Australian childhood cancer survival rates continue to improve

Matt Woodley

20/06/2022 3:32:54 PM

More than 1500 deaths in children under 15 have been potentially avoided thanks to new treatments combined with better supportive care.

Child with cancer.
Cancer remains the leading cause of disease-related death among children aged 1–14 in Australia.

New Cancer Council research has shown ‘clear’ evidence of continued progress in survival for Australian children with cancer.
The study, which looked at childhood cancer survival and avoided deaths between 1983 and 2016, found that the actual number of deaths due to cancer among children under 15 years old was far lower than expected, particularly since the mid-1990s.
According to the researchers, the improved survival rate can be attributed the development of new and better treatments combined with improved supportive care.
Lead author and Cancer Council Queensland researcher Associate Professor Danny Youlden said the findings offer reassurance to families of children diagnosed with cancer that survival rates in Australia are among the best in the world.
‘When looking at this research, it’s clear survival has improved. This is exciting to see,’ he said.
‘We found that five-year survival for all childhood cancers combined increased from 73% between 1983 and 1994, to 86% between 2007 and 2016.
‘Put another way, this equates to over 1500 expected deaths, or 39%, being potentially avoided for Australian children [under 15] diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2016 as a direct consequence of the large improvement in survival.’
To conduct the study, researchers used information from the Australian Childhood Cancer Registry, one of the longest-running and most comprehensive national databanks of childhood cancer in the world.
The researchers say trends in cancer survival provide an important benchmark for gauging the effectiveness of cancer treatment and follow-up care.
But while the study shows overall survival rates have improved considerably, progress has stalled for children diagnosed with liver cancer, as well as certain types of brain and bone tumours.
Associate Professor Youlden says the findings emphasise the need for further investment into childhood cancer research and the Australian Childhood Cancer Registry.
‘Childhood cancer is rare, but highly significant for the child and their family,’ he said.
‘Research is essential to further improve outcomes for Australian families impacted by a childhood cancer diagnosis.’
Meanwhile, Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Tanya Buchanan says the new study provides tangible evidence to support continued funding in this area.
‘By investing in research, we can continue to help reduce the impact of cancer for all Australians, and this study is a great example of the impact of that investment,’ she said.
‘The more breakthroughs and discoveries our brilliant researchers can make through their important work, the more lives we can save.’
Cancer remains the leading cause of disease-related death among children aged 1–14 in Australia.
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