Tim Brinton

How to Beat Childhood Cancer

Survival rates for children with cancer have soared since the 1960's, even though virtually all of the drugs that we use today to treat them were discovered and approved in the 1950’s and 1960’s. So, if new drugs have not fueled four decades of progress, what has?

PHILADELPHIA – For a parent, there is perhaps no greater fear than the prospect of losing a child to illness or accident. And it is childhood cancer that has the greatest potential to catapult a remote fear into an unimaginable reality. As a pediatric oncologist, having cared for children with cancer and their families for more than 25 years, I know that only a parent who has confronted such a diagnosis truly understands the depth of this fear, as it touches the core of who we are as parents.

I also know that we are treating more children more effectively than ever before – and that we can do much better still.

For a child born in the 1960’s, the diagnosis of the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), meant almost certain death, with a survival rate of less than 10%. A child with the same diagnosis today has a better than 80% chance of being cured. Looking at the five-year survival rates for children with ALL from the 1970’s through the 1990’s, one sees an almost linear improvement in cure rates.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in


Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.