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    Adult survivors of childhood cancer face health issues


    Les Robison, PhD

    Largest study to date shows adults diagnosed and treated 1970 - 1986 at increased risk for complications of their cancer and its treatment, compared to siblings

    Almost three-fourths of adult survivors of pediatric cancer patients diagnosed in the 1970s and 1980s have—or will develop—chronic health problems related to their cancer or its treatment, according to a study by investigators from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other institutions.

    The results of this study, the largest of its kind to date, also found that 40 percent of these adults will experience serious, life-threatening, disabling or fatal conditions; and that female survivors are 50 percent more likely to experience them. A report on this study appears in the October 12 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

    “It is encouraging that at least a quarter of long-term survivors may not experience a chronic health problem,” said Kevin C. Oeffinger, MD, director of MSKCC’s Program for Adult Survivors of Pediatric Cancer and the study’s lead author. “However, our findings underscore the need for adult survivors of childhood cancer to be followed on a regular basis by a health care provider who is familiar with their health risks. It is important for survivors to realize that many of these chronic health problems can be diagnosed early and more easily treated, or sometimes even prevented.”

    “The findings of this study are a benchmark against which we will be able to compare future outcomes of patients now receiving therapies that are more advanced, and we hope, less toxic,” said Les Robison, PhD, chair of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control. Robison is senior author of the report and principal investigator of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS),  a 26-institution study that tracks health outcomes of more than 14,000 survivors whose cancer was diagnosed between 1970 and 1986. CCSS, coordinated through St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has been funded by the National Cancer Institute since 1994.

    The study’s co-authors include Melissa Hudson (St. Jude); Charles A. Sklar (MSKCC, New York, NY); Ann C. Mertens (University of Minnesota), Toana Kawashima, Debra L. Friedman, and Wendy Leisenring (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, Seattle, WA); Anna T. Meadows  and Wendie Hobbie (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia); Neyssa Marina (Stanford University; Palo Alto, CA); Nina S. Kadan-Lottick (Yale; New Haven, CT); Cindy L. Schwartz (Brown University, Providence, RI).

    This work was supported in part by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services and ALSAC.

    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is the world’s oldest and largest institution devoted to prevention, patient care, research, and education in cancer. Our scientists and clinicians generate innovative approaches to better understand, diagnose and treat cancer. Our specialists are leaders in biomedical research and in translating the latest research to advance the standard of cancer care worldwide. For more information, go to www.mskcc.org.

    St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fund-raising organization.

    October 2006