Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Meet the Players

      As a recap from last year, here are the main players on the childhood cancer field.  On the visiting team, we have:
  • Leukemia - a blood cancer that begin in the bone marrow and affects leukocyte development (white blood cell blasts).  The most common type of childhood leukemia is ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), followed by AML (acute myloid leukemia).  There are also chronic and infectious leukemias, which occur mainly in adults. 
  • Lymphoma - a cancer of the B or T lymphocytes, a crucial part of the immune system.  It affects the lymph system as well.  There are over a dozen kinds of lymphoma, with the most common kinds being Hodgkins and Pre-T Cell Lymphoma.  
  • Sarcoma -  a soft or connective tissue tumor that can occur in various tissue types, such as bone (Osteosarcoma, Ewing's Sarcoma), cartilage/connective tissue (chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, neurofibrosarcoma), skeletal muscles (rhabdomyosarcoma), or smooth muscle (leiomyosarcoma).  While these cancers are rare, 15% are diagnosed in children. 
  • Wilm's Tumor - a tumor of the kidney, which occurs only in children. 
  • Neuroblastoma - most common solid tumor that occurs outside of the brain.  50% of cases occur in children under 2, and grows on the sympathetic nervous system.
  • DIPG - as discussed in Tuesday's post, a tumor of the pons in the brain stem, which occurs only in children, usually in those under 5.
  • Glioma - a diverse group of tumors affecting the various glial cells that account for many brain tumors in children.  Types include glioblastoma multiform, astrocytomas, and ependyomas. 
And on the home team, swinging for the win we have:
  • Chemotherapy - also known as chemo.  Literally a chemical that treats a disease.  Chemotherapy usually refers to the caustic chemical used to kill cancer cells.  Chemos come in oral and intravenous forms, cause a variety of side effects, from hair loss to infertility and secondary cancers, and may or may not be effective on various types, stages and cell etiologies in cancer.  while they are often seen as ineffective, they are the only option for treatment in most cases.  
  • Photon Radiation - traditional, high-energy radiation used to shrink cancer tumors and to kill the cells, also known as x-ray radiotherapy.  Photons spread as the impact the body, radiating into surround tissues and causing additional damage.  However, this is a very effective way to nuke tumor cells.
  • Proton Radiation - a newer type of radiation treatment using protons as the radiation.  Proton radiation was first used in 1989, with the first US treatment opened in 1990.  There were 6 US treatment centers when my brother was diagnosed (late 2006), and there are now 14 US centers.  
  • Immunotherapy - uses immunoglobulins (proteins that stimulate the immune system in the hopes to prod it into fighting the cancer.  These include "cancer vaccines", antibody therapy, and cytokines.  
  • Bone Marrow Transplant - the body's immune system is completely wiped out with a heavy course of radiation and chemo.  Bone marrow is the innermost layer of the long and large bones (femur, pelvis, ect) and where blood cells are produced.  The marrow is removed from the pelvis of the donor and is infused into the recipient.  
  • Clinical Trial - a method of getting cutting edge treatments that are being tested.  Since there have been few new drugs for pediatric cancer in the last few decades, a vast majority of childhood cancer patients are part of a clinical trial.  

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