In recent years, great strides have been made in this field, but there are still many elements to be explored, from genetic studies to targeted treatments. AIRC is at the forefront of supporting research to seek new treatments against cancers that affect the youngest.
Serena was 15 when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of the most common forms of cancer in childhood and adolescence. In two years the girl recovered, also thanks to the developments of scientific research.
It is for the work of so many researchers that today leukemia patients survive in 90 percent of cases, but there is still a long way to go. We need to focus on research to identify effective solutions for all forms of cancer, including the rarest and still not very treatable ones.
The curability of pediatric cancers: where we stand
Studies on pediatric cancer tell us that three out of four children recover completely and this is a major achievement for all scientific research. But there are important gaps to be filled.
For example, patients who reach adulthood are no longer the responsibility of pediatric oncology and this risks creating a gap between the work carried out up to that moment by the treating team and that which will have to deal with the next.
Currently there is no figure who accompanies cancer patients throughout their life, and probably it would not even be possible, given the long life expectancy of those who have overcome the disease as a child. However, having a point of reference as constant as possible is also important to identify, in case of need, the most effective treatments based on those administered previously.
Fortunately, most people who have recovered from pediatric cancer are in good health, but the risk of a recurrence or unwanted consequences related to treatment, such as effects on fertility or the development of other diseases, must still be considered.
Preventing and treating childhood cancers in a decisive way, avoiding relapses and preventing the side effects of therapies are some of the objectives currently pursued by research.
Pediatric tumors: the objectives of the research
Research on pediatric cancers has made enormous progress in recent years, but the road is still long: not all cancers have obtained the same results achieved for leukemia and lymphomas, which today can be treated in the 1980s. hundred of cases.
Support for research is essential in this regard. AIRC currently supports several childhood cancer projects, some of which focus on diseases that are still difficult to detect and treat.
In Italy, the group of researchers led by Achille Iolascon of the CEINGE – Advanced Biotechnology research center in Naples – studies the possible correlation between the onset of neuroblastoma and recurrent genetic modifications. The study could make it possible to more accurately identify children who are at risk of getting sick.
The study of lesions in the DNA is also common to other research, such as the one on megakaryoblastic leukemia of the child, which aims to identify the level of risk of getting this disease at an early age, based on genetic abnormalities. This is the goal of the group of researchers coordinated by the oncohematologist Franco Locatelli, director of the Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome.
In addition to preventing the onset of cancers, research is committed to identifying personalized therapies. The group of researchers also led by Franco Locatelli is trying to find a cure for acute myeloid leukemia based on a genetic alteration identified in young patients.
Scientific research on childhood cancers is therefore working on several fronts, but adequate resources, skills and tools are needed to achieve the desired results. Everyone can make a difference: with a small contribution, you can achieve huge results. Find out how with 6 euros a month!