Nov 23, 2012

Children and Cancer Clinical Trials

Cancer in children and teenagers is relatively rare, making up only about 1 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. But according to the National Cancer Institute, that still means more than 12,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for children—after accidental injuries. During the past 20 years, the childhood cancer 5-year survival rate has dramatically increased from 60 percent to more than 80 percent.
Childhood cancers are usually quite different from adult cancers. They often form in parts of the body that are still growing and changing, such as the blood system, brain, nervous system, and kidneys. There is no known cause for most childhood cancers. Leukemias (blood cell cancers) and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of all childhood cancers. Pediatric (childhood) cancers tend to be more aggressive than adult cancers.

In stark contrast to adult participation in clinical trials (less than 5 percent) well over half of all children with cancer participate in clinical trials. Improvements in treatment developed in clinical trials account for the rapid improvement in survival rates.  Today, 80% of kids with cancer survive for at least 5 years.  Cancer deaths in kids have been cut in half in the last 3 decades. 

According to ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, many pediatric clinical trials are focused on new treatments, evaluating whether a new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the current (standard) treatment. These types of studies evaluate new drugs, different combinations of existing treatments, new approaches to radiation therapy or surgery, and new methods of treatment. Researchers also focus on easing symptoms, reducing toxic side effects, and reducing side effects that may occur after treatment has been completed. 

Clinical trials have made a major contribution to the many advances in treating childhood cancer.

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

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