Children's cancer: How a new £1m research centre in York could make treatment ordeal kinder for kids
Now a new £1m research centre has been launched in York to ease this suffering and find a kinder way to care for young people. Charity Candlelighters has teamed up with the University of York for the Supportive Care Research Centre, launched with incredible backing.
Among supporters was the family of 13-year-old George Gallimore, from York, who was just a toddler when he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2013.
George spent at least nine months in hospital over the three-and-a-half years of his treatment, with chest infections, shingles, terrifying seizures and high temperatures. At one point, his platelets were so low that had he cut himself, he could have bled to death.
George’s father, Mark Gallimore, said: "He had to go through things that no two-and-a-half-year-old should have to go through. Thankfully he doesn’t remember some of the worst things he went through, but it will forever haunt my wife and I.”
George's family, who live in Acomb, were thrown into a world they knew nothing about when the toddler began struggling to walk - at first they thought it was a torn ligament. Treatment left him susceptible to illness.
George had shingles nine times, with scarring all over his body. Then chest infections, so he still uses an inhaler today. The chemotherapy made his skin thinner, and his bones weaker.
"He can still do the majority of things a 13- year-old would want to do but it is hard for him to know he doesn’t have the same choices other teenagers have," his father said.
On average, 150 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Yorkshire. Research in easing the suffering from treatment can be "piecemeal and inadequate", experts say, with funding naturally focused on cures. In the short term, the centre will look at ways to minimise hospital stays, prevent painful mouth ulcers, nausea and vomiting. In future, research will focus on what matters to children and families – and has the greatest impact.
Bob Phillips, Professor of Paediatrics and Evidence Synthesis at the University of York and Hull York Medical School, and the director of the new centre, said: “Our research won’t cure cancer, but it will make a bigger difference to more people, faster.
“Significant progress has been made in understanding and treating childhood cancers – and today, around 80 per cent of children or young people diagnosed with cancer survive. Treatments, however, are mostly tailored for adults, and in children the reaction to these treatments can be very different, and have serious and life-threatening side-effects.”
Emily Wragg, chief executive of Candlelighters, said the centre will drive world-level research and invest in specialists.
"It will save lives, reduce suffering and bring hope to children and young people with cancer,” she added. “Not just in Yorkshire, but right around the world.”