Christopher’s Smile was set up in October 2008 after we lost our son, Christopher in June the same year to an aggressive medulloblastoma brain tumour. Following a 21 month battle with the disease he passed away 9 days before his 6th birthday. We wanted to find something positive in our tragedy and thought long and hard about the direction we should take.
We feel strongly that new treatments are urgently needed for the 20% of children who do not survive their disease along with those children who survive but face a lifetime of post treatment issues.
Christopher’s Smile does not have a specific paediatric tumour focus but instead provides funding for projects that will benefit the largest number of children possible across the childhood cancer community. The charity has awarded 6 project grants and raised over 1 million pounds.
The current research funding focus of Christopher’s Smile is the development of tumour DNA sequencing for the analysis of tissue and fluid samples.
The lack of innovative targeted drugs for paediatric trials is of particular concern to us. We have actively campaigned for change on a European platform and we have addressed the European Commission and MEPs in Brussels. We are campaigning now to ensure post Brexit UK legislation will not contain the loopholes of the European Paediatric Regulation which allows drug companies to restrict paediatric access to their latest drugs.
Key achievements since the charity was founded
We have funded a researcher for two years from January 2010 to carry out pre-clinical testing of novel agents. New candidate drugs entered clinical trials as a result of the testing. A second researcher took up her post in May 2011 and this research work was funded by Christopher’s Smile for 3 years. The strategic plan of the Institute of Cancer Research and its clinical partner, The Royal Marsden NHS Trust is that new targeted drugs will be the dawn of a new era in childhood cancer treatment. In order to identify the most appropriate children for clinical trials a Paediatric Molecular Pathologist was needed and Christopher’s Smile has funded this position since January 2013. Our fourth researcher, a Clinical Fellow started in May 2014. This researcher will investigate biomarkers and a gene which may be common to both Neuroblastoma and Glioma. We hold quarterly meetings with the Institute to review progress and to ensure the funding we have provided is being used efficiently. Our latest grant is for a 4 year PhD studentship in Molecular Pathology. The chief objective is to develop a test to identify tumour DNA from circulating tumour cells (cfDNA)in either blood or cerebral spinal fluid(CSF).
Reasons to support Christopher’s Smile when already millions are spent on cancer
Thankfully children’s cancers are less common than cancer in adults. In the UK there is no national charity to raise funds specifically for childhood cancer research. Children’s cancers are biologically different to adult cancers and require specific research. Although millions of pounds are spent in the UK each year on cancer research only a tiny percentage of this amount is spent on children’s cancers.
All treatments in front-line use for childhood cancers were developed for adult cancers and the chemotherapy drugs used are not only non-specific but the 10 most common drugs used to treat children have an average age of nearly 50 years.
Research resources are concentrated on the more numerous adult cancers, leaving childhood cancer research to continue at a slower pace due to the availability of funding.
We pay no wages, we make use of volunteers, we control our costs and when expenditure is unavoidable it is covered by either specific grants or paid for by the Trustees.
Our belief is that every penny of a donation should be used for the cause for which it was given. We respect donors wishes to choose how their money is spent. If a donor has a particular request within the paediatric oncology area, we fulfil this, for example, by ensuring that specific research is funded or an item of lab equipment is purchased. As Trustees we have a duty to ensure that donations are spent in the best way and we take that responsibility very seriously. 100% of the money will be allocated to a specific area of research towards our goal of providing effective treatments for childhood cancers.