EC-funded project to promote improved cure rates after childhood cancer to the general public
(Vienna, February 15th 2009) “Today we can provide a cure for three out of four children who would have been considered incurable about 40 years ago”, states Prof. Helmut Gadner, head of the Children’s Cancer Research Institute, medical director of the St. Anna Children’s Hospital and coordinator of the two-year project “Overcoming Cancer with Research”. Funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union and launched in 2008, the Austrian-German initiative aims to communicate breakthroughs of child-cancer research, associated successful therapies and the need of continuous funding.
The consortium is composed of the Austrian St. Anna Kinderkrebsforschung (Children’s Cancer Research Institute) with expertise in pediatric tumour biology, the St. Anna Children’s Hospital, specialised in pediatric oncology, the German Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Otto Pammer Filmproduction, responsible for the production of audio-visual material during the whole duration of the project .
Improved long-term survival from 20% in the 1960s up to 75% of children and youths afflicted with cancer represent one of the major biomedical advances of the past four decades. This success is attributed to systematic biomedical and clinical research, international and interdisciplinary cooperation of specialists in pediatric cancer units and standardised treatments according to the current status of medical knowledge.
However, childhood cancer is still a life-threatening disease, treated with toxic therapies. Survivors may suffer from side-effects, such as developmental abnormalities, infertility, limited functioning of organs, second tumours, and psychosocial strains. “Previously the primary concern of research was to secure the life of our young patients. Today we can concern ourselves increasingly with the quality of survival and limiting long-term consequences”, states Michael Dworzak, head physician at the St. Anna Children’s Hospital, scientist and project-partner.
Since cancers in children are rare and are substantially different from those found in adult patients, childhood cancer research is not financially attractive to the pharmaceutical industry, explaining its dependency on private donations and public funds for optimising qualitative and quantitative outcomes.
To save children’s lives is not only worth while, but also an investment into the future of our society. Optimal treatment of young patients with leukemias or other malignant diseases is only possible, if the most powerful recent research possibilities in medical sciences are applied – especially, since these tumours have special characteristics discriminating them from tumours of the adulthood.
“There is an urgent need to uncover new and less aggressive treatments to offer an individual solution for every child diagnosed with cancer and improve quality of life for those who have overcome cancer at a young age”, explains Prof. Gadner.
The tools to raise public awareness of these key messages include a multi-lingual website, public events, expert meetings and a tv documentary.
CHILDREN’S CANCER RESEARCH INSTITUTE
St. Anna Kinderkrebsforschung
Kinderspitalgasse 6, A-1090 Vienna, Austria