Matilda S
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Treating childhood leukaemia in the 1980s

Matilda S
Posted by
12 Dec 2011

By the start of the 1980s, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) were being recruited into the UKALL trials. This huge jump in recruitment accelerated the refinement of existing drugs and meant that these children were receiving the best available treatment.

Securing the future of research

At this time we initiated training schemes for doctors to specialise in the treatment of children with leukaemia. In particular our Clinical Research Training Fellowships have been important stepping stones in the careers of many leading haematologists and greatly accelerated the delivery of the successful treatments we see today.

Beefy walks to beat childhood blood cancer

In 1985 Sir Ian Botham embarked on his first walk to raise money for us, in his pledge to beat childhood leukaemia.

Beefy was faced with the grim realities of the disease when recovering from an injury in hospital. Here he met a number of children with leukaemia who sadly lost their battle. Inspired by their bravery, he has continued to fundraise, bringing in more than £13 million to date to beat childhood blood cancer.

Cord blood transplants

In the late 1980s the first cord blood transplant was carried out on a child with a blood disorder. Cord blood transplants, which use stem cells harvested from the placenta at birth, are an alternative to stem cell transplants which may be better for some children. These are particularly suited to children as they only need a small volume of blood and avoid the side effects associated with a mismatched donor.

Although cord blood transplants are a promising treatment, they are still not routinely used. Research is ongoing into how this treatment can most benefit children with leukaemia.

Towards the end of the decade, new drugs were introduced to reduce the effects of chemotherapy on children's brains and spinal cords, dramatically reducing treatment related deaths and long-term side effects.