(RxWiki News) September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s designed to spread the word that, while 80 percent of youngsters diagnosed with the disease beat it, even one death is too many. This article covers some facts and figures and offers a progress report on childhood cancer.
These advances have focused on gene abnormalities that play a role in the development of cancer in children and the issues adult childhood cancer survivors face.
Recent research has had one aim — finding better ways to treat and cure kids with cancer.
"Visit a pediatrician if your child has an unexplained fever that doesn’t go away."
Nearly 12,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013; that’s 32 kids a day. Four children die from cancer every day.
“One child dying of cancer is one too many, and the need to find better treatments is as critical as ever,” said Dr. William E. Evans, PharmD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital director and CEO, in a prepared statement.
The average age of diagnosis is 10 years old, but some cancers start developing before the child is even born.
Childhood cancers arise when the DNA in a child somehow gets altered.
St. Jude joined forces with Washington University in the past year to map the complete cancer and normal genomes of 700 young cancer patients.
This effort — the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project — has resulted in the world’s largest compilation of comprehensive human cancer genome data ever released. Scientists around the world have free access to this vast knowledge base.
The project was designed to gain a better understanding of what drives the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer.
Dr. Evans said that the genome data “...represent billions of clues, and the real detective work for researchers is figuring out what they mean for the bigger picture.
“Ultimately," he said, "this information provides the foundation for the clinical trials that lead to more effective therapies."
The genome data also uncovered the genetic mistake responsible for nearly a third of a rare but aggressive blood cancer known as megakaryoblastic leukemia.
Ongoing research is looking at treating and overcoming not only childhood cancers, but the late effects childhood cancer survivors face.
Late effects are serious health conditions that can show up years after cancer treatment. Childhood cancer survivors may need to address such issues as infertility, dental problems, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and mental health issues later in life.
Also within the past year, St. Jude conducted a study that looked at undiagnosed health conditions in childhood cancer survivors.
The St. Jude study found a range of undiagnosed diseases. The study authors emphasized the importance of childhood cancer survivors sharing their complete medical histories with their health teams and being vigilant about such things as heart disease and screening for other types of cancer.