A new study has found that children with brain tumors, particularly those who are three months and younger, have a significantly lower rate of survival in comparison to those aged between 1 and 19. The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, led by associate professor of pediatric hematology/oncology Adam Green.
The researchers reported their findings in the “Journal of Neuro-Oncology.”
For their study, the researchers obtained data from more than 14,000 children, aged 19 years and younger, who had been diagnosed with brain tumors; the information came from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program under the National Cancer Institute.
The researchers observed that the youngest patients had considerably poorer outcomes in comparison to the other groups, with their analysis showing that the five-year survival in infants from the 0-3 months age group was about 35% while the same survival period for patients aged between 1 and 19 was roughly 70%. The researchers also found that the brain tumor types that infants were diagnosed with were different from the ones seen in older patients.
Green stated that while it wasn’t usual to see babies or infants with brain tumors, they did exist, noting that the standards of treatment weren’t similar to those of older children. He added that, unlike older children, babies also couldn’t report their own symptoms.
The researchers argued that the clear contrast in rates of survival suggested that there may be a lot of reluctance, concern and confusion in the pediatric neuro-oncology community to administer treatment to infants or perform surgery, noting that this may be a primary cause of why the youngest patients didn’t survive as long.
In addition to this, they noted that most of these children were more likely to display symptoms of metastatic disease when they presented with cancer, partly because their diagnosis could be delayed because they couldn’t report their own symptoms. Symptoms are also more subtle in younger children and may not be the usual symptoms of brain tumors observed in older children.
For instance, older children may report vomiting or headaches while the younger ones may fail to meet developmental milestones, have a rapidly expanding head circumference or manifest abnormalities in how their eyes move.
The researchers hope that their study’s findings will increase the willingness to administer standard-of-care treatments to even the youngest patients who have brain tumors, in order to increase their chances of survival, especially when better therapeutics are eventually brought to the market by companies such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP).
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