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During the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, paediatric cancer patients from lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) faced a higher risk of all-cause mortality than those in high-income countries, according to an international study led by the University of Oxford.

Graphic showing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on paediatric cancer patients from lower- and middle-income countries

This data was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2022, held from 8 to 13 April in New Orleans, and was concurrently published in BMJ Open

Paediatric cancer, while rare, is the world's second leading non-communicable cause of death among children. Research has shown that survival rates from childhood cancers are dramatically different in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) compared with high-income countries (HICs), explained the study's presenter, Dr Muhammed Elhadi, a medical doctor at the University of Tripoli in Libya.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world, the same disparities that plague many aspects of health care quickly became apparent. Dr Elhadi and colleagues suspected that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting children's cancer services in LMICs and, subsequently, may be contributing to poorer outcomes for children with cancer.

To evaluate the impact of the pandemic on paediatric cancer care, researchers and clinicians from the Global Health Research Group on Children's Non-Communicable Diseases Collaborative (Global Children's NCDs), led by Professor Kokila Lakhoo and Mr Noel Peter from the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences and Oxford University Global Surgery Group (OUGSG), collected data from 91 hospitals and cancer centres around the world. They examined data from March to December 2020, encompassing 1,660 patients who were under the age of 18 and had recently been diagnosed with or were in active treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, Wilms tumour, sarcoma, retinoblastoma, gliomas, medullablastomas, or neuroblastomas. In all, 1,104 patients (66.5 percent) were from LMICs and 556 (33.5 percent) were from HICs.

Read the full story on the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences. 

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