New agents, emerging late effects, and the development of precision survivorship
Incremental improvements in the treatment of children and adolescents with cancer have led to 5-year survival rates reaching nearly 85%. In the past decade, impressive progress has been made in understanding the biology of many pediatric cancers. With that understanding, multiple new agents have become available that offer the promise of more-effective and less-toxic treatment. These include agents that target various cell surface antigens and engage the adaptive immune system, as well as those that interfere with key signaling pathways involved in tumor development and growth. For local control, surgery and radiation techniques also have evolved, becoming less invasive or featuring new techniques and particles that more precisely target the tumor and limit the dose to normal tissue. Nevertheless, targeted agents, like conventional chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, may have off-target effects and deserve long-term follow-up of their safety and efficacy. These include injury to the endocrine, cardiovascular, and immunologic systems. New radiation and surgical techniques that theoretically reduce morbidity and improve long-term quality of life must also be validated with actual patient outcomes. Finally, with advances in genomics, information on host susceptibility to late effects is beginning to emerge. Such knowledge, coupled with improved metrics that better describe the spectrum of potential late effects across the entire lifespan, can lead to the development of decision models that project the potential long-term health outcomes associated with various treatment and follow-up strategies. These developments will help extend the current focus on precision medicine to precision survivorship, where clinicians, patients, and families will have a better grasp of the potential risks, benefits, and tradeoffs associated with the growing number of cancer treatment options.