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Child cancer survival improving – but slowest for brain cancer

Child in medicine maskSeptember 1 – Death rates of children from cancer in the UK have slumped in the last decade thanks to improved treatments, according to an analysis published today. The figures were released after a weekend which saw police pursue parents to Spain after they removed their child from hospital following brain tumour treatment. The analysis, from Cancer Research UK, shows a 22% reduction in child deaths – although deaths from brain cancer have fallen by just 10%.

While in the UK the number of children every year dying from leukaemia has fallen from 102 to 53, the number dying from brain cancer has fallen from 109 to 101. In total 77% of children now survive cancer compared with 70% a decade ago.

The charity said it was working with TK Maxx to step up research into brain cancer. It will see Britain taking part in a global trial of treatments for the brain tumour, ependymoma.

Professor Richard Grundy, from Nottingham University, said: “Ependymoma brain tumours are exceptionally difficult to treat and survival rates remain poor.

“Importantly, we will link our new trial to the vital lab work that will help us understand more about the disease in the hope we can help more children survive this type of brain tumour.”

* The parents of Ashya King have said they took their son out of hospital in Southampton because they believed he would benefit from proton beam therapy, a treatment not used for children’s brain cancer in the UK. They believed they could get the treatment in the Czech Republic. Brett and Naghemeh King will appear before a court in Madrid today and make seek to fight an extradition warrant. Their son is currently in a hospital in Malaga, Spain.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead, of Hampshire police, said: “I make no apology for being as proactive as possible in trying to find him.

“I’d much rather be standing here facing criticism over being proactive than do nothing and explain why a child has lost his life.”

Cancer specialist Dr Clive Peedell, who is co-leader of the National Health Action Party, said: “There’s only one proton beam therapy facility in this country, in Liverpool, but it is limited to the treatment of rare eye tumours, because it does not have capability to treat deeper seated tumours.

“Two new Proton Beam Therapy centres are being built, in Manchester and London, but they won’t be ready until 2018.

“The NHS can and does send cancer patients abroad for proton beam therapy, to hospitals in the US and Switzerland and funds the costs in full, including travel. But each individual case needs to be referred to, and clinically assessed by the National Clinical Reference Panel for Proton Beam Therapy before funding can be agreed.

“It’s heartbreaking for a parent to be told by doctors that further treatment won’t help their child but sadly not all cases will benefit from proton radiotherapy.“

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