Pediatric brain tumors have one of the highest death rate of all childhood cancers. Yet they have one of the lowest levels of research funding.
Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death during childhood. The most common type of pediatric cancer – the brain tumor – also has the highest mortality rate, three times greater than that of leukemia. About 2,000 new pediatric brain tumors are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
The cause of primary pediatric brain tumors is unknown, and its incidence is, alarmingly, on the rise. Of all types of brain tumors, brain stem gliomas account for 10%-20% of all brain tumor diagnoses. To make matters worse, the vast majority of brain stem gliomas grow within the brain stem itself and are not surgically accessible. There are no prevention strategies for pediatric brain tumors, and cures are rare. Early detection is difficult since symptoms are similar to those of common childhood illnesses. Survivors often experience poor quality of life due to neurological disorders, retardation or psychological problems.
Funding for pediatric brain tumors is critical since treatments discovered for adult tumors may not be appropriate for children. Yet public and private support for pediatric cancer research trails that of other cancers. Relatively few dollars targeted specifically to brain tumor research fund pediatric brain tumor research: According to The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2010, 2.16 billion dollars was spent on cancer research. Of that, 3-4% was budgeted for pediatric cancer research with less than 8% of that total specifically targeted to pediatric brain tumors. The lack of financial support from the NCI is why it is of vital importance for our Foundation to support research into the causes and treatments of pediatric brain tumors.
There are, however, signs of encouragement. Other types of deadly childhood cancers such as leukemia now have an improved cure rate. Neuro-oncology teams nationwide are performing clinically relevant research on the causes of pediatric brain tumors, with results that could eventually translate from bench to bedside. Leading medical authorities are confident that this vitally important work – if adequately supported by public and private donations – will lead to a cure.
Few sights are as heart-rending as witnessing a child struggle valiantly against a disease for which there is no known remedy. Seriously underfunded research teams continue to make progress… but not fast enough for the many children who die each year from brain stem tumors. With your help, we can provide brighter tomorrows for all children afflicted with this dreaded disease.