The fight against childhood cancer

Amber-PhilpottDr Frank Mussai and his team of clinicians at the Birmingham Children's Hospital is developing new treatments for children with cancer.

His research involves investigating the links between adult and childhood cancers and the immune system, and focuses on blood cancers such as acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and solid cancers like neuroblastoma - two of the most common and hardest to treat childhood cancers.

Frank's research looks at the mechanisms that enable cancers to suppress and bypass the immune system, with the aim of developing drugs that reactivate the body's natural defences. This research was driven forward by a donation of a sample of blood from Amber, a young girl who was only a year old when she died of AML. Her blood sample revealed new insights into the way cancer affects the immune system and has shaped his research ever since.

The blood sample revealed that AML cancer cells are reliant on an amino acid called arginine to survive, while non-malignant healthy cells can tolerate long periods of arginine depletion. These laboratory studies are now being developed into new forms of therapy and will soon enter clinical trials.

Currently there is little funding available for testing the results of adult cancer drug trials in children. Your donation will make a real difference in support of the research. £300 will pay for a hotplate stirrer; £6,216 covers a refrigerated centrifuge and £35,000 provides for the salary for a post-doctoral scientist for one year.

How you can help

Email giving@contacts.bham.ac.uk, or make a donation today at www.bhamalumni.org/givenow.