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Dr Jo Cook

Dr Jo Cook

Every year in the UK, around 400 children are diagnosed with brain cancer. Many face prolonged and gruelling treatment with surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. While treatment can prove life-saving, it can also cause serious, long-term side effects.

Sadly, around one in every four children diagnosed with a brain tumour lose their lives within five years, making brain tumours the most deadly of all childhood cancers.

Professor Andrew Peet, of the University of Birmingham, is developing a way to tailor treatment more closely to the needs of each individual child. He believes this could save the lives of children with the most aggressive tumours and spare those with less severe illness from unnecessary treatments.

“A diagnosis of brain cancer is devastating – not just for the child, but for the whole family. Going through treatment is really tough. It completely changes children’s lives over months or even years.

Children who make it through treatment remain at risk of experiencing long-term problems; for example they can have difficulties with movement, balance and coordination, and with learning, hearing and vision. With so much at stake, we need to ensure all children with brain tumours get the best possible treatment and information for them and their families.

Children with brain cancer have MRI scans routinely when they are first diagnosed. The scans provide highly detailed pictures of tumours inside the brain. We are developing a way to get even more from MRI scans, using a sophisticated technique that provides information on the chemical make-up of tumours. We believe this information could be of great value, because it could enable us to predict how aggressive each child’s cancer is likely to be much sooner and more accurately.

Early information about a child’s outlook for the future would enable us to tailor treatment more closely to his, or her, individual needs. Children with the most aggressive tumours could immediately be given the most intensive treatment, which could boost their chances of survival. Children whose tumours are not so life-threatening could be given less intensive treatment, sparing them from some of the lifelong disabilities that treatment can cause.”

Prof Andrew

Dr Voker

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Prof Peet

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