What’s New in Pediatric Brain Tumor Treatment?

Mark Kieran, MD, PhD

As one of the most difficult cancers to treat, childhood brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under age 10. However, researchers are making more progress than ever before. “Over the last 10 years there has been a lot of excitement about new treatments for pediatric brain tumors,” says Peter Manley, MD, a pediatric neuro-oncologist with Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and director of the Stop & Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic. “We’re looking at brain tumors on a molecular level to find potential targeted therapies that can not only treat the cancer, …

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Do Childhood Cancer Survivors Have a Higher Risk of Developing Cancer Later in Life?

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During cancer treatment, patients are often focused on just one thing: getting healthy. But for survivors, particularly of childhood cancer, it’s also important to learn about staying healthy after treatment, including prevention of new cancers that may occur later in life. We spoke with Lynda Vrooman, MD, associate medical director of the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center: Do childhood cancer survivors have an increased risk for developing a second cancer later in life (not just a recurrence)?  There are many factors that need to be taken into account when …

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A Better Way to Care for Seriously Ill Children and Their Families

Joanne Wolfe, MD, MPH

This post originally appeared on WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog.  By Joanne Wolfe, MD, MPH How is it that, in this day and age, a talented teenager treated for lymphoma emerges cured but with a life-threatening eating disorder? How is it that, in our nation’s capital, a boy dying at home from neuroblastoma experiences excruciating pain in his final moments? How is that, when we develop new drugs to treat children with cancer, we do not, at the same time, routinely and in a standardized manner ask them how they are feeling? As a pediatric oncologist and palliative care physician, I was alarmed by stories like …

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Childhood Cancer Patients Mark Hospital Departure with Bubbles

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Avery McAvoy’s last day in the hospital was a long-awaited milestone, but all the 2-year-old cared about was how it ended: with bubbles. After 12 months of treatment for neuroblastoma at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, much of which was spent on the inpatient oncology and hematology unit at Boston Children’s Hospital, Avery participated on a Friday afternoon last month in what has become a beloved discharge ritual for clinical staff and patient families. Lining both sides of the corridor outside her room, nurses and other caregivers cheered and blew bubbles as Avery and her parents walked past …

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Can Kids Get Melanoma? What Parents Need to Know

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care healing garden.

Although melanoma is more commonly found in adults, childhood and adolescent melanoma affects approximately 300 children in the U.S. each year. Thankfully, the incidence rate has started to decrease in recent years. While melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer in adults, skin cancer in children is almost always melanoma. The biggest increase in melanoma incidences has been in girls ages 15-19, possibly because girls are more likely than boys to sunbathe and use tanning beds. Because melanoma often appears differently in children than in adults, doctors and parents sometimes overlook it or misdiagnose it as a different skin …

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What Are the Differences Between Adult and Childhood Brain Tumors?

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Brain tumors are relatively rare for people of any age, but they can occur in both children and adults. In fact, tumors of the spinal cord and brain are the second most common types of cancer in children, after leukemia. But there are some key differences between brain tumors that occur in adults and those in children. “Compared to adults, children are more likely to develop tumors in the lower parts of the brain – the brain stem and cerebellum – which are areas that affect movement and coordination,” says Mark Kieran, MD, PhD, director of Pediatric Medical Neuro-Oncology at …

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Young Patients’ Artwork Shows Creativity and Courage

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The artist Henri Matisse once said, “creativity takes courage.” So does facing cancer as a child. Cancer, creativity and courage merged at a recent exhibit of art by patients of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. The artwork was created during the FACES (Feeling Accepted, Confident, Empowered and Strong) and FLASHES (Filming Life and Sharing Hope, Encouragement and Strength) support groups, which provide Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s patients with socialization, discussion and expression through art. Here is a sampling of the patients’ work and what they say about it: Cassandra Crowley, 20, of Arlington, Massachusetts Lymphoma, stem cell transplant Paintings “I wanted …

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What Specialists Does a Child See When Diagnosed with Cancer?

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Physicians tend to move quickly when a child is diagnosed with cancer. That’s because some of the most common types of childhood cancers (such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), neuroblastoma, and brain tumors) can appear in a matter of days or weeks and progress rapidly. In such cases, prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are an important part of the treatment plan. So, too, are the specialists a child will see from a first visit onward. At Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, a child diagnosed with cancer will usually start by getting a series of medical tests, which …

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Patients Celebrate Pig Day: A Jimmy Fund Clinic Tradition

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This post originally appeared on The Jimmy Fund Blog.  By Erica Equi Seven years ago, Martha Young, program manager of Patient and Family Education at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic, met a young patient who shared her same unique love for pigs. Together, they discovered the seldom-celebrated holiday, National Pig Day, and came up with a creative idea they knew would bring smiles to patients at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. On March 1, 2008 patients and their families walked into the Jimmy Fund Clinic thinking it was going to be a regular day, but were surprised by the pig-inspired festivities there waiting …

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What You Need to Know for Life After Childhood Cancer Treatment

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Completing cancer treatment can bring a range of emotions for pediatric patients and their families. While they may be relieved to finish chemotherapy or radiation, there is often anxiety about relapse, returning to “normal life,” or how to handle side effects that occur years down the road. “Finishing treatment can be a very scary time,” says Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “There is something about regular clinic visits that is very reassuring. When families don’t have to return for a couple of months, they can sometimes feel anxious knowing they …

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