A new study has shown that a more personalised cancer treatment regimen can help improve the cure rate for children with leukemia and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
The six-year Singapore-Malaysia ALL 2003 study recruited 556 children under 18 years old who were suffering from Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), better known as cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
Every year, there in ten children are diagnosed with ALL.
While the disease is highly curable, the intensive chemotherapy required has many side effects, such as damage to the organs, such as the heart, skin and brain.
Convention chemotherapy, which uses four drugs to achieve remission from cancer, could also lead to secondary cancers resulting from the toxic effect of chemotherapy or radiation.
The new regimen uses less intensive therapy by using only three drugs, and then measuring patients' response to the treatment.
This means that most patients skip the most toxic therapy found in the fourth drug, which is reserved only for those who responded poorly.
Results showed that about 87 per cent of patients only needed a significantly lower dose of chemotherapy and could avoid further toxic therapy.
Principal investigator of the study, Associate Professor Allen Yeo, said: "Doctors should move away from being too worried that more is better. It is really finding the correct optimal therapy for every child which is more critical because you can cure without the huge side effects and burdens that we see currently."
Some parents found the accurate diagnosis of the patient useful.
Amy Liew, a mother whose daughter participated in the study, said: "This treatment actually helped because it kept us informed and helped us to study how the leukaemia cells are progressing, how they are being treated and that's very important to us.