Younger Brain Tumor Patients Have Worse Results Compared to Older Patients

Younger Brain Tumor Patients Have Worse Results Compared to Older Patients ...

A researcher at the University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center has found that the youngest individuals withbrain tumors aged 12 to 19 have around half the five-year survival rate as children aged 1 to 19.

Adam Green, an associate professor ofpediatric hematology/oncology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues investigated population-based data for nearly 14,500 children aged 0 to 19 diagnosed with brain tumors. They discovered significantly lower results among the youngest patients.

It''s unusual to see infants or babies with brain tumors, but we do see them, according to Green. We generally do not have the same treatment standards as older children. We also understand that infants can''t report their own symptoms than older adults.

Analyzing nationwide cancer data

Green and his co-searchers collected data from the National Cancer InstitutesSurveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, a national cancer registry that includes more than a quarter of the United States population and represents the vast diversity of the country.

Researchers divided SEER data on childhood brain tumors into three age groups 0 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, and 6 to 12 months. These three groups compared brain tumor data from individuals aged 1 to 19.

According to Green, the types of brain tumors that babies receive are different from those found in older patients, and that is an important finding in and of itself. The most significant findings we had were that nearly all of the types of brain tumors we study were survival.

Further data analysis reveals that five-year survival in the 0 to 3 months age group is between 30 and 35%, while five-year survival in the 1 to 19 age group is about 70%. Five-year survival in the 3 to 6 month and 6 to 12 month age groups is significantly lower than in older children.

Reduced survival rates for the youngest brain tumor patients

This significant decrease in five-year survival rates suggests that there may be just a lot of worry and displeasure in the pediatric neuro-oncology community to give these infants treatment or to perform surgery. This may be a major reason why these children do not present with metastatic disease, partly because they can''t show their own symptoms so their diagnosis may be delayed.

The youngest patients tumors have a different biology than those observed in older children and are often diagnosed with prenatal ultrasounds. Symptoms vary in age groups as well. Older children may experience headaches or vomiting, but babies may be inconsolably fussy about long periods of time or have a high degree of differentiation in the way their eyes move. These symptoms may be more subtle and not typical of the usual brain tumor symptoms in older children.

Although there are well-established guidelines of care and treatment for pediatric brain tumors, health care professionals may be reluctant to use them on very young babies.

We provide radiation-sparing therapy for children under the age of five, and our knowledge is that these methods work well, but when it comes to patients this young, it may be from parents or from doctors and physicians believing it will be too toxic. There is some concern that these young patients will not tolerate surgery.

A goal of increased awareness

Green believes that the study might have an immediate effect on the health community. Moreover, he believes that this awareness will increase the ability to administer standard-of-care therapy to young children with brain tumors.

We need to understand more precisely the biology of these tumors, according to Green. The majority of us are now aware of how a certain type of brain tumor in an infant is different than that same type of brain tumor in an older child, and we may require dedicated, specialized treatment methods for these youngest children.

Because many brain tumors in the youngest patients already have metastatic at diagnosis, it will hopefully transmit the message to the general pediatrics community that attention must be given to them. However, this possibility should be addressed to primary care pediatricians and other individuals in primary care. The biggest advantage is that these patients simply aren''t receiving the treatment that would be considered standard in older children.

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