New leukaemia tests welcomed
A LEUKAEMIA expert in Suffolk has welcomed news of a new screening test which could revolutionise the way children are treated.Doctors from Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Sheffield will carry out research into a test which measures the residual cancer cells which remain after a child's treatment for the most common form of childhood leukaemia.
By TRACEY SPARLING
health and education editor
A LEUKAEMIA expert in Suffolk has welcomed news of a new screening test which could revolutionise the way children are treated.
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Doctors from Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Sheffield will carry out research into a test which measures the residual cancer cells which remain after a child's treatment for the most common form of childhood leukaemia.
It is hoped that will eventually enable doctors to better tailor future treatment to the needs of each child.
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At Ipswich Hospital, there are currently six children being treated for leukaemia, including five who have the most common form.
Dr Mike Bamford, consultant paediatrician with responsibility for children with cancer, said: "This is a new and different way of refining the way we tailor treatment to an individual's needs. Looking at the residual disease, will help us determine what level of treatment is needed, more precisely. We don't want to give too much chemotherapy as that makes the child ill, but we have to give enough to make it work."
He said: "We treat girls for two years and boys for three, and the treatment has a long-term survival rate of 70 per cent," adding that males are more susceptible to the illness.
He said Ipswich Hospital is part of a national programme to evaluate treatments when they become widely available, and said: "It means we can care for children close to home, in conjunction with Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge."
Five research teams have been given £500,000 from the Leukaemia Research Fund to carry out a feasibility study, before the test can become a central part of the next national childhood leukaemia study which is due to start next year.
Dr Nick Gouldon, from Bristol Royal Hospital for Children which is leading the research with the University of Bristol, said: "We hope that once this test is established in the UK, doctors will be able to intervene at an earlier stage either with more or less aggressive therapy, based on the level of residual disease present in the blood and bone marrow."
Dr David Grant, scientific director of the Leukaemia Research Fund, said: "We have high hopes for the study which ought to help doctors identify children with high risk disease.
"It will also allow them to identify children who will be cured with less intensive treatment – thereby reducing the gruelling side-effects of aggressive therapy.
"Our goal of individual treatment based on the needs of the individual child is getting very much closer."