The study, published in The Lancet Haematology on 11 April 2017, finds that survival has improved for most age groups, but it remains lowest for infants under one.  

Global inequalities in child cancer care

“There is room for improvement in the management of childhood leukaemia in many countries,” said lead author Dr Audrey Bonaventure, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK. “These findings show the extent of worldwide inequalities in access to optimal health care for children with cancer.

“Survival for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) can be as high as 90% at five years after diagnosis, and up to 80% for children with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), but in some countries, survival remains below 60% for both diseases.

Additional resources could improve access to treatment

“Providing additional resources, alongside evidence-based initiatives such as international collaborations and treatment guidelines, could improve access to efficient treatment and care for all children with leukaemia,” added Dr Bonaventure.

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Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Philippe Autier, University of Strathclyde Institute of Global Public Health at the International Prevention Research Institute, France, said: “The accomplishment of five-year net survival of around 80% in many high-income countries should not distract from the dire reality that about 80% of leukaemia cases in children occur in low-income and middle-income countries where there is little access to the sophisticated and costly specialised medical resources required for the optimum management of these conditions.

“From a worldwide perspective, it is the adoption by low- and middle-income countries of affordable, locally adapted, multidisciplinary management programmes that is likely to translate into the largest gains in survival for children with haematological cancer,” concludes Professor Autier.

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