There has been a vast improvement in survival rates for children with cancer. There is now a five-year survival rate of more than 85 percent for the most common form of childhood cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL).
During the last 20 years, five-year survival rates have increased and death rates have decreased for most childhood cancers. Both improvements are due to major progress in treatment. These improvements are even more impressive when they are considered with the fact that the rate of children diagnosed with all forms of invasive cancer has actually increased during the same time period.
Still more than 1,500 children die every year from cancer while about 10,400 children under 15 are diagnosed with the disease. Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children 1 to 14 years of age.
Current childhood cancer research at St. Jude includes: gene therapy, bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, the biochemistry of normal and cancerous cells, radiation treatment, blood diseases, resistance to therapy, hereditary diseases and the psychological effects of catastrophic diseases.
The Latest Research
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) funds a large number of studies that look at the causes of and the most effective treatments for childhood cancers. Ongoing investigations at NCI include:
- Studies to identify causes of the cancers that develop in children
- Monitoring of U.S. and international trends in incidence and death rates for childhood cancers
- Studies to better understand the biology of childhood cancer
- Preclinical studies (animal studies) of new agents to identify promising anticancer drugs that can be evaluated in clinical trials
- Projects designed to improve the health status of survivors of childhood cancers
- Clinical trials to identify better treatments for childhood cancers
- Evaluations of new drugs that may be more effective against childhood cancers and that may have less toxicity for children