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too many inequalities in care – breaking latest news

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too many inequalities in care – breaking latest news

by Vera Martinella

The 2024 theme is the right of all patients to the best therapies, regardless of the social and economic condition of their families or where they live. In Italy, there are approximately 1,400 new diagnoses per year in children and 800 in adolescents

L’International Childhood Cancer DayChildhood Cancer Day is celebrated around the world on February 15, the date chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO) to inform and address the problems of children and adolescents with cancer and their families every year. The 2024 edition puts the rights of young patients at the center of attention: to have an accurate diagnosis in the shortest time possible (because discovering cancer in its early stages means having a greater chance of recovery); to access life-saving therapies and be able to receive the best care for the individual case; to then be looked after appropriately and to be able to enjoy the best living conditions once recovered. Rights that are far from being achieved in many areas of the planet because every year, around the world, 400 thousand children and teenagers receive a cancer diagnosis and every three minutes one of them dies: if in most high-income countries, including Italy, survival is around 80% percent, the percentage drops to 20% in the poorest ones.

Around 2,200 new cases per year in Italy

Statistics indicate that every year in Italy, around 1,400 children (0-14 years) and 800 adolescents (15-19 years) get cancer. On the one hand, the successes obtained by scientific research in the treatment of tumors affecting children and adolescents can be measured at a glance with a number: in the Seventies 58% of young patients were cured, today we have reached 70%, with peaks of ’80-90% in the case of leukemia and lymphoma, which are also among the most common pathologies in this age group. On the other hand, neoplasms still represent the leading cause of death due to illness in children and much remains to be done even in our latitudes. Little is known about the causes of cancer at a young age, but there are more than 60 different subtypes that affect the youngest: leukemia, brain tumors, lymphomas, neuroblastomas, soft tissue sarcomas, nephroblastomas and bone tumors are the most frequent.

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Problems to solve

«The objective is to combat inequalities and guarantee better access to treatment for children and adolescents with cancer – underlines Andrea Ferrari of Oncological Pediatrics, Fondazione IRCCS National Cancer Institute of Milan, and member of the Scientific Committee of Fondazione Umberto Veronesi ETS – . We have made important progress, but many problems remain open. Among the urgent issues to be addressed are the possibility of access for children to new drugs, which are rarely tested and approved in forms and dosages suitable for them, the lack of funds for research and targeted trials on pediatric pathologies”. Further problems concern adolescents and young adults (to whom the Foundation dedicated the #fattivedere project) who have specific needs that are often unmet, both in terms of therapies and in terms of specialists and the departments in which they must be treated. «The numbers also demonstrate this – underlines Ferrari -: teenagers and those under 40 are, in fact, less likely to recover than children and adults, as various studies have proven. Differences in survival between age groups are due to a number of factors, including delays in diagnosis and initiation of treatment, lack of treatment guidelines and lack of specific trials for 15-39 year olds, as well as differences linked to the biology of the types of cancer that concern them.”

Veronesi Foundation alongside doctors and researchers

It is precisely with this in mind that the Umberto Veronesi Foundation has been engaged for years in the field of pediatric oncology, to support medical care and research on childhood cancers and promote correct scientific information, working in synergy with the Italian Hematology Association. and pediatric oncology (Aieop) and its Foundation (Fieop). «Our objective is to maximize the chances of recovery and improve the quality of life of children and young people who become ill with cancer – underlines Paolo Veronesi, President of the Veronesi Foundation -. We finance research and the best medical care for young cancer patients through the activation of treatment protocols; we carry out information and dissemination activities on the topic of tumors in children and young people, with particular attention to young people and schools; we implement initiatives to raise awareness among public opinion and the competent institutions about the needs of adolescents with cancer.”

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Treat children in the best centers

To date, the Veronesi Foundation has allocated over 11 million euros, thanks to which it has been possible to finance the work of more than 200 brilliant researchers dedicated to the topic of pediatric oncology in Italian universities and institutes and the opening of treatment protocols targeted on various childhood pathologies (leukemia, lymphomas, brain tumors, bone and soft tissue sarcomas, neuroblastoma). «Thanks to the financial support that the Foundation has provided us in recent years, we have managed to treat thousands of Italian children in the best possible way – underlines Arcangelo Prete, president of Aieop -. Being able to include every small patient who becomes ill in a treatment protocol, the same throughout Italy, means guaranteeing him the best assistance for his specific case. The protocols are very important: they provide the operational guidelines for taking care of and treating each patient, according to the highest and most innovative standards, thus guaranteeing the best chance of recovery. As the theme chosen for International Day 2024 reminds us, early diagnoses are essential, allowing us to discover the disease when the chances of definitive recovery are greater. And access to the most suitable therapies and to centers where there are multidisciplinary groups of various specialized experts to provide children and adolescents, and their families, with everything they need are equally fundamental.”

Initiatives for the Day

On the occasion of World Day, the Italian Federation of pediatric oncohematology parents and recovered associations (Fiagop) is organizing awareness-raising activities throughout Italy until Sunday 18th. «Let’s give roots to hope, let’s plant pomegranates» involves the planting of hundreds of small plants of this fruit shrub as a symbol of life and solidarity. Small ceremonies will be organized in public parks, hospital gardens and educational institutions for the planting of hundreds of saplings, in the presence of patients and their families, doctors and healthcare personnel, as well as representatives of local administrations. «I want you a bag of goodness», another Fiagop initiative, has the aim of promoting the donation of blood and platelets and which will be organized at the transfusion centers of hospitals in various Italian cities, thanks to the service of hundreds of volunteers. The leukemic child, like the one being treated for a tumor, is in fact at risk of infections due to the reduction of white blood cells, but above all of hemorrhages due to the lowering of platelets and severe anemia. Blood transfusions are then necessary, which must therefore always be available.

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February 15, 2024 (changed February 15, 2024 | 07:09)

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