Survival improves for deadly, rare childhood cancer

Survival rates are increasing for children affected by acute myeloid leukaemia, one of the most deadly childhood cancers, in news that will be welcomed by patients and families impacted.

New research from Children’s Health Queensland, UQ Diamantina Institute and Cancer Council has examined outcomes for children diagnosed with this dangerous and uncommon form of childhood cancer.

Only about 35 Australian children are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) each year, although it is the most common type of acute leukaemia among Australian adults.


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And although it only accounts for about five per cent of all childhood cancer cases in the country, it’s responsible for eight per cent of all cancer deaths before the age of 15.

Dr Andrew Moore, researcher at UQ Diamantina Institute and Paediatric Oncologist at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital said survival rates had improved significantly since 1997.

“Five-year survival rates for children diagnosed with AML have increased from 54 per cent between 1997 and 2002 to 69 per cent between 2003 and 2008,” Dr Moore said.

“The rise in survival rates is thanks to changes in treatment protocols along with better supportive care – like anti-infective strategies.

“Though survival is improving – we still have work to do, with one-third of all children diagnosed with AML expected to suffer a relapse of the disease.

“This cancer causes a disproportionate number of deaths compared to other types of childhood cancer, and we need to do all we can to help children affected.”

The treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia involves significant toxicity – which requires intensive use of paediatric health services.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said community donations were key to finding cures for childhood cancers.

“The development of more effective and less toxic therapies remains a priority – we need more research and funding to achieve this,” Ms Clift said.

“Our hope is that with continued community support for all types of childhood cancer research, we can find new ways of beating the disease.”

Around 640 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer every year in Australia, and almost half of all cases are diagnosed in children under four years of age.

The study, conducted by Children’s Health Queensland and Cancer Council Queensland, examined data from the Australian Paediatric Cancer Registry.

Cancer Council Queensland independently funds and manages the Australian Paediatric Cancer Registry – one of only a few national clinical registers of childhood cancer in the world.

 

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