15,000 extra children survived cancer thanks to improvements since the 1970s

Cancer Research UK

During the last 40 years over 15,000 more children have beaten cancer than would have done if survival had remained the same as in the 1970s, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK. 

"Thanks to research more children than ever are beating cancer" - Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK

Overall survival has more than doubled over the last 40 years thanks to research and improved treatments; three-quarters of children with cancer are now cured compared to only a quarter in the early 1970s. 

During this period survival for leukaemia – the most common type of childhood cancer – has risen from 33 per cent to more than 85 per cent of children surviving for at least five years. Liver cancers in children have seen survival increase from 14 per cent in the 1970s to more than 80 per cent today. This dramatic increase is largely due to work funded by Cancer Research UK that discovered more effective combinations of treatment for children with this disease. 

But such improvements have not been seen in all types of cancer. For a type of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma five year survival has risen from around 17 per cent in the early 1970s to 67 per cent today*, but the most aggressive form of the disease remains very difficult to treat.

The new figures mark the launch of Cancer Research UK’s Little Stars Awards this year which, in partnership with retailer TK Maxx**, recognise the bravery of children who have undergone cancer treatment.

Amy Hillier, 27, from Surrey, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was just 11 and underwent months of chemotherapy.  “I’m alive today thanks to my doctors, nurses and the research that developed the treatments that beat my cancer. My mum told me I was going to be cured - I never doubted it. It has affected the person I am - it has made me want to live life to the full. I hope that more and more children are able to survive their cancer in the future – research will be at the heart of making this happen.”

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: “Thanks to research more children than ever are beating cancer. But there is much more to be done to give every child diagnosed with cancer the best chance of surviving and to improve treatments so that children can lead a full life after their diagnosis. Cancer Research UK’s new strategy highlights our commitment to do more to beat cancer in children, teenagers and young adults. To turn this into reality we’re funding a number of trials and research projects which aim to understand more about the disease and to develop more effective and kinder treatments.” 


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to Editor

* National Registry of Childhood Tumours Progress Report, 2012. Five-year actuarial survival, children aged 0-14 years, Great Britain, 1971-1975 compared with 2006-2010. Available from http://www.ncin.org.uk/publications/

**Since 2004 TK Maxx has raised £13.2 million to help Cancer Research UK find ways to beat children’s cancers sooner, funding research into many areas including developing better treatments that also reduce the long term side effects for youngsters with the disease. The fashion retailer is now the biggest corporate supporter of research into children’s cancer in the UK and is specifically funding a trial which aims to improve survival for children and young people with a type of brain tumour called ependymoma.