Blood cancers

Australian childhood leukaemia survival rates rise

More children are surviving leukaemia in Australia, a global report across 53 countries shows, but for children in lower income countries the outlook is not so good.

According to the CONCORD-2 study, children 0-14 years diagnosed with lymphoid leukaemia between 1995 and 2009 had 5-year survival rates ranging from 52% in Columbia to 92% in Germany.

Survival with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) ranged from 33% in Bulgaria to 78% in Germany.

Australia sits in the top tier of survival rates with the most recent data showing 5-year survival of 68.5% for AML, an increase from rates in 1995-1999 of 53.4%.

Corresponding figures for ALL across the same time period showed an increase in five-year survival of 82.8% to 88.8%.

The data from almost 90,000 children from 198 cancer registries also showed cure rates were improving with the gap in survival between AML and ALL narrowing over time.

Professor Glenn Marshall, paediatric haematologist and oncologist at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, said a combination of better diagnostics and treatment were contributing.

“A big improvement has been from minimal residual disease (MRD) testing to identify patients with a slower response and a high risk of relapse and intensify their treatment,” he told the limbic.

“Conversely, a reduction of treatment in some patients, such as avoiding brain radiation, has led to better long-term outcomes.”

Professor Marshall said better outcomes for children in lower income countries also relied on better management of infection and bleeding complications.

“For example, to reduce our deaths in remission rate we have become much better at managing fungal and viral infections,” he said.

He said wealthier countries could help address the disparity by twinning arrangements with lower income countries to improve training of health professionals and the direct delivery of care.

CONCORD-2 was funded in part by the Cancer Institute of New South Wales.

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