In recent decades, considerable progress has been made in treating malignant diseases in children. Approximately 70% of children with cancer may be cured with these innovative treatment methodologies. The process that the sick child and his family undergo involves a great deal of suffering, and severe physical and mental anguish.
The most prevalent type of cancer in children is leukemia, with 30% of children who have contracted cancer suffering from leukemia. 15-20% of children have medulloblastoma or astrocytoma – malignant tumors in the region of the brain. 10-15% of children suffer from lymphoma – cancer in the lymph nodes. These are the most prevalent types of cancer among children. There have also been instances of cancer in the sympathetic nervous system (neuroblastoma), kidney cancer, bone cancer (sarcoma), cancer of the soft tissues (rhabdomyosarcoma), liver cancer (hepatoblastoma, hepatocarcinoma), tumors in the reproductive system, and eye cancer (retinoblastoma).
There are several types of treatment for cancer. Usually, a few treatments are combined so that together, the most effective outcome is obtained. The treatment needs to begin as soon as possible. Some treatments require hospitalization for a few days, while others can be administered as an outpatient; i.e., treatment in the patient’s home, including sleeping at home. The objective of the treatments is to destroy the malignant cells and to prevent their recurrence.
Treatment options include: chemotherapy, surgery to excise the malignant tumor and localized radiation therapy in affected regions where the tumor is inoperable. Special treatments designated for childhood cancers may include:
Bone marrow transplant: bone marrow is responsible for creating the various blood cells. A bone marrow transplant is intended to replace the system that is producing sick cells with a new system that will produce healthy blood cells and thus lead to full recovery. Bone marrow for transplanting can be donated by immediate family members or by the patient himself, from another organ in his body (usually pelvic bones). The objective is to inject healthy bone marrow into the affected area, so that the body can reproduce it later by itself.
Biological therapy: biological drugs work on various receptors in cancerous tissue with the aim of preventing the cancer from proliferating or of affecting genomic mutations that activate cell-division mechanisms. In this way, these targeted drugs succeed in destroying the tumor.
Immunotherapy: drugs that use the immune system to fight the tumor, when the tumor is paralyzing the immune system. One of the known mechanisms uses the immune system in a focused way with drugs that inhibit PD1. Testimonies have begun to be received recently that these tumors may respond to immunotherapy, particularly when these tumors are in stages of multiple mutations.
Personalized therapy: in instances when tumors are not responding to the customary treatments, advanced tests may be used in order to try to pinpoint targets for various treatments. The most suitable therapy may then be decided according to the biological characteristics of the tumor tissue, whether chemotherapy, biological therapy, immunotherapy or even hormone therapy, which had not previously been considered effective.