Max Coppes, MD, PhD explains that in the past 45 years, survival rates for children with cancer have increased from 10% to 70% and it is now a highly curable disease.
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Cancer in children. New developments in treatment. Max Coppes: I have been now, in the field for 20 years and there's been a lot of changes. That we are doing childhood cancer was that before the 60s or in the early 60s, survival was 10% at best. If you took all the cancers of children together, at best 10% survival. Now it's 70%. So in 45 years, we have made this from almost deadly disease for everybody into a highly curable disease. So I think a lot has happened in 20 years. Where do I see the change in the next 20 years. We have achieved this cure, by giving toxic medicines and it's not very refined, it works. But chemotherapy doesn't only kill cancer cells, it also kills normal cells. So I think what is going to change in the next 20 years, is that we are going find medicines that effect the cancer cells and hardly or possibly, completely leave the normal cells out of that. That would be a huge change. Now, we hope that, that would increase cure rate, because it really is targeted and that it's called targeted treatments. But the other side which is very important in children is it will not effect their ability for normal development. One of the biggest difference between treating children and adults is that a child is growing individual. So because they are growing there's a lot of cells that are dividing, just for them to become adults. Cancer effects growing cells. So that's why in adults, we have less side effects, because we are all grown, we are done. Treating a two year old has really the problem of the effect that we try to treat the cancer, but they are growing. Their brain cells are growing, everything is growing. So what I expect that we are growing to find in the next 20 years is target it, so we are going to be much more preciser. I happen to think that it will be more successful. But I am not sure that, the evidence is there, but the thinking that the way people are thinking makes me believe that it's going to increase outcome, it certainly will decrease the side effects that we are causing by treatment right now.
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