This morning’s obituary section listed a gentleman with whom I am acquainted. At 52, his career accomplishments are impressive. A loving family is left with memories of a talented, devoted father and husband. He died, of course, too young.
What the article does not mention is that he was a childhood cancer survivor. There are hundreds of thousands around the world. Brave people, many now well beyond their twenties who underwent treatment for leukemia, Hodgkin’s, brain tumors, and other malignancies. For some, the treatment was in its infancy.
A pioneering group of researchers at the University of Minnesota recognized the challenges and pitfalls inherent in the treatment of these young patients. In tandem with other standouts in the field of oncology, Dr. Ann Mertens, Les Robison, PhD, and Pediatric Oncologist, Dr. Joseph Neglia, launched a cohort study of 20,000 childhood cancer survivors (The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study). The research on individuals treated between 1970 and 1986 would, in effect, change the face of treatment as we know it today.
Combining forces with venerable institutions around the country and in Canada, a detailed, longitudinal process commenced that would look at the late effects of the radiation and chemotherapy used to treat childhood malignancies. As survival rates improved, so did the unintended consequence –adverse events such as cardiac complications, breast cancers, and second cancers.
Today, the key players are scattered. Dr. Les Robison is Chair, Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control at St. Jude’s in Memphis where the CCSS is now based; Dr. Ann Mertens is on the research faculty at Emory in Atlanta, and Dr. Joseph Neglia is Physician in Chief at Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. All three remain committed to research leading to positive outcomes for children, ‘beyond the cure’.
For information on support and resources for Childhood Cancer Survivors, click here: