Awareness & Funding

» Posted by on Oct 1, 2012 in Updates | 1 comment

Today is October 1st. Exactly eight months since Ethan was diagnosed. Yesterday was the last day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Now for the entire month of October you will see a wash of pink. Pink ribbons on products in every store. Pink shoes on football players in the NFL. Pink. Pink. Pink for breast cancer awareness.

What you may not realize is that breast cancer is the most well funded of all when it comes to cancer research.  In just one year of funding — 2007 — the National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent $572.4 million on breast cancer research. That same year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent an additional $705 million. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation had total revenues that year of nearly $162 million. That is over 1 billion dollars in breast cancer research for a single year and doesn’t include the hundreds of smaller non-profits bringing in money.

By comparison, pediatric cancer research is woefully under-funded. There are many types of childhood cancer: leukemia, brain tumors, neuroblastoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, liver cancer, kidney cancer, skin cancer, germ cell tumors and more. All of them are lumped together for funding. For all childhood cancers combined in 2007 the NCI gave $173 million to pediatric cancer research which is less than 4% of their annual budget. The American Cancer Society budgeted even less towards childhood cancer research: only 1%. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society? 2% for children’s cancer research.

Many people believe that children benefit from research aimed towards adults. It may seem logical that when a drug is approved for adults with leukemia, certainly it must also be effective for children with leukemia. Unfortunately this almost always false. Once a drug is researched and approved for an adult it must go through the same research trials for children. Many times it proves to be ineffective for kids. In fact, of the 120 new cancer therapies for adults approved by the FDA between 1948 and January 2003, only 30 have proven effective in children. Of those 30 drugs, only 15 acquired any labeling for pediatric use during that same 55-year period

The sad fact of the matter is that children are not miniature adults. They need separately researched and specifically targeted therapies. They also need additional research to discover how to protect their growing bodies from long term side effects once they are cured since they have a whole life ahead of them.

Almost all conventional chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells. In an adult this is a more logical treatment because their bodies are finished growing, therefore the rapidly dividing cancer cells are easier to target. In children virtually all cells in the body are rapidly dividing because they are still growing and developing. That makes the cancer harder to treat and the side effects more intense and long lasting. We cannot continue to piggy back on the dregs of adult research. Childhood cancer deserves it’s own robust and innovative research that targets the unique challenges involved.

And it’s not just “kids”. The more research we do the more we discover that 15-22 year olds also need targeted therapies. Right now this is the only age group with a declining survival rate when it comes to cancer. They also have the highest fatality rate of all the age groups (aside from 70+ year olds). At this point in time children’s chemotherapy protocols are working better for teenagers than adult protocols. So when we put money into research for pediatric cancer we are really benefitting cancers affecting all young people under the age of 22.

Here is probably the biggest shocker of all. In the last 30 years do you know how many new drugs have been developed & approved specifically for childhood cancer. Only ONE! As the mother of a cancer kid I cannot tell you how devastated this makes me feel. ONE new drug… is that all my son and the other children fighting for their lives are worth? The average cost of research and development to bring one drug to market is $802 million. At the rate we are going a cure for pediatric cancer seems very far away.

So before you think pink… consider supporting a charity that is truly invested in pediatric cancer research. I recommend:

1 Comment

  1. Wow Em. This is very well written and obviously well researched. Full of stats and information that I had no idea existed. Thank you for sharing. You should forward this to cancer research foundations and the people in charge of allocating funds. Love you all and will continue to pray.


  1. Moster Fondue | Daisy At Home - […] that only 2% of funds raised for cancer research is allotted to childhood cancer. Emily wrote about awareness and …

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