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Pediatric Cancer

Where children with cancer receive treatment makes a difference.

Publication: D Magazine

While the incidence of pediatric cancer is low, the survival rate—more than 80%—is high, and a major factor in successful treatment for these young patients is where they receive their care—not only in the quality of care received but the support provided to navigate their journey.

“For most pediatric cancers, it’s a huge time burden for the family in that there is a lot of back and forth from home to hospital and many nights spent at the hospital,” says Dr. Stanton Goldman, pediatric oncologist at Texas Oncology-Medical City Dallas Pediatric Hematology-Oncology. “If you have integrated care nearby, it’s better overall for these families because cancer affects the whole family.”

For more than 25 years, Texas Oncology has served pediatric patients and their families in North Texas. Texas Oncology’s pediatric hematology and oncology program is designed to “treat the whole family” and offer a highly specialized, multidisciplinary team approach to pediatric cancer care. The team includes pediatric specialists in oncology, surgery, radiology, nursing, social work and support services, pharmacy, physical therapy, and child development working together for patients and their families. Texas Oncology is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group, an initiative funded by the National Cancer Institute. This group is focused exclusively on conducting clinical trials for children and adolescents with cancer and enables patients to access the most promising new cancer treatments.

“Texas Oncology has teamed up with the top pediatric hospitals in North Texas to offer innovative clinical trials and leading-edge treatment protocols,” Dr. Goldman says. “We have a marriage that emphasizes home and outpatient care where, combined, we offer the best of all worlds, including an outpatient pharmacy, outpatient infusion center, and proton therapy at Texas Center for Proton Therapy in Irving. It all adds up to deliver a wonderful care experience for our patients and their families. We collaborate and share our expertise.”

The biggest risk for cancer is aging, which is one reason children don’t have as high of an incidence of cancer as adults. Pediatric cancers, as compared to breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer in adults, is extremely rare. Even so, the fight to cure childhood cancers remains strong. Dr. Goldman has been impressed with new therapies that target the genetic trigger that drives cancer. It’s a more narrowed approach than traditional chemotherapy, which has a risk of killing healthy cells along with cancer cells and is difficult for children to tolerate. “The younger the child, the higher the likelihood there is a genetic predisposition or mutation that leads to certain cancers,” he says.

Texas Oncology currently has more than 70 open trials for pediatric cancer through the National Cancer Institute, including a pediatric match study for children with recurrent cancers, such as bone cancer or lymphoma. “The goal is for every child to be cured and for these trials to contribute to a long-term cure and reduced toxicity of therapy of children with the same disease in the future,” Dr. Goldman says. “Many of our trials are designed to test the ability to incorporate immunotherapy earlier in treatment, rather than during the relapse of disease. Most adults (with cancer) don’t go on clinical trials, but the majority of pediatric patients do. If you look at certain populations, such as 15- to 21-year-olds with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, if treated in pediatric cancer care centers, they have a cure rate double than if treated in adult centers, which is why many treatment centers for adults are adopting some of the pediatric treatment regimens. We are seeing real improvements, even in aggressive metastatic cancers.”

This story appeared in the December 2021 issue of D Magazine.

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