The European study on centralisation of childhood cancer treatment

G. Gatta*, L. Botta, H. Comber, N. Dimitrova, M. K. Leinonen, K. Pritchard-Jones, S. Siesling, A. Trama, L. Van Eycken, J.M. van der Zwan, O. Visser, T. Zagar, R. Capocaccia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: It is generally agreed to centralise treatment of childhood cancers (CCs). We analysed (1)the degree of centralisation of CCs in European countries and 2)the relations between centralisation and survival. Patients and methods: The analysis comprised 4415 CCs, diagnosed between 2000 and 2007 and followed up to the end of 2013, from Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Slovenia. All these countries had national population-based cancer registries and were able to provide information on diagnosis, treatment, treatment hospitals, and survival. Each case was then classified according to whether the patient was treated in a high- or a low-volume hospital among those providing CC treatment. A Cox proportional hazard model was used to calculate the relation between volume category and five-year survival, adjusting by age, sex and diagnostic group. Results: The number of hospitals providing treatment for CCs ranged from six (Slovenia)to slightly more than 40 (the Netherlands and Belgium). We identified a single higher volume hospital in Ireland and in Slovenia, treating 80% and 97% of cases, respectively, and three to five major hospitals in the other countries, treating between 65% and 93% of cases. Outcome was significantly better when primary treatment was given in high-volume hospitals compared to low-volume hospitals for central nervous system tumours (relative risk [RR]= 0.71), haematologic tumours (RR = 0.74)and for all CC combined (RR = 0.83). Conclusion: Treatment centralisation is associated with survival benefits and should be further strengthened in these countries. New plans for centralisation should include ongoing evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean journal of cancer
Early online date24 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Centralised treatment
  • Childhood cancers
  • Hospital
  • Rare cancers
  • Survival


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