HACKENSACK, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) —The federal government has almost seven billion dollars earmarked for cancer research in this year’s budget. That’s the good news, but think about this … every year, only a small portion of that money goes to pediatric cancer. What does that mean for the youngest patients, their families, and the doctors who care for them?
Fourteen-year-old Jaynalee Becerril was on her first-ever vacation to Orlando, when a nagging sore throat became unbearable.
Jaynalee says, “That whole week we were supposed to go to Disney, Universal, a whole bunch of wonderful, wonderful parks. But I never got to go,”
Jaynalee was hospitalized. Her bloodwork came back showing very low white blood cell counts.
Angela Maldonado says, “She has B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was very, very overwhelming.”
Jaynalee explains, “At first you cry a lot, like a lot like, a bucket full, like two million gallons full.”
Jaynalee was transferred to a hospital near her New Jersey home and began immediate cancer treatments.
But for Pediatric Oncologists, the federal dollars to support cutting edge research aren’t always enough. Only four percent of the cancer research budget goes to kid’s cancer.
“There just really isn’t the funding that we need to conduct the research and find better treatments for our kids.” Explains Derek Hanson, MD Pediatric Oncologist Hackensack University Medical Center.
At major US Pediatric Cancer Centers, research is often largely funded by public and private fundraising.
At the Joseph M. Sanzari Pediatric Hospital, where Jaynalee gets treatment, Tackle Kids Cancer and a partnership with football great, Eli Manning, funds new clinical trials and programs to provide much-needed support to families like Jaynalee’s.
Jaynalee says “How I think is that god gave me this sickness knowing I can beat it.”
And go back to being a kid.
At Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer Center, the Jimmy fund has raised millions since 1948. Tackle Kids Cancer has raised 20 million dollars since its inception in 2015. Doctor Hanson says, the good news about pediatric cancer is that it is relatively rare. But as a result, federal funding is usually channeled to other more common adult cancers.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson Videographer and Roque Correa, Editor.
PEDIATRIC CANCER: FIGHTING FOR FUNDING
BACKGROUND: Cancer in children and adolescents is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States. In children ages 0 to 14 years, the most common types of cancer are leukemias, brain and other CNS tumors, lymphomas, neuroblastoma, kidney tumors, and malignant bone tumors. In teens, ages 15 to 19 years, the most common types of cancer are brain and other CNS tumors and lymphomas, leukemias, thyroid cancer, testicular and ovarian germ cell tumors, and malignant bone tumors. About six to eight percent of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited pathogenic variant in a cancer predisposition gene, although the percentage varies across cancer types. First and second-degree relatives of a child diagnosed with cancer may be at increased risk for developing cancer if there is already a family history of cancer.
PEDIATRIC CANCER AND FUNDING: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that in the United States in 2021, there were around 15,590 children and adolescents from the age of 0 to 19 years that were diagnosed with cancer. Out of these, an estimated 1,780 died of the disease. However, only about four percent of all federal funding for cancer research is spent on projects involving children’s cancers. Funding sources for childhood cancer are similar to the sources for adult cancers. Funding comes through the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and charity organizations. One of the main reasons why childhood cancer research is consistently underfunded is that it is considered rare, and many parents and advocates feel that pediatric cancers are not taken as seriously as adult cancers by the medical community. The pharmaceutical industry is reluctant to develop drugs for childhood cancers because the potential market is too small, leaving charity organizations as one of the primary sources of funding.
NEW INITIATIVES IN CHILDHOOD CANCER: Clinical trials conducted by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an NCI-funded network of researchers and hospitals, have been among the biggest contributors to improvements in the treatment of children with cancer and the continued increase in cure rates for several childhood cancers. Over the last several years, the focus has been on large-scale sequencing of tumor samples from children with cancer, this included sequencing done as part of the NCI-funded TARGET program and the Gabriella Miller Kids First program. These programs allowed researchers to analyze thousands of tumors to better understand the underlying genetic changes that cause these cancers, as well as inherited factors that may predispose children to specific types of cancer. They currently use that information to identify new ways to potentially treat different cancers as well as to adjust how to use available treatments to do things like reduce the risk of a child’s cancer coming back.
* For More Information, Contact: Edna Arguello
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