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Children’s cancer death rates drop

Published on 02/09/14 at 08:44am
Cancer image

The rate of children dying from cancer has dropped by 22% in the last decade, according to new data published by Cancer Research UK.

These new figures show that a decade ago around 330 children in the UK died from cancer each year, but thanks to better treatments this has now dropped to around 260 per annum.

The steepest decline was in leukaemia, the most commonly diagnosed children’s cancer, where death rates have almost halved – dropping from around 100 deaths each year to around 55.

Much of this success is due to tackling childhood cancers by combining a number of different chemotherapy drugs, according to the charity.

Cancer Research UK says it has played a ‘key role’ in the clinical trials that proved the benefits of these combined treatments, including a large international trial that has helped lead to liver cancer death rates falling by a quarter (26%) in the last decade. Research to improve imaging and radiotherapy techniques is also playing its part.

Professor Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham, says: “It’s very encouraging to see that fewer children are dying of cancer, but a lot more needs to be done. There are still a number of cancers where progress has been limited – such as brain tumours.

“Cancer Research UK’s long-standing commitment to clinical trials for children with cancer has been a major factor in developing today’s treatments, and is pivotal to ongoing research that will offer new hope to the children and their families.

“Many children who survive cancer will live with the long-term side effects of their treatment that can have an impact throughout their adult lives, so it’s vital that we find kinder and even more effective treatments for them.”

This new data also arrives at the start of Children’s Cancer Awareness Month. Around 1,600 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK and overall survival for childhood cancer has tripled since the 1960s, and three-quarters of children living with cancer are now cured.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive says, “We’ve made great progress in helping more and more children survive cancer than ever before, but this work is not finished – better, kinder treatments must continue to be our target. Our researchers are making great strides every year to help even more children beat the disease.”

Ben Adams 

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