Every year, more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed, with more than 600,000 dying from the disease each year, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society. Cancer is especially devastating when it impacts a child. While an estimated 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day, researchers and medical professionals have worked hard in the last year to make strides towards reducing these statistics.
Lighting Up Cancer
One of the most prevalent forms of childhood cancer is leukemia. What makes leukemia deadly is the ability of impacted cells to hide in organs and bone marrow. However, new research from Children's Cancer Institute is allowing researchers to light up the disease by making hidden leukemia cells glow. Scientists cloned a gene that makes fireflies glow, creating a form of bioluminescence imaging. This imaging method is especially helpful when dealing with drug-resistant cells, as it allows researchers the ability to better find and target impacted areas and evaluate whether an experimental treatment is effective.
Childhood Cancers and Nanomedicine
Nanomedicine is a relatively new field that while mostly approved more for adult cancers has seen strides in use on childhood cases in the last year, where it can also be even more effective. Nanomedicine can be used for drug transportation, allowing doctors to better target and deliver cancer medications to impacted cells through methods not available to regular medicine, including making cancer drugs more soluble for blood delivery. A more targeted treatment through nanomedicine means damage to healthy cells from toxic cancer medications can be minimized, making treatment possible with less short and long-term side effects on the child.
Childhood Cancer and Genetics
While it's important to highlight research on cancer treatments, it's also important to focus on ways to prevent children from redeveloping cancer as they transition into adulthood. New research is pointing to the importance of genetic screening for childhood cancer survivors. St. Jude's Hospital has helped discover that 12 percent of children who survive early cancers have genetic mutations that increase their risk for developing cancer later in life. Using whole genome sequencing can identify this risk early on, allowing for a more comprehensive prevention and detection program.
Every year brings about new and exciting discoveries in the fight against childhood cancer. Thanks to funding from generous donors and the drive of talented researchers and medical professionals, increasingly more children will live longer and continue to win the battle against this terrifying disease.