Rob Pieters, pediatric oncologist and member of the board of the Princess Máxima Center, reacts enthusiastically and at the same time with caution to the press release.
“This is very good news. The figures from the CBS are correct and what you see on the curve is that the mortality rate dropped very quickly in the 70s and 80s. This was the case for almost all forms of childhood cancer. After that, you see that the decrease is unfortunately much smaller. The decline in the last 10 years is, as the CBS says, visible in children with leukaemia. This is due to the fact that we keep improving on the treatments for these children and tailor them to each individual child. Heavier where necessary but also lighter where possible.
The actual mortality rate of childhood cancer is, unfortunately, a lot higher than the figures from the CBS suggest. The CBS counts the children who die before they turn 15. So, if you get cancer when you are 12 and die when you are 16, this is not counted. Moreover, the upper limit of childhood cancer is not 15 but 18 years. We always use the survival rates 5-10 years after diagnosis. We, therefore, measure the 5 and 10-year survival of anyone who has had a diagnosis of cancer between the ages of 0 and 18 years. Then you are talking about approximately 600 children with cancer each year, of whom, unfortunately, about 125 will die. It is also important to look at the (late) effects of the disease and treatment for people who survive childhood cancer. That is why the mission of the Princess Máxima Center is to cure every child with cancer with an optimal quality of life. We still have a long way to go, because the children who we cannot yet cure have the worst forms of cancer. That is not one form, but for each type of cancer it concerns some of the children. The Princess Máxima Center wants to accelerate the research into all these forms and wants to improve all the necessary treatments as quickly as possible. That is why all expertise for childhood cancer in the field of research, care and training will be bundled in our new building from May this year, creating the largest child cancer center in Europe.”