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Cancer: equitable access to pediatric care

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Cancer: equitable access to pediatric care

Today is the XXIV World Childhood Cancer Day, a global event promoted by the World Health Organization WHO to raise public awareness of childhood cancers and to offer support to children and adolescents and their families. Childhood cancer still represents the leading cause of disease-related death in children globally, with over 400,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Of these, approximately There are 2,500 new cases diagnosed in Italy in the age group between 0 and 19 years. The good news is that, compared to the past, diagnostic-therapeutic advances have made it possible to significantly improve survival, which went from 30% in the 1960s to 80% in the last decade. It is estimated today that one twenty-year-old out of every 800 is a person cured of a neoplasm suffered in childhood. This poses, however, the problem of reducing as much as possible the risk of developing other diseases in the future, negative sequelae of cancer and its treatments.

The Italian Association of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology AIEOP supports the three-year campaign “Equitable access to care: Unveiling the challenges” with which theInternational Childhood Cancer Day invites families, doctors, nurses and researchers to share their experiences by compiling virtual postcards on the interactive platform www.iccd.care with the main objective of raising awareness of challenges and inequalities. The campaign envisages, in this first year, the collection of the challenges and inequalities encountered by those who find themselves facing the complex scenario of childhood cancer and will continue in 2025 and 2026, identifying possible solutions to the critical issues that have emerged and, finally, taking stock of the results obtained.

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The initiative is based on the idea that childhood cancer deaths are avoidable with timely and accurate diagnosis, accessibility to quality essential medicines and appropriate treatments and care. Although the problem mainly concerns low-income countries, much can be done for young patients in our country too. For example, the prognosis is influenced by treatment in a specialist centre: «There is, in fact, clear data that indicates how the outcome of adolescents treated with pediatric protocols in pediatric facilities tends to be more favorable than that of patients of the same age treated in adult facilities in the context of protocols not specifically designed for the pediatric age” writes Franco Locatelli in the book “The numbers of cancer” 2023. The list of centers belonging to the Aieop network is available here.

Compared to innovative treatments, such as molecularly targeted therapies, cell and gene therapies, immunotherapy «it is necessary to mention Italy’s pioneering commitment to advanced cell therapies and gene therapies on various oncological and hematological pathologies» he declared Arcangelo Prete, president of Aieopciting for example a recent work published in the journal New England Journal of Medicine, in which researchers from the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome, in collaboration with representatives from other Aieop centres, report on the treatment of patients suffering from relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma through the use of CarT cells directed against the GD2 antigen. The possibility of having a pharmaceutical workshop in Italy capable of generating cell and gene therapies is an added value not only for Italian children, but also for those coming from other countries, where this facility is not available.

Aieop’s photo

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