CHILDREN being treated for a potentially deadly form of cancer could be getting too low a dose to fight the disease, researchers in the North East have found.
Scientists at Newcastle University found that up to three-quarters of youngsters receiving drugs for neuroblastoma are potentially being under-dosed.
They said the doses could be too low to be beneficial, having a significant impact on the child’s recovery.
As a result of the paper, children across the UK are having their medication increased in a move which could save more young lives.
Every year in the UK approximately 100 children aged between 0-15 are diagnosed with neuroblastoma and currently only half of those will survive.
The drug 13-cis-retinoic acid has been used in high doses to treat children with the disease for the last 10 years. It plays a key role in stopping cancer returning after tumours are treated by surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In the paper, published today in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, the team at Newcastle describe how, when they looked at a large number of cases of neuroblastoma over a three-year period, they found that in three-quarters of cases the patients were receiving drug exposures which may not be beneficial.
Although there are few side-effects with the treatment, the main challenge to giving the drug is that it only comes in capsule form. As most children with neuroblastoma are too young to swallow the capsules, they have to be opened up and the contents either put down the child’s feeding tube or mixed with food such as yoghurt or ice cream.
This means it is difficult to control exact doses, as some medicine can be left in the capsule or not transferred efficiently.
It is believed this under-dosing could have a significant impact on the child’s recovery, although the exact impact has yet to be assessed. As a result of the study, patients are now being prescribed extra medication.