An increase in the number of children taking part in clinical trials has driven a huge hike in childhood cancer survival, according to a UK study published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

Between 1966 and 1970 just 28% of young patients diagnosed with cancer survived for five years, but jumping forward to those diagnosed during 1996-2000, and this figure has rocketed to 77%.

Looking at data from more than 25,000 children in the first analysis of population-based survival in relation to open clinical trials, the authors found that the annual reduction in risk of death ranged from 2.7% for rhabdomyosarcoma to 12.0% for gonadal germ cell tumours.

Findings of the study show this achievement can be directly linked to the creation of the UK Children's Cancer Study Group - known as the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group from 2006 - which was set up in 1977 to put together a portfolio of national and international trials for childhood cancers.

Indeed, in its first 28 years of history, two-thirds of young people diagnosed with cancer in Great Britain had a type of cancer for which there was a clinical trial they could participate in, which has had a direct benefit as "the population-based survival increased significantly during this period", according to the researchers.

"The key message from this study is that clinical trials are good for you if you are a cancer patient," said Kathy Pritchard-Jones, Professor of Paediatric Oncology at Great Ormond Street Hospital. "Taking part in clinical trials is considered best practice for most newly diagnosed childhood cancers now," she added.

This week, the European Commission has published long-awaited draft regulation that will replace the existing European Clinical Trials Directive which, it is hoped, will get rid of some layers of bureaucracy surrounding the clinical trials process and thereby make it much easier for patients to get access to innovative drugs in development. Click here if you want to know more.