Marwan Barakji

Marwan, aged 26, was diagnosed with stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. He faced his cancer diagnosis like he faced everything else in life – a soldier. Sadly, Marwan never reached remission and died after 13 months and three lines of back to back nonstop chemo. A top medical student, he believed in the power of immunotherapy and while he got very close to trying ground-breaking CAR T cell therapy, it was heartbreakingly too late.

Marwan's Story...

Marwan was a thriving, respected top medical student in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. He was passionate about his work and loved his patients even more. In March 2020, one week before the world shut down, he was diagnosed with stage 4 fusion positive alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma in his pelvis. When he was diagnosed, the cancer had spread to his lungs, multiple vertebrae along the spine and other bones throughout his body.

Prognosis was dismal and no words of encouragement ensued. Regardless, the chances weren’t 0% and as a family we decided to pursue conventional treatment which consists of some of the most brutal chemotherapy there is. His treatment was led from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada. He was told that as an adult, rhabdomyosarcoma is more aggressive and less responsive but nonetheless this was the best option for him. He was told adults cannot tolerate more than 10 cycles of chemotherapy, but Marwan soldiered on to take 14 cycles of VAC, 2 cycles of Irinotecan/vincristine and 1 cycle of etoposide/ifosfamide. All 17 cycles failed to tame the relentless beast.

Fever, neutropenia, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, broken bones, back pain, emotional distress, COVID isolation, lonely hospital visits, even lonelier hospitalizations, watching the world move on, his future disappear, his body fall apart. Those are just SOME of the things he experienced fighting this monster.

Immunotherapy was our only option. A brave and compassionate doctor in China, Dr. Lung-Ji Chang was willing to treat Marwan as part of a clinical trial. We were told that patients with low disease burden respond the best and while Marwan was not the best candidate, we were out of options and he wanted to try a non chemotherapy option he believed in. We managed to get a VISA to China in the middle of a worldwide pandemic which in and of itself seemed like a miracle and finally we were so close to treatment.

Four days before he was supposed to receive a groundbreaking CAR T cell therapy an MRI scan showed a shocking 5cm metastasized tumor to the cerebellum that rendered the therapy more harm than good. Sadly, Marwan died without trying the CAR T cell therapy but with the full belief in its potential to heal future patients suffering with rhabdomyosarcoma.

By the end, Marwan’s primary tumor was gone but there were metastasis to the lungs, entire spine, ribs (of which he broke himself upon examining the rib), kidneys, soft tissue (too many spots to list), femur, colon, right eye and cerebellum. He died yes, but the cancer died with him too and for that we are grateful the suffering is done.

What was your journey with cancer like?

Hell is too kind of a word to describe what this journey was like. I am his sister and so I can only imagine what my parents felt and are feeling now with this gaping void. There are no good words other than it was desperation, love, pain, exhaustion, emotional torment all mixed into one and living one minute at a time knowing tomorrow may never come. We also knew that if it came, pain was guaranteed to join us hand in hand. Wanting it to end but not end all at the same time.

What changes would you like to see for children diagnosed in the future?

Marwan was adamant and clear – immunotherapy is the way forward. Chemotherapy is brutal and should not be offered to patients in an advanced stage. There is no quality of life on chemotherapy despite what some oncologists wish to believe. We need to do better. His dream was to be cured of this and to help pave the path for children to also use immunotherapy as the solution instead of poison, burning and cutting. Less harsh treatments, a move away from killing all cells and a focus on personalized immunotherapy for each cancer patient. In Marwan’s words, you can only beat cancer by fighting smarter not harder.

News

Read all the latest fundraising news, charity news and commentary on childhood cancer.

Pilot findings published in an article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Our ‘Say My Name’ Season’s Greeting’s card are now available to buy.
Epic cycling challenge for Amber’s Arc raises over £11K.
Telling the stories of the inspirations behind our work is the focus for CCAM 2022
Alice’s Arc referenced in Washington Post news article discussing research in children’s cancers
Lush will be selling a ‘gold’ dragon’s egg bath bomb in support of Dexter’s Arc
An insight into life in the laboratory for Dr Joanna Selfe at the ICR.
The Alice’s Arc annual report covering 1st October 2020 to 30th September 2021.
Alice’s Arc is delighted to be collaborating with CCLG to deliver this research to improve the treatment decision-making process for families.
Delighted to discuss progress on research regarding genetic markers of rhabdomyosarcoma and improving treatment therapies.
They took part in the London West 10kms Tough Mudder in support of Gaspard’s experience with rhabdomyosarcoma.
Sara Wakeling is a patient advocate on the Cancer Grand Challenge, NexTGen.
Delighted to be invited as speakers representing the parental perspective of rhabdomyosarcoma.
Please consider participating in a research interview as part of the REFoRMS (Relapsed and Refractory Rhabdomyosarcoma) study, led by the University of York.
On Tuesday 26th April 2022 this debate was held for the first time with 22 MPs speaking on behalf of constituents.
New research project aims to lead to better outcomes for children with the MYOD1 L122R mutation in fusion negative RMS.
2022 LLHM team of 18 runners raise £16K for research into rhabdomyosarcoma.
On 7th March 2022, we visited Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Alice’s care and treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma was led.
Alice’s Arc had the opportunity to meet the research team undertaking the rhabdomyosarcoma projects invested in and to tour the laboratories
The roles are for a Scientific Project Manager and a Statistician.
This is the first in a series of meet the Alice’s Arc researchers across our research projects.
This new work package will explore the targets identified in RMS model systems with a focus on clinical translation.
We are delighted to appear in the ICR’s latest edition of their twice-yearly Search magazine.
Freddie’s family are inviting you to become part of this special community this Easter and support Alice’s Arc
Will Rutt, aged 20, sadly passed away on Sunday 21st February 2021 after a four year journey with stage 4 ARMS
This project will increase understanding of RAS gene pathways in RMS with a focus on DNA repair and replication stress.
Having being touched by Gaspard’s journey with cancer, a member of staff nominated Alice’s Arc to receive a donation
Assessing The Clinical Value For ct-DNA In Blood To Monitor The Response To Treatments and Identify Disease Recurrence
300 of these candles incorporating Elsa’s very own artwork and name have been sold over the festive season
We are delighted to be supporting five innovative research projects led by several leading cancer research centres
Their daughter, Sophie, was recently diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma and her family are fundraising for the charity.
FaR-RMS opened in September 2020 and is now open in ten sites in England and Scotland and several sites across Europe.
On Friday 6th November 2020 Plan.com organised a turn ‘pink’ fundraising day for Alice’s Arc.
Phil and Vicky Macqueen both ran this virtual event in memory of their niece, Jessica Macqueen.
We worked closely with families impacted by cancer to help local communities and businesses ‘go gold’ and fundraise.
The pandemic of Covid-19 has made it mandatory to wear face coverings in certain settings. Why not buy one of ours?
A unique wing walk, in memory of Alice Wakeling and Freddie Carpenter and to go gold for children with cancer
In memory of Elsa McGee, her Dad and other family walked 125 miles over 5 days along the Leeds to Liverpool canal path
Covid-19 inspired Tom to grow his hair and transform himself in to the Tiger King to raise funds for Hope With Gaspard
To mark Faye’s 5th birthday and as a way of giving back since Faye’s cancer diagnosis, her Aunt and Grandad ran 10kms
Please read this edition of our Annual Report to get a snapshot of our activity for the year and our future plans.
Alice’s school choose Alice’s Arc as their charity of the year for the 2019/20 academic school year
Elsa sadly died in April 2020 and her parents want the funds raised to contribute to research in to rhabdomyosarcoma.
Generous support for the charity enabled us to create goody bags for children with cancer receiving chemotherapy at GOSH
Natalie, a trainee psychologist, is the mother of two boys, both diagnosed with cancer within months of one another.
After a 4 year battle, Elsa sadly passed away from embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma on April 14th 2020.
Alice’s school organised a fun run, on Saturday 14th March 2020, in Knole Park for the whole school and their families.
We hosted 85 people at St Julian’s Club, Sevenoaks on Saturday 14th March 2020 at a ‘Go Gold’ casino fundraising event
Sara was delighted to take up the opportunity to attend this reception in celebration of International Woman’s Day
This tells Alice’s cancer story from her point of view and illustrates the mission and progress of Alice’s Arc
The club supported the charity in 2019 and ran several fundraising initiatives including a quiz.
There have been various fundraising initiatives put in place around the firm’s network in memory of Alice Wakeling.
Local schools Walthamstow Hall Junior and New Beacon held Valentine’s fundraising events
Up Up and Away and Alice’s Arc enjoyed visiting the oncology wards with heart balloons, sweet cones and chocolate hearts
Are you feeling lucky? Please join us for a gold casino fundraising evening raising money for Alice’s Arc.
The Edward Gostling Foundation supports people living with long-term illnesses
Jess Macqueen passed away from rhabdomyosarcoma just 5 months after her diagnosis
We are delighted to announce that, the newly formed fund, Hope With Gaspard, will raise funds for Alice’s Arc
Benjamin Ronsseray nominated the charity for this award following his son, Gaspard’s diagnosis with rhabdomyosarcoma.
The EpSSG meeting brings together international professionals devoted to treating children with soft tissue sarcoma
23 parents ran the Watford Autumn 10K in support of Alice’s Arc
Alice’s Arc has fulfilled it’s initial three year pledge to the ICR and given the team a further £69K for research
The school has already raised almost £10K. Latest fundraisers include the sale of the ‘Alice’ bow and a singing event .
8 cyclists rode over 240 miles from London to Paris over three days to raise funds for Alice’s Arc
On the 8th October 2019, Alice Wakeling passed away peacefully, after almost 5 years fighting rhabdomyosarcoma.
The charity had 14 runners participating in this stunning central London Half Marathon.
We have now donated almost £280K to the ICR team since the inception of the relationship in 2016.
This leaflet provides information on who we are, what we do, why we do it and how you can help.
Shane is taking on this challenge in August, cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, in memory of his nephew, Freddie.
Olivia Ruhen will work in a Postdoc role on the ICR’s rhabdomyosarcoma research team
Over 100 spectators braved snowy conditions to watch 45 people fire walk to raise funds to help children with cancer
We are delighted to be featured in an article in the ICR’s Spring 2019 edition of their Search magazine
Dunn AC Ltd is helping raise awareness and funds for the charity. They have added the logo to their fleet of vans
Alice’s recent scans show no evidence of cancer. The damage from the AMORE surgery and brachytherapy has healed.
In memory of Freddie Carpenter, Waitrose Rickmansworth, supported the charity with their community green coin scheme.
These funds have enabled the recruitment of a Clinical Research Fellow to add to the team researching rhabdo at the ICR.
The ICR has published a report called ‘From patent to patient – analysing access to innovative cancer drugs
We are delighted to share that the charity has raised over £250K since our inception 2.5 years ago.
It’s a huge tribute to a wonderful 5 year old. Donations to Alice’s Arc at Freddie’s funeral reached over £10K
Alice’s Arc is hosting a fire walk fundraiser in conjunction with the Mayor and local Sevenoaks Council
The ICR team continue to make progress researching rhabdomyosarcoma using the funds raised by Alice’s Arc
Finn’s mother arranged a fantastic event in Leigh-on-Sea, incorporating a quiz, a live auction and a raffle.
Team Cheek went on another colossal walk for the charity raising in excess of £3K
The family fun morning hosted by the school Alice attends raised in excess of £2K for the charity.
Finn, passed away from rhabdo, aged 10 after a courageous 18 month fight with the disease.
Two school girls create fresh lemonade recipe and set up a stall selling it at an event celebrating Armed Forces Day
The charity has received support from various individuals choosing to run and cycle to raise money for the charity
Mike ran the London Marathon in 3 hours and 2 minutes raising almost £4K in support of a family impacted by rhabdo
First Give and Hampstead School joined forces to help children support their community and pitch for their chosen causes
Choose Alice’s Arc when shopping on Amazon Smile UK and 0.5% of the purchase price will be donated to us
Alice is being treated using a relapse chemotherapy regime and a specialist procedure in Amsterdam known as AMORE
This money covers the salary of a Higher Scientific Officer to support the ICR’s rhabdomyosarcoma research.
Alice’s Arc has commented on a letter to President Juncker regarding delays to the reform of EU Paediatric Regulation.
The charity is delighted to have received support from accountants, Kingston Smith and a major US private equity house.
Allen & Overy will make an annual donation to support the mission of Alice’s Arc
We have provided funds to enable an injection of the drug, neulasta for a 3 year old boy suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma
The charity has provided the ICR with funds to acquire laboratory reagents and equipment
Current EU legislation allows Pharmas to use a loophole in EU legislation to avoid trialling cancer drugs in children
Paul raised over £2K shaving his 9 inch hair and beard off and donating it to the little princess charity
Make Believe Sevenoaks invited parents of children in their drama class to join in for a day to raise money for charity
Simon and Sandy Haddock showcased their recent art works at an art evening which raised £1K for Alice’s Arc
Rani completed a 25km walk across 16 London bridges raising £1K for Alice’s Arc.
Accenture nominated Alice’s Arc as one of three charities to donate funds raised from its annual OPSCARS auction
Matt Cheek and Dave Watts walked 100km in 24hours for Matt’s 3 year old nephew who has rhabdomyosarcoma.
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Our Mission

We have already raised £2,000,000 and now aim to reach £5,000,000 to pay for research to find a cure and better treatments for rhabdomyosarcoma.
Raised £2,000,000
Target:£105,545 Higher Scientific Officer & Lab Reagents

Year 1

Target:£179,558

Year 2

Target:£214,897

Year 3

Target:£333,333

Year 4

Target:£333,333

Year 5

Target:£333,334

Year 6