New research study to explore childhood cancer diagnoses

A new research study at the University of Nottingham has been launched to understand how cancer is diagnosed in children and young people across the UK.

The Childhood Cancer Diagnosis Study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and leading children’s cancer charity Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG).

The project aims to help researchers to understand the journey that children and young people experience from the start of their symptoms until they receive their diagnosis of cancer.

A team of researchers will collect information about what symptoms they experience, who they go to see with these symptoms initially, and how long it takes before the diagnosis is reached.

The research will take place at the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham and be led by Dr Shaarna Shanmugavadivel, a paediatrician and NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow at the University, along with Dr Shalini Ojha, and Professors David Walker and Kavita Vedhara from the School of Medicine at the University.

The study results will also inform the Child Cancer Smart project, a collaboration between CCLG and the University of Nottingham, in partnership with CLIC Sargent and the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust, which aims to develop guidance for healthcare professionals to help with symptom recognition and making appropriate referrals. Child Cancer Smart will also produce a range of awareness tools for both healthcare professionals and the general public to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer.

Dr Shaarna Shanmugavadivel, NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow and lead researcher on the study, said: “Cancer symptoms in children are often non-specific, mimicking other more common childhood illnesess.”

“The misperception by the public and professionals that childhood cancer is rare means it is often not considered until the child has multiple symptoms and advanced stage disease. Time is crucial; untreated, tumours grow bigger and can spread around the body causing significant damage and require more extensive surgery and more intensive therapies to offer cure.”

“This project will focus on investigating and addressing this problem, ultimately ensuring better survival and long-term outcomes for children.”

The Childhood Cancer Diagnosis Study will open in all Principal Treatment Centres (regional hospitals treating children with cancer) over the next few months, and run for two years. All newly diagnosed children will be asked to take part in the study, by asking their parents for permission to use routine data about diagnosis collected by the child’s oncology team.