82 per cent of children now survive childhood cancer

Cancer Research UK

More than eight in 10 children with cancer now survive, compared to just three in 10 in the late 1960s1.

“As more and more children survive cancer, it is especially important that we concentrate on improving the quality of life after cancer”
- Professor Pam Kearns

The number of children surviving cancer for five years or more has risen from 79 per cent to 82 per cent in the last decade.

The increase in survival is largely due to tackling the disease by combining a number of different chemotherapy drugs. Cancer Research UK has played a key role in the clinical trials that proved the benefits of these combined treatments.

The latest figures show that survival has improved for all children’s cancers, but liver and bone tumours appear to have made particularly good progress in recent years. Within the last decade five-year survival for liver tumours has jumped from 67 per cent to 82 per cent and for bone tumours from 61 per cent to 68 per cent2.

Although more and more children are surviving their cancer due to research, there is still some way to go with certain forms of the disease such as neuroblastoma (67 per cent five year survival) and medulloblastoma (64 per cent five year survival). Further research is essential to discover better and kinder treatments for all cancers.

For many children, surviving does not mean that they are completely free of illness. Even 30 years after their diagnosis, 40 per cent of survivors were affected by severe or life-threatening conditions, or had died due to a chronic health condition3. There is still an urgent need to discover better treatments with fewer side effects.

The analysis comes as Cancer Research UK launches its annual Little Stars Awards, in partnership with retailer TK Maxx, to recognise the courage of children who have undergone cancer treatment.

Professor Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trial’s Unit in Birmingham, said: “Cancer Research UK has been at the forefront of research into new treatments for childhood cancers. Although more than eight in 10 children with cancer now survive their disease for more than five years more work is needed to discover better treatments. As more and more children survive cancer, it is especially important that we concentrate on improving the quality of life after cancer.”

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Cancer Research UK is funding a range of trials to develop new treatments for cancers where we currently have few treatment options, such as aggressive neuroblastoma. We hope these efforts will mean there are even more childhood cancer survivors in the UK in the years to come.”

ENDS

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Notes to Editor

1 Five year survival figures compiled by National Registry of Childhood Tumours
2 Figures compare children diagnosed between 2006-2010 and those diagnosed between 2001-2005
3 Oeffinger KC, Mertens AC, Sklar CA, et al. Chronic health conditions in adult survivors of childhood cancer. N Engl J Med 2006;355:1572-82.