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New Hope for Children with Cancer


Friday 1 December 2006


Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research have made a significant breakthrough in predicting the behaviour of Wilms' tumour (a type of childhood kidney cancer). For children with the aggressive form of the disease, who have a lower chance of survival, this research offers new hope through the possibility of targeted treatments. The publication coincides with the launch of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.


In the UK around 70 children are diagnosed with Wilms' tumour each year - the fifth most common childhood cancer.  The majority of these children have a good chance of survival following standard treatment. However, around 15% have a form of the disease which is more prone to return and have only a 50% chance of survival. At present it is not possible to predict whether a child's cancer is likely to relapse or not.


The research by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, funded by Cancer Research UK, is published today in the journal Cancer Research*. Using DNA microarrays, which allow the measurement of thousands of genes at the same time, the scientists found a significant link between an increased number of copies of the IGF1R gene and an increased risk of treatment failure and relapse.


The IGF1R gene codes for the IGF1R protein, a cell surface receptor that plays a key role in cell growth and division. The scientists found that children with more copies of the IGF1R gene have a greater number of these receptors on the surface of their cancer cells. It is hoped that this development will provide a new target for treating children with this aggressive form of Wilms' tumour.


Lead investigator, Dr Chris Jones, Team Leader in Paediatric Molecular Pathology at The Institute of Cancer Research said: "These early results represent a significant development in our understanding of why some Wilms' tumours may be resistant to conventional treatment. They are particularly exciting as we have identified a defect for which there are already new drugs entering clinical trials."


Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, concluded: "This research finding of subtle genetic differences within the same type of cancer may help in identifying which Wilms' tumours are likely to respond less well to treatment. It may, therefore, one day lead to new and different, more successful options for treating children with this particular sub-type of the disease."


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* Cancer Research issue 66 volume 23


Childhood Cancer Awareness Month runs from 1st - 31st December 2006

The results are based on a study of 68 Wilms' tumour samples

For further information, interviews with people affected by Wilms' tumour or researchers please contact:

Nadia Ramsey at The Institute of Cancer Research

Tel: 020 7153 5359 / 07788 427 856


Note to Editors

  • The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe's leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
  • The Institute works in a unique partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, forming the largest Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Europe. This relationship enables close daily contact with those on the frontline in the fight against cancer - the clinicians, the carers and most importantly, the patients.
  • The Institute is a charity that relies on voluntary income. The Institute is one of the world's most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 90p in every £ directly supporting research.

About Cancer Research UK

Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.

  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit

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