Club gathered at Chelsea Physic Garden in London earlier this month to learn about the unique challenges posed in treating cancer in teens and young adults.

Professor Winette van der Graaf, an international expert in research on sarcomas, shared the stories of some of her past patients, making a clear case for more dedicated research into better treatments and specialised care for this patient group.

People diagnosed with certain types of cancer in their late teens or early twenties often have worse outcomes than those diagnosed as children. Diagnosis can be slow, access to trials is limited and participation is low.

Referred to as the “lost tribe”, teens and young adults are regularly caught between paediatric services and those designed for older patients, Professor van der Graaf said at the event.

These young people are at a key phase of development in their lives – taking important exams, starting University or their first job, or starting a family. They can be held back by the harsh treatments they receive and the psychological impact of fighting their cancer.

Personalising treatments to patients’ needs

Professor van der Graaf, Professor of Personalised Oncology and Team Leader in Clinical and Translational Sarcoma research at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology at the Royal Marsden hospital, is using precision medicine to improve treatment for patients in this age group.

She explained: “We have to think about personalising treatments to patients’ needs because it leads to better response to treatment and also to address, proactively, the issues that young adults face that will impact them in later life.”

The ICR’s Chief Executive, Professor Paul Workman, also spoke to Discovery Club members, expressing his gratitude for their commitment and support for our work.  Guests also enjoyed the opportunity to tour the historic medicinal gardens of Chelsea on a warm summer’s evening.

The Discovery Club is an exclusive group of philanthrophic supporters who enable the ICR to work towards its mission of making discoveries that defeat cancer. Members are invited to attend quarterly events to learn about the ICR’s progress from world-leading scientists and clinicians.



Discovery Club Winette van der Graaf
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