Childhood cancer

Experts join forces as new children and young people cancer taskforce launches

The government is bringing expert clinicians, charities and patients groups together to launch a new children and young people cancer taskforce in a bid to drive innovation and improve diagnosis.

The taskforce will look to make sure patients are afforded access to personalised therapies and new treatments in general are more readily available. The offer in the devolved administrations will also be evaluated.

Diagnosing people earlier will be a focus too, with better training and AI expected to support the workforce in this respect.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says it intends to improve the targeting of research funding and review children’s access to clinical trials. This will be in conjunction with measures to acquire greater access to data, which could include a data-sharing agreement with Australia.

Andrew Stephenson comment

The taskforce will be chaired by Dame Caroline Dinenage, the MP for Gosport and someone who the DHSC describes as a “tireless campaigner” on childhood cancer.

Although rare cancer is the leading cause of death in children aged between 1-14, the DHSC says child cancer survival rates have more than doubled since the 1970s. The long-term impact of the disease, however, can include physical or learning disabilities, infertility, as well as damage to education and employment prospects.

Taskforce meetings will feature a range of experts from the DHSC, NHS England, the Office for Life Sciences, and other senior figures from across the sector.

Dame Caroline Dinenage

Charities such as Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the Teenage Cancer Trust, Young Lives vs Cancer, and the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group will all help coordinate the taskforce.

Executive director of research and innovation at CRUK, Dr Iain Foulkes, said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to this important mission and look forward to understanding more of the detail of the government’s mission and plans.”

He continued: “It’s crucial that we collectively continue to push for a future where more children and young people survive their cancer and go on to enjoy a good quality of life.”

The launch comes just after world cancer day, which saw the launch of a landmark global clinical trial testing mRNA cancer vaccines.

“Fairness was also the theme of this year’s World Cancer Day on Sunday, which shone a light on inequalities in cancer care across the globe,” said the health secretary, Victoria Atkins.

She added: “Through targeted lung cancer screening focusing on deprived areas, and prostate cancer screening trials with an emphasis on black men, we’re targeting the disparities that exist at home, making sure everyone can access first class cancer care.”

Image credit: iStock

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