Study Finds a Decline in Late Effects After Childhood Treatment

There are fewer reported incidences of severe long-term side effects after childhood cancer treatment, according to a recent study. 
Findings from an analysis of 23,600 survivors enrolled in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study showed that the number of severe long-term side effects from childhood cancer treatment is dropping.

Due to advances in curative therapy, supportive care, screening, and early detection, the rate of serious late effects 15 years after diagnosis of a childhood cancer was lower in the 1980s than it was in the 1970s, and it dropped yet again in the 1990s.

The results, generated by researchers from a host of cancer hospitals across the United States, were presented June 2 at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting.

The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study uses periodic surveys to explore long-term health outcomes in survivors of childhood cancer who were diagnosed from 1970 to 1999 and survived at least 5 years after diagnosis. The latest survey found that 12.7 percent of patients diagnosed in the 1970s developed at least one severe, disabling, life-threatening or fatal late effect within five to 15 years after diagnosis. That percentage dropped to 10.1 percent for those diagnosed in the 1980s, and to 8.9 percent for people diagnosed in the 1990s. That represents a 16 percent improvement per decade.

Rather than being evenly distributed across cancer types, however, these gains were seen only in patients treated for certain cancers.

The authors embarked on the study because they knew that survival rates after childhood cancer had improved, and wanted to determine whether treatment advances had also contributed to a decline in the incidence of chronic disease in survivors.

In fact, the 5-year survival rate after a diagnosis of cancer at ages 0 to 14 has risen from 58 percent in the 1970s to 84 percent today, ASCO said in a press release. There were 420,000 survivors of childhood cancers in the United States in 2013, and that number is expected to exceed half a million by 2020, noted study lead study author Todd M. Gibson, Ph.D., an assistant member at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

ASCO said that a previous report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study indicated that changes in treatment over three decades had cut the chances that childhood cancer survivors would die from the late effects of therapy by 6.4 percent, or about half.

Still, more than half of five-year survivors of childhood cancers develop at least one serious or fatal late effect by the age of 50, the researchers reported.

“Our analysis marks the first comprehensive assessment of changes in the rates of chronic health complications over time in a large group of cancer survivors,” Gibson said. “From our findings, it is clear that survivors diagnosed and treated in more modern treatment eras are doing better. Not only are more children being cured, but they also have lower risk for developing serious health problems due to cancer treatment later in life.”

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Childhood Cancers CURE discussion group.
Special Feature
Share Your Art
ONS Awards 2017
Cure Connections