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Five- and 10-year survival rates in childhood hematalogic cancers have significantly improved since 1990, according to the results of a study recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Approximately 40% of childhood cancers are classified as hematalogic cancers. Hematologic cancers are cancers of the blood and bone marrow, and include leukemia and lymphoma. There have been astounding improvements in treatment outcomes for pediatric leukemias and lymphomas in the past 30 years. For example, in the early 1970s fewer than 10% of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia survived for 10 years after diagnosis, whereas today 80% of children will survive.

Most population-based survival data for pediatric leukemias and lymphomas include only patients diagnosed up to the mid-1990s, prompting researchers at the German Cancer Research Center and Cornell Medical Center to assess more recent 5- and 10-year survival trends. The analysis focused on U.S. patients who were younger than 15 years of age when diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute non-lymphoblastic leukemia, Hodgkin?s lymphoma, or non-Hodgkin?s lymphoma.

The researchers used data on a total of 6,957 patients from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to assess survival rates over three five-year intervals: 1990-1994, 1995-1999, and 2000-2004.

The results of the analysis indicate significant improvements in five- and 10-year survival rates between 1990 and 2004 for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute non-lymphoblastic leukemia, and non-Hodgkin?s lymphoma. (See Table 1) The five- and 10-year survival rates for Hodgkin?s lymphoma from 1990-2004 were 96.1% and 94.4%, respectively, and these did not change significantly from 1990-2004.

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Table 1: Improvements in Survival Rates for Pediatric Leukemias and Lymphomas

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The researchers concluded that survival after diagnosis with pediatric leukemias and lymphomas has improved significantly over the past decade, indicating that compliance with the available therapies provides a good chance for survival.

Reference: Pulte, D, Gondos, A, Brenner, H. Trends in 5- and 10-year survival after diagnosis with childhood hematologic malignancies in the United States, 1990-2004. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2008; 100:1301-1309.