Cancer

For some cancers, survival rates are now 90%. But for harder-to-treat cancers, just five out of 10 children survive.

What if our researchers could close the gap?

When Harry’s acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) returned for the second time, further conventional treatment offered little chance of success. Following a landmark clinical trial at GOSH, the future looks very different for the football-loving 10-year-old. 

“Making the decision to take part in the clinical trial was easy for us,” says Harry’s dad, Steve. “We had two options. One was a total dead end, the other – hope. You’d take the second option every time.”

The situation today

While cancer in childhood is very rare, it’s still the most common cause of death in children under the age of 14 – around 250 children lose their lives to the disease every year. 

GOSH has the biggest children’s cancer unit in the UK and our researchers have helped to dramatically improve survival rates for children like Harry in the past 40 years. But we need to help find more answers for children with the most difficult-to-treat cancers.

As a result of investment in research and treatment, survival has increased dramatically, and now more than 75 per cent of children survive for 10 years or more. 

Two years on from the clinical trial and Harry is still all clear. However, after many years of intense treatments, Harry has developed osteoporosis and currently uses a wheelchair. 

How we’ll help shape the future

Our researchers will pioneer personalised treatments for high-risk brain cancers, chemotherapy-resistant leukaemias and recurring tumours.

They’ll focus on understanding the genetic profile of a child’s cancer, so doctors can match young patients to the clinical trials and treatments most likely to work for them. This approach means fewer unnecessary side effects, so children such as Harry have a better quality of life now and as an adult.