Scientists and oncologists are always looking for ways to improve treatment for pediatric cancer patients. Pediatric cancer clinical trials are vital for creating better treatments, screening measures, and diagnostic tools for pediatric cancer.
Pediatric cancer clinical trials are the greatest hope for the 43 children (ages 0-19) per day that will be diagnosed with pediatric cancer just in the United States. Pediatric cancer is considered rare; however, it is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 15 preceded only by accidents.
What Causes Pediatric Cancer?
The causes of pediatric cancer are still largely unknown. Unlike adult cancer, which can sometimes be traced to lifestyle-related risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, and an unhealthy diet; pediatric cancer occurs too early for those risk factors to play an important role.
Genetic mutations are what cause cancer cells to form and reproduce. Gene mutations can be inherited (passed from parent to child) or acquired (only present in the affected person). However, most pediatric cancer genetic mutations are not inherited. Some factors such as parental smoking or radiation can cause acquired genetic mutations in children, however most causes of pediatric cancer genetic mutations are still being uncovered.
What are the Benefits of Pediatric Cancer Clinical Trials?
There are almost 200 active pediatric cancer clinical trials currently in the United States. Each of these trials is attempting to develop a new, tailored approach for treating or detecting these devastating diseases. Pediatric cancer clinical trials played a large role in the drastic increase in average 5-year survival rate of pediatric cancer from 58% in the 1970s to around 85% now! These clinical trials allow pediatric patients to receive innovative treatments many years before the average population.
Leukemia is the most common pediatric cancer type and accounts for almost 30% of all childhood cancers. The most common leukemia in pediatric cancer is acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) which affects 3 out of 4 children diagnosed with leukemia. Because of pediatric cancer clinical trials, this cancer type, which once routinely resulted in death, now has a 5-year survival rate of around 90%!