A team of experts from around the world has teamed up to improve the clinical outcomes of children with cancer after radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy has improved the outcomes of children with cancer, but it can cause damage to healthy tissues that can have an impact on children’s health in the long run. Despite being in use for many years, to date, there is no indicative source of data that allows physicians to make evidence-based decisions based specifically on children. To combat this problem, a team of more than 150 specialists from around the world have teamed up to create evidence-based guidelines for radiotherapy dosing for children.
An introduction to the effects of normal pediatric tissue in the clinic (PENTEC) was recently published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, which aims to minimize the side effects of radiation therapy.
PENTEC is made up of more than 150 doctors, medical physicists, epidemiologists and other specialists, who offer their time and experience. It has been organized into 18 research groups, each of which focuses on how radiation affects a particular system of organs, such as the lungs and the respiratory tract or the central nervous system. The group reviews the medical literature for studies and articles reporting doses and outcomes, and then correlates side effects with the radiation dose for each organ.
Arthur Olch, PhD, a physicist at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and a member of PENTEC’s steering committee, said: “This is truly a labor of love. We are all professionals and specialists, but we are also just people. “We care about what happens to these children after their cancer is treated. We are gathering a wealth of information, which allows us to make recommendations on safe dosing to the oncology community of pediatric radiation backed by evidence.”
Currently, many case studies do not include enough information to contribute to dose-response curves; for example, a study that reports on side effects but does not report on the radiation dose that causes them cannot be included. PENTEC aims to change this by proposing information standards for future studies so that guidelines can conform to as much information as possible.
PENTEC volunteer specialists have been working for several years to gather enough information to formulate these guidelines.
“What we’re doing has very broad implications,” Dr. Olch says. “This will change the course of pediatric radiation therapy and we hope it will get better outcomes for children with cancer, not just at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and the United States, but around the world.”