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Rob Pieters


Who says that a 100% cure rate is impossible?

Children who got leukemia in the 1960’s had to abandon their dreams for the future: their chance of survival was 0%. They did not receive treatment; parents were sent home with their child to spend whatever time they had left together there. Now, 50 years later, the survival rate among children with leukemia is 86%. Who would have dared to dream of that?

And yet, it all started with a dream. The dream of some child oncologists in the Netherlands to cure every child with cancer. It started with a question: what would you do if your child got cancer? What hospital would you go to? Who would you give research money to? That handful of child oncologists were quickly in agreement: only by bringing all the available knowledge and expertise together in one organization would it be possible to cure more children with cancer. The VOKK, the Dutch association focused on parents, children and cancer, fully supported this idea. And so the basis was laid for what is now the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology: the first and only center in the Netherlands and Europe that is fully specialized in child cancer care and research.

Is bringing together all the pediatric oncology expertise in care and research enough to realize our dream? No, it also takes courage. The courage to close down your own child cancer center in order to create a better center and break through established limits. The courage to leave well-trodden paths if new insights call for that. The courage to reduce therapy when that has been shown to give the same chances of a cure, as is the case for certain children with leukemia or a kidney tumour. Of course, a child who can receive less aggressive treatment with fewer long-term effects will be much better off.

We’ve seen the chances of surviving childhood cancer improve from 0% to 86% among children with leukemia and to 75% overall. We would never have achieved that without daring to dream and daring to do. Why would anyone want to claim that a 100% cure rate is impossible?

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