Pediatric Oncologists Hope Law Brings New Therapies

The Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act requires drug companies to conduct clinical cancer trials for youngsters.

It’s estimated that there were 1.7 million new cases of cancer in 2018, and 10,590 involved children 14 or younger. That, as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, sums up why there has been such a dearth of new therapies for pediatric cancer. Pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to conduct clinical trials on youngsters because, for one reason, there’s a small market for such treatments.

Peter Adamson, MD, a pediatric oncologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells the newspaper that “there have been cancer drugs developed primarily for children, but the list is quite short.”

But then in 2017, Congress passed the Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act (RACE), that mandates drug companies run clinical trials on drugs that target pediatric cancers.

Crystal Mackall, MD, a pediatric-cancer researcher and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, tells the WSJ that “it is an incredibly exciting time. We have lots of drug companies who want to speak with us suddenly. Before, we went hat in hand, cajoling.”

Adamson worries that allowing clinical trials on children might raise expectations too high, and hopes families dealing with the problem realize that breakthroughs are hard to come by. He tells the WSJ that “we have small steps. Cancer is a challenging problem.”