Paediatric Cancer

Paediatric Cancer Programme

The most common childhood cancers are cancers of the blood (leukaemias and lymphomas), brain, and central nervous system, accounting for over two thirds of the cancers diagnosed in children. Between 2014–2016, around 1,800 children were diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK. An additional 2,600 young people aged betweeen 15 and 24 are also diagnosed each year. Much research is directed at designing less toxic therapies, reducing therapeutic burden, and developing diagnostic tests to enhance patient stratification. This research is made possible in Cambridge by strong links between research labs and the clinic as well as contributions to international clinical trials.

Advancing research into children’s cancer and leukaemia across Cambridge
Cambridge Childrens

The Programme has many members involved in the development of the new Children's Hospital, which will be based on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus alongside Addenbrooke's Hospital.

A key focus of the new hospital will be cancer services for children and young people alongside world leading research.

Junior Group Leader - Isaia Barbieri
Investigating the role of RNA modification in leukaemias and lymphomas, particularly through METTL1, METTL3 and TGS1.
Left to right: Isaia Barbieri, Valentina Miano, Annalaura Cocca, Shi-Lu Luan

Latest publications: Pandolfini et al. METTL1 Promotes let-7 MicroRNA Processing via m7G Methylation. Mol Cell April 2019

Paediatric leukaemia and lymphoma

Research on paediatric leukaemia and lymphoma is conducted in the lab of Dr Suzanne Turner in close collaboration with clinical colleagues, namely by Dr Amos Burke.

Projects include characterising tumour heterogeneity in paediatric non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and investigating minimal residual (MRD) and minimal disseminated disease (MDD) as prognostic factors.

Research into paediatric leukaemias is analyzing mechanisms of therapy resistance and divulging novel therapeutic targets. This research is undertaken with close alignment to a portfolio of clinical trials conducted at both International and National levels. 

Networks and collaborations

EICNHL - European Inter-Group for Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (Suzanne Turner is current Biology Chair)

GLoBNHL trial developed by the ACCELERATE platform along with EICNHL, COG and ITCC

Latest publications

Del Baldo et al. Neuro-meningeal Relapse in Anaplastic Large-Cell Lymphoma: Incidence, Risk Factors and Prognosis - A Report From the European Intergroup for Childhood non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Br J Haematol 2020 July

Prokoph et al. IL10RA Modulates Crizotinib Sensitivity in NPM1-ALK-positive Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. Blood 2020 June

Attarbaschi et al. Rare non-Hodgkin Lymphoma of Childhood and Adolescence: A Consensus Diagnostic and Therapeutic Approach to Pediatric-Type Follicular Lymphoma, Marginal Zone Lymphoma, and Nonanaplastic Peripheral T-cell Lymphoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2020 May

Ducray et al. The Transcriptional Roles of ALK Fusion Proteins in Tumorigenesis. Cancers (Basel) 2019 Jun. 

Malignant germ cell tumours (GCTs)

Malignant germ cell tumours (GCTs) are complex cancers that affect patients of all ages. They develop from cells that produce eggs or sperm and mostly occur in the ovaries and testes. Around 2,500 men are diagnosed with testicular GCTs every year in the UK alone, and the disease is a leading cause of death of young men.

Dr Matthew MurrayDr James Nicholson and Prof Nick Coleman are leading research on the causes on GCTs, in particular in the investigation of the role of microRNAs; they were the first to show that increased levels of these microRNAs are present in the blood when malignant GCTs are diagnosed and that levels of the molecules can be monitored during treatment. In the future, microRNAs found in the blood are likely to be useful for improving the accuracy of diagnosis and disease-monitoring in other solid tumours of childhood.

Networks and collaborations

MaGIC consortium - (James Nicholson is current Vice-Chair and Matthew Murray is a member of the Executive Committee)

Latest publications

Murray et al. Clinical utility of circulating miR-371a-3p for the management of patients with intracranial malignant germ cell tumors. NeuroOnc Adv. April 2020

Singla et al. Serum microRNA-371a-3p levels to predict viable germ cell tumor in chemotherapy-naïve patients undergoing retroperitoneal lymph node dissection. J Clin Onc. Feb 2020

Depani et al. Results from the UK Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group study of extracranial germ cell tumours in children and adolescents (GCIII). Eur J Cancer. 2019 Jul 12;118:49-57 

Latest collaborations

Dr Matt Murray is collaborating with Dr Raheleh Rahbari (Wellcome Sanger Institute) to investigate developmental origins of germ cell tumours

Uganda Cambridge Cancer Initiative

The Programme is part of an exciting new collaboration with the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, Uganda, alongside Cambridge Africa and Cambridge Global Health Partnerships.
Dr Suzanne Turner and her group have exchanged visits with research groups at UCI and are working with UCI to improve research and treatment for childhood lymphomas.

Greyhound Limb Sparing Surgery
Paediatric musculoskeletal cancers

Research on paediatric musculoskeletal cancers is conducted in the labs of Professor Matthew Allen and Dr Jane Dobson. They are interested in preclinical modelling, with a particular emphasis on paediatric cancers (such as osteosarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewings sarcoma) and adult cancers that spread to bone (such as breast, prostate, renal and lung cancer). They use a combination of cell culture and preclinical animal models to explore the mechanisms through which these cancers grow in bone and then spread (metastasise) to other organs.

They also work with dogs and cats with naturally-occurring cancer to evaluate new therapies and work on strategies for prevention of metastasis. It is known that certain soft tissue sarcomas appear more frequent in specific breeds of dog, suggesting an underlying genetic influence, which they are exploring.

Ultimately, they seek to develop new approaches to diagnose, track and treat these cancers in both animals and humans.

Funding: Sarcoma UK

CRUK for Children and Young People

Find out more about CRUK's new strategy to support children’s and young people’s cancer research and tackle the challenges preventing progress.

See CRUK's children's cancers in numbers for graphics and statistics showing the breadth of cancer types in this age group.

Cancer Research UK Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence

The Cancer Research UK Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence (CRUK-CBTCE) brings together teams at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) to revolutionise the approach to research and treatment of paediatric brain tumours, drawing on the host institutions' strengths in therapeutic discovery.


To forge an innovative four-stage pipeline that generates curative treatments for children with brain tumours.


To transform the way, the world develops treatments for children with brain tumours. The research strategy for the CRUK-CBTCE is centred on their biology, drug discovery and development pipeline, which will leverage the expertise of the brightest minds in the paediatric brain tumour field. For more information on the CRUK-CBTCE, please visit their website.


Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the peripheral nervous system and is largely diagnosed in children under the age of 5. On average, around 100 children will be diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year in the UK alone.

Research into this rare paediatric cancer in Cambridge is conducted in the labs of Prof. Anna Philpott and Dr Suzanne Turner. In the former lab, research is being conducted to elucidate the relationship between cellular proliferation and differentiation and how this finely controlled balance is affected in neuroblastoma. In the latter lab, the mechanisms of drug resistance of some neuroblastoma sub-types is being analysed. 

Funding: Neuroblastoma UK, CRUK, MRC

Latest publications

Moreno et al. Accelerating Drug Development for Neuroblastoma: Summary of the Second Neuroblastoma Drug Development Strategy Forum From Innovative Therapies for Children With Cancer and International Society of Paediatric Oncology Europe Neuroblastoma. Eur J Cancer 2020 July

Trigg et al. Opportunities and challenges of circulating biomarkers in neuroblastoma. Open Biology 2019 May


ALK is increasingly recognised as a prevalent oncogene in a number of human malignancies, including anaplastic large cell lymphomas.
The European Training Network ALKATRAS (ALK as A target of TRAnslational Science) is supporting a cohort of 15 early stage researchers to become the next generation of cancer research specialists, several of whom are working in Suzanne Turner’s group in Cambridge.

Programme Contacts

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Paediatrics
Programme Lead
University of Cambridge
Department of Pathology
Programme Lead
University of Cambridge
Department of Oncology
Programme Manager

Selected publications