St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has embarked on a major research study to investigate the long-term effects of cancer therapy on childhood survivors.
“We have known for many years that adults who were treated for cancer in childhood have a higher risk for health problems, and these health problems appear to increase as they age,” said Dr. Melissa Hudson, principal investigator and Director of St. Jude’s Division of Cancer Survivorship.
There are more than 320,000 childhood cancer survivors nationwide. Many of these survivors face serious health problems that occur years after treatment, including increased risk of second cancers and organ dysfunction. Cancer treatment at a young age also puts childhood survivors at risk for diseases seen typically in aging adults: high blood pressure, osteoporosis and high cholesterol.
St. Jude’s LIFE study is inviting more than 4,000 long-term cancer survivors who treated at the hospital as children to return for regular on-campus clinical evaluations. During follow up visits, former patients undergo various checks and screenings, including basic health exams, blood tests and X-rays.
The study’s objective is to describe the occurrence and timing of selected health problems as survivors age, and to identify predictors such as treatment, genetic makeup, demographic, behavioral and psychosocial. The current focus is on patients who had leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma, and will later shift to those who had solid tumors involving the brain, kidney, bones, soft tissue and other organs.
Studying the long-term health problems of cancer treatment can help researchers determine safer therapies for newly diagnosed children. In the meantime, researchers say childhood cancer survivors should maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and have regular follow-up care.
The National Cancer Institute provides information about the late effects of treatment for childhood cancer.
Find more childhood cancer survivor resources.