Why Childhood Cancer Research Gets Shortchanged

By Connor, Kristin | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, May 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

Why Childhood Cancer Research Gets Shortchanged


Connor, Kristin, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


The National Cancer Institute will soon announce its budget allocations for next year. Unfortunately, we expect what has been the case for many years -- childhood cancers will receive only minimal funding.

Second to accidents, cancer is the leading cause of death in children. As a dependent and vulnerable segment of our society, children need our protection. We must address the dangers facing children head-on.

But the National Cancer Institute has consistently failed to do this. The NCI has engaged an aggressive war against cancer, yet 96 percent of the funds its spends on the problem are focused on specific cancers which affect adults, not children. So while the incidences of cancer in children climb, and while childhood cancer destroys families and devastates communities, the federal government's resources are directed elsewhere.

Why? Because cancer research funds are driven by the number of people -- of any age -- who have the disease. And, of course, adults, with decades of exposures and behaviors, experience cancer in much greater numbers than young children. This approach therefore seems like the "democratic" way to distribute federal money. Yet it doesn't do much for the more than 15,700 children diagnosed each year with cancer, and the more than 40,000 children undergoing cancer treatment each year all across the United States.

But instead of looking at the number of annual diagnoses, perhaps we should consider the number of life-years potentially saved. For each child with cancer, on average, as many as 71 potential life years might be saved. That's an important factor that is not being considered when funding allocation decisions are made. …

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