The Daily Mail today launches a major campaign with Cancer Research UK to raise money for children and young people with cancer.
At least a dozen families every day are given the devastating news their child has cancer and faces potentially life-changing treatment to survive.
With new figures showing children’s cancer cases set to soar by a fifth in the next two decades, the call for action has never been greater. Cancer Research UK estimates that 92,760 more under 25s in Britain will get a cancer diagnosis by 2040.
This is why the newspaper is teaming up with the charity to launch the Fighting to Beat Children’s Cancer campaign.
Some 5,090 young lives will be turned upside down every year – a jump of almost 20 per cent on the 4,280 in the last 12 months. We are asking our generous readers to give money to help fund trials and develop new treatments to turn the tide on cancer.
All money raised will support Cancer Research UK’s work into cancers affecting children and young people, so that more 0–24-year-olds can survive cancer with a good quality of life. It is hoped the partnership will help test life-saving new medicines on thousands of children a year, potentially benefiting generations to come.
The charity’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said ‘enormous strides’ have been made with some cancers but many ‘lag behind’. She warned that around 93,000 children and young adults can expect to be diagnosed with cancer over the next two decades in the UK.
She said: ‘They need access to treatments that will not just give them the best chances of survival, but will minimise the side-effects during treatment and in the decades following it. Our research has already resulted in more effective and kinder treatments for cancers that affect children such as Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and liver cancer – but we need to do more.
‘While we have made enormous strides in improving survival in some cancers, many lag behind, with treatments that are at the limit of what patients and their families can endure.
‘With the support of Daily Mail readers, we will be able to improve the future for children and young people with cancer, helping them to survive their disease with a better quality of life.’
Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in youngsters in the UK, killing one in five of those diagnosed – around 500 a year.
Unlike adult cancers where factors including obesity are driving cases, little is known about the causes behind childhood cancer, beyond the fact diagnosis is better and theories about environmental factors such as pollution.
Dr Laura Danielson, research lead for children’s cancer at Cancer Research UK, said it was ‘worrying’ that cancer cases were rising in children but improvements to mortality rates showed treatment breakthroughs are saving lives.
‘We don’t know conclusively why cases are rising in children and young people,’ she said. ‘This is why it’s so important that we continue our vital research to find out more about cancer’s origins, like the research we’re funding into understanding how errors in developing blood cells could cause certain types of leukaemia in children.’
Huge treatment advances have seen the five-year survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) increase from seven in ten to nine in ten patients since the 1980s.
But others involving solid tumours remain stubbornly low, with further research desperately needed. The campaign aims to support research into trials for cancers with poor survival rates, such as brain tumours and sarcomas.
Meanwhile, nearly all of those diagnosed will face chemotherapy, with drug combinations particularly gruelling for young patients whose bodies are still growing. Since the 1970s, Cancer Research UK has played a part in preventing almost 30,000 deaths of children and young people in the UK.
Successes to date include developing a test for an inherited form of eye cancer retinoblastoma, with earlier treatment meaning almost every child now survives. Its team of experts has been behind more than 50 chemotherapy drugs and today more than three in four patients who are given chemo on the NHS receive a drug we have been involved in.
The new campaign aims to continue this work, ensuring every child has access to the best treatments and research.
We know money is tight this Christmas but we are asking readers to dig deep again to help this worthy cause and boost children’s cancer survival.
Donations will go towards a raft of good causes including helping to fund the Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit, a world-leading centre that gets children on trials to test new and better medicines.
NHS England’s national speciality adviser on children’s cancer, Dr Julia Chisholm, said: ‘The NHS has made huge strides in treatments for children and young people with cancer in recent years.
‘It is vital we continue to build on the great advances of recent years. Research is crucial to ensuring we can adopt the very best treatments in the NHS for young people with cancer and so the Mail’s campaign to raise awareness this Christmas is fantastic.’
For more details visit the appeal page.
Vital care that helped Jasper get all-clear
A combination of remarkable bravery and swift treatment saw Jasper Johnson beat cancer in just 75 days.
The seven-year-old was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer Burkitt non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January after suffering from stomach cramps and weight loss.
Scans showed he had an intussusception – where part of the bowel turns in on itself like a telescope – and needed emergency surgery that day.
Tests on the section which had been removed found it was cancerous, and straight away he began the chemotherapy which would rid him of the disease. After two rounds of treatment, Jasper received the all-clear at the beginning of April.
Seven-year-old Jasper was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer Burkitt non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January after suffering from stomach cramps and weight loss
Mum Brenda said it was a ‘whirlwind’ that had turned the family’s lives upside down.
The trainee chef, 45, from Allbrook, near Southampton, said: ‘It’s a horrendous journey and ours was so short compared with other people’s. But when he rang the bell [on leaving hospital at the end of treatment] it was so happy and so amazing. I just kept crying, I couldn’t stop. There’s just so much emotion that pours out.’
Jasper’s dad Richard, 43, remembers the moment they were given the news every parent dreads.
Following his son’s surgery at Southampton General Hospital, they were asked to return for a post-op review. ‘We sat down with three doctors and they explained that the offending piece of tissue they’d analysed had come back with some abnormalities,’ he said.
‘I asked them outright, “Is it cancer?” The surgeon replied, “Yes”. I asked if it was terminal but he said it was treatable. The rest was just a blur.’
Tests revealed the cancer had been caught early and had not spread but that Jasper would need chemotherapy to make sure all traces were gone.
Mr Johnson, an air traffic controller, said they then had to explain to Jasper that he needed more treatment as well as break the news to his older sister Isobel, now 11.
He said: ‘We told him he had a bug and the doctors needed to give him some medicine to get rid of it. We said the medicine might make him poorly and might make his hair fall out and that he may need to have some tests to check the bug wasn’t hiding somewhere.
‘We told him that if the bug was still around, he could have more medicine to make sure it didn’t come back again.’
Jasper was given two rounds of chemotherapy, which Cancer Research UK played a key role in developing.
Mrs Johnson said: ‘Our consultant explained it was a treatment that had been used for the past 15 to 20 years because it works.
‘The fact they knew what it was, knew exactly what the treatment was that was needed, that makes something so unbearable, bearable to hear.
‘They’ve got the answer, this is what’s going to happen, this is the schedule and these are the drugs you’re going to get… it’s clear-cut.
‘But it’s not like that for everyone and it should be. Everyone should be able to hear “this is what we’re going to do” and just kick cancer’s backside.
‘That’s why people should be donating to them because that’s what cancer research does – it works.’