Pediatric oncology is a rapidly evolving field. Just look at the last 40 years, during which childhood cancer has changed from a certain death sentence to a condition where some 80 percent of patients survive.
But 80 percent isn’t good enough, and there’s still a lot of work to do. For Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Lisa Diller, MD—chief medical officer of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—looks ahead to what she sees as the four biggest trends in pediatric cancer research and care:
- Precision medicine: “Treatment for cancers is now being transformed because we can genetically characterize an individual’s tumor, finding genetic changes that suggest specific targeted therapies.”
- Immunotherapy: “Already there have been dramatic advances in melanoma outcomes and promising results in other adult-onset cancers. We are beginning to learn how to use this approach in pediatric cancers.”
- Reducing toxicity: “Since the late 20th century, we have increasingly sought ways to reduce the toxicity of treatment to maintain cure rates with fewer late effects. These efforts will continue.”
- Global health: “Because pediatric cancers are rare, pediatric oncology is a global community accustomed to collaborating internationally, which offers a good platform for a stronger focus on improving survival of childhood cancer globally. “