Before any new treatment can be made widely available to patients, it must be studied in clinical trials research studies and found to be safe and effective in treating disease. Clinical trials for children and adolescents with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard.
Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapies for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Our site has information about how clinical trials work. Children face unique issues during their treatment for cancer, after the completion of treatment, and as survivors of cancer.
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For example, they may receive more intense treatments, cancer and its treatments have different effects on growing bodies than adult bodies, and they may respond differently to drugs that control symptoms in adults. Late effects of treatment are discussed later on this page in the Survivorship section. The doctors and other health professionals at these centers have special training and expertise to give complete care to children. At these centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children, and the opportunity to participate in a trial is offered to many patients.
Health professionals and scientists conduct translational research that spans basic science to clinical trials to improve outcomes for children and young adults with cancer and genetic tumor predisposition syndromes. Also included are ways to help brothers and sisters cope, steps parents can take when they need support, and tips for working with the health care team. Various aspects of coping and support are also discussed in the publication Children with Cancer: A Guide for Parents. All survivors should have a treatment summary and a survivorship care plan, as discussed on our Care for Childhood Cancer Survivors page.
That page also has information on clinics that specialize in providing follow-up care for people who have had childhood cancer.
Survivors of any kind of cancer can develop health problems months or years after cancer treatment, known as late effects, but late effects are of particular concern for childhood cancer survivors because treatment of children can lead to profound, lasting physical and emotional effects. Information on types of late effects and ways to manage these can be found on our Care for Childhood Cancer Survivors page.
The causes of most childhood cancers are not known. About 5 percent of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited mutation a genetic mutation that can be passed from parents to their children.
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Most cancers in children, like those in adults, are thought to develop as a result of mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer. In adults, these gene mutations reflect the cumulative effects of aging and long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances. However, identifying potential environmental causes of childhood cancer has been difficult, partly because cancer in children is rare and partly because it is difficult to determine what children might have been exposed to early in their development.
More information about possible causes of cancer in children is available in the fact sheet, Cancer in Children and Adolescents. NCI supports a broad range of research to better understand the causes, biology, and patterns of childhood cancers and to identify the best ways to successfully treat children with cancer. In the context of clinical trials, researchers are treating and learning from young cancer patients.
Researchers are also following childhood cancer survivors to learn about health and other issues they may face as a result of their cancer treatment. To learn more, see Childhood Cancers Research. Nirali Shah of the National Cancer Institute joined by Carlos Sandi, childhood cancer parent, discuss the role of immunotherapy in childhood cancers such as leukemia. Menu Contact Dictionary Search.
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