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More Children Surviving Cancer, UK Experts Say (Reuters) ... according to Saha.SIDE EFFECTSEarlier treatments sometimes caused secondary tumors or heart disease later in life, but with improvements in drug therapies many of the dangerous......After leukemia, brain and spinal tumors and lymphomas are the most common cancers in children. ... - Dec 03 9:38 AM ET



Website: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011203/sc/health_cancer_children_dc_1.html

Posted on: 12/03/2001

More Children Surviving Cancer, UK Experts Say

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Survival rates of children with cancer are better than ever before and most youngsters with the illness live to be healthy adults, British cancer experts said on Monday.

Ninety percent of children who are successfully treated survive into adulthood thanks to advances in chemotherapy drugs, which are more effective and less toxic, and a better understanding of how to treat the disease.

"The dramatic improvements in survival have only come about in the last few decades," Professor Vaskar Saha, a child oncologist at the charity Imperial Cancer Research Fund, told a news conference.

"In the 1980s about 50 percent of children were cured of leukemia...but today we are saying about 80 percent of these children can be cured," he added.

Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for nearly one-third of all cases. Children with the disease are not only surviving longer but are enjoying a better quality of life with fewer side effects from chemotherapy.

Part of the success in childhood cancers is also due to children's ability to tolerate aggressive drug treatments better than adults, according to Saha.

SIDE EFFECTS

Earlier treatments sometimes caused secondary tumors or heart disease later in life, but with improvements in drug therapies many of the dangerous side effects have been

eliminated.

Saha said the human genome project, in which all the genes that make up humans have been mapped, will lead to further advances and the development of targeted therapies that attack only cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells intact.

By using sensitivity profiles of each child and matching them to the most suitable drugs, doctors hope to make future treatments even more effective.

"We hope to identify which child will require the normal treatment and which child will require aggressive treatment," Saha said.

"The Holy Grail of chemotherapy is to design a molecule that kills only leukemia cells," he added.

In addition to improvements in survival rates, psychologist Chris Eiser of Sheffield University in northern England said children are suffering fewer psychological problems and emotional difficulties from their cancer and treatment.

"In general our results are very encouraging, because they indicate that many children are able to live happy and fulfilling lives," said Eiser, who has studied the psychological impact of the illness.

Childhood cancer is relatively rare and affects about one in 600 children before the age of 15. After leukemia, brain and spinal tumors and lymphomas are the most common cancers in children.


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