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Concentration of surgery improves operation for childhood cancer

An essential component of the therapy strategy is surgery to remove the tumour tissue.

Concentration of surgery improves operation for childhood cancer
Representative image

AMSTERDAM: The sympathetic nervous system tumour known as neuroblastoma mainly affects young children. In the Netherlands, 25 kids are given this diagnosis per year.

An essential component of the therapy strategy is surgery to remove the tumour tissue. Since November 2014, the Princess Maxima Center for Pediatric Oncology in Utrecht has served as the primary care facility for Dutch children with solid tumours, including neuroblastoma.

To investigate the effect of concentrating surgery for children with neuroblastoma, researchers from the Princess Maxima Center looked at the medical records of 244 children who had undergone surgery in the five former pediatric oncology centers in the Netherlands between 1998 and 2014.

They compared this data with that of the 111 children whose surgery was performed in the Princess Maxima Center between 2014 and 2021. The research was published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology, and was partly funded by KiKa.

The researchers saw that operations took 40% less time after the concentration of care: the procedure took an average of two hours and forty-five minutes, an hour and forty-five minutes less than before. In addition, the amount of blood loss during the operation was strongly reduced, from an average of 450 milliliters to just 50 milliliters.

The number of side effects in the first month after surgery remained the same, the researchers found, but the severity of the side effects decreased. Before the concentration of surgery, there were more frequent side effects of the operation that required repeat surgery, and which in some cases were life-threatening.

The researchers also found tentative evidence of an improvement in survival rates for children operated on for neuroblastoma, but further research is needed to establish this difference with more certainty.

Prof. dr. Marc Wijnen, pediatric oncology surgeon and research group leader at the Princess Maxima Center for pediatric oncology, led the study. He said, "'With this analysis we show concrete results of bringing together all care and research for children with cancer.

Less damage was done to the healthy tissue during the operation, resulting in fewer complications for the child." "As a general rule, the more experience a surgeon has, the better the results. The outcome of the investigation did not surprise me.

It shows that we can now offer children with cancer the best possible treatment." Prof. dr. Rob Pieters, medical director and co-initiator of the Princess Maxima Center for pediatric oncology, was also involved in the research.

He said, "Our main starting point when establishing a single national research hospital for childhood cancer was that as a parent you want the very best care for your child. What we already knew from practice, we now see expressed in numbers: by treating a rare disease more often, doctors become increasingly better at that treatment.

And that leads to better outcomes for our children." "In this study, we focus on the outcomes of surgery in children with neuroblastoma. I expect that now - almost five years after the opening of the Princess Maxima Center - the benefits of concentrated care and research will become clear for more and more forms of childhood cancer."

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