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IAEA Joins Global Dialogue on Role of Nutrition Management in Childhood Cancers

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(Photo: A3pfamily/Shutterstock.com)

In low and middle-income countries (LMICs), the chances of surviving childhood cancer are between 15-45 per cent, reports the World Health Organization (WHO). In high income countries, those chances rise to 80 per cent. The difference is attributed to issues such as delayed diagnosis, inaccessible treatment, and scarcity of specialized health professionals. In addition, malnutrition contributes significantly to the low survival rates of children with cancer in LMICs.

Taking part in a Special Focus Dialogue on 12 April, an IAEA Nutrition Specialist will highlight how nuclear techniques can support nutrition management for children, teens and young adults with cancer. Organized by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), in collaboration with the International Collaboration on Nutrition in relation to Cancer (ICONIC), the event will focus on the role of nutrition in childhood cancer and the discussion will explore opportunities for improved nutritional care in childhood cancers. Additional speakers will include experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) and the Cancer and Nutrition Collaboration of the UK National Institute for Health Research.

The IAEA Nutrition Specialist will explain the essential contribution of nuclear nutrition techniques in assessing malnutrition in children with cancer, and give an overview of its ongoing commitment to supporting national efforts in LMICs to ensure that those in need have access to high quality nutrition cancer care.

“Nuclear techniques are emerging as an important tool to assess body composition, bone health and energy requirements of children with cancer, all essential parts of the puzzle when aiming to improve their nutritional health and clinical outcomes,” said Cornelia Loechl, Head of the IAEA’s Nutritional and Health-Related Environmental Studies Section.

“Nutrition status plays an important role in the treatment outcomes of childhood cancers,” said Shalini Jayasekar Zurn, Senior Advocacy Manager at UICC. “To address this, a crucial first step is for nutrition and cancer communities to come together. We are very pleased to provide a platform to raise awareness, share best practises and explore possible opportunities to work together to improve treatment outcomes.”

The IAEA works closely with the WHO, IARC and other United Nations organizations and partners on WHO’s Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC), aimed at reaching at least a 60 per cent survival rate for children with cancer by 2030, and thus saving an estimated additional one million lives.

The IAEA builds capacities in LMICs by providing training, equipment, and guidance in the use of nuclear techniques, such as dual energy X ray absorptiometry and stable isotopes.

“The use of stable isotopes to accurately assess body composition and energy expenditure in children with cancer is evolving to both guide nutrition support in patients as well as address research gaps,” said Loechl. Today, with the support of the IAEA, over 60 LMICs have the capacity to analyse samples for body composition by using stable isotopes within their own countries.

The IAEA also supports countries to gather accurate data through a coordinated research project focussed on using nuclear techniques to generate evidence on how to improve survival in children with cancer in LMICs by explaining the interlinking relationships between cancer, body composition, energy balance and clinical outcomes in childhood cancers.

Register here for the UICC Special Focus Dialogue - Nutrition and cancer in children, teens and young adults: current understanding and future opportunities, to be held on Monday, 12 April, 15:00 - 16:30 CET.

Nutrition status plays an important role in the treatment outcomes of childhood cancers.
Shalini Jayasekar Zurn, Senior Advocacy Manager at UICC

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