Childhood cancer survival improvements under threat from clinical trial red tape
Improvements in childhood cancer survival rates will stall because red tape is hindering clinical trials and the development of new drugs, British experts have warned.New regulations in medical research mean that is now more costly and difficult than ever before to conduct trials into new medicines and children’s cancer survival rates may be hit as a result, it was warned in the journal Lancet Oncology.
Survival rates from cancer in childhood have increased dramatically in the last 30 years, experts said, with figures showing that between 2001 and 2005, 78 per cent of children in Britain lived for more than five years after diagnosis.
This has increased from just nine per cent for some forms of cancer between 1966 and 1970.
Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones from the Institute of Child Health, University College London, wrote: “In high-income countries, we have nearly reached optimisation of present anticancer treatments.
“New regulatory approval and research strategies are urgently needed to speed the development of new, effective, and safer treatments for children with cancer if we are to continue to improve the cure rate, reduce toxicity compared to existing treatments, and minimise side effects in later life.”
Cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease in children aged one to 15 years, and more than 5,000 children still lose their lives to cancer every year in these regions, she added.
Richard Sullivan, professor of cancer policy and global health at King’s College London and King’s Health Partners Integrated Cancer Centre, said: “An increasingly complex and strict regulatory environment for clinical research and data sharing is limiting children’s access to early-phase clinical trials and delaying the development of new drugs.
“For example, the implementation of the EU Clinical Trials Directive, in 2004, has almost quadrupled costs, led to substantial delays, and even the discontinuation of trials.”
Scientists said more collaboration was needed between drugs companies, academics, regulators, governments and patient groups.
One of the problems is that each type of cancer is very rare in individual countries so international cooperation was needed to make research viable.
Children who survive their cancer also need lifelong support, it was added, as estimates suggest that one in 1000 adults in high-income countries are survivors of childhood cancer, and 40 per cent of these survivors experience adverse effects throughout life.
Prof Sullivan said: “These are serious issues that can have a real impact on a person’s quality of life.
“It is essential that academic programmes and trial investigators ensure better follow-up of survivors to appropriately address the complications childhood cancer survivors may experience in later life.”
Tags: Cancer, cancer drugs, cancer survival, Doctors, healthcare, nhs cash shortages, nhs cutbacks, NHS Deaths, preventable crisis, red tape, Risk of Drugs