Childhood cancer treatment takes toll; research on it gets a new boost

June 3, 2014 | by

Anyone who’s been around children knows how resilient they can be. Most of them bounce far more than they break. Perhaps that’s one reason why most children who are diagnosed with cancer face strong odds of surviving the disease.

Armenian_Saro

Saro Armenian is determined to reduce the long-term physical toll of treatment for childhood cancer. A grant from the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research and The Truth 365 will help.

But their survival is not without cost; treatments can be aggressive and result in lingering health issues. Saro Armenian, D.O., M.P.H., medical director of City of Hope's Pediatric Survivorship Clinic, studies the long-term adverse effects of cancer treatment in survivors of childhood cancers. In particular, he focuses on damage to heart tissue.

He recently received a prestigious grant co-funded by the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research and The Truth 365 to further his research.

Rally and The Truth 365 are nonprofit organizations that raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. Rally in particular funds studies that address long-term side effects of treatment, a topic that has interested Armenian for years.

Armenian's research has helped identify factors that increase the risk of heart disease among patients who received certain chemotherapies as well as among those who underwent bone marrow transplantation as children. These risk factors, if addressed early, could head off problems before they occur.

In a recent study, Armenian and his colleagues found that the thickness and stress on the wall of the heart’s left ventricle — the chamber that sends oxygenated blood out into the body — is an indicator of damage to the heart. The team also found that certain biological indicators, or biomarkers, in the blood are common among those at highest risk of heart failure. The findings could help clinicians uncover impending heart disease and ensure that patients receive the treatment they need.

“We want to reach beyond the excellent job we’ve done in increasing survival for childhood cancers and address the long-term risks,” Armenian said. “With the support of Rally and The Truth 365, my team and I can continue to investigate how to minimize this risk so they can lead healthy, productive lives well into adulthood.”

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Learn more about research and treatment of pediatric cancer at City of Hope.