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Joining a clinical trial boosts chance of childhood cancer survival

Wednesday July 18th, 2012

Survival rates for childhood cancer have risen dramatically over the last 30 years thanks to high numbers taking part in clinical trials, researchers say today.

This is the finding from a new study looking at the impact of widespread inclusion in clinical trials. Dr Charles Stiller of Oxford University, UK, and colleagues analysed figures on 25,853 children - 66 per cent of all registered childhood cancers - diagnosed in Britain from 1978 to 2005.

The UK Children's Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG) was established in 1977. It aimed to set up several national and international trials covering most children's cancers.

Study results showed that survival increased significantly over this time period for every category of cancer. Annual falls in risk of death ranged from 2.7 per cent for rhabdomyosarcoma to 12 per cent for gonadal germ-cell tumours.

Details appear in the journal Annals of Oncology today (July 18). The authors point out that in 1966-1970 only 28 per cent of children with cancer survived for five years. This figure had reached 79 per cent by 2005.

They conclude: "The increasing level of participation in trials, facilitated by the organisation of specialist care, has underpinned the substantial improvements in survival."

Dr Stiller added that a very large improvement was seen in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most frequent cancer in children.

"In 1978 only 49 per cent of children survived for five years, but survival increased steadily throughout the study period and from each trial era to the next," he said. "By the end of this study, 90 per cent of children were surviving five years from diagnosis and most of them could be considered cured."

Population survival from childhood cancer in Britain during 1978-2005 by eras of entry to clinical trials. Stiller, C. A. et al. Annals of Oncology July 18 2012 doi:10.1093/annonc/mds183

Tags: Cancer | Child Health | UK News

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