The successes achieved by scientific research in the treatment of cancers affecting children and adolescents can be measured at a glance with a number: in the seventies 58 percent of young patients healed, today we have reached 70, with peaks of 80-90 percent in the case of leukemias and lymphomas, which are also among the most common pathologies in this age group. Despite this, neoplasms still represent the leading cause of death from disease in children, and it is for this reason that the Umberto Veronesi Foundation has decided to actively undertake to give more hope to young cancer patients and their families. Thus in 2014 the “Gold for Kids” project was born, which has concrete objectives, first of all support for excellent scientific research, with the funding of researchers engaged throughout Italy in the field ofpediatric oncology to find new effective treatments and allow an increasing number of children and teenagers to achieve healing.
The problem of medicines
The project was remembered last March 25 during the granting ceremony of the Grants, the funds assigned annually by the Veronesi Foundation to the best candidates selected in the fields of oncology, neuroscience, nutrigenomics and cardiology. “If it is true that we have made great strides in recent decades, there are still many problems to be solved to improve both the survival and the quality of life of young patients – he says. Franca Fagioli, director of the pediatric oncohematology department and transplant center of the Regina Margherita Children’s Hospital in Turin and member of the Scientific Committee of the Umberto Veronesi Foundation -. Among the open and urgent issues to be addressed are the possibility of access for children to new drugs, which are rarely tested and approved in forms and dosages appropriate to them, the lack of funds for research and targeted experiments on pediatric diseases ». And it is precisely to respond to these needs that the Foundation created the “Gold for Kids” project.
The example of acute lymphoblastic leukemia
The goal is to be able to find effective treatments even for the 20 percent of children diagnosed with cancer who still die of the disease today. But the medicines specifically designed to fight childhood cancers are few and those already used successfully to treat adults only in a very limited number of cases are also tested with methods and doses suitable for children. «A clear example of this is the therapeutic armamentarium for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer – recalls the expert -: to date there are 11 drugs, 5 of which developed in the 1960s, 5 in the 1970s and 1 in the 1980s. To develop new treatment strategies, also using innovative “targeted” drugs and not just chemotherapy, the Veronesi Foundation has undertaken to raise funds for a treatment protocol for this type of leukemia ».
The “passport of the cured”
From the start of the Gold for Kids project (in 2014) until today they have been collected and spent 9 million and 340 thousand euros, thanks to which it was possible to finance the work of 102 researchers and the opening of targeted treatment protocols on various childhood pathologies (neuroblastoma, acuta myeloid leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, ependymoma, medulloblastoma, sarcomi). Furthermore, the Veronesi Foundation supported the “Passport of the healed person” project, ie the development of a multilingual digital platform to archive the data of former pediatric cancer patients, in order to help them manage any future complications related to the anticancer treatments received. «Every year in Italy they get cancer about 1,400 children aged between 0 and 14 years and about 800 teenagers up to 19 years – concludes Fagioli -. Never as in these pandemic months has an appeal to support research been needed so as not to compromise all the efforts made so far. In order to continue to treat all our children in the best possible way and to develop new therapeutic strategies against those tumors that we still cannot eradicate ».
March 29, 2021 (change April 1, 2021 | 09:15)