super hero kid with cancerHow common is cancer in children?

Although cancer in children is rare, it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States. In 2018, it is estimated that 15,590 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,780 will die of the disease in the United States (1). Among children ages 0 to 14 years, it is estimated that, in 2018, 10,590 will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,180 will die of the disease (1). Among adolescents ages 15 to 19 years, about 5000 will be diagnosed with cancer and about 600 will die of the disease. SOURCE:(cancer.gov)

What are the possible causes of cancer in children?

The causes of most childhood cancers are not known.

Up to 10% of all cancers in children are caused by a heritable (germline) mutation (a mutation that can be passed from parents to their children). For example, about 45% of children with retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye that develops mainly in children, inherited a mutation in a gene called RB1 from a parent (9). Inherited mutations associated with certain familial syndromes, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Fanconi anemia syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, also increase the risk of childhood cancer. Genetic mutations that initiate cancer can also arise during the development of a fetus in the womb. Evidence for this comes from studies of monozygotic (identical) twins in which both twins developed leukemia with an identical leukemia-initiating gene mutation. (10). SOURCE:(cancer.gov)

What are the main types of childhood cancer?

In 2021, it is estimated that 15,590 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,780 will die of the disease in the United States (1)

Among children (ages 0 to 14 years), the most common types of cancer are:

Among adolescents (ages 15 to 19 years), the most common types of cancer are:

As of January 1, 2017 (the most recent date for which data exist), approximately 465,000 survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer (diagnosed at ages 0 to 19 years) were alive in the United States (2). The number of survivors will continue to increase, given that the incidence of childhood cancer has been rising slightly in recent decades and that survival rates overall are improving. SOURCE: (cancer.gov)

What are the potential Person Years Life Lost (PYLL) when a child is diagnosed with cancer?

“In terms of person-years life lost (PYLL), the average age at diagnosis of breast cancer is 61, with a calculated 16 PYLL. In contrast, the average age that a child is diagnosed with cancer is six. This calculates to Sixty-seven (67)years of life lost when a child dies from cancer.” (SOURCE: ACCO)

How often is a child diagnosed with Cancer?

“…every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer.” SOURCE: (St. Baldrick’s)

What is the average age of a child (0-19) diagnosed with cancer?

The average age of a child diagnosed with cancer is six (SOURCE: St. Baldrick’s)

What are the differences between adult cancer and childhood cancer?

The types of cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. Unlike many cancers in adults, childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors. And only a small number of childhood cancers are caused by DNA (gene) changes that are passed from parents to their children. (SOURCE: Cancer.org)

How has the survival rate of childhood cancer patients changed over the years?

Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, 84% of children with cancer now survive 5 years or more. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was about 58%. Still, survival rates can vary a great deal depending on the type of cancer and other factors. (SOURCE: Cancer.org)

What is the outlook for children and adolescents with cancer?

The overall outlook for children and adolescents with cancer has improved greatly over the last half-century. In the mid-1970s, 58% of children (ages 0 to 14 years) and 68% of adolescents (ages 15 to 19 years) diagnosed with cancer survived at least 5 years (1). In 2010–2016, 84.1% of children and 85.3% of adolescents diagnosed with cancer survived at least 5 years (2).

Kids playingAlthough survival rates for most childhood cancers have improved in recent decades, the improvement has been especially dramatic for a few cancers, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer. Improved treatments introduced beginning in the 1960s and 1970s raised the 5-year survival rate for children diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at ages 0 to 14 years from 57% in 1975 to 92% in 2012 (3). The 5-year survival rate for children diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at ages 0 to 14 years has also increased dramatically, from 43% in 1975 to 91% in 2012 (3).

Because of these survival improvements, in more recent years brain cancer has replaced leukemia as the leading cause of cancer death among children (4).

By contrast, survival rates remain very low for some cancer types, for some age groups, and for some cancers within a site. For example, half of the children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (a type of brain tumor) survive less than 1 year from diagnosis (5). Among children with Wilms tumor (a type of kidney cancer), older children (those diagnosed between ages 10 and 16 years) have lower 5-year survival rates than younger children (6). For soft tissue sarcomas, 5-year survival rates in 2008–2014 among children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years ranged from 65% (rhabdomyosarcoma) to 95% (chondrosarcoma) (7), but children with sarcomas who present with metastatic disease have much lower 5-year survival rates. And the 5-year survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2008–2014 was 91% for children younger than 15 years, compared with 74% for adolescents ages 15 to 19 years (7).

Some evidence suggests that adolescents and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia may have better outcomes if they are treated with pediatric treatment regimens than if they receive adult treatment regimens (8). The improvement in 5-year survival rates for 15- to 19-year-olds with acute lymphoblastic leukemia may reflect greater use of these pediatric treatment regimens.

KidsCancerCureThe cancer mortality rate—the number of deaths due to cancer per 100,000 people per year—among children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years declined by more than 50% from 1975 to 2017 (2). Specifically, the mortality rate was 5.1 per 100,000 children and adolescents in 1975 and 2.2 per 100,000 children and adolescents in 2017. However, despite the overall decrease in mortality, approximately 1,800 children and adolescents still die of cancer each year in the United States, indicating that new advances and continued research to identify effective treatments are required to further reduce childhood cancer mortality.

Each year in 1997–2017, the cancer death rate dropped the most for 15- to 19-year-olds (a 1.7% drop each year on average), followed by that for 0- to-4-year-olds (a 1.4% drop), 10- to 14-year-olds (a 1.2% drop), and 5- to 9-year-olds (a 1.1% drop) (2). (SOURCE: cancer.gov)

What are some of the late effects of childhood cancer treatment?

Today, because of advances in treatment, more than 80% of children treated for cancer survive at least 5 years. But the treatments that help these children survive their cancer can also cause health problems later on.

Most treatment side effects appear during or just after treatment and go away a short time later. But some problems might not go away or might not show up until months or years after treatment. These problems are called late effects. Because more children with cancer now survive into adulthood, their long-term health and these late effects have become a focus of care and research.

Careful follow-up after cancer treatment helps doctors find and treat any late effects as early as possible. The follow-up schedule depends on many things, including the type of cancer the child had, the treatments used, the risk of late effects from those treatments, and other factors such as the patient’s age, amount of chemotherapy or radiation is given, and how long it has been since treatment was completed. (SOURCE: American Cancer Society)

What is the Greehey CCRI doing to find a cure for childhood cancer?

Since 2004, UT Health San Antonio, Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute’s (Greehey CCRI) mission has been to advance scientific knowledge relevant to childhood cancer, contribute to the understanding of its causes, and accelerate the translation of knowledge into novel therapies. Through the discovery, development, and dissemination of new scientific knowledge, Greehey CCRI strives to have a national and global impact on childhood cancer. Our mission consists of three key areas — research, clinical, and education.

Read the Greehey CCRI Director’s message

What are some of the common childhood cancer misconceptions/myths?

Children dressed as super heroes

Myth: Childhood cancer is the same as adult cancer.
Fact: We know many adult cancers are strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors, but the causes of childhood cancer are largely unknown. Many childhood cancers are the result of DNA changes in cells that happen when the child is very young, sometimes even before they are born. This means childhood cancers can’t be prevented by limiting environmental risk factors the way many adult cancers can. We need to fund researchers who study childhood cancers specifically, so we can learn more about causes and potential treatments. (SOURCE: Children’s Cancer Research Fund)

Myth: Children with cancer and childhood cancer survivors pose a health risk to other children/adolescents. They are disease carriers.
Fact: Childhood cancer is not contagious. It is not an infectious disease. Neither is it a virus that can be transmitted or transferred by interaction. Thus, it is safe for other children and teens to play, socialize and interact with kids with cancer and childhood cancer survivors. The reality is that children/adolescents with cancer who are immuno-compromised (i.e., have a weakened immune system during treatment), are at risk for catching colds/flu, measles, mumps, chickenpox, and other common childhood illnesses from other children. This is why you see some children with cancer wearing masks—to protect themselves. This is also why parents or providers oftentimes isolate their children from large groups or public gatherings when they know their children are vulnerable. (SOURCE AACO)

How can I help support childhood cancer research at Greehey CCRI?

Members of the Ambassador’s Circle do what all ambassadors do . . . they serve as advocates and goodwill ambassadors for this prestigious research institute. What is more, they financially support Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute, helping ensure that important components of the Institute’s programs are funded.Gupta and Lab Member

While childhood cancers are rare, our ability to find new treatments is limited due to the small number of patient-relevant tissue samples studied in the laboratory. Consider donating your discarded tumor tissue and become part of the Greehey CCRI Hero Tumor Donation Program.