While great strides have been made in treating and curing some childhood cancers, others still are associated with very low survival rates. Baylor College of Medicine physician-researchers at the Texas Children's Cancer Center are trying to determine the underlying reasons why some cancers do not respond to treatment while others do.

Research also focuses on determining while some children are more susceptible to cancer and how to improve treatment.

Cure rate varies with disease

"We have seen major advances in treatment over the last 25 to 30 years. The survival rate for some cancers is more than 90 percent," said Dr. David Poplack, professor of pediatrics – hematology oncology at BCM and director of the Texas Children's Cancer Center. "Our physicians and researchers are committed to improving the outcome for all patients and to a future free from the threat of childhood cancer and blood diseases."

The treatment protocol and cure rate has been particularly successful with some types of leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer. The other two major categories of pediatric cancer are solid tumors and brain tumors, which have been more of a research and treatment challenge, said Dr. Will Parsons, assistant professor of pediatrics – hematology/oncology at BCM.

Customizing treatment

"People talk about personalized medicine, and while that is sort of a generic phrase, it really is where we want to go with childhood cancer," Parsons said. "We want to be able to analyze the cancer and genetics of each patient in a smart and informed way that will help us understand their particular cancer and prognosis so we can customize treatment."

Conducting this work are more than 250 researchers in 30 research laboratories who work in all areas of childhood cancer. Learn more about research under way at Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Children's Cancer Center.