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Kid’s Cancer a Work-in-Progress: September 28, 2013

More and more medicine is moving towards the reality that kids aren’t mini-adults. Their conditions and diseases may have different origins and require different treatment. It’s especially true with cancer.

“Pediatric cancers are very different from adult cancers. Most of the cancers you see as an adult are usually a product of what you’ve been exposed to in your life. A good example of that would obviously be tobacco and cigarette smoking. With kids the majority of cancers are from a genetic nature. Which means while you were developing something happened,” says Dr. Emad Salman, pediatric oncologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

That’s fueled the field of pediatric cancer research. Children with cancer are looked at as a study group, and each child a part of the study, examining treatment protocols and outcomes. The biggest beneficiary is A-L-L leukemia, the most common of all kid’s cancers.

“We’re talking about an improvement from less than 10% in the 1960s to over 92% in 2010,” says Dr. Salman.

Kid’s cancer is still a work-in-progress. Children with other forms of disease don’t fair as well. So pediatric oncologists are collecting data from each type to study it in the way they did leukemia and hope for similar success. It’s taken this long, because there are fewer cases.

“There are some tumors that are more rare and those that take much longer because to get enough patients you treat the same way you have to get a certain number and if it takes 5 to 10 years it’s very hard to do a research study,” says Dr. Salman.

Brain cancer falls into this category.  For tumors in the brain stem outcomes are poor. Neuroblastoma is also under scrutiny.

“The number of children who have cancer with research protocols are in the 80 to 90% range. When you look at adults, the number of adults who have cancer that go on research protocols, the number is usually a lot less than 10%,” says Dr. Salman.

And so the promise lies in a growing body of research.