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Schoolchild

Cancer

Global challenges

Manchester solutions

Saving children’s lives across the globe

Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children and teenagers, and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common type of childhood leukaemia. Research at The University of Manchester has made a significant contribution to the UK having one of the highest cure rates in childhood ALL internationally.

Global problem: a deadly form of cancer 

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a particularly rapid and aggressive form of cancer requiring immediate treatment. 

Manchester solution: breakthrough drug trials

For the last 20 years, University of Manchester researchers have pioneered standards for improving the outcomes for children with ALL.

“Thanks to the scale and extent of our international partnership, The University of Manchester was able to design and run a unique trial – the largest study of its kind in the world – and the first-ever randomised international trial for relapsed ALL.”

Vaskar Saha / Professor of Paediatric Oncology

The work of Professor Tim Eden from 1993 to 2003 at Manchester led to the routine use of specific drugs that are now standard in the therapy of childhood ALL in the UK and Ireland. A further clinical trial (ALLR3) designed more recently by Vaskar Saha, Professor of Paediatric Oncology at Manchester, now forms the basis of relapse strategies worldwide for children with ALL. 

Professor Saha says: “Manchester is recognised internationally as a centre for expertise in teenage and young adult cancers, and nationally as a centre for clinical studies in childhood leukaemia – which made it easy for us to find willing collaborators.

“Thanks to the scale and extent of our international partnership, The University of Manchester was able to design and run a unique trial – the largest study of its kind in the world – and the first-ever randomised international trial for relapsed ALL.”

Leukaemia drug trials.

Collaborators from countries including the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand needed to adapt the study quickly for their patients. To facilitate this, we created an innovative bespoke remote-entry clinical trial management system, which permitted remote registration and data entry, provided decision support and standardised reporting across all recruiting centres.

Professor Saha added: “We also built translational research into the clinical trials, which allowed the identification of previously unidentified mechanisms of therapeutic failure, paving the way for novel therapeutic strategies.”

Life-changing impacts

Direct results of our clinical trials and translational research in ALL include:

  • children in the UK newly diagnosed with ALL now have a cure rate of over 85% – among the best in the world;
  • outcomes for relapsed cases have improved by 10% in the UK, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand;
  • a role has been identified for the drug mitoxantrone, which improves the outcome of all categories of relapse compared to previously used drugs;
  • changes in clinical practice based on our research are now national standards of care for children with ALL in the UK and Ireland;
  • various international groups have adopted key findings from the front-line trials, and the relapse protocol for childhood ALL now underpins European practice, helping save more children’s lives in more countries.

Find out more

Read the research papers here.

Meet the researchers:

  • Professor Vaskar Saha, Professor of Paediatric Oncology
  • Professor Tim Eden, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric and Adolescent Oncology