A study by experts at the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research in the European Journal of Cancer today claims that children with cancer are being denied new, highly precise drugs that are available to adults.
They found that just 7% of suitable children were getting drugs that target genetic weak spots in their cancer and concluded that currently the rules were "too cautious" because children may benefit from precision medicines even more than adults.
So called ‘precision’ medicine matches the specific mutation present in a cancer to drugs that target it and this approach is already widely used in adults.
The study looked at how widely this approach could be used in children and focused on solid cancers such as tumours in the brain, kidney or bones - huge progress has been made in treating blood cancers such as leukaemia but progress on solid cancers has been slower.
There were "significant benefits" for those who were treated with such precision medicines but the researchers found that of the 51% of cases that could have been treated with a precision drug, only 7% actually were.
Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research Sue Farrington Smith MBE said “Clearly for our community where brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of our children this report causes concern. We are totally driven to improve options and outcomes for all of those diagnosed with a brain tumour including children and any barriers to progress, such as access to trials, must be identified and challenged as we strive to make a difference.”
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