Dr Pye’s end of year update

Posted in: Blog News | December 18, 2015

The approval of a new drug for the treatment of children’s cancer is typically an afterthought in the production of a new cancer drug destined for use in adults. In the last 60 years, around 150 new drugs have been approved for the treatment of cancer. However, less than 20 of these treatments are labelled “for the treatment of children”. So why is children’s drug development the poor cousin of adult cancer drug development?

One of the reasons is that developing new treatments for children with cancer is just not profitable. This is partly due to the low number of children diagnosed with cancer (about 1600 per year), compared to those for adults (about 350,000 per year) and the cost of bringing a new drug onto the market, which is around £1.2 billion. Basic economics, clearly favours investment into development of adult cancer drugs rather than children. It is therefore little wonder that the pharmaceutical industry is reluctant to invest solely in new treatments for children with cancer. As a charity, Kidscan has much more freedom than the drug companies to pursue the discovery and development of new cancer drugs aimed squarely at childhood cancer, and we continue to fund scientific research in this area. Over the next few years Kidscan will also look to raise the profile of the issue of children’s drug development with the general public and UK policy makers, so that incentives can be made to drug companies to encourage real engagement in developing new therapies for children with cancer.

In addition, to the short term issue of patient survival, children diagnosed with cancer face a difficult future even after they are declared cancer free. So called late side effects, as a result of using toxic adult cancer treatments on small children, are a huge issue. Childhood cancer survivors now routinely live into their forties and beyond. Disability and chronic illness later in life have now become a major problem for these individuals. Kidscan is planning to make a considerable investment in the years ahead to develop less toxic drugs that only target cancer cells. This will open up a new era of precision medicine that will help minimise long-term toxic side effects for childhood cancer patients.

Despite all these problems, doctors have been incredibly successful in improving cure rates and quality of life in childhood cancer survivors. We are moving into a new age of modern medicine were cancer treatments will be precisely tailored to the needs of individual patients. It will be vital to ensure that our little patients get the full benefit from these medical advances. They can no longer wait patiently for new adult treatments to slowly make their way into the hands of the doctors treating them. Yes, there are many obstacles facing children’s drug discovery and development but with your help Kidscan hopes to be one of the organisations driving forward the introduction of new better treatments for children with cancer.

It only remains to be said that all of Kidscan’s research is dependent on our many fundraisers who have, once again this year, been so generous in their support.


Scientific Director of Kidscan


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