(ScienceDaily) – Evidence from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) suggests that changes in childhood cancer treatment and follow-up care have reduced deaths from the late effects of cancer treatment and extended the lives of childhood cancer survivors. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators led the research, which appears online ahead of print in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study involved 34,033 childhood cancer survivors whose cancers were diagnosed and treated between 1970 and 1999 when they were ages 20 and younger. All lived at least five years after their cancers were discovered and were considered long-term survivors. The analysis showed that the 15-year death rate among these survivors has decreased steadily since 1970 due in part to a reduction in deaths from the late effects of cancer treatment.
The declines coincided with changes in pediatric cancer therapy and follow-up care. The changes included reductions in the use and dose of radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs called anthracyclines for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Hodgkin lymphoma and Wilms tumor, a cancer of the kidneys. The therapies leave survivors at increased risk for developing second cancers, heart failure and other serious health problems.
“This study is the first to show that younger survivors from more recent treatment eras are less likely to die from the late effects of cancer treatment and more likely to enjoy longer lives,” said the study’s first and corresponding author Greg Armstrong, M.D., an associate member of the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control and CCSS principal investigator. “The results are a testament to the physicians and scientists who in the past 30 years took a calculated risk of developing new protocols that used less intense therapies that reduced the risk of late effects and maintained excellent five-year survival.