Experts reveal new test to target treatment for deadly child cancer

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A SIMPLE blood test could pinpoint which patients are unlikely to respond to treatment for a deadly type of childhood cancer, a new study by experts in Yorkshire has reported.

Researchers at Leeds University – funded by the charities Cancer Research UK and the Neuroblastoma Society – hope the test could help identify up to 20 per cent of children with “ultra high-risk” forms of the neuroblastoma, whose cancer tends to stop responding to treatment and rarely survive for longer than two years.

Around 100 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma in the UK each year, usually in children aged five or under.

Despite the numbers of children surviving neuroblastoma rising from around 40 per cent in the 1980s to 60 per cent today, the majority of children have a high-risk form of the disease which is still very hard to treat.

Study leader Prof Sue Burchill, from the School of Medicine at Leeds University, said: “The blood test we are developing can help identify children with the most aggressive form of the disease early on, so they can be offered other experimental treatments.

“This not only gives them the best chance of living longer, but will help speed up the development of much needed new treatments for this group of children.”

Guy Blanchard, a research trustee at the Neuroblastoma Society, said: “This new research shows that simple blood biomarkers can help identify at diagnosis a group of children with stage four neuroblastoma for whom new kinds of treatment are urgently needed.

“Because this study is a collaboration in several European countries, the test has a better chance of being adopted more quickly and more widely.”

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical research, said: “Being able to spot in advance which children have more aggressive forms of neuroblastoma will help us develop treatments faster and get these children onto clinical trials sooner.

“Cancer Research UK is funding trials into a number of promising new treatments which we hope will give more options for children with this devastating disease.”

The study was published last night in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.