What are some of the biggest challenges you face in caring for cancers in children?
Most childhood cancer patients will be cured of their cancer. However, one of the biggest challenges we still face is that even after they're cured, survivors are at risk for a host of chronic conditions from the treatment they received, which can affect them for the rest of their lives. More than 80% of childhood cancer survivors will develop at least one severe or disabling late-effect from their cancer treatment and this can affect almost any organ system. That's why survivorship care, which focuses on optimizing the health of childhood cancer survivors after they have been cured, is needed.
What inspires you to work as an oncologist?
My patients and their families inspire me to work as a pediatric oncologist. It is a privilege to be part of their care, and to help them navigate their diagnosis. It is an added bonus to see patients follow-up in survivorship clinic, and to witness the full span of their care.
What advances have made the biggest impact in the treatment of patients with childhood cancer over the last 5 years, and what is the outlook for the next five years?
Immunotherapy has greatly increased survival for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In the next five years, more focus is going to be placed on developing new therapies for harder to treat cancers such as myeloid leukemias, brain tumors, and advanced solid tumors. I think we will also see a focus on identifying patients who are at higher risk for complications during treatment, and minimizing treatment-related toxicities, in order to improve children’s overall health and quality of life.