Friday, 19 April 2024
Friday, 19 April 2024

Child cancer gets a shocking 2p per £1 in research spending

Cancer is the biggest killer in children aged one to 14 in the UK. Yet despite this, according to the latest available data, on average only 2 pence out of every £1 spent every year on cancer research is being spent on dedicated research projects to find new ways of diagnosing and treating children’s cancers.

Analysis by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) of the latest figures, found that £702,616,885 was spent in the UK on all cancers. Of this amount, only £15,158,410 was spent on research projects wholly focused on children – equating to just over 2%.   

Five children lose their lives to cancer every week. As well as the lives tragically lost, a cancer diagnosis can also mean that childhood is lost, with many children facing life-long challenges physically, mentally and emotionally as a result of their intensive treatment. 

Although childhood cancer survival is over 80%, there are still some cancers with less than a 2% survival rate. Survival rates also do not reflect the reality of what it is like to live with long-term side effects. Clinicians at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) warn that children may have problems with their fertility and can experience physical disabilities for the rest of their lives; all in addition to the potential damage to their mental wellbeing that months and sometimes years of cancer treatment can cause.  

Research into kinder and more gentle treatments is desperately needed, so families don’t have to live with the devastating impact of long-term side effects. Although survival rates have increased, more work still needs to be done to develop treatments for children where there is little or no hope of a cure.  

Six-year-old Arianna was diagnosed with high-risk stage four neuroblastoma in November 2021 after complaining of back pain. Soon after being transferred to GOSH, Arianna started on eight rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, before being moved onto BIT, which combines chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Arianna’s tumour, which was located just above her kidneys, shrank following a referral to a clinical trial that combined radiotherapy with immunotherapy, and she had it removed via surgery in January 2023. Arianna is still receiving treatment now. 

Child cancer gets a shocking 2p per £1 in research spending

Abi, Arianna’s mum said:

“I’ve never been able to put into words how it feels to hear that your child has cancer – you can’t ever prepare yourself to mentally accept that. 

“The cruellest thing about cancer is particularly for children, is it totally takes away their childhood; it takes away everything. Arianna hasn’t been able to go to school or play with her friends, we’ve had to self-isolate a lot to reduce the chances of her picking anything up.  

“But it’s also the long-term impacts. We know that Arianna will be infertile; we had ovary preservation to try and preserve one of her ovaries, in the hope that science will develop enough so the ovary will actually be able to be used for something. We know that Arianna will be affected when she’s older, but we still hope that can just grow up to live her life.  

“From my own family’s experience, the lack of investment in children’s cancer is shocking to me. Every child deserves a future and research into better treatments is crucial.” 

GOSH Charity is the UK’s largest dedicated charitable funder of child health and invested £9.3million in children’s cancer between 2016 and 2021. In its new five-year research strategy, the organisation has pledged a further £15million in this area, including childhood cancer-related research projects, new infrastructure and medical equipment. 

However, it’s not just about providing funding for more children’s cancer research; it is also vital that there are innovative facilities and cutting-edge medical equipment to put this pioneering research into practice. As part of its biggest-ever fundraising appeal, GOSH Charity is aiming to raise £300million to help build a state-of-the-art new Children’s Cancer Centre at GOSH and drive transformation in children’s cancer care.  

Child cancer gets a shocking 2p per £1 in research spending

The Children’s Cancer Centre will help to increase the research capabilities at GOSH, enabling more research activity and access to clinical trials for families. Research can directly improve the diagnosis, treatment and care pathways for cancer, leading to improved long-term outcomes and survival – in other words, the Children’s Cancer Centre will help to save more children’s lives.  

Designed with the needs of children and families at its heart, the Children’s Cancer Centre will support every aspect of care for children and their families, from diagnosis to remission, and help to make sure that every child will have an opportunity to participate in research. 

Kiki Syrad, Director of Impact and Charitable Programmes at GOSH Charity, said:

“Cancer is still the biggest killer of children aged between one and 14 in the UK, so this gulf in funding is hard to accept. We need to do more to help the five families a day who receive the news that their child has cancer and know that research has the potential to unlock a new generation of treatments. 

“At GOSH Charity, we are proud to be the UK’s largest dedicated charitable funder of child health and have committed to raising £300million to help bring the Children’s Cancer Centre to life – our most ambitious investment yet.  

“The Children’s Cancer Centre has the potential to be game-changing, but we need the nation’s support for our Build it. Beat it. fundraising appeal to make it a reality. 

Professor Darren Hargrave, GOSH Charity Clinical Professor and Honorary Consultant at GOSH, said:

“Every year, over 1,800 children in the UK get diagnosed with cancer. Despite advances in treatment and care over the last few decades, there are still some types of cancer that are extremely difficult to treat and too many children’s lives are being lost. 

“We’ve already seen the impact of innovative and personalised treatments for children with cancer, but we need to do more research to make this a viable option for more children, particularly those who have run out of alternatives.” 

Dr Sara Ghorashian, Consultant in Paediatric Haematology at GOSH, added:

“The Children’s Cancer Centre at GOSH will help to increase research capacity and will provide us with the facilities we need to pioneer new breakthrough therapies; it will help save more children’s lives.” 

To find out more about the Children’s Cancer Centre at GOSH and donate to the Build it. Beat it. appeal, visit www.gosh.org/cancer/donate

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