Researchers Make Strides To Cure The Incurable

July 9, 2012


Childhood leukemia was once considered an incurable disease. Today I am proud to say that children have an excellent chance to combat and even defeat all forms of leukemia.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 12,060 new cases of cancer are expected to arise in children 14 years old and younger this year, and over 30% of those cases will be childhood leukemia. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of leukemia in children and accounts for about 3 out of 4 cases of leukemia among children and teenagers.

Researchers here at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and in the Children's Oncology Group analyzed long-term survival rates among 21,626 people treated for leukemia as children. And according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 5-year ALL survival rates increased to 90% since 2000, an improvement from 84% from 1990 to 1994. Except for children younger than 1 year old, survival increased for all ages and ethnicities of children. With trends continuing this way, we can cure ALL and hopefully all forms of leukemia in our lifetime.

To date, improving drug combinations and finding better ways to determine treatment needs have boosted survival rates, but identifying subsets of leukemia and medications that specifically target those subsets will help improve survival even more.

Not only are we searching for a cure for all types of leukemia, we are also aiming for long-term survival. Here at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, we have a Long Term Survivor Program to monitor patients for delayed side effects and complications caused by previous cancer therapies. We recognize that health concerns for childhood cancer patients don't end when their cancer treatment is successfully completed. We currently follow over 1,500 long-term survivors and have world-renowned faculty involved in local, national and international research that benefits pediatric cancer patients today and in the future. We see survivors of all forms of childhood cancer with no upper age limit, even if they haven't been treated in our Cancer Center beforehand.

There are currently over 320,000 childhood cancer survivors in the United States. 9 out of 10 children will be cured of ALL, but researchers are busy finding a cure for a 100% survival rate.

To contact the Long Term Survivor Program, please visit our web page or call (832) 822-4240.

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