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Home » Rare diseases » Why we must all work together to beat childhood cancer

Dr Kiki Syrad

Director of Impact and Charitable Programmes, GOSH Charity

Investment in research has significantly improved survival rates, but cancer remains the most common cause of death in children aged 1 to 14 in the UK.

Every day, around five children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK. This is often the start of a long and difficult journey for these children and their families.  

All childhood cancers are rare, but Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) sees the rarest and most complex cases from across the UK. With the support of vital funds from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity), they have developed life-saving medical breakthroughs that have given hope to seriously ill children across the globe. However, the journey towards beating cancer is far from over. 

A long history of pioneering cancer treatment 

Fifty years ago, only 40% of children diagnosed with cancer survived. But with the help of pioneers from the hospital, survival rates have more than doubled. Groundbreaking research has helped drive forward kinder and more effective treatments and surgical techniques.  
Since the hospital opened in 1852, research has been central to diagnosing and treating cancer in children. It is now leading the way in CAR-T therapy, which reprogrammes the body’s own immune cells, called T-cells, to attack cancer cells. In 2018, it became the first hospital in the UK to use CAR-T therapy to treat patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) as part of standard care. 

We can turn the tide on childhood cancer once and for all. 

In 2022, the Charity awarded a grant to a team at GOSH and University College London to develop a new CAR-T therapy for a rare and aggressive type of brain and spinal tumour, diffuse midline glioma (DMG).  

This form of cancer has some of the worst outcomes for children, but the trial could be a first step towards developing effective treatments for DMG and other high-risk brain tumours that can be devastating to families. 

More recently, 13-year-old patient Alyssa made headlines after becoming the first person in the world to be treated with a novel CAR-T therapy — created using a technique called base editing — for her previously incurable leukaemia. Early funding from the Charity helped make this possible. 

Working to eliminate childhood cancer 

The progress has been incredible. But we are committed to going even further to give hope to children with cancer. With our dedicated fundraisers, inspiring families and extraordinary clinical staff and researchers, we can turn the tide on childhood cancer once and for all. 

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