One Thing (Almost) All Kids with Cancer Have in Common
Mar 12, 2014
A parent’s worst nightmare becomes reality: their child has cancer. It happens every hour to a family like yours or mine. And no matter where they live, who their doctor is or which hospital they are going to for treatment, these kiddos have something in common: Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Biopathology Center.
Over 90 percent of children with cancer in the United States are cared for by healthcare centers that belong to the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), which includes most pediatric hospitals in North America as well as some facilities in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. When a child with cancer meets the criteria of a COG clinical trial, samples of the child’s tumor are sent to our Biopathology Center for banking and testing.
Once they arrive, some of these tumor samples are used for clinical testing, in which the center team runs them through a series of tests to identify, among other things, the specific genetic make-up of the cancer. Ideally, these tests reveal if the tumor will respond to anti-cancer medications. This information is then passed on to the patient’s doctors to guide treatment.
If test results show that the tumor is likely to respond quickly, the doctors will go easy on the chemotherapy to spare the child some of its nastier side effects. If results indicate the cancer is highly invasive or drug-resistant, though, the doctors may choose a more aggressive treatment to maximize that child’s chance at survival.
Beyond Treatment: Pediatric Cancer Research
If patients and their families agree, the samples they sent to the Biopathology Center can also be used for research. The Biopathology Center collects, processes, stores and shares cancer samples with approved researchers around the world who are developing new therapies to treat pediatric cancer.
In fact, with 100,000 new tissue samples added each year, the Biopathology Center houses the country’s largest pediatric biorepository and receives funding from the National Cancer Institute. When researchers from other hospitals and universities want to study cancer tissue samples, they work with the Children’s Oncology Group to get specimens from the Biopathology Center, which serves as the group’s storage bank for tissue samples of childhood cancers and two cooperative groups that study adult cancers.
It is the hope of the Biopathology Center team that using the clinical information from these tests will not only help treat current pediatric patients, but also will advance research that could one day offer a cure.
Katie Brind’Amour, MS, CHES is a former senior science writer and editor for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
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