Most pediatric gastroenterologists see many children with pediatric cancers, so it is gratifying to see data showing improving long-term outcomes (GT Armstrong et al. NEJM 2016; 374: 833-42). In addition, pediatric oncology serves as a model for improving therapy by enrolling virtually all of its patients in research protocols.
The authors evaluated late mortality among 34,033 patients in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. All of these patients had survived at least 5 years after childhood cancer. During the study which had a median followup of 21 years, there were 3958 deaths and 1618 (41%) of these were attributable to health-related causes, including subsequent neoplasms (n=746), cardiac (n=241), and pulmonary (n=137).
The improvement in treatment regimens have included reductions in radiotherapy and anthracycline exposure. The graph below shows survival rates 20 years after being cancer-free (15 years after being cancer-free for 5 years).
My take: This study confirms that these improved regimens have long-lasting effects on mortality. Through cooperative research, we can do better in oncology and in all of pediatrics.