Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Childhood Cancer Research

Research is an extremely important part of childhood cancer and it's treatment. It is due to research that the 5 year survival rate of childhood cancer has risen to nearly 80% (note: this is only 5 years. the overall survival rate is about 62%). While only 1% of adults with cancer are enrolled in clinical studies and research, nearly 80% of kids are. Here are some reasons why:
  1. A high percentage of childhood cancers are metasticized. This means the cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor making it harder to treat. For this reason, traditonal chemo/ surgury/ radiation treatments may not be enough. New treatments are constantly being developed, meaning doctors, parents and patients alike are on the lookout for developments and hope.
  2. Childhood cancers are DIFFERENT from adult cancers. Yes, different. The cancers react differently to treatments, have different pathologies and the kids themselves are more resiliant and can handle different treatments than adults. Yet, despite this, the vast bulk of childhood cancer treatments are adult drugs with a different dose. What?!!?!? Worse yet, most of these approvals were an after thought. Are America's kids worth only an afterthought from big drug companies???!?!?!? Research for Pediatric specific drugs is rare and often difficult to get funded. This is why the new Creating Hope Act, signed into law by President Obama this year, is such a big deal. It provides funding for pediatric specific research.
  3. Our understanding of cancer is very limited. We barely understand how cancer works and what it is, let alone how to stop it and deal with it's effects, as well as preventing and detecting cancer.
  4. Childhood cancer is an umbrella term. There are over 100 types of cancer, some more understood than others. Kids are more likely to get a "rare" cancer than adults, such as a sarcoma. Since we know even less about rare cancers, research is crucial to developing treatments.
  5. The treatments we have now are far from perfect. Chemotherapy comes with a host of nasty side effects and long term effects. While in treatment, chemo causes nausea, extreme lethargy, nuetropenia (death of white blood cells), low platlet and hemoglobin levels, and the list goes on. Chemo is so toxic that nurses often wear special suits to work with and administer it. For long term effects, chemo/ other treatments lead to higher risks/ development of diabetes, heart disease, secondary cancers (yes, more cancers), neuropathy, and psychological, academic and emotional problems. We need better treatments!
There are many more reasons, and I could go on for hours on why research is important. But, I digress. So, we need more research. Unfortunately, pediatric cancer research doesn't have a large market value, and drug companies don't really want to invest in a low return treatment. it's a money game. While the federal government can give perks, including patent benefits and grants, it's often not enough. Donations are needed.
Here are some organizations that donate to childhood cancer research:
Please Donate!
If you need a face to donate to, I am walking in the Salt Lake City Cure Search walk, and am trying to raise money, so here's my page: Please help me raise money to beat kids cancer!

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