Improvements have been made in childhood cancer survival rates over the last few decades. For example, the most common form of cancer in children, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), went from a 10% survival rate in the 1960's to an 85% survival rate today. However, due to a lack of research funding for new treatments, children today are still being treated with drugs that were developed in the 1960's. Most of the progress has come from increasing the combinations and/or dosages of existing toxic drugs, not from the development of new therapies. Sadly, for the majority of these youngsters, the nightmare of childhood cancer doesn't stop after treatments are completed. Toxic drugs damage and alter healthy, growing cells in their developing bodies, and many survivors experience long-lasting side-effects as a result of the treatments for their cancer. Some side-effects include delayed or disrupted cognitive development, stunted growth, infertility, endocrine dysfunction, learning disabilities, damaged speech and/or hearing, physical handicaps due to nerve damage or amputation, prolonged emotional strain, and difficulty trusting others.
As advocates, our call to action is to increase the awareness of the incidence and devastation of this disease on America's children. By raising awareness of the fact that childhood cancer remains the number one disease killer of American children, we can also raise the awareness of the need for greater research funding. Working together to promote awareness in this way, we can find much-needed cures for America's littlest cancer patients.