Childhood Cancer Awareness: More Funding, More Research, Better Drugs
FDA new drug approval in the childhood cancer department has been sparse over the last twenty years. There have been about a dozen drugs approved for pediatric cancer, a handful exclusive to pediatric cancer and the others acceptable for use in children but in some cases only older children (12 years old and up). Dinutuximab (2015) and Kymriah (2017) represent the shift in cancer drugs from chemotherapy agents to targeted drugs. Dinutuximab is a immunotherapy agent while Kymriah is a type of gene therapy. Most drugs currently used to treat childhood cancer are chemotherapy agents that attack quick growing cells. These drugs are non-specific, they attack any rapid growth cells, including normal body cells, which is why the immediate side effects are so harsh. Scientists hope targeted therapy will be safer for cancer patients although the aforementioned approved targeted drugs also come with hefty side effects. Targeted cancer drugs have a specific target that allows for the growth of the cancer cell. For example, Dinutuximab targets a glycolipid on the surface of both neuroblastoma cancer cells and, unfortunately, healthy cells of neuroectodermal origin. These origin cells give rise to the nervous system and when this drug is used intense pain can occur.
Ideally researchers will discover specific drug targets that are only found on cancer cells, as this will limit the side effects of oncologic drugs. Also remember-12 types of pediatric cancer are the major threats and only several types have newly approved drugs. There is still so much work to be done.