September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

join with the aacr to find better ways to prevent and treat childhood cancers

These are words a parent never wants to hear: “Your child has cancer.”

childhood cancer awareness month

In the United States, one in 260 children and adolescents under age 20 will be diagnosed with cancer each year. While relatively rare, pediatric cancers are often devastating. These cancers are the leading cause of death from disease in children and adolescents.

Thanks to cancer research, the death rate from pediatric cancer has dropped sharply in the last 40 years. The cancer death rate among children (from birth through age 14) has declined by 70 percent. In the same period, it’s dropped 64 percent among adolescents (age 15-19).

Despite those advances, approximately 9,620 children and 5,290 adolescents are expected to be diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2024. Approximately 1,040 children and 550 adolescents will die from these diseases in 2024, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.

Common Types

The most common types of cancers in children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors, lymphoma, and neuroblastoma. Taken together, these cancers accounted for about half of the new cases each year.

“Pediatric cancer research in many ways has played a leading role in the history of cancer research,” explains John M. Maris, MD, the Giulio D’Angio Endowed Professor of pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Many of the early discoveries of how chemotherapy can work to cure cancer were first seen in children with cancer.” 

HOW RESEARCH WORKS FOR TWO CHILDREN WITH CANCER

At the age of six, Cayden Addison has had leukemia since he was three, but has experienced complete remission with CAR T-cell therapy. His mother says, “Funding for cancer research is vital. Immunotherapy and CAR T-cell therapy would not have been options without research.”

Isabella (Bella) Snow Fraser was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called alveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS) when she was only six years old. She’s getting her life back with the help of a new immunotherapy treatment.

Read their stories in the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2023:

Cayden Addison: Playing and Enjoying Childhood, Thanks to CAR T-cell Therapy

Isabella (Bella) Snow Fraser: Reclaiming Childhood, Thanks to Immunotherapy

The latest on childhood cancers

The great majority of people diagnosed with childhood or adolescent cancer will develop a significant health condition related to their diagnosis or treatment by the time they reach age 45, according to a study. Read more about the outlook for childhood cancer survivors in Cancer Today magazine: The Late Effects of Childhood Cancer

Broadening the scope of targeted therapies available for pediatric patients was among the topics at the AACR Annual Meeting 2023. Here’s a roundup of the presentations, courtesy of the AACR blog, Cancer Research Catalyst: AACR Annual Meeting 2023: The Past, Present, and Future of Targeted Therapies for Pediatric Cancer.

What the AACR is Doing in childhood cancer Research

AACR Conferences

In September 2024, the AACR and its Pediatric Cancer Working Group will hold a Special Conference on Pediatric Cancer. The conference in Toronto will hear the latest developments on key aspects of pediatric cancer research.

The AACR Special Conference on Brain Cancer in October 2023 reviewed the latest research on pediatric and adult brain cancers. Attendees discussed new therapeutic and prevention strategies for these malignancies.

Supporting Research

The AACR has recently awarded research grants to investigators pursuing promising research related to pediatric cancers.

  • Adrienne Long, MD, PhD, of Stanford University received the 2022 AACR-Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation, Young Investigator Award for Translational Cancer Research. Her work involves the identification of T cell receptors (TCRs) aimed at antigens associated with tumors in children, and specifically to identify high-affinity TCRs with a strong potential for clinical translation in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma.
  • Robbie J. Majzner, MD, of Stanford University received the 2021 AACR-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Research Grant. Dr. Majzner is working to develop new technologies that are capable of unleashing the power of CAR T cells for children with solid tumors.
  • In October 2023, Philadelphia’s “Party with a Purpose,” in conjunction with the AACR, raised money for neuroblastoma research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. See the AACR’s blog, Cancer Research Catalyst, for details: Party with a Purpose Honors Neuroblastoma Researchers.

Pediatric Cancer Working Group

The AACR sponsors a Pediatric Cancer Working Group (PCWG). Its mission is to establish childhood cancer research as a global priority that is supported by improved funding, the latest technologies, and the best educational strategies. The PCWG provides a forum for communication and collaboration among basic, clinical, and translational researchers in academia, industry, and government on all aspects of pediatric cancer research. The group connects the AACR to advocacy and legislative groups to promote the prevention and cure of cancers in children. 

The AACR developed consensus screening recommendations for children with common cancer predisposition syndromes. These in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the AACR, in 2017. These recommendations emerged from the Childhood Cancer Predisposition Workshop held by the AACR Pediatric Cancer Working Group in October 2016.

For more information

Hematologic malignancies and tumors of the brain and central nervous system are the most common childhood cancers. But many others exist. Please see our pages on these and other childhood cancers for more specific information on these diseases and their treatment.