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Childhood cancer awareness month – research, information and more

by Oliver Childs | Analysis

5 December 2012

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A child with cancer

It’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Talking about our research and the progress we’re making is a delicate balancing act. We want to shout from the hilltops about the tremendous progress that’s being made against cancer every day thanks to research.

But we’re only too aware that tens of thousands of lives are lost every year to cancer – more than 250 of them children – and even more needs to be done to bring us to a day when all cancers are cured.

Reflecting huge progress over the years, as well as an urgent need to do more to save children’s lives, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is now upon us. To mark this important time, we’re planning a series of blog posts throughout December to talk about childhood cancer. We want to celebrate the successes so far, but also talk about what more needs to be done to beat this complex group of diseases.

In this first post, we draw attention to the life-saving research we’re funding, and to the Cancer Research UK resources that are available to families.

The statistics

Every cancer diagnosis is unwelcome, but a child getting cancer is particularly tough. The fact that the disease is actually rare in children, accounting for less than 1 per cent of all cancers, is of little comfort to the family and friends of a child with cancer.

Around 1,600 children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year. And despite the fact that more children are surviving cancer than ever before, cancer is the leading cause of death from illness (as opposed to accidents) in children aged 1-14 years in the UK.

It’s worth stressing again that this is not because cancer is common in children, but because developed countries like the UK are now so good at beating infectious diseases that historically killed larger numbers of children, as well as improving medical care for mothers and children before, during and after childbirth.

And huge progress in treating childhood cancer has been made too. Thanks to major advances in treatment, almost three-quarters of children are now cured, compared with around a quarter in the late 1960s. But the fact remains that around 250 children tragically lose their lives to cancer every year in the UK. That’s 250 too many.

So what are we doing about it?

Our research

We fund some of the world’s leading doctors and scientists working on childhood cancer. We also have a unique role in children’s cancer trials in the UK. Our Children’s Cancer Trials Team coordinates trials in 21 centres across the UK and Ireland, bringing innovative new treatments to children with cancer.

In the run up to Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve been updating our website with information about the researchers we fund. You can browse highlights of our research on our website, but here are a select few:

Dr Julia Chisholm

  • Dr Julia Chisholm at The Royal Marsden Hospital is leading an important clinical trial testing a drug called temozolomide for children and young people with a type of muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.
    Read more about Julia’s work.


  • Dr Karim MalikDr Karim Malik from the University of Bristol is leading a team looking at improving treatment for neuroblastoma, a type of cancer caused by nerve tissue left over from when a baby is growing in the womb.
    Read more about Karim’s work.


  • Dr Andrew PeetDr Andrew Peet in Birmingham is developing innovative new scanning techniques to look for brain tumours and other cancers in children, and to monitor how the disease is responding to treatment. The scans should also help predict the best treatment to give each child.
    Read more about Andrew’s work.


  • Dr Andrew HargraveDr Darren Hargrave at Great Ormond Street Hospital is running an early clinical trial of a new drug called AT9283 to fight tumours that have come back after treatment.
    Read more about Darren’s work.


  • Dr Rita Sousa-NunesDr Rita Sousa-Nunes at King’s College in London is using tiny fruit flies to learn more about the problem of central nervous system (CNS) tumours. These affect the brain and spinal cord, and are the most common type of cancer in children after leukaemia.
    Read more about Rita’s work.

You can also find out about how our past work on childhood cancers has helped improve survival rates for the disease on our website.

And there’s more information about childhood cancer and our work to beat the disease in our briefsheet.

Information about childhood cancer

For families affected by childhood cancer, our CancerHelp UK pages have reliable, easy to understand information. (If you can’t find the cancer type you are looking for, then you can use the search box in the top right of the page.) And our clinical trials database for patients lists cancer trials and studies recruiting in the UK.

We also have a team of cancer nurses on hand to answer any specific questions you might have about cancer. They can be called freephone 0808 800 4040, 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday.

Finally, our Cancer Chat forum provides a space for people to share advice and talk about cancer with others affected by the disease.

Raising awareness

December is an important month in the childhood cancer community, and we hope that by drawing attention to childhood cancer in our series of blog articles this month we can raise awareness of the disease.

We’d also like to acknowledge the countless families who have been affected by childhood cancer. And of course, most importantly, we’d like to recognise the bravery of children who are affected by the disease. Our Little Star Awards are now in their tenth year and celebrate the courage of children who have been diagnosed with cancer, as well as recognising the support of any brothers and sisters. You can find our more, including how to nominate a child you know, here.

Support our life-saving work to beat children’s cancers

If you would like to specifically support our work to beat childhood cancer, you can post a cheque to Cancer Research UK Unit 3400, Sterling House John Smith Drive Oxford Business Park South Oxford OX4 2WB. You need to stipulate that the donation is in support of children’s cancers only.

Alternatively, you can make a donation for our childhood cancer research using a debit card over the phone: 0844 249 2218.

And you can also donate to specific childhood cancer research online through our MyProjects site.