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Immunotherapy may be X-factor for children

Thursday December 10th, 2009

Dozens of British children are to take part in an ambitious global trial of a radical new treatment for cancer of the brain funded by a charity music single, it was announced today.

British centres will be taking part in final tests of therapy designed to boost the immune system to fight neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma survivor Callum Bale, aged sevenSo-called immunotherapy may improve the chances of survival after treatment by enabling the body to hunt down surviving cancer cells, experts say.

The treatment has showed promise in the USA and European specialists are now working on a final study.

Some 160 children will take part in the study at 20 British centres over the next four years. All children will receive immunotherapy.

About 100 children are diagnosed with the disease every year and 60 per cent are successfully treated. Doctors hope the new treatment will help the remaining 40 per cent.

Backing for the project has come from takings from a charity single released by TV show the X-factor.

Dr Penelope Brock, who will lead the research, said: "The launch of this trial in the UK is really fantastic news for our patients.

"Early results from the US trial found that children who received the immunotherapy treatment had less chance of the disease coming back two years later, compared with
the patients who did not receive the immunotherapy.

Dr Brock, of Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, said: "We need to build on these results and devise better immunotherapy approaches that improve survival further."

The new project won backing from families.

Tara Bale, from Leicester, whose son Callum, aged seven, was diagnosed in 2004, said: "It's great news that scientists are working on new treatments and that they are being offered to children who need them. Any new treatment that reduces the chance of the disease coming back in patients with the most aggressive forms of the disease is good news."

X-factor boss Simon Cowell said: "I am delighted that the money raised from this year’s X Factor charity single is helping to fund pioneering research like this that could help more children from across the whole of the UK survive this type of childhood cancer."

* A children's hospital today unveils a combined scanner and operating theatre suite which, it claims, is the first of its kind in Europe.

The theatre includes a 3-Tesla MRI scanner, which is likely to play a key role in operations to remove brain tumours.

3T MRI scanner and operating theatre at Alder Hey, LiverpoolSurgeons at the Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, UK, say they are hoping to improve the precision of surgery.

As well as brain tumours, doctors say the scanner is identifying minuscule lesions in the brains of patients with epilepsy, enabling microscopic operations to remove and treat the condition.

The hospital says it hopes the "exceptionally high resolution" of the scanner will also help with improve diagnosis of heart and bowel conditions.

The scanner is being installed following a fund-raising appeal, which raised £3 million from the Barclay Foundation.

Medical director Dr Steve Ryan said: "We are tremendously excited by the potential for this outstanding facility which is one of only two dedicated paediatric units in the world.

"As well as the combined benefits of the intra-operative facility - which is of particular value in neurosciences - the 3-T MRI facility will extend many further benefits including Lesional Epilepsy diagnosis and possible corrective surgery for this debilitating condition."

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Cancer | Child Health | Europe | UK News

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