Every year in Europe, 35,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children.
Although great strides have been made in treating many adult cancers, unfortunately the same cannot be said for childhood cancers. Most paediatric cancers are rare, meaning that children with cancer represent only a very small proportion of patients.
As a result, companies do not see paediatric cancer treatments as profitable, making them very reluctant to invest in what they consider to be costly research.
What this means is that many children receive experimental treatments or medicines that are used 'off-label', meaning they are not approved for that condition. Those treatments that do exist can often cause serious side effects. Meanwhile, 6000 children still die from cancer each year. We simply cannot accept this situation.
We need to do much more to ensure that more research is undertaken to develop new cancer treatments specifically for children and new medicines are tested for their effectiveness in treating childhood cancer. Every child with cancer should reach adulthood while enjoying a good quality of life.
The review of the European Union's paediatric regulations, due in 2017, will offer a real opportunity to ensure that greater efforts are made to develop treatments for childhood cancers. We cannot and should not miss this opportunity.