Improving treatment for children with leukaemia | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - September 2016

Improving treatment for children with leukaemia

Action funding is helping a research team in their bid to find new, more targeted drugs to treat the most common type of cancer to affect children.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is an aggressive cancer that develops rapidly.Thanks to medical advances already made, most children have a high chance of being cured. Their treatment, however, will be hard and intensive, often lasting several years.

Children with this type of cancer will usually be given chemotherapy and steroids, but sometimes radiotherapy and a bone marrow transplant are also needed. They can suffer many unpleasant side effects and some face further problems later in life, such as restricted growth or infertility.

Doctors at University College London’s Institute of Child Health are searching for new drug treatments that kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed, meaning the intensity of chemotherapy could be reduced.

Led by Dr Owen Williams, the team are focusing on a particular type of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which affects a quarter of all children with the disease.

“Our ultimate goal is to spare children from some of the side effects of chemotherapy and protect more children from relapses,” says Dr Williams.

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

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