New drug could prevent hearing loss among child cancer patients

A new drug could help to prevent hearing loss among children with cancer, according to a new study.

Experts said that a high number of patients who have a certain treatment for childhood cancers suffer permanent hearing loss.

There are around 1,800 cancers among under 18s in the UK each year.

A chemotherapy drug called cisplatin is widely used to treat many cancers, especially in children.

Hearing loss charity RNID warned that cancer patients under the age of 18 who are given this drug are at a high risk of permanent hearing loss as a result.

It said that more than 70% of children treated with cisplatin experience permanent hearing loss as the drug builds up in the cochlea in the inner ear and damages the hair cells, which are unable to grow back.

But a new study, which is to be presented to the RNID Hearing Therapeutics Summit, found that a drug called Pedmark, also known as Pedmarqsi, lowers the risk of hearing loss brought on by cisplatin chemotherapy.

The summit, organised by the RNID along with the UCL Ear Institute and UCLH NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, will hear that the drug, given as an injection, can reduce hearing loss among children on cisplatin chemotherapy by up to 42%.

Manufacturer Fennec Pharmaceuticals said the drug may help to reduce the risk of hearing loss for the approximately 4,000 children with non-metastatic, solid tumours treated with cisplatin in Europe every year.

While it has been approved for use in the US and Europe, it is still waiting for approval by UK medical regulators.

Dr Ralph Holme, director of research and insight at RNID, said: “We look forward to when this important drug will be made available in the UK to children undergoing cancer treatment.

“The majority of children treated with cisplatin chemotherapy currently experience permanent hearing loss, but this drug could turn the tables so that more children are able to enjoy their hearing for years to come.

“At RNID, we want there to be a range of treatments to prevent hearing loss and restore hearing for those who need and want them, and our Hearing Therapeutics Summit is an important way to bring the research community together in order to share insight and speed up the development of new treatments.”

Dr Ananya Bhattacharya, head of medical affairs and safety at Fennec Pharmaceuticals, added: “Fennec is very pleased that Pedmarqsi offers patients and their families the opportunity to avoid this life impacting side effect and can give children the opportunity to live healthy, happy, and fully integrated lives after overcoming cancer.”