The courage of children with cancer is to be recognised with a unique award, as new figures from Cancer Research UK show that more children are surviving the disease than ever before.
Survival rates have improved dramatically since the early 1970s with at least 5,600 more children living for five years or more after diagnosis.
The news comes as Cancer Research UK launches its annual Little Star Awards, in partnership with retailer TK Maxx, across the South East.
Relatives and friends of young cancer patients or survivors from across the region are being urged to nominate them now for special recognition of their courage in the run up to Christmas.
Last year 49 children from across the South East received a Little Star Award. Unlike many other children’s awards, there is no judging panel because organisers believe each and every child who faces cancer is extra special.
Recipients get a unique trophy, a TK Maxx gift card and a certificate signed by a host of celebrities including pop sensation Leona Lewis, sporting heroes Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis as well as Harry Potter star Rupert Grint.
Dr Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Children’s Cancer Trials Team, said: “The Little Star Awards recognise the courage of all children who have been diagnosed with cancer. Seeing their bravery is an inspiration to me and my colleagues every day. Nominate a Little Star today.”
Cancer Research UK has helped to transform the outlook for children with cancer in the last 40 years. In the early 70s, 33 per cent of children survived leukaemia – the most common children’s cancer - for at least five years. Now that figure has risen to almost 80 per cent.
And survival rates for children with neuroblastoma have more than tripled since 1971. Part of this is due to a new way of giving chemotherapy developed by the charity’s scientists.
Today this work is continued by Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team, which co-ordinates ground-breaking trials in 21 centres across the UK and Ireland.
Around four children are diagnosed with cancer in the South East every week.
Long distance runner and Olympic hopeful, Mo Farah, said: “Every child nominated for a Cancer Research UK Little Star Award is a real winner and it is a privilege to be able to support such a great cause.
“Having recently witnessed a young family friend battle the disease so bravely, I’m determined to help raise awareness of progress in cancer research and bring a little bit of happiness and a sense of pride to these inspirational children and their families.”
Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint said: “Supporting Cancer Research UK’s Little Star Awards is a privilege. The awards are a fantastic way of recognising the bravery and courage of all children and their families who have been affected by cancer. Each and every child is a hero.
“I’m proud to be able to play a part in raising awareness of the awards and I think that it’s wonderful that Cancer Research UK is helping to bring a little bit of magic to the children’s lives in this way.”
The awards are open to all under 18s who have cancer or have been treated for the disease in the last five years.