Monday, November 18th, 2013
Children who undergo treatment for cancer may be at greater risk of developing heart disease later in childhood, as well as in adulthood, according to a new study presented to the American Heart Association. Researchers recommended that pediatricians monitor heart health carefully in their patients who have undergone cancer treatments. More from The New York Times:
Scientists have known for some time that survivors of childhood cancer are several times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as adults, a result of the toll that lifesaving radiation and chemotherapy treatments can have on the heart. But the new study, presented at an American Heart Association conference over the weekend, is among the first to show that the risk is elevated while the survivors are still children.
The research looked at 319 boys and girls under the age of 18 who underwent chemotherapy treatments for leukemia or cancerous tumors. At the time of the study, the participants were a minimum of five years past the time of their diagnosis.
When the children were compared with 208 siblings of similar ages, the researchers found a nearly 10 percent decrease in arterial health and other signs of premature heart disease.
Image: Baby undergoing treatment, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Cancer remains the number one cause of childhood death, but there is reason for optimism in the face of new treatments and better diagnostic tools, a new statistical analysis has found. More from ABC News:
National Cancer Institute statistics show that in the U.S. the combined, an overall five-year cancer survival rate for children under 19 with cancer has increased from 62 percent in the mid-1970s to 84 percent today. For the most common type of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the cure rate is now over 90 percent.
“We’ve made amazing progress on pediatric cancers in just one generation. It’s the biggest success story in cancer right now,” said James Downing, M.D., co-chair of the American Association for Cancer Research’s special conference on pediatric cancer; and scientific director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
Downing said one of the reasons such great strides have been made in pediatric cancer is that treatment protocols for younger patients tend to be vastly different from adult protocols. With adult cancer, there is a tendency to take breaks in treatment and back off if it gets too intense, he said. But many pediatric oncologists are aggressive about having their patients push through treatment until there is a cure — sometimes for up to three years without a break.
Another reason for the high success rate is that up to 60 percent of pediatric cancer patients are treated as part of a research trial, compared to just 5 percent of adults, Downing said. Such trials offer access to cutting-edge treatments and a chance for oncologist to confer with a team of oncologists, other specialists and researchers.
But Downing said he thinks the biggest advances in treatment have come from the sequencing of the human genome.
“DNA sequencing of tumors helps us define the mutations that underlie pediatric cancer to help us attack cancers where we are not yet winning and will be a major catalyst to make progress in the next several years in how to treat those cancers,” he said.
Downing admitted there are some unique challenges when treating young ones stricken with cancer.
Most cancer drugs were developed for use with older, more mature bodies so proper dosages and side effects can be tricky, he said. The cancers seen in children are vastly different from the ones seen in adults, so they aren’t always as completely studied or well understood. And it’s also difficult to know whether the chemotherapy, radiation and surgery children receive might lead to health problems later in life.
“Our challenge is to cure them so they can reduce long-term complications and live a normal life,” he said.
Image: Child undergoing chemotherapy, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
The family of 7-year-old Emma Whitehead are rejoicing after an experimental cancer treatment helped the girl beat leukemia that was threatening to take her life after two post-chemotherapy relapses. More from The New York Times:
“Desperate to save her, her parents sought an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one that had never before been tried in a child, or in anyone with the type of leukemia Emma had. The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells.
The treatment very nearly killed her. But she emerged from it cancer-free, and about seven months later is still in complete remission. She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer.
Emma had been ill with acute lymphoblastic leukemia since 2010, when she was 5, said her parents, Kari and Tom. She is their only child.
She is among just a dozen patients with advanced leukemia to have received the experimental treatment, which was developed at the University of Pennsylvania. Similar approaches are also being tried at other centers, including the National Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“Our goal is to have a cure, but we can’t say that word,” said Dr. Carl June, who leads the research team at the University of Pennsylvania. He hopes the new treatment will eventually replace bone-marrow transplantation, an even more arduous, risky and expensive procedure that is now the last hope when other treatments fail in leukemia and related diseases.”
Image: Laboratory technician, via Shutterstock
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Monday, April 2nd, 2012
In response to a Facebook campaign that garnered more than 150,000 supporters, the toymaker Mattel has announced it will make a bald doll as part of the Barbie franchise to offer support for children who are either going through cancer treatment or living with a condition that causes them to lose their hair.
On its Facebook page, Mattel announced that the doll will be released next year directly to children’s hospitals, but not to the public:
Play is vital for children, especially during difficult times. We are pleased to share with our community that next year we will be producing a fashion doll, that will be a friend of Barbie, which will include wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience. For those girls who choose, the wigs and head coverings can be interchanged or completely removed. We will work with our longstanding partner, the Children’s Hospital Association, to donate and distribute the dolls exclusively to children’s hospitals directly reaching girls who are most affected by hair loss. A limited number of dolls and monetary donations will also be made to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
The group that petitioned Mattel also is collecting signatures to urge toymaker Hasbro to create a bald GI Joe doll.
Image: Mattel logo, via http://logos.wikia.com/
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Thursday, January 12th, 2012
A Barbie doll with no hair–bald because she had undergone cancer treatment–is in demand by a growing group of women who have battled the disease or are going through it with their children. The Associated Press reports:
Friends Rebecca Sypin and Jane Bingham, who live on opposite coasts but have both been affected by the disease, hatched the idea to use Barbie for the movement because she’s such a popular children’s toy.
Bingham has lost her hair due to chemotherapy treatments to treat lymphoma. Sypin’s 12-year-old daughter, Kin Inich, also lost her hair this year in her own battle with leukemia.
Mattel didn’t return calls on Wednesday seeking comment, but the women said they have contacted the company through some general form letters. In return, they said, they’ve received form letters that say Mattel doesn’t accept ideas from outside sources.
The women say a bald Barbie would provide a huge platform to raise awareness for children with cancer.
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Barbie, all 11.5 inches of her, is one of the best-known toys of all time. She can sell for $10 at Wal-Mart or $7,000 on eBay.
As of this morning, the Facebook page had more than 36,500 fans.
(Image via: http://www.facebook.com)