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Childhood cancer survival rate in Yorkshire among the best in the world 

Haematology and Oncology Centre
15 February 2021

International Childhood Cancer Day – Joint news with Sheffield Children’s, Leeds Children’s Hospital and University of Leeds

The overall childhood cancer survival rate in Yorkshire is among the best in the world, with 86 out of every 100 children diagnosed with the disease before their fifteenth birthday living for at least five years, according to new figures.

Twenty years ago, the comparable figure was 73 out of 100 children. That means for every 100 children, 13 are now surviving who would not have done so 20 years ago.

Yorkshire has a five-year survival rate that matches on a par with the best figures reported by countries around the world, including Australia and Canada.

The survival rate is an important benchmark. Traditionally, a child who lives beyond five years of diagnosis is considered to have been cured of their cancer, although in some children the disease does sadly recur.

The table below shows the overall five-year survival rates in Yorkshire for the most common childhood cancers diagnosed 2012-2016.

Types of cancerYorkshire Survival rate (95% Confidence Interval)
Lymphoid leukaemias90% (85-94)
Lymphomas98% (89-100)
Tumours of the central nervous system, including brain81% (75-86)
Renal tumours97% (82-100)
Neuroblastoma74% (60-83)
All childhood cancers combined86% (83-88)

The latest survival figures have been released to mark International Childhood Cancer Day and demonstrate the progress that has been made in treating the disease. The source of the statistics is the Yorkshire Specialist Register of Cancer in Children and Young People, a research database run by the University of Leeds that holds demographic and clinical information on childhood and young-adult cancer patients.

The Register’s data has been a key weapon in the fight against cancer.

Dr Richard Feltbower, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at the University of Leeds and leader of the Yorkshire Register’s research programme, said: “Collecting and analysing high quality epidemiological data is central to improving cancer care.

“It allows us to monitor how effective treatments are and identify any major side effects. By sharing that information with researchers, the clinical community and families of childhood cancer survivors, not just in Yorkshire but across the entire country, we can help focus research on key areas.

“We are able to determine those cancers that are the most difficult to treat, or where the side-effects of treatment are most toxic, especially treatment which may have long-term side effects.”

Funded by the Candlelighters Trust and the Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust, the Register was set up in the early 1980s and has allowed scientists and clinicians to undertake epidemiological research into the patterns and causes of cancer. It has enabled them to track the impact of new therapies on young patients and how it may cause side-effects in later life.

Some cancer treatments involve powerful drugs which can affect physical health including reproductive health. Cancer treatment may also impact on social and mental health as well as educational outcomes. The Registry is developing techniques to investigate these and the wider impact of childhood cancer in later life.

Dr Mike Richards, Candlelighters Trustee and Consultant Paediatric Haematologist at Leeds Children’s Hospital, said: “The publication of these data highlight the amazing progress in the treatment of cancer in our region over the last 20 years.

“The priorities of the Candlelighters charity is to help fund research that not only further improves five-year survival rates but also extends our understanding of the potential long-term side effects of treatment. It is vital we develop treatment options that are kinder to patients.”

Children’s Cancer Care in Yorkshire

The improvement in survival rates reflect advances in cancer care such as earlier diagnosis, improvements in radiotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy and better-organised cancer treatment services.

In Yorkshire, children with cancer are seen by specialist teams at two regional centres: Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Children’s Hospital, which work as part of a network of specialist units across the United Kingdom.

Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

The Haematology and Oncology Department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital is the Principal Treatment Centre for children with cancer and leukaemia within South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and North Derbyshire. The department also treats children with other haematological problems such as bleeding disorders, inherited disorders of red cells such as Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease and bone marrow failure syndromes. The hospital supports children both in the community and in the hospital, as well as supporting dedicated research into improving patient care.

The hospital also has a colourful and bright treatment centre overlooking Weston Park, which opened in 2018. Alongside this new space, new airy and spacious wards are being developed this year, you can find more information on The Children’s Hospital Charity website, which supports the work of Sheffield Children’s https://www.tchc.org.uk/appeal/cancer-ward/

Dr Dan Yeomanson, Consultant Paediatric and Teenage Young Adult Oncologist and Deputy Clinical Director at Sheffield Children’s, said: “These figures demonstrate the importance of joined up working between clinicians, researchers and scientists.

“It also reflects the altruism of parents who have consented to their children’s participation in clinical trials which have been central to the improvements in outcome seen over the last twenty years. We are now looking forward to an era of increasingly personalised care for children with cancer, and hope to continue to see survival improving alongside a reduction in short and long term side effects.”

Leeds Children’s Hospital

The Leeds Children’s Hospital is the largest paediatric cancer unit in the north east of England and works with services in the community, social care and education to support young patients and their families and carers.

It has an active research programme involved in improving cancer care.

Adam Glaser, Professor of Paediatric Oncology and Late Effects at the University of Leeds and consultant at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “If the progress seen over the last 20 years is repeated over the next 20 years, then we could reach a point where very few children die of the disease.

“That is a tribute not only to the NHS frontline staff who care for young cancer patients but also the teams of researchers and scientists finding new and better ways of tackling the disease.”

 

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