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Cancer in Australian Aboriginal children: Room for improvement


  • Declaration of conflict of interest: None declared.

Correspondence: Associate Professor Tamas Revesz, SA Pathology at Women's and Children's Hospital, 72 King William Road, North Adelaide, SA 5006, Australia. Fax: 08 8161 8643; email:



The study aims to analyse clinical data and outcome in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children with cancer.


This is a retrospective case-note review of biological features, treatment outcome and survival in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children with a malignancy who were treated at the Women's and Children's Hospital, a tertiary referral hospital, from January 1997 through March 2011. Two separate analyses were performed: firstly, for each Aboriginal patient comparisons were made with two age, sex and diagnosis-matched control patients; then secondly, results for the Aboriginal group of patients were compared with the whole non-Aboriginal group of patients.


In the first analysis, Aboriginal children had a significantly higher ‘remoteness index’ (6.14 vs. 0.95; P < 0.001) and were less likely to be enrolled on clinical trials. Survival analysis of the Aboriginal patients and their matched controls showed a trend towards inferior overall survival for the Indigenous children (P = 0.066). In the second analysis, Aboriginal children tended to have a higher proportion of leukaemias and lymphomas and had an overrepresentation of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) (P = 0.009). The mean age among Aboriginal children with AML and lymphoma was lower (AML: 3.5 vs. 8 years, P = 0.065; lymphoma: 7.5 vs. 11.9 years, P = 0.01). A higher proportion of Aboriginal children died (P = 0.004).


Aboriginal children present with a somewhat different pattern of cancer, are less likely to be enrolled on studies and seem to have increased mortality. There is a need for improvement in study enrolment, treatment delivery, care coordination and suitably supported residential facilities.