The rate of children dying from cancer in the U.K. has dropped 22% in the last decade, according to new figures published by Cancer Research U.K.
A decade ago about 330 children in the U.K. died from cancer each year. That number now has dropped to about 260 each year. The steepest decline was in leukemia, the most commonly diagnosed children’s cancer, for which death rates have almost halved, dropping from about 100 deaths each year to 55.
Much of this success is due to combining different chemotherapy drugs. Cancer Research U.K. played a key role in the clinical trials that proved the benefits of these combined treatments, including a large international trial that has helped lead to liver cancer death rates falling 26% in the last decade. Research to improve imaging and radiotherapy techniques also plays a part.
Professor Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research U.K. clinical trials unit in Birmingham, said, “It’s very encouraging to see that fewer children are dying of cancer, but a lot more needs to be done. There still are a number of cancers where progress has been limited—such as brain tumors.”
About 1,600 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.K. Overall survival for childhood cancer has tripled since the 1960s, and 75% of children with cancer now are cured.
Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research U.K.’s chief executive, said, “We’ve made great progress in helping more and more children survive cancer than ever before, but this work is not finished—better, kinder treatments must continue to be our target. Thanks to our unique collaboration with TK Maxx that has raised $21.8 million since 2004, we have been able to fund life-saving research to help us understand childhood cancers and develop better treatments.”