Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Side effects of cancer cure

ALL or acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, is the biggest success story in cancer treatment. 5 year survival rates have increased from <5%>85% currently.

Unfortunately, the progress doesn't come without a cost. As two , quite similar articles in USA today (here and here) make clear, the curative regimen has significant toxicities, most notably cognitive defects as a result of cranial irradiation, where the brain and spinal cord are exposed to high doses of radiation that kills cancer cells, but also damages normal neural tissue.

My understanding is that much of the ongoing clincial research in ALL is aimed at identifying who can be cured with lower intensity regimens thereby minimizing short and long-term side effects.

Note the figure showing cure rates in the first article is screwed up. It apparently is adult or total data (kids don't get myeloma) and lists only blood cell cancers. Better data is here


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