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The Blood Cancer UK Childhood Leukaemia CellBank

The Blood Cancer UK Childhood Leukaemia CellBank is a cutting-edge facility based in Stockport which collects, stores, and processes samples from children who have been given a diagnosis of leukaemia.

Three young people are diagnosed with a type of blood cancer every day in the UK. Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children aged up to 14, affecting over 450 children in the UK each year. It causes certain white blood cells in the bone marrow, which usually fight infection, to grow too quickly. These cells turn cancerous and ‘clog-up’ the bone marrow, preventing other healthy cells being made.

The Blood Cancer UK Childhood Leukaemia CellBank was established in 2004. It is the only national resource providing clinical samples from children with leukaemia, without which much of the progress that has since been made in understanding and treating childhood leukaemia would not have been possible.

So far, the samples from the Blood Cancer UK Childhood Leukaemia CellBank have been used in 64 national and international projects. Over 98,000 samples have been donated by almost 8,000 children and young adults with different types of leukaemia. These include samples of bone marrow, blood and sometimes other tissues, such as spinal fluid. Not much is needed from each donor, just a teaspoon of blood or a few drops of spinal fluid.

Every child who is undergoing tests to diagnose leukaemia will be asked to donate a sample to the Blood Cancer UK Childhood Leukaemia CellBank. This means that every child with leukaemia is working to benefit other children who will develop leukaemia in the future.

My son being diagnosed with leukaemia was the most frightening thing that has happened to my family. He survived and now thrives thanks to advances in treatment driven by research. The CellBank is critical to this.

- Father of a child who donated to the CellBank

Successes using samples from the Bank

Research funded by Blood Cancer UK using samples from the CellBank, led to the development of a new way to identify which children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) will respond well to treatment well, and which are at high risk of seeing their cancer return. A trial is now taking place across the UK and Europe that will test new treatment options for children at high risk of their disease returning and will also work to give children at low risk of their disease returning kinder treatments.