How a new cancer treatment could save young lives | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - April 2015

How a new cancer treatment could save young lives

Tragically, around a third of children diagnosed with neuroblastoma lose their lives within five years. A new combination treatment being developed aims to save more young lives from this devastating cancer.

Neuroblastoma is the second most common solid tumour of childhood, after brain tumours. Most children affected are under five years old and, while treatment often proves life-saving, it has debilitating side-effects and does not always work.

“Neuroblastoma is normally diagnosed in babies and very young children,” explains lead researcher Professor Robert Mairs from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences. “First symptoms can be vague, so the cancer has often spread by the time it is diagnosed, meaning children then need immediate and intensive treatment.”

Standard treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can have distressing side-effects, including nausea, tiredness and hair loss. Longer-term problems may include hearing loss, lowered fertility and heart problems.

By combining a radioactive drug which seeks and destroys cancer cells with medicines that make cancers more susceptible to radiation-induced damage, Professor Mairs aims to reduce suffering and save more children’s lives.

“We are investigating which combination is the safest and most effective,” says Professor Mairs. “The next step will be clinical trials in children with neuroblastoma.”

Action Medical Research and Neuroblastoma UK are together funding this three year study into urgently needed new treatments.

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