Research shows global disparity in children’s cancer survival

29 Mar 19

Cancer survival rates are dramatically lower for children in poor countries and global partnerships are needed to give them a fair chance, says a new study.


The research indicates that fewer than 30% of the 384,000 children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 who develop cancer in low- and middle-income countries will live for five years.

That survival rate soars to over 80% for the 45,000 children with cancer in high-income countries – largely because of multidisciplinary care, research, and access to generic medicines.

The figures compiled by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Science paint a stark picture of unfairness in cancer treatment globally.

The report says that about 89% of the world’s children live in LMICs, and they account for 95% of the mortality from cancer in the age group studied worldwide

Even where there are sufficient resources to register cancer incidence across the population, data show that the survival rate for children can be up to 45% higher in high-income countries than in LMICs for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and up to 51% higher for children with brain tumors.

This disparity reflects the optimised use of conventional therapies based on better assessments of risk and expanding portfolios of new drugs in rich countries, the paper says.

The survival rates of children with cancer can be improved in poorer countries through global partnerships that help leaders adapt effective treatments to their countries’ resources and clinical needs, the researchers argue.

Partnerships between rich and poor countries could also help address common problems such as delayed diagnosis and the abandonment of treatment before it is complete. 

In 2018, the World Health Organization set a global survival target of 60% for all children with cancer with the aim of saving 1 million more lives by 2030.


  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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