Childhood cancers: making progress thanks to clinical research

The aim today is to cure even more children while limiting side effects to a minimum. To do so, more clinical trials are needed, explains Dr Olivier Delattre.

The fight against childhood cancers is well underway, but still far from being won.

In basic research, we are trying to understand how tumors develop, and in particular the connections with the child’s development,” explains Dr Olivier Delattre, director of biomedical research at the Institut Curie Research Center. “Today, almost 80% of children recover from their cancers. The challenge is to continue to cure more children, and do so with as few after-effects as possible. Our aim is to improve clinical management, in particular by implementing therapeutic trials.

A benefit of Institut Curie is the proximity between research and the hospital, allowing clinicians to work in research units. This system allows genetic interactions, the risk of tumor development and modeling to be studied more effectively.


Offering increasingly innovative treatments for childhood cancers

Already well-established at the Paris site, research in pediatric oncology is developing at Institut Curie’s Orsay site:

  • Two research groups are working closely with the proton therapy center to optimize treatments for children.
  • Chemists are studying techniques using photo-sensitization for retinoblastoma.

 “The department of translational research is working hard to make connections between basic research and clinical research, in particular in the creation of biomarkers, to determine the risk of the tumor’s development at a given time. It determines the nature and intensity of the treatment provided to the child, and thus his/her survival,” Dr Delattre explains.

It houses a pediatric oncology translational research team, financed by the SiRIC, whose aim is to improve management of neuroblastoma and rhabdoid tumors.

To continue with this strategy that has already produced results, Institut Curie has committed to strengthening the ties between its research teams and its department of pediatrics, adolescents and young adults, through a single facility similar to the cancer immunotherapy center (

Institut Curie is taking part in or coordinating a number of clinical studies on an international scale, which is important for furthering knowledge of these rare diseases. In 2015, Institut Curie obtained the status of Centre d’essais cliniques de phase précoce (CLIP2 – early phase clinical trial center) from the INCa, which allows it to also conduct early pediatric trials.