City of Hope pediatric specialists and colleagues from the University of Southern California (USC) have developed the framework for the nation’s first center to track patients with childhood cancer.
City of Hope’s Smita Bhatia, M.D., and Dennis Deapen, Dr.P.H., of USC, lead efforts to create the Children’s Oncology Group Long-term Follow-up Center, which is located within the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. About 240 groups across the country that treat childhood cancer, including City of Hope, comprise the Children’s Oncology Group.
By setting up a follow-up center, the researchers are establishing a standardized, reliable way to keep tabs on the well-being of childhood cancer patients.
“Our goal is to ensure that every child diagnosed with cancer will be followed long-term,” said Bhatia, professor and chair of the Division of Population Sciences at City of Hope, whose research focuses on childhood cancer survivorship, quality of life and late effects (problems that can occur after cancer treatment).
As Bhatia explained, the center will provide much more than a Web-based registry of new childhood cancer cases. It will be a lifeline for researchers.
Every year, researchers will contact each cancer survivor, or parents of the cancer survivor, to ask about the survivor’s health and other details. By staying in touch with patients, researchers will be able to keep better statistics on survival, as well as compile more accurate results from treatment protocols. If researchers develop new hypotheses as a result of their studies, they will be able to recontact patients more easily to test their hypotheses, as well.
The center will facilitate early detection of late effects of the cancer survivors’ disease or treatment, even years later. Finally, the center allows for large and efficient studies on quality of life among such cancer survivors.
Every year, more children survive cancer. By the late 1990s, the latest years for which figures are available, the five-year survival rate for children with cancer approached 80 percent Ñ far greater than the 57 percent five-year survival rate seen among such children in the mid-1970s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund the Long-term Follow-up Center. Information about the Children’s Oncology Group is available at www.childrensoncologygroup.org.