The treatment of childhood cancer has improved remarkably in the past several decades. In the 1950s, less than 5 percent of children with leukemia survived, but today, survival from this disease approaches 90 percent! However, few people realize that not all children diagnosed with cancer experience the same benefit from advances in therapy. For reasons that are unclear, even today, many ethnic and racial minorities have worse outcomes, despite being offered equal opportunity for support and treatment.
Texas Children’s Cancer Center will host the inaugural Pediatric Cancer Disparities Symposium, presented by Northwestern Mutual Foundation and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, this week on Nov. 2. The purpose of this first-of-its-kind symposium, organized by my good friends, Texas Children’s Cancer Center epidemiologists Dr. Michael Scheurer and Dr. Philip Lupo, is to draw experts from around the world to explore ways to improve outcomes for all children with cancer, regardless of their background.
In a session focused on Hispanic children diagnosed with leukemia, I’ll be talking about underlying genetic differences that may help explain the increase in treatment side effects we see in Hispanics, and how these differences may affect survival. Of the children we treat in our clinic, 35 to 40 percent are Hispanic. As a bilingual provider with a Hispanic background (my father is first-generation Cuban), I feel I have a special connection with my Spanish-speaking patients. I’ve noticed that families are often relieved to find a provider who can speak to them in their native language, who can offer direct support, comfort, and ease their journey to remission and cure.
At Texas Children’s, we see the diversity of our patient population as a unique strength and opportunity for outreach. I’m proud to be a part of the Pediatric Cancer Disparities Symposium, collaborating with our international colleagues to raise awareness of cancer outcome disparities and working toward a day when all children whose lives are affected by cancer may benefit equally from research advances.
If you are interested in attending the symposium or learning more information, click here.