As childhood cancer numbers rise, so does the call for concerted global action. Cancer cases in children have risen from 165,000 to 215,000 new cases for children 14 years of age and under, and 85,000 for children above the age of 14, according to a 2015 study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). On a global scale, childhood and adolescent cancer has nearly surpassed infectious diseases as one of the leading causes of childhood mortality (related to disease). There is a large disparity of children that suffer from cancer based on the wealth of the country they are from. For instance, 80% of registered children that live with cancer are from low and middle-income countries such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America, areas that do not have the specialized care and essential medications needed to treat such ailments.
February 15th is the day for everyone to come together to shine a light on this horrific disease. Today is the day that the Childhood Cancer International (CCI) containing 188 member organizations in 96 countries, and 1000 healthcare professionals from 110 countries who are members of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP), ask everyone to come together and help solve this problem. I am not sure how to solve such a challenge directly at a molecular or cellular level, but I can aid in providing knowledge, informing people, and spreading the word.
So what are the top cancers plaguing our children and what do they do?
Leukemia accounts for approximately 30 percent of all cancers occurring in children. Leukemia occurs in the blood and bone marrow. There are 4 types of Leukemia, the most prevalent in children are:
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
Children suffering from this disease will have symptoms of weakness, fatigue, bone and joint pain, pale skin, bleeding and bruising, weight loss, fever, and the list can go on. This is no way to be a kid, am I right? Leukemia is quite aggressive and the best course of action to date is chemotherapy as soon as possible. If you have a higher-risk leukemia the treatment will combine chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant.
Whats the purpose of this?
With high risk Leukemia’s it is pertinent to be incredibly aggressive. Chemotherapy uses harsh chemical substances to irradiate the cancer, but unfortunately the drugs are not as targeted as we might like them to be so they kill healthy and unhealthy cells. Because children are so small, they are are at a higher risk to develop the side effects of harsh chemotherapies such as catching life threatening infections, bleeding, low blood cell counts or related problems. Chemotherapy literally destroys the bone marrow, the stem cell transplant introduces blood forming stem cells into the body so they can differentiate into the various blood cells that are destroyed during high-dose chemotherapy, allowing the patient to withstand the treatment and giving them a better shot at a future. YAY SCIENCE!
#2 Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors
This is the second highest occurring form of cancer in children coming in at 26 percent. Because there is a wide spectrum of brain tumor types, the treatment can vary. Most cancers of this variety that occur in children begin in the cerebellum or brain stem (lower parts of the brain). This can stimulate headaches, vomiting, nausea, double or blurred vision, dizziness, trouble walking and using other motor functions, as well as seizures. Spinal cord tumors are less common, but do occur.
If you suffer from this cancer, you will have a team of doctors that will strategize the best way to approach your cancer. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy or the use of other drugs as treatments.
What do these treatments entail?
Surgery: Removal of as much of the tumor as possible.
Radiation Therapy: Uses small particles of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy: Uses anti-cancer drugs introduced via IV or taken by mouth.
Targeted Therapy: These drugs target the properties in cancer cells that cause the cancer cells or aid in their proliferation. Note: This treatment is used minimally.
Alternative drugs: These drugs may not help in the cancers demise, but they may assuage the symptoms that they cause. These include: corticosteroids (reduce swelling, relieve nausea, vomiting, and headaches), anti-seizure drugs, hormones (helps n cases that the pituitary gland is affected by the cancer).
This cancer begins in the nerve tissue and accounts for 6 percent of childhood cancers. It starts in the nerve cells in a developing embryo or fetus and is rarely found in children over the age of 10. This cancer has no preference on residence, but most often than not starts in the abdomen where it is commonly noticed as swelling.
If a child comes down with a neuroblastoma, they can expect a team of modern day superhero’s to rush to their treatment. Treatment can include, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, a combination of high-dose chemotherapy/radiation therapy and stem cell transplant, retinoid therapy, and immunotherapy.
What are these treatments?
Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and high-dose chemotherapy have been discussed thus far, refer to the treatments for #1 and #2 for a refresher.
Retinoid Therapy: This is recommended after high-dose chemotherapy and stem-cell transplant. Retinoids are related to vitamin A and are referred to as differentiating agents. It is thought that retinoids help cancer cells differentiate into normal cells.
Immunotherapy: Is a group of drugs designed to coax your own immune system into recognizing and attacking the cancer. One type, referred to as monoclonal antibodies, are paired with “immune system hormones,” called cytokines and together they help a child’s immune system to recognize and destroy neuroblastoma cells.
Pretty cool right?
The treatment for these cancers are involved, they require a team of diverse specialists, with state of the art equipment, medication, and facilities, something second and third world nations are not quite capable of providing just yet. There is a dire need for help and the first step is educating people about the issue. February 15th is the International Childhood Cancer Day, do your part to help irradiate this affliction, spread the word, knowledge is power!
#togetherforkidscancer #togethercreatingbetterfutures #ICCD #internationalChildhoodCancerDay #childhoodcancer #WHO
This article was written by Michelle Scire. Michelle Scire works as an analytical Chemist and Free-lance writer. You can visit her website at AlloKSci.com or catch her on social media:
Linkedin: Michelle Denise Scire