Sara Wakeling takes on patient advocate role for NexTGen Cancer Grand Challenge

Sara Wakeling, from Alice’s Arc, is delighted to be a patient advocate on the Cancer Grand Challenge designed to tackle solid tumours in children and known as NexTGen. Sara was privileged to be involved in the grant application process and the interview with the incredible and passionate global team of scientists and patient advocates. Sara will now be involved in leading and implementing the patient involvement and engagement plan for the project.

Sara attended the launch summit in Washington DC on June 16th 2022 where the announcement was made that NexTGen had been successful in securing the £20million grant over five years. from Cancer Grand Challenges, a global initiative funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute in the USA. Sara was delighted to be part of the launch presentation and you can view the moment she set the scene about the why and the heart behind NexTGen here.


The challenge set is to tackle solid tumours in children. The team led by Martin Pule, UCL and Catherine Bollard from Children’s National Hospital, Washington DC will aim to bring next generation CAR T-cell therapies to children with solid tumours. The vision from Martin Pule is to ensure that these CAR T-cell therapies will be at the frontline within a decade. Central to the work is the launch of three early phase clinical trials – one in the UK and two in the USA. They will initially be focussed on rhabdomyosarcoma, ewings sarcoma and aggressive brain tumours.

Martin Pule, co-lead, UCL said: “Our vision is that CAR T-cell therapy for solid childhood cancers will be at the front line within a decade, improving outcomes for children with the poorest prognosis and mitigating the toxicities of our current standard of care. By bringing together a critical mass of diverse researchers with a focus on bench to bedside and back again, we believe we’ll overcome current challenges and realise this vision”

Catherine Bollard, co-lead, Children’s National Hospital commented: “With our Cancer Grand Challenge, we hope to bring next-generation CAR T-cell therapies to children with solid tumors. What excites me most is the energized, passionate group of people we’ve brought together to take this challenge on. Big problems remain to be addressed, but we believe they can be solved, and that we’re the team to solve them

Sara Wakeling said: “NexTGen represents crucial and overdue work. It has hope written all over it. NexTGen hopes to transform the way these aggressive solid tumours are treated with less toxic side-effects, giving the children a real chance at growing up and realising their potential. I’m so proud to be part of this exceptional team of scientists, clinicians and advocates who want to change the story for those diagnosed.”

Watch this space for updates on how this work takes shape!



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