Childhood cancer is still a leading cause of death in children in the UK. Progress has been made in the treatment of childhood cancer in the last 30 years, such that oveerall some 80% of children will be cured by their disease. However, there remains particular disease types, especially metastatic neuroblastoma, sarcoma, brain tumours, and leukeamia, in which the prognosis remains stubbornly low.
The creation of Paediatric ECMC Network has formalised relationships between UK early phase Centres, and led to a clear and transparent system of study allocation to ensure equity of access across the UK. This has increased the international profile of the Centres for early phase trials in children, and increased the number of early phase studies opening and being developed across the Paediatric Network.
The ECMC support for clinical trials infrastructure has helped to increase the capacity of the paediatric ECMCs to conduct early phase trials, the access to which is the right of every child with cancer. The ECMC Paediatric Network has reported a number of achievements; a reflection of the 11 ECMCs working together as a Network.
Childhood cancer challenges:
The development of new drugs to treat childhood cancer has proven problematic for a number of reasons:
1. Childhood cancer is extremely rare and mostly curable, so the patient group available for testing of novel agents is small
2. A perception that novel agents are not needed for childhood cancer
3. There is a need for multicentre collaboration in order for early-phase clinical trials to be done in children in a reasonable time frame
4. Despite recent legislation, early clinical trials in children are more challenging than those in adults, because they represent a small market, and are not attractive for industry
5. It is often difficult for children with relapsed disease, who will be eligible for early-phase clinical trials, to travel across the country