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.

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