More Aust kids surviving leukaemia: study
More children than ever are surviving leukaemia in Australia and New Zealand but the outlook is much bleaker for children in poorer countries.
A study of 90,000 children diagnosed during 2005-2009 in 53 countries published in The Lancet Haematology has found the five-year survival in some countries is nearly twice as high for children in some countries compared to others.
The chances of a child still being alive five years after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in Germany was 92 per cent, compared to 52 per cent in Colombia.
In Australia, between 1995-1999 and 2005-2009, five-year survival for childhood ALL – the most common childhood cancer – increased from 82.8 per cent to 88.8 per cent, according to the research.
Survival increased from 82.8 per cent to 89.3 per cent in New Zealand.
For acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), the five-year survival increased from 53.4 per cent to 68.5 per cent in Australia, and from 67.6 per cent to 74.9 per cent in New Zealand.
Survival has improved for most age groups but remains lowest for babies under one.
Overall, children aged one to nine at diagnosis had higher survival for both types of leukaemia than those aged 10-14.
Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch says it is great news that Australian ALL patients are on par with the rest of the world, a result of treatments more tailored for children rather than adults.
“We are fortunate in Australia to have specialised paediatric cancer treating centres and the Leukaemia Foundation’s supportive care framework which all children with a leukaemia diagnosis can access, regardless of where a child lives,” Mr Petch told AAP.
According to the latest data on global childhood cancer incidence, published in The Lancet Oncology, leukaemia is the most common cancer in children aged 0-14 worldwide, accounting for a third of cancer cases in children aged nine and under, and a quarter of cases in 10-14 year-olds.
The rare disease, which accounts for an estimated 0.3 per cent of all cancers in Australia, leads to an overproduction of immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts or leukaemic blasts. These cells crowd the bone marrow, preventing it from making normal blood cells.
One in 10 children diagnosed with leukaemia in Australia will not survive, and more needs to be done to improve survival rates, says Mr Petch.
“The Leukaemia Foundation is not satisfied with this statistic and is committed to investing in improving treatments and outcomes and to reduce side-affects, so there are fewer longer-term side effects for children.”