Improving quality of life and survival for young cancer patients


On the occasion of International Childhood Cancer Day, the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office), based in Moscow, Russian Federation, announced that it will host a meeting on childhood cancer for the countries of eastern Europe and central Asia.

Cancer in children is rare and, unlike cancer in adults, is not linked to lifestyle factors. Over the past decades, survival rates for children with cancer have improved tremendously due to advances in treatment.

However, survival rates remain low in some places where the best treatments are not always available. The inequalities are dramatic – in western Europe more than 90% of children with cancer are cured, while the figure can be less than 20% in lower-income countries of the WHO European Region.

The meeting will take place on 23–25 April 2018 in Moscow. It aims to gather international experts in childhood cancer to discuss possible ways to improve survival and quality of life for children with cancer in the Region by creating a collaborative network.

The NCD Office made the meeting announcement during a joint press conference with the Dmitry Rogachev National Research Center of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology, one of the leading centres for paediatric oncology in Europe and the largest in the Russian Federation.

Facing childhood cancer with courage: one boy’s experience

When WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the Rogachev Center during a trip to Moscow in November 2017, he had the opportunity to meet 8-year-old Nikolay Bilyalov. Nikolay received a diagnosis of juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia 5 years ago, but that did not stop him from dreaming of one day becoming a chef and serving delicious Russian cuisine to the world.

Over the course of his treatment, which involved 2 bone marrow transplants, Nikolay impressed the entire medical team at the Rogachev Center with his courage and zest for life. “Despite his long and extremely difficult treatment, he has tolerated it heroically and is now in remission,” said Dr Irina Shipitsyna.

Nikolay loves to create artwork, and during his treatment he would spend every spare moment in an open space at the Rogachev Center designed for children’s activities. On the occasion of Dr Tedros’s visit, Nikolay presented him with one of his creations – a picture of a bird.

Children and adolescents with cancer have special needs that differ from those of adult cancer patients. Treating them in a dedicated facility with a team of experts has proven effective at the Rogachev Center. International experts will discuss this and other approaches to childhood cancer at the meeting in April.