“Yes, we can! Childhood cancer can be beaten” Declare SIOP and ICCCPO
Geneva 15 February 2013 – Today is International Childhood Cancer Day – a day in which the strength, courage and resiliency of children with cancer and their families are celebrated. The International Society of Pediatric Oncology and the International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parent Organizations (ICCCPO), with their members from around the world, will be reaching out to communities, schools, hospitals and the public in general.
Parents will be working alongside paediatric oncologists, paediatricians, nurses, public health advocates and others in disseminating vital and life-saving information about childhood cancer. SIOP and ICCCPO are calling on governments worldwide to commit in winning the fight against childhood cancer. These include the access to affordable “best standard of care”, including programs for early detection and the adaptation of treatment regimens from resource-rich settings into developing countries. The two organizations represent over 1500 pediatric oncologists and 158 parent support organizations, representing nearly 85% of the world’s population. The field of pediatric oncology has matured significantly since systematic therapy for childhood cancer became available in the 1950s.
In the industrialized world, five year survival for some childhood cancers has improved continuously from less than 20% in the 1960s to 80% at the turn of this century. The challenge remains in resource-poor settings, notably in low and middle-income countries where the majority of children with cancer live. Children with cancer continue to lose their battles in these countries due to the fact that programs for early detection , treatment and know-how are simply not available. This, despite the fact that simple deliverables such as early warning signs are available and it has already been proven that by adapting treatment regimens in wealthier countries, the gap in cure rates would close. Cure rates for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), for example, are 80-85% in high-income countries while much lower in resource-poor countries. Case studies in Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala have clearly demonstrated that by adapting ALL protocols in North America and Western Europe, child survival rates significantly improved.
Moreover, public education and awareness campaigns have successfully increased the rate of early diagnosis, even in low-and middle-income countries Children and young people can be spared from some of the effects of the most intensive treatments if their cancers are diagnosed early enough and treatment begun early enough. In Honduras, for example, an inexpensive national awareness campaign was associated with the decrease in retinoblastoma that had spread beyond the eye from 73% to 35%. SIOP President Gabriele Calaminus, a paediatric oncologist herself, explains “the evidence is there. What are we waiting for? Thousands of lives can be saved if we act now! But, governments themselves must take the responsibility for their own people. The Alma-Ata Declaration has documented the need for “Health for All” more than 30 years ago stating that all people must have access to health services. The fact is, in 2013, this remains a target and not the reality”.
Kenneth Dolman, the president of ICCCPO and a parent of a childhood cancer survivor notes. "I have personal experience of a child who was initially misdiagnosed through a lack of knowledge. ICCCPO members and partners are committed to supporting any project in the world that will lead to the early diagnosis of childhood cancer and already enjoy the support of many forward-thinking governments. It just makes economic sense for governments to support such awareness and early detection projects and to not only save on the extra costs of treating a patient with late stage cancer, but also to spare the heart-ache and suffering of its citizens." Both organizations are hopeful and optimistic that with the support of sister health NGOs and international health agencies such as the World Health Organization, the fight against childhood cancer, especially in regions where the needs are greatest, is at a major turning point for the better.
Childhood cancer experts will be meeting in Hong Kong on 25-28 September during the 45th SIOP World Congress, to follow-up on implementation plans. For more information, please visit www.siop.nl and its sister organizations including www.icccpo.org and www.uicc.org