Cancer doesn’t fight fair at any age, but perhaps no cancer is more emotionally devastating than those that occur in children. The fear and uncertainty these young patients and their families face can hardly be measured, but the progress the American Cancer Society has made in seeking new cures for childhood cancer can. Today, a child’s chance of dying from cancer is 53% less than it was in 1975. The substantial progress in childhood cancer is largely attributable to improvements in treatment and the high proportion of pediatric patients participating in clinical trials. The Society is deeply committed to finding new answers that will benefit every child with cancer.
Relentlessly Pursuing Answers
An estimated 11,630 children under the age of 15 are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2013. Following are some of the top scientists funded by the American Cancer Society who are working to find the answers that will save more lives from pediatric cancer.
- Elana Evans, PhD, at UCLA, developed a method of communication and training materials for parents and children to teach them how to communicate effectively with each other about the child’s symptoms. This improved communication resulted in better understanding and better treatment of the symptoms, and enhanced the quality of life of the patients and their families.
- Tricia Z. King, PhD, at Georgia State University in Atlanta, aims to identify the markers that predict which long-term survivors of childhood brain tumors will go on to function well in later life, and which will require assistance. The findings will be critical in helping the growing numbers of long-term brain tumor survivors to live independently, and determining what degree of community and health care involvement will be required.
- Maciej Lesniak, MD, at the University of Chicago (Illinois), is working to re-engineer a virus that causes the common cold, empowering it to attack the cells within fast-growing brain tumors.
- Steve Lessnick, MD, PhD, at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, is exploring specific cell processes involved in Ewing’s sarcoma, seeking better treatments for this disease.
- Mollie Meffert, MD, PhD, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, is studying a signaling pathway involved in brain cancer that explores how focused treatments can destroy tumor cells while minimizing negative effects on brain function.
- Kevin Shannon, MD, at the University of California at San Francisco, is exploring genetic changes in cells that occur in leukemia patients, re-creating these genetic reactions in the lab to seek out newly targeted therapies.
- Kimberly Stegmaier, MD, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, has drawn on insights from a larger study of lung cancer to develop a promising new method for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML).