Beyond survival

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Science  15 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6432, pp. 1166-1169
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6432.1166

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Today, about 83% of childhood cancer patients become long-term survivors. But the aftereffects of treatment for cancer can cause lifelong health effects, and 80% of survivors have at least one serious, disabling, or life-threatening health condition by age 45. Physicians and researchers are increasingly learning how cancer treatment reshapes the growth and development of small bodies into adulthood and beyond. As knowledge builds and the survivor population expands—it's now approaching 500,000 in the United States—a burgeoning effort is underway to blunt the effects of cancer therapy, either during treatment or years later. Experiments are as variable as studying drugs in zebrafish, walking mice with cancer on a treadmill, probing the cells of survivors, and testing DNA of newly diagnosed children. And in every lab, in every conversation with a family, scientists and physicians are walking a tightrope: Their greatest fear is jeopardizing a child's survival from cancer, but they're also striving to ensure good health in the decades to come.