Studies Aim to Improve Survival Rates for Kids with Adult Cancers

research_fileWhen speaking about breast and colorectal cancers, typically you wouldn’t think of children. These cancers are considered adult conditions and rarely occur in individuals under the age of 21. But according to two new studies from the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB), although these diseases are rare in kids, they do still occur.

“The thought that kids even face these diseases is surprising,” said Dr. Morgan Richards, research fellow in the division of general surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “But that’s why it’s important to study such diseases.”

According to investigators at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Maine Medical Center, who presented this week at the 2014 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, the studies highlight the need for an increased awareness among pediatric clinicians that these cancers do occur in children and a stronger collaboration between adult clinicians and pediatric care providers to increase survival rates.

Improving outcomes for children with breast cancer

Seattle Children’s researchers evaluated medical records from the NCDB of the American College of Surgeons and American Cancer Society, and of the 2,636,722 breast cancer patients, 574 were under the age of 21.

While outcomes for individuals age 50 and older who are diagnosed with breast cancer have improved steadily in the last 10 years, according to the American Cancer Society, researchers at Seattle Children’s wanted to better understand what happens when children and teens are diagnosed with breast cancer. What researchers found was surprising. The studies showed that in patients under the age of 21, their cancer was more aggressive, typically found at a later stage and patients unfortunately fared worse than adults.

Richards also explained that in younger patients it also took longer to receive treatment. Since breast cancer is so rare in younger patients, Richards said the delay makes sense.

“These cancers are certainly rare but our analyses of the NCDB illustrates that children do develop them,” said Dr. Kenneth Gow, a pediatric surgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Oncology Group Co-Principle Investigator and an ACS Commission on Cancer Liaison Physician. “The end goal is to improve survival rates by recognizing that these cancers can occur in children and by increasing collaboration between pediatric and adult care physicians to better treat these patients.”

To learn more about the studies please read the press release from the American College of Surgeons.