Improving bowel cancer treatment: unlocking the power of a single cell

Single cell cancer evolution project team
Patient representative Pete Wheatstone (3rd left) and the Single Cell Cancer Evolution research team

Pete Wheatstone, our Gastrointestinal Cancers Theme patient representative has lent his perspectives and expertise to a wide range of projects for the BRC, including an on-going study investigating new techniques to improve the treatment of bowel cancer. 

Pete discusses how he is helping to shape this ground-breaking research.

What is the project?

Through the BRC, I got involved in a major international research project to investigate how treatment for bowel cancer can be tailored to individual patients using lab-grown tumours.

Researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, uncovered that ‘mini tumours’, which are grown from patient biopsy samples, can be used to test cancer drugs.

The project will help clinicians be more informed about how a patient’s cancer may be evolving both now and in the future. Thus, doctors will know in advance which treatment is likely to be most successful for each bowel cancer patient

What did you do?

From the outset, I worked closely with the project team to contribute to the grant application in order to make sure the patient perspective was properly considered and that information about the research was appropriate for a non-scientific audience.

I also framed the aims of the research within the context of patients’ concerns:

  • Will my treatment be successful?
  • What will happen if my cancer returns?

Additionally, I provided activity plan and costings for patient and public involvement for the five-year period of the research project.

The project is set to run for five years and I will be representing the patient viewpoint throughout, alongside another patient representative from the European patient’s forum EuropaColon. Throughout the lifetime of the project, I will continue to work closely with the researchers to write blogs and other articles in order to spread the word about the research with other patients and the public. 

Why did you get involved?

I believe that it is incredibly important to have a patient representative involved throughout the research process to ensure that studies focus on issues most important for people affected by bowel cancer.

I also want to share the progress being made in research and so I plan to attend a range of conferences. Another big focus of my activities will be to write blogs and articles in lay language for the benefit of bowel cancer patients in the UK, throughout Europe, working alongside European cancer patient organisations as well as my social media contacts. We have just agreed a number of future suitable topics for my blogs and articles.

My activities apart from representing the patient’s perspective will provide current and future bowel cancer patients with a degree of hope (but not hype!) about the potential of future improvements in cancer treatment.