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Child cancer trial launched

Cancer Research UK are to fund a phase III trial testing the effects of immunotherapy on childhood cancer, neuroblastoma

Cancer Research UK are to fund a phase III trial testing the effects of immunotherapy – a treatment involving boosting the patient's immune system - on childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.

Around 100 children in the UK are diagnosed with the disease each year with a successful treatment rate of around 60 per cent using conventional therapies.

Neuroblastoma grows from developing nervous system tissue, and is mostly found in children under five.

The trial is part of a larger European study and will involve 160 children in the UK, using all 20 childhood cancer clinical trial centres in the country over the next four years.

A previous trial in the US has already shown positive results for the use of immunotherapy against the disease. From the test group of children, the half who received the new treatment showed less chance of neuroblastoma coming back after two years than the half solely treated with conventional methods.

The European trial however will see all eligible children receiving the treatment - which involves attaching antibodies to the cancer cells, encouraging the immune system to attack them - with doctors estimating around 40 children a year in the UK being able to partake in the study.


Lead researcher, Dr Penelope Brock talks about the trial

Dr Penelope Brock, a consultant paediatric oncologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who leads the UK trial, acknowledged the advanced form of the disease as "notoriously difficult to treat" but gave her hopes for this new therapy:

"We have worked very closely with the doctors involved in the US trial to design the European study and we very much hope that it will lead to another treatment option for children with high risk neuroblastoma, who have more chance of the disease coming back."

James McGuire from North London, has a two-year-old daughter, Sophie, who will be taking part in the trial.

He said: "We're delighted that Sophie will be one of the first children who could benefit from this new treatment. Based on the positive outcomes from the earlier trial, I am hopeful that this treatment will play a critical role in saving Sophie's life."

The trial is open to high risk neuroblastoma patients who are nine months from diagnosis and within four months of the last round of aggressive treatment to control the tumour, when small numbers of neuroblastoma cells remain in the body while the patient is in remission.

Children involved in the trial will receive all standard treatments before the immunotherapy, including chemotherapy, surgery, a stem cell transplant and radiotherapy.

10th December 2009


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