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ISB Grade 11 Students Visit the Swiss Paediatric Oncology Group

On Friday, 25 October, Manuela and I, Emma, went to Bern to visit the headquarters of Swiss Paediatric Oncology Group (SPOG). During our visit, we met with Flora Ludmann (partner relations), Fabian Dreher (partner relations) and Isabelle Lamontagne-Müller (managing director), who introduced us to SPOG (in terms of what they do, their goals and their aims).

SPOG is an organization that the ISB has been supporting for 5 years in hopes to help raise awareness on their aim, their goals and help generate funds support their hard work in saving and improving lives for children with cancer. ISB is projected to break CHF 50,000 in donations to SPOG in this current academic year.

As stated in their mission statement, “The Swiss Paediatric Oncology Group SPOG is a non-profit organization which, through patient-oriented cancer research, is committed to achieving better treatment options and a higher quality of life for children and adolescents suffering from cancer.” SPOG was founded in 1976 and has since been making progress in the field of research in paediatric oncology.

During the visit, we learnt more about the financial needs required for SPOG to conduct their study protocols. SPOG is a non-profit organization and thus every cent counts. Although cancer amongst children and adolescents is rare, potentially one out of five of Switzerland’s population could be affected, with 0.5% of all tumours occurring before the age of 15. At this age, a successful treatment saves many years of life! This is why, when planning a treatment plan, one of SPOG’s main concerns is preserving the quality of life of their patients and with 26 currently open clinical research projects, the overall successful treatment today is possible for about 80% of all cases. Despite the strides taken in the field of paediatric oncology, 20% of unsuccessful treatment still demands further development. Therefore, it is vital that organizations like SPOG are there to help support and advance research in this area since the research conducted now is what makes the difference in the future.

SPOG requires a lot of money due to the science involved and the safety and ethical precautions required for a study to run. SPOG works together with its member institutions, the 9 hospitals around Switzerland having a paediatric oncology department, such as the Universitäts-Kinderspital, in order to conduct these protocols. The funds that ISB gives are very important because it can help make a big difference. SPOG receives 35% of their funding from the government and ISB has been a key supporting partner for SPOG over the past years. SPOG’s role is to sponsor and oversee most part of the clinical research in paediatric oncology across Switzerland. Although the government has increased its funding over time, the rate of demand for clinical trials increases at a faster rate. This means that the money given by institutions, such as ISB, is needed now more than ever before.

Written by: Emma & Manuela, Grade 11