Hope for young cancer patients | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - April 2016

Hope for young cancer patients

Each year around 100 children and babies are diagnosed with a type of cancer called neuroblastoma. While many make a good recovery, the chances of successful treatment vary considerably.

For children with high-risk neuroblastoma the outlook can be bleak. They need intensive, prolonged treatment – usually including chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy – which lasts more than a year and causes unpleasant side effects.

Sadly, for almost half of children with high-risk disease, treatment fails or the cancer comes back. Most of these children eventually lose their lives.

Helped by Action funding, Professor Deborah Tweddle at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, aims to find better ways to predict early on which children are at greatest risk. This could allow doctors to adjust treatment recommendations. For example, they may suggest trying an experimental treatment if one is available.

The research team will study the medical records of hundreds of children with neuroblastoma who have suffered a relapse. They will also study genetic and clinical features of tumours and how these relate to the chances of relapse and how long a child survives if their cancer returns.

This research could ultimately lead to new, targeted drug treatments.

“We hope our approach will one day save the lives of more children with neuroblastoma,” says Professor Tweddle.

This project has been jointly funded with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

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