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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides the PDQ pediatric cancer treatment information summaries as a public service to increase the availability of evidence-based cancer information to health professionals, patients, and the public.

Fortunately, cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975.[1]. Children and adolescents with cancer should be referred to medical centers that have a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists with experience treating the cancers that occur during childhood and adolescence. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the primary care physician, an orthopedic surgeon experienced in bone tumors, a pathologist, radiation oncologists, pediatric oncologists, rehabilitation specialists, pediatric nurse specialists, social workers, and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life. (Refer to the PDQ summaries on Supportive and Palliative Care for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)

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Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2] At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients/families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapies for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2002, childhood cancer mortality has decreased by more than 50%. For osteosarcoma, the 5-year survival rate has increased over the same time from 40% to 67% in children and adolescents.[1] Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close follow-up because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)

Osteosarcoma occurs predominantly in adolescents and young adults. Review of data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program of the NCI resulted in an estimate of 4.4 per million new cases of osteosarcoma each year in people aged 0 to 24 years.[3] The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there will be 110 million people in this age range in 2010, resulting in an incidence of roughly 450 cases per year in children and young adults less than 25 years old. Osteosarcoma accounts for approximately 5% of childhood tumors. In children and adolescents, more than 50% of these tumors arise from the bones around the knee. Osteosarcoma can rarely be observed in soft tissue or visceral organs. There appears to be no difference in presenting symptoms, tumor location, and outcome for younger patients (<10 years) compared with adolescents.[4,5] Two trials conducted in the 1980s were designed to address the natural history of surgically treated localized, resectable osteosarcoma of the extremity. The outcome of patients in these trials who were treated with surgical removal of the primary tumor recapitulated the historical experience before 1970; more than half of these patients developed metastases within 6 months of diagnosis, and overall, approximately 90% developed recurrent disease within 2 years of diagnosis.[6] Overall survival for patients treated with surgery alone was statistically inferior.[7] The natural history of osteosarcoma has not changed over time, and fewer than 20% of patients with localized resectable primary tumors treated with surgery alone can be expected to survive free of relapse.[6,8,9]

References:

  1. Smith MA, Seibel NL, Altekruse SF, et al.: Outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer: challenges for the twenty-first century. J Clin Oncol 28 (15): 2625-34, 2010.
  2. Guidelines for the pediatric cancer center and role of such centers in diagnosis and treatment. American Academy of Pediatrics Section Statement Section on Hematology/Oncology. Pediatrics 99 (1): 139-41, 1997.
  3. Mirabello L, Troisi RJ, Savage SA: Osteosarcoma incidence and survival rates from 1973 to 2004: data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer 115 (7): 1531-43, 2009.
  4. Bacci G, Longhi A, Bertoni F, et al.: Primary high-grade osteosarcoma: comparison between preadolescent and older patients. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 27 (3): 129-34, 2005.
  5. Bacci G, Balladelli A, Palmerini E, et al.: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for osteosarcoma of the extremities in preadolescent patients: the Rizzoli Institute experience. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 30 (12): 908-12, 2008.
  6. Link MP, Goorin AM, Miser AW, et al.: The effect of adjuvant chemotherapy on relapse-free survival in patients with osteosarcoma of the extremity. N Engl J Med 314 (25): 1600-6, 1986.
  7. Link MP: The multi-institutional osteosarcoma study: an update. Cancer Treat Res 62: 261-7, 1993.
  8. Eilber F, Giuliano A, Eckardt J, et al.: Adjuvant chemotherapy for osteosarcoma: a randomized prospective trial. J Clin Oncol 5 (1): 21-6, 1987.
  9. Bacci G, Ferrari S, Longhi A, et al.: Nonmetastatic osteosarcoma of the extremity with pathologic fracture at presentation: local and systemic control by amputation or limb salvage after preoperative chemotherapy. Acta Orthop Scand 74 (4): 449-54, 2003.
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: October 07, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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