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National Brain Tumor Society Statement on CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Report on Cancer Death Rates in Children & Adolescents (1999-2014)

Published on September 16, 2016 in Press Release

David F. Arons, JD, Chief Executive Officer of the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS), today issued the following statement regarding the release of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Report on Cancer Death Rates in Children & Adolescents (1999-2014):

“This report is a stark reminder that we must re-double our national efforts to find new and more effective treatments for the thousands of children diagnosed each year with pediatric brain tumors.

Pediatric brain tumors have not become deadlier over the years – survival rates for these patients have stayed relatively flat for decades. The reason these patients now face the highest mortality rates is because while other areas of oncology have made great strides in recent years, pediatric brain tumor research has not generated advances that have translated into meaningful clinical benefit for the most vulnerable patients.

Children with pediatric brain tumors and their parents are raising their hands and volunteering to be involved in clinical trials at a rate that far surpasses adult cancer patients, but unfortunately their courage has not been met with equal investment and progress in research and drug development. As a separate report from the Alliance for Childhood Cancer and American Cancer Society recently found, unique scientific, economic, ethical, and regulatory challenges discourage investment in pediatric cancer R&D from the biopharmaceutical industry. Thus, government and philanthropic sources have to carry a heavier load in terms of providing resources for pediatric cancer research. Yet, historically, even combined, government and philanthropic funds have been insufficient to fill the gap.

Overall, this latest news, highlights the need for greater investment as well as new approaches to funding and conducting pediatric brain tumor research. Further, it underscores why the National Brain Tumor Society, in conjunction with partners including the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, announced a major campaign and research initiative this past Monday (September 12) which for the first time seeks to generate sustainable resources for pediatric brain tumor research and drug discovery, and then use those resources to fund an integrated consortium of leading pediatric neuro-oncologists called the Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors Research Collaborative.

The current mortality rates for children and adolescents diagnosed with pediatric brain tumors is simply unacceptable. These findings show the absolute urgency with which pediatric brain tumors need to be addressed as a biomedical research priority moving forward. National Brain Tumor Society hopes this new report will encourage others to join us in the effort to defeat pediatric brain tumors.”

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released a report from its National Center of Health Statistics entitled, “Declines in Cancer Death Rates Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 1999-2014.” The report found that pediatric brain tumors have surpassed leukemia to become the leading cause of cancer death among children and adolescents in the United States.

“Pediatric cancer,” consisting of all those diagnosed between the ages of 0-19, is further broken down into two subpopulations: childhood cancer (ages 0-14 years) and adolescent cancer (15-19 years).

For many years, leukemia had been the leading cause of cancer-related death in all of pediatric oncology, both in childhood cancers and adolescent cancers. However, in the past three decades tremendous strides have been made in treating some of the most common types of pediatric leukemias, driving the survival rates for pediatric leukemia up to near 90%. Unfortunately, the same strides have not been made in treating many of the most aggressive types of pediatric brain tumors.

As such, beginning in the past few years, pediatric brain tumor epidemiological data collected and curated by the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) began to show death-rates from pediatric brain tumors surpassing leukemias in many of the age brackets within the pediatric cancer spectrum. These figures eventually demonstrated that pediatric brain tumors were the leading cause of cancer-related death in children 0-14, but that, on a whole, leukemia was still the deadliest cancer in all of pediatric (ages 0-19).

The new report from the CDC now finds that pediatric brain tumors have replaced leukemias as the most common cancer causing death over the entire pediatric spectrum (in children and adolescents 0-19), accounting for 3 out of 10 cancer deaths in 2014.


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