Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer

Cancer in children

While relatively rare compared with the burden of cancer in adults, childhood cancer is an important cause of child mortality worldwide. In high-income countries and a growing number of middle-income countries, childhood cancer is now a leading cause of death in children and adolescents. Globally, approximately 300,000 cancers are diagnosed each year in those younger than 19 years of age. The numbers are considered by experts as gross underestimates given that 80% of childhood cancer occurs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where there are no or limited cancer registries.[1]

Over the last decades, there have been remarkable advances in the treatment of childhood cancer. For children diagnosed with cancer in high-income countries, approximately 80% survive five years or more after the diagnosis of cancer. However, in many LMICs, survival rates are drastically lower, frequently not reaching more than 30% in a number of settings and, in some countries, falling below 10%. Unfortunately, for many children, particularly in LMICs, cancer is often detected at an advanced stage and too late for effective treatment.

What is the initiative’s objective?

In 2018, WHO launched a new initiative with the objective of increasing child cancer survival rates to at least 60% globally and alleviating suffering of all children by 2030. This has the potential to save an additional 1 million children, while also improving quality of life for all. Addressing childhood cancer is part of the implementation of the Cancer Resolution adopted in May 2017 by the World Health Assembly which urges governments and WHO to accelerate action to achieve the targets specified in the Global Action Plan and 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development to reduce premature mortality from cancer.

The WHO has called on experts worldwide to be part of this effort to:

  1. Increase the capacity of countries to deliver quality services for children with cancer  
  2. Increase the prioritisation of childhood cancer at global, regional and national levels 

The global initiative for childhood cancer involves experts from many different organisations around the world, including hospitals, research centres, UN organisations, NGOs, and civil society organisations to:

  • increase political commitment for childhood cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • support governments to develop high-quality cancer centres and regional satellites to ensure early and accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for children with cancer
  • develop standards and tools to guide the planning and implementation of interventions for early diagnosis, treatment and palliative and survivorship care inclusive of the needs of childhood cancers
  • improve access to affordable and essential medicines and technologies
  • support governments to safeguard families of children with cancer from financial ruin and social isolation as a result of cancer care.

UICC's impact

UICC is part of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and working with WHO on planning and advocacy. The Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy (KAP) team participates in working group discussions related to financing, governance and policy development as part of the technical packages being developed through the initiative.

UICC is also working with its members to involve key stakeholders to raise awareness on childhood cancer interventions nationally, regionally and globally, and to develop and share advocacy material and messages for policymakers. The aim is to improve accountability in implementing essential measures to tackle this important public health issue.

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Last update: 
Friday 25 September 2020
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