In many fields of medicine, pediatric medicine lags behind general medicine in research and funding. Cancer is one of those fields. This is a shame because cancer takes the lives of more than 1400 children each year in the U.S alone (Guinipero 292). Some childhood cancers like leukemia have found successful treatments but many diseases remain that do not have treatments.
For many diseases adults have more treatment options (Guinipero 292). Immunotherapy is one of these treatments; it uses vaccinations. The treatment option relies on the strength on the patient’s immune system. Older patients will have a harder time with this treatment due to the fact that their immune systems are not as strong. Immune systems of children are fighting germs and other antibodies constantly. Their systems are full of healthy antigens. One explanation for this difference in immune system function is that as one grows older, they loose the need for an active immune system as they have built immunities to most of their surroundings (292-293).
Another reason that immunotherapies are more effective in children is that many cancers show symptoms in earlier stages of the disease than in adults. By the time an adult realizes they have a cancer, it may be too late for the treatment to be effective (Guinipero 292). In a study testing a vaccine on mammary tumor cells in rats, “90% of young mice were protected from tumor challenge compared to only 10% of old mice” (293).
When studies like the rat study prove that children do much better than adults with immunotherapy, more money and research must go into these vaccines.
It is important that science takes advantage of the natural processes of the body and only enhances these. When the immune system of a child is fighting so hard to remove malignant cells, boosting it will only help. Research and resources should be applied to immunotherapy and everyone will see results. These treatments could save thousands of lives each year.