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New drug reduces risk of hearing loss in children treated for liver cancer

Wednesday 27th June 2018
A new drug has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of hearing loss among children being treated for liver cancer.
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Children at risk of hearing loss as a result of their cancer treatment may benefit from a new drug that can lessen that risk, according to a study.

A Cancer Research UK-funded team at Great Ormond Street Hospital have identified that sodium thiosulphate (STS), when administered after cisplatin chemotherapy, can reduce hearing loss by nearly 50 per cent in children treated for hepatoblastoma, a childhood liver cancer.

When children with liver cancer are treated with cisplatin, around two-thirds are left with permanent hearing loss, due to the drug remaining in and damaging the cochlea after being removed from the body.

For this study, 109 children were treated for their hepatoblastoma using either cisplatin alone, or cisplatin followed by STS six hours later. While 63 per cent of children given cisplatin alone suffered a degree of hearing loss, this dropped to 33 per cent for those also given STS, meaning their risk of this side effect was reduced by 48 per cent overall.

Moreover, it was shown that this resulted in no difference in overall survival rates or the risk of the cancer returning, meaning the chemotherapy treatment was just as effective when STS was used.

The team is now hoping to secure regulatory approval from the EU and US for STS to become part of a new standard of care for treating hepatoblastoma.

Dr Penelope Brock, trial lead and paediatric consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "Even mild hearing loss can severely impact a child's future development; key consonants are heard at high frequencies like S, H and F, and their loss can be particularly difficult for children who haven't yet developed speech.

"This treatment combination could help ensure that parents aren't faced with an upsetting scenario where successful cancer treatment comes at the cost of their child's hearing."

Written by James Puckle

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