Some of the most advanced cancer research involves treating cancer in children. And recent studies show that some adolescents and even young adults in their 20s fare better on children’s protocols than on adult protocols.
For example, in one study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, patients aged 16-21 years with non-M3 acute myeloid leukemia who were randomized to a Children’s Oncology Group regimen had higher overall survival rates than those who were treated with one of two adult regimens: the Cancer and Leukemia Group B regimen and the Southwest Oncology Group regimen.
To make it trickier, when the study group was broken down into younger (16-18 years) and older (19-21 years), the younger patients on the children’s protocol had significantly greater event-free survival compared to the older patients on the children’s protocol. There was no significant difference in event-free survival based on age among the patients on the adult protocols.
However, the treatment-related mortality was significantly higher in patients in the children’s protocol vs. the adults (29% vs. 7%).
How do doctors decide how to treat their teen patients? The answers aren’t clear, but as Jane MacNeil, editor of our sister publication The Oncology Report, observed, 18-year-olds might object to being treated in a children’s cancer facility full of balloons and teddy bears, even if a children’s regimen might be best for them. What is the solution? If research continues to show a benefit of treating older adolescents and young adults with children’s protocols, maybe a “young adult cancer ward” is the wave of the future. Pictures of Taylor Swift instead of Teddy Bears?
–Heidi Splete (on Twitter @hsplete)