Meet the Researcher: Charleen Chan

Charleen Chan smiling into camera with lab coat on

In 2023 Oracle Cancer Trust awarded Charleen Chan, Institute of Cancer Research, funding for her research project “Dynamics of T-cell-driven immune responses to radiotherapy and immunotherapy in a HPV16- positive model of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma”. This research investigates the underwhelming results of combining radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy in clinical trials for Head and Neck cancer. Examining T-cell responses in mouse models, the study seeks to understand and improve treatment efficacy, offering insights into optimal combinations and potentially reducing chemotherapy and radiotherapy doses to mitigate side effects in patients. 

When did you first know that you wanted a career in research?  

Through my training in clinical oncology I have seen first-hand how rapidly the field of treatment options for our patients can change based on new research findings and discoveries. This has made me want to be involved in research that can impact on clinical treatment.  

How did you come to specialise in Head and Neck cancer?  

I worked with Head and Neck cancer patients during my clinical oncology training at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust and The Royal Marsden NHS Trust. Head and Neck cancer affects such a wide range of demographics and both diagnoses and treatment can have such a profound impact on patients’ self-image and quality of life. I applied for a PhD investigating radiotherapy and immunotherapy combinations in Head and Neck cancer as this is an exciting area of research we hope will result in positive outcomes for patients.  

What is the take home message of your research?  

My research aims to investigate the dynamics of T-cell driven immune responses in locally-advanced Head and Neck Cancer. Understanding how T-cells change in activity and function over time when treatments are given can help guide us as to the best method of delivering these treatments and combining them with other agents such as immunotherapy. 

Why did this research need to be done?  

There has been increasing interest in treatments that boost the body’s immune response against cancer (immunotherapy) to lead to long-lasting tumour control. Combining both radiotherapy and immunotherapy treatments in Head and Neck cancer has shown to be promising in the laboratory setting. Unfortunately, clinical trials testing these combinations in humans have thus far been disappointing. The reason behind why these clinical trials have failed is unknown and there is clearly a gap in translating laboratory findings to clinical trials. My project hopes to investigate the reasons for this by tracking T-cells which are important in kick-starting and sustaining our anti-cancer immune response. We hope that understanding this can help guide us as to the best method of delivering current and new treatments.  

What have you learnt along the way?  

I have learnt that research plans evolve and change depending on new results. It is important to keep an open mind and always ask the ‘why’.  

What difference will this make to patients?  

I hope that my research into standard-of-care treatments in Head and Neck cancer will be able to better guide combinations of radiation with novel agents such as immunotherapeutics. Particularly in light of recently failed clinical trials, the aim is to provide improve outcomes as well as provide better quality of life for patients. 

Brave Hearts Take the Plunge

On a crisp Boxing Day morning in Redcar, courageous sisters Caroline and Ann, decided to make a splash in the icy waters of the North Sea to raise crucial funds…

Ed Vanson and Guy Randall strike a chord for good with #Tedstock

In the heart of our community, there are individuals whose passion and dedication shine like a beacon, illuminating the way for positive change. Ed Vanson, a local radio DJ, and…

Peter’s Passion: A Golf Tournament that Tees Up Charity Support

In the world of charitable endeavours, the spirit of giving often takes shape in diverse and creative forms. One such example of this philanthropic spirit is Peter Papanastasiou, an individual…

Walking the North Downs Way in Memory of Dad

On Saturday 9th July 2023, Peter’s friends and family walked 16.5 miles of the North Downs Way from Wye and Folkestone, an area Peter and his wife Isabelle called home…

192 Mile coast-to-coast walk to mark 5 years cancer free

5 years after receiving treatment for a nasty Head and Neck cancer, Caroline Outterside, considers herself as one of the lucky ones and wants to give back. Accompanied by her…

Young Tongues Fund Launch

Oracle Cancer Trust has partnered up with peer-to-peer support group the Young Tongues to set up the Young Tongues Fund; funding patient support activities led by the Young Tongues, awareness…

Inaugural Peter Rhys-Evans Memorial Trophy won at Oracle Cancer Trust Golf Day

Oracle Cancer Trust’s annual Golf Day at the exclusive Cowdray Estate raises £9,043.26, whilst crowing first Peter Rhys-Evans Memorial champions.  On a fabulously sunny morning in May, at the breathtakingly…

Tubby FC hold charity match in memory of George Johnston

On the 19th May Tubby FC took on Whittington Cat FC at St Benedicts RUFC in Whitehaven in support of Oracle Cancer Trust and in memory of George Johnston and…

Lauren comes to the rescue and completes London Marathon 2023 for Oracle

Oracle Cancer Trust thrilled as Lauren Graham bravely steps up to run the London Marathon with only weeks’ notice following fellow runners’ injury. With only weeks’ to go until the…

9th Annual Charity Spring Ball in aid of Oracle Cancer Trust raises over 3k

Long term Oracle Cancer Trust supporter Angela Bryant, who was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2010, hosts annual charity spring ball for the 9th time and raises £3,603 for the…

#TeamOracle completes Chiltern Challenge

Group of Oracle Cancer Trust Fundraisers complete 20 mile Chiltern Challenge on East Monday. The day started with dark skies and torrential rain, but that wasn’t going to stop our…