Childhood Cancer- Lack of Funding Equals Lives Lost

According to the Coalition of Childhood Cancer, only a small percent of cancer research dollars go toward pediatric cancer research. 

There are many factors influencing these limitations, including profit motives over patient care, lack of pediatric-specific drug treatments, assumptions that adult medications are safe for pediatric patients, and lack of funding. Treatment of pediatric cancer is horribly flawed. The approach to research, treatment and funding needs a serious overhaul.

Pediatric cancer research is extremely underfunded. This is because small markets and pharmaceutical companies prioritize profit over patients. In Oct. 2019, there was an uproar in the pediatric cancer community when one of only two manufacturers discontinued the production of a drug called Vincristine, which is essential to treating pediatric lymphomas and leukemias.  

Drugs like “Vincristine” have no replacement. Dr. Yoram Unguru, a pediatric oncologist at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore said in an article from the NY Times, “Vincristine is our water. It’s our bread and butter. I can’t think of a disease in childhood cancer that doesn’t use vincristine.”

Without it, lives are lost. After intense public pressure for this decision, TEVA Pharmaceuticals resumed production of Vincristine. Profit motive was at the core of the original decision. TEVA Pharmaceuticals knew that there was not as much earning potential with Vincristine, and disregarded the amount of lives that rely on this crucial medication. This is just one example of a serious problem in our drug distribution system.

In 2018, there was only five percent of the National Institute of Health’s– the US governmental agency responsible for funding medical research– budget allocated towards pediatric cancer research.  Kids are treated with outdated drugs, many of which were developed in the 1950s. These drugs are aggressive and often kill the pediatric patient before the cancer does. Meanwhile, adults are given well-researched modern drugs that are less toxic and more effective. 

Pediatric cancer is underfunded, under-researched, and is being ignored or cut completely. According to OncLive, “The landscape for pediatric oncology drugs expanded dramatically last year, with 8 new drugs or indications specifically approved for children compared with just 47 for treatment and supportive care products from the early 1950s through 2019.” 

The Creating Hope Act of 2012, gives incentives to pharmaceutical companies to develop pediatric treatments, this not only proves that pharmaceutical companies are not in the market to improve patient’s health but, more importantly, it makes treatment for certain cancers a lot more effective.