Great news for children with leukaemia

New research from Britain says the majority of children diagnosed with leukaemia will survive and will be cured of their disease.

The research by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was based on data from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours, which holds information on almost all children under the age of 15 who are diagnosed with cancer in Britain.

The scientists say the leukaemia cure rates for children have increased from 25% in the early 1970s, to 68% in the early 1990s and is expected to have risen to 73% for children diagnosed more recently - they believe three in four children diagnosed with leukaemia are going to be cured of their disease.

In the past the success of leukaemia treatments was judged by the number of patients surviving five years but a "cure" is now defined as the point at which life expectancy returns to normal for their age and sex.

Dr. Anjali Shah, who led the study, says that children diagnosed with leukaemia can be told that the numbers cured of this terrible disease are increasing and this is largely down to improvements in treatment and care.

These improvements, says Dr. Shah, have been the result of international research collaboration and well-organised, multi-disciplinary trials, many of which have been led by researchers in Britain.

Professor Michael Coleman, head of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the study suggests that the development of new treatments for leukaemia, combined with clinical trials to refine treatment strategies, has been effective in curing more children with leukaemia.

Professor Coleman says now the risk of longer-term adverse effects that the children may suffer in later life, which can include recurrence of cancer in other parts of the body, need to be reduced.

The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

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