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Chemotherapy hope for child tumours

New research claims using chemotherapy before radiotherapy on young children with certain brain tumours could reduce the risk of dangerous long-term side-effects.

The 10-year trial, published in the Lancet Oncology, looked at 89 youngsters aged under three from the UK, Scandinavia and Holland who suffered from ependymoma.

All of the children underwent surgery to try and remove the tumours followed by an intensive course of chemotherapy to kill off any remaining cancer cells.

Only children whose disease had spread were given radiotherapy, and the study found the chemotherapy delayed the need for the treatment by more than 18 months.

The three-year survival rate for children on the trial is equal to the best published radiotherapy results, and the five-year survival rate is better than previous trials that have used radiotherapy as a matter of course.

Around 35 children are diagnosed with ependymomas in the UK every year, half of whom are under four years old.

Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, said: "This study provides exciting results for young children with ependymomas.

"This improvement in quality of life could be significant and we hope children diagnosed with this and other types of brain cancer in the future will benefit from these findings.

"As more children survive cancer, we welcome any research that adds to our understanding of how to reduce the long-term side-effects of treatment."

Lancet Oncology

Cancer Research UK

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