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£1 melatonin supplement could improve survival and reduce side effects of childhood cancer treatment

Press release 14th September 2018

  • Children with Cancer UK calls for NHS to provide cheap and safe supplement for young cancer patients as part of ‘standard-of-care’ treatment, backed by international experts at its 2018 International Scientific Conference
  • Melatonin improves survival and reduces toxic side effects of patients undergoing cancer treatment, and costs less than £1 per day per patient
  • Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland at night. Its use as an adjunct to chemotherapy exploits its well-known properties as a powerful natural anti-oxidant with anti-cancer properties.

The leading national children’s charity dedicated to research into cancer in children and young people, Children with Cancer UK, has today (14 September 2018) called on the NHS to provide the safe £1 a day supplement, melatonin, to young cancer patients to support current standard-of-care treatment. The calls are backed by leading international experts, gathering at Children with Cancer UK’s 2018 International Scientific Conference (12-14 September).

Scientists believe providing melatonin as standard could save lives as well as the NHS money – improving survival with reducing adverse side effects, at a cost of less than £1 per day per patient. Melatonin could be particularly important for young cancer patients as evidence shows that children are more sensitive to the light at night suppression of melatonin than adults.

The potential for melatonin to transform childhood cancer treatment is the centrepiece of Children with Cancer UK’s landmark 2018 conference (12-14 September, Church House, Westminster), which brings together leading international scientists to examine how we understand the causes and development of cancer in children, teenagers and young adults.

Research from 21 published solid tumour trials shows that in trials combining melatonin with chemotherapy, melatonin increased survival by 40% and improved overall outcomes were doubled.

In these studies, melatonin also significantly reduced many of the toxic and debilitating side effects associated with cancer treatment. Melatonin was shown to benefit cancer patients who are also receiving chemotherapy, radiotherapy, supportive therapy, or palliative therapy by improving survival and reducing the side effects of chemotherapy.

However, while melatonin is available to many patients in the United States, it is not currently provided as standard to NHS patients.

Children with Cancer UK Trustee, Alasdair Philips, said: “We believe that melatonin should be used by the NHS as part of normal ‘standard of care’ of cancer patients. It is an extremely safe, low cost generic supplement that has been shown over many years to improve treatment outcomes and reduce unwanted toxic side effects from chemo and radio-therapy. The evidence is clear that providing melatonin to young patients would help save lives and reduce suffering – it’s time it became available on the NHS as standard.”

The leading world expert on the effects of melatonin, Professor Russel Reiter of the University of Texas Health San Antonio, said: “The evidence is compelling that melatonin would reduce the negative side effects of radio- and chemotherapies; it is time to consider this option in the treatment of childhood cancers.”

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