Paediatric cancer is rare, but it is still a global health issue and one of the main causes of death by disease in children and adolescents. Leukaemia and lymphoma account for approximately half of the cases in this age group. Since decades, studies on these paediatric haematological malignancies are considered as a model for clinical and basic research beyond paediatric haematology-oncology.
Today, thanks to the strenuous efforts of a well-organized research network – largely based on cooperative group efforts since the early 1960s– childhood and adolescent leukaemia and lymphoma can be successfully treated in almost 80% of the cases. The impact of collaborative studies on the progresses made in understanding the biology and improving the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) – the most common type of leukaemia in children and adolescents – have been particularly striking, with the long-term survival rates for this disease approaching 90%.
However, despite these incomparable progresses in terms of survival rates, there are still subgroups of leukaemia and lymphoma with a dismal prognosis. With the advent of high-resolution genome-wide analyses, paediatric haematology-oncology international study groups were established worldwide to improve treatment outcomes for the drug-resistant subtypes of these diseases and develop more effective and personalized treatments.
The International BFM (I-BFM) study group is dedicated to promote both research and clinical care for children and adolescents with leukaemia and lymphoma. With a global scope and a growing number of participating national study groups, I-BFM today provides a well-organised network to further advance the cure rate and the quality of life of children and adolescents. More than 34 countries worldwide collaborate in committees and associated working groups within I-BFM; these groups address specific aspects of research on paediatric leukaemias and lymphomas, and share their results at the regular I-BFM meetings, guaranteeing a fast and systematic transposition of research findings to clinical care.