Monday 1 December 2008
Professor Andy Pearson, a scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital has co-chaired an international study to develop a global blueprint for the treatment of the most common childhood cancer - neuroblastoma, which affects an estimated 11,000 children each year worldwide.
The classification system has been developed by 25 countries with the results published in two papers in the Journal of Clinical Oncology today.
Professor Pearson and co-author Professor Susan Cohn at the University of Chicago are extremely optimistic about improving standards of care for all neuroblastoma patients. Professor Andrew Pearson comments:
“This tailored strategy will hopefully replace the existing ‘one size fits all’ approach utilised across the world. It streamlines the process for identifying what stage the disease is at and how aggressive it is, and clearly identifies how much treatment each child should receive.
“In this way, we hope that children with neuroblastoma will receive the best possible chance of a cure, keeping the level of treatment and the associated side-effects to a minimum.”
The new strategy will be used by the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) which represents paediatric oncologists treating neuroblastoma patients treated in Europe, Japan, the USA, Canada, and Australia.
Survival rates overall for children with cancer have improved dramatically in recent years. However, more than half of children with neuroblastoma will present the aggressive, high-risk disease, which is more likely to relapse and is linked with a poor rate of recovery.
“How neuroblastoma attacks the body varies dramatically in each patient and, up until now, it has been difficult to accurately predict the progression of the disease. With these systems, we will be able to choose appropriate treatments based on the evidence of relevant risk factors.” Professor Pearson says.
Neuroblastoma,International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG), is one of the most common types of childhood cancers, causing 15 per cent of all childhood cancer deaths in the UK. Its different forms vary in severity: while some cases in young children disappear with minimal treatment, cases in older children can be relentlessly aggressive. Identifying the form is therefore crucial in planning appropriate treatment.
Bethany Hankin was diagnosed with aggressive neuroblastoma aged 18 months. Now 3 years old and in remission, her mother Katie Hankin is eager to see better information for doctors:
“The harsh reality is that neuroblastoma is one of the most aggressive childhood cancers, yet receives relatively little attention compared to other, generally more recognised, childhood cancers. During Bethany's first course of treatment, we had been told parts of her diagnosis, but not the exact detail and status of her disease. Neuroblastoma is such an unpredictable disease, any research that helps doctors make a more informed and accurate diagnosis sooner can only be a blessing for families."
This new research was funded by the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation and Little Heroes Paediatric Cancer Research Foundation, and offers clearer direction for diagnosis and risk assessment for clinicians on a global level.
The first of the two papers proposes the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) classification system. The paper focuses on the personalisation of treatment by classifying neuroblastoma based on 13 factors.
The second paper replaces the current four stage system of diagnosis of neuroblastoma based on a new International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Staging System (INRGSS.)
For media queries, please contact Cathy Beveridge or Sana Foss-Smith on 0207153 5359/5106 or 0772 174 7900, email [email protected]
About Professor Pearson
Professor Pearson is a consultant paediatric oncologist at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, and works in collaboration with the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group. His work is supported by Cancer Research UK and he hold's the Cancer Research UK Chair of Paediatric Oncology.
• From 2005 onwards, representatives of the major paediatric oncology cooperative groups have met to review data for more than 8,800 neuroblastoma patients treated in Europe, Japan, the USA, Canada, and Australia between 1990 and 2002.
- Neuroblastoma is a cancer that affects children, mostly under the age of 5 years. Around 90 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma and there are around 35 deaths from the disease each year in the UK
- Neuroblastoma originates from the cells involved in the development of a baby’s nerves. The cells that it develops from are called neuroblasts.
- Neuroblastoma is one of the rare human malignancies known to demonstrate spontaneous regression from an undifferentiated state to a completely benign cellular appearance.
- Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the developing nervous system, is one of the most common types of childhood cancers, causing 15 percent of all childhood cancer deaths in the UK. Its different forms vary in severity: while some cases in young children disappear with minimal treatment, cases in older children can be relentlessly aggressive. Identifying the form is therefore crucial in planning appropriate treatment.
About The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
- The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Institute is a charity that relies on voluntary income. It is one of the world’s most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 95p in every £ directly supporting research. For more information visit www.icr.ac.uk.
- The Institute works in a unique partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, forming the largest Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Europe. This relationship enables close daily contact between research scientists and those on the frontline in the fight against cancer - the clinicians, the carers and most importantly, the patients.