Conventional medicine is the sort of medicine and treatment your doctor would usually use to treat your cancer. You may also hear this called orthodox medical treatment.

The following are general descriptions of treatments that may be used as part of a child’s treatment plan. (follow the links for full details)



Surgery is the removal of either a cancerous or non-cancerous tumour and the surrounding tissue during an operation performed by a surgical oncologist (a doctor that specialises in treating tumours using surgery). The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumour and the margin (tissue around the tumour), leaving a negative margin (no cancer in the healthy tissue).

For most childhood tumours, there is microscopic tumour left after surgery; doctors will then usually recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatments. Side effects of surgery depend on the location and type of the tumour and whether it has metastasised.



Chemotherapy is the use of specific drugs, administered by a paediatric oncologist, to destroy cancer cells by preventing the cancer cells from growing and dividing to make more new cells.

Cancer cells generally grow and divide much faster than healthy cells; chemotherapy destroys them more quickly than it destroys most healthy cells.

Chemotherapy drugs are very powerful and they cause damage to many growing cells, including some healthy cells. This damage causes the side effects of chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy


Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles such as photons to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is administered by a radiation oncologist, who is a doctor who specialises in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer.

Radiation describes the way energy moves from one place to another; this can either be  in the form of particles such as protons or in the form of waves like x-rays or visible light.

Possible side-effects from radiation therapy may include mild nausea, skin reactions, fatigue, and loose bowel movements, depending on which part of the body is receiving radiation. Most side-effects disappear again soon after treatment is finished.

While significant progress has been made in treating cancer since 1971 ,it still remains the second leading cause of death in many countries across the globe. The major modes of treatment for cancer remain, as they were in 1971 – surgery, radiation and non-targeted chemotherapy. Yet, in the past fifteen years significant technology breakthroughs have enabled a rapid increase in understanding cancer at the molecular level. This is leading to many new approaches to treatment.



Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.

Immunotherapy is the treatment of disease that uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer by inducing, enhancing or suppressing an immune response. Cancer immunotherapy attempts to stimulate the immune system to reject or destroy tumours. The efficacy of immunotherapy is enhanced by around 30% when combined with conventional cancer treatments.

There are a myriad of different immunotherapies that work in various ways to either boost the body’s immune system or train the immune system to attack cancer cells, including Cellular Therapies, Interferons, Interleukins, and more…

Stem Cell Transplants/Bone Marrow Transplants

stem cell transplant

A stem cell or bone marrow transplant replenishes the body with healthy cells to help restore the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells

Stem cell transplants – from bone marrow or other sources – can be an effective treatment for people with certain types of cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and neuroblastoma.

A stem cell transplant is a medical procedure in which bone marrow that contains cancer is replaced by highly specialised cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, that develop into healthy bone marrow.

Hematopoietic stem cells are blood-forming cells found both in the bloodstream and in the bone marrow.

Gene Therapy

Researchers are studying gene therapy for a number of diseases, such as severe combined immuno-deficiencies, hemophilia, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and HIV, through a number of different approaches.

A gene can be delivered to a cell using a carrier known as a “vector.” The most common types of vectors used in gene therapy are viruses. The viruses used in gene therapy are altered to make them safe, although some risks still exist with gene therapy.

In most gene therapy studies, a “normal” gene is inserted into the genome to replace an “abnormal,” disease-causing gene. In cancer, some cells become diseased because certain genes have been permanently turned off. Using gene therapy, mutated genes that cause disease could be turned off so that they no longer promote disease, or healthy genes that help prevent disease could be turned on so that they can inhibit the disease.