Cancer is rare in children: In the US about 130/Million children per year are reported newly diagnosed with cancer. The Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry, in existance since 1976, reports between 180 and 230 children that fall ill per year.
While in 1973 only 40% of children with cancer were cured, today we can see a chance of a cure around 75 – 80%. Treatment does not differ completely between children and adults. However type of medication and dose have to be adjusted and in some cases different medication or chemotherapy is needed. Prognosis increased of those children and young adults treated within studies, based on the results of our researchers. Since few years even after-effects of survivors have been better evaluated. They are periodically invited to an examination which is registered and documented.
The diagnostic spectrum of children to adults differs greatly. On one side half of newly reported childhood cases are of acute leukemia and brain tumors. This often included sarcoma (tumor of the connecting tissue). On the other side, carcinoma that is found in adults is missing completely in childhood cases. Additionally, the invasion of internal organs differs greatly between the two: lungs, breast, prostate and gastro-intestinal tract are rarely seen in childhood cases. Yet blood forming organs, the brain and often the lymph nodes are more susceptible to cancer in children. ones, kidneys and other abdomens are also commonly effected in children.
While treatment of adults can take years until they are said to be cured, tumours in children and adolescents are often
more aggressive and tend to grow faster. Therefore children with cancer of this type would die within few month if not detected and treated immediately.
Not least because of the special behaviour of cancer in children many discoveries in genetics and the genome have been made in research of childhood cancer. For example the identification of a tumor suppressor gene while examining a retino blastom – a rare and aggressive eye tumor in children. Even many modern cancer drugs as cytostatic agents from the 60s and 70s have been developed following the research and recommendations of scientists from the childhood cancer files. Therefore fundamental as well as clinical research of tumors of children and adolescents is promising.
The proliferation of rapidly multiplying cells in children allow them to react quicker and easier to any treatment as opposed to case of cancer in adults. For a long time, children oncology has been able to build better and faster effecting chemotherapy and irradiation. However, the after-effects are more serious and have more long-term implications when children are treated. Chemotherapy seems to be the better approach for future quality of life.