According to this latest report, around 30% of childhood cancer deaths were attributed to brain cancer, while just 25% were caused by leukemia. One of the possible reasons for this may be attributed to the advancements in treatment for leukemia. While pediatric brain cancer hasn't necessarily become more aggressive over time, current developments for treatments for this type of cancer have not advanced at the same rate as treatments for leukemia.
The survival rate is currently projected at 61% for patients with leukemia and has steadily increased over the decades with newer drugs that yield better results. Fast-growing brain cancers such as glioblastoma only has a 20% survival rate in those who are diagnosed, which signals the need for better chemotherapy drugs.
While the report highlights a higher death rate for childhood brain cancer, overall rates for all types of childhood cancer have dropped significantly since the 1970s and are now at 2.28 deaths per 100,000 kids and teens. Another important fact the CDC reports is that cancer death rates among males 1 to 19 years of age were 30% higher than cancer death rates for females in the same age range.
While brain cancer has become the deadliest type of cancer facing children, overall pediatric cancer death rates have declined significantly.
Issues with Chemotherapies
Treating childhood brain cancers such as glioblastoma is difficult due to the mechanism of action of current chemotherapies available. These current treatments cannot distinguish healthy cells from cancerous cells. For example, cyclophosphamide, a common drug that is used to treat brain tumors in children, can also be used to treat certain types of autoimmune diseases. While many drugs can treat multiple health conditions, chemotherapies come a significant risk to the patient because they can also target healthy cells in the body, which can lead to death.
In adults with cancer, research indicates that death associated with chemotherapy can be as high as 50%. Chemotherapy, in essence, is a cut-and-burn technique that needs to be reevaluated by pharmaceutical companies to be more effective and less toxic to the body. There is hope, however, as many companies are shifting towards immunotherapies that are less toxic to healthy cells and that use the body's own immune system to fight off cancer.