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New blood test for safely reducing hospital stays for children with cancer

Posted on 9 May 2022

A pilot study by CRD Clinical Academics Dr Bob Phillips and Dr Jess Morgan, in conjunction with Hull York Medical School, has found that a new blood test can help doctors to safely reduce the length of hospital stays for children with cancer who develop a fever.

It is typical for the NHS to keep children in hospital for up to a week while antibiotics are administered just in case the fever is a symptom of sepsis or another serious infection. However, the new blood test can be used to identify children whose fever is not a sign of serious illness by looking at levels of the biomarker procalcitonin.

Dr Phillips said: "procalcitonin blood tests could make a big difference to children who don’t have a serious infection, allowing them to go home earlier to be with their families, cutting unnecessary treatment with antibiotics and reducing an already intense mental and physical toll”.

The pilot study involved 28 children with cancer and on average hospital stays were reduced to two days. The shortest stay was just 8 hours. Dr Phillips added that “these promising results and the willingness of families to take part in this research mean we can now apply for further funding to carry out a large-scale study". The study has been funded by the cancer charity Candlelighters.

To help communicate the study findings to lay audiences Dr Phillips and Dr Morgan worked with a company to produce a short audio piece which presented findings within the context of a short drama highlighting that being able to spend less time in hospital and return home sooner matters to children with cancer.