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Child leukaemia survival boosted by mitoxantrone

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The survival rates of child leukaemia patients whose cancer has returned can be significantly improved with the chemotherapy drug mitoxantrone, a study has shown.

The Cancer Research UK analysis found that giving mitoxantrone to children whose acute lymphoblastic leukaemia had returned increased survival rates after three years to 69%, compared with the 45% survival rate for standard treatment.

Following the study’s success, all children with the condition are now prescribed mitoxantrone. It was also found the drug has fewer side effects than the regular chemotherapy treatment idarubicin.

About 380 children are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in the UK each year.

Professor Vaskar Saha, a child cancer specialist at the Paterson Institute in Manchester, who worked on the study, told The Lancet: “These striking results show just what a powerful drug mitoxantrone is in treating children whose leukaemia has returned, offering hope to many families across the country.”

Professor Martin Schrappe, of the University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein, said the 20% difference seen between the two groups was “one of the largest improvements ever achieved by a single modification of treatment”.

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