Sadly, between 2-3 out of every ten children in Britain diagnosed with cancer will not survive to adulthood. Kidscan wants to change this number to zero - children deserve to survive and thrive.
The survival rate for children's cancer has more than doubled since the 1960s when fewer than 30% of children survived from cancer. Today, around 75% will survive to the age of 30 or more because of the advancements in cancer treatments.
Current cancer treatments available for children with cancer include; Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Surgery, Immunotherapy, Precision Medicine and Stem Cell Transplantation.
Despite advancements in technology, more than 60% of those who survive will suffer from the late-effects of the treatments used to save their lives. Children's bodies react differently to adult treatments, and often there are no specialised children's cancer treatments. These are extremely harsh and damaging to a child's body - it is, therefore, important to find safe, new treatments for children.
Depending on the size of the tumour, the first port of call may be surgery which aims to remove the tumour. If the tumour is too large or in a difficult position, other treatments such as chemotherapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumour. If the surgery is not an option other treatments will be used.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells.
There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs – the dose, type, length of treatment and administration method will be defined by the child’s diagnosis. Administration methods may vary, but the most common is intravenously (through the vein).
Radiotherapy is a targeted treatment that treats cancer by using high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells in a particular part of the body. The advantage of radiotherapy over chemotherapy is that it causes little harm to the normal cells outside of the treatment radius.
The length of treatment and the location in the body will depend entirely on the child’s diagnosis – doctors will take all matters into account during this time and decide what is best for the patient.
What is a Bone Marrow Transplant?
Also known as a stem cell transplant, a bone marrow transplant can be used in two ways; to treat cancers of the blood such as Leukaemia, or to replace blood cells that have been damaged or destroyed during chemotherapy.
In both instances, the treatment follows the same process.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy drugs target specific cancer cells – attaching itself to a protein in cancer; the drug encourages the body’s immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy is only suitable for certain types of cancer such as particular types of lymphoma. Although the side effects of Immunotherapy are minimal as it destroys only the cancerous cells, it is usually administrated through the treatment of chemotherapy – which causes a range of short term and late effects.
What is Targeted Therapy?
With advancements in science, new drugs are being developed. Also known as biological agents, targeted drugs work by blocking a specific gene or protein in cancer cells to stop them from developing.
Target therapies are new and are therefore usually available in clinical trials, and are dependent upon the type of cancer a child has been diagnosed with.