Globally, 300,000 families each year will receive the news that they have a child with cancer. Thanks in no small way to cancer research, the survival rate for childhood cancer has improved dramatically in the last 40 years, from approximately 10% to approximately 80%. This still means that 2 of every 10 children diagnosed with cancer will die. For those who survive, unfortunately, this survival comes with a price, and as many as 60% of these children will develop long term side-effects, often due to the treatment itself. Only through research will it be possible to improve these outcomes, and ensure that the treatment is both effective and reduced in toxicity.
The greatest success in childhood cancer has been in leukaemia, where the most significant improvement in survival has been made. However, there are many different types of childhood cancers, and for some, the outcomes have not significantly changed in the past decades. The NCRC particularly focusses on these difficult to treat cancers, such as neuroblastoma, a cancer of early childhood, where many children become resistent to the very limited range of drugs available. Other teams examine paediatric solid tumours such as malignant rhabdoid tumour and clear cell sarcoma of kidney, and have made contributions internationally to the understanding of the underlying genetic defects of these devestating cancers.
OLCHC is the centre for childhood cancer in Ireland, and as such is key to the development of a national cancer research programme. The research team at OLCHC, working through the NCRC, participate internationallly in the fight against childhood cancer.