Advocates working to end childhood cancer say the federal government's investment in pediatric research is too small.

 

It's hard to pin down the exact numbers, but Dr. John Maris says less than 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute's research budget goes toward childhood cancer.

Maris leads the division of oncology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He and other investigators say the NCI's investment is too little.

"We need a dedicated effort focused on unlocking the problems in childhood cancers so that we can discover unique differences about the cancers that affect children," he said.

That focus is needed, he says, to find new treatments.

Wilmington resident Carey Pauley's daughter died in 2009 from a rare form of bone cancer. Savannah was 10.

"The drugs that Savannah was given are simply watered-down versions of what adults are given. These drugs tear the body apart," Pauley said.

Liz Scott is outreach director for the Philadelphia fundraising powerhouse--Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Scott's daughter, Alex, died in 2004. She and her group plan to raise $10 million this year.

"A child who has radiation has a much higher chance of getting cancer later in life. With leukemia, you have chemotherapies going right into their spinal fluid, that can cause cognitive problems, a wide range of cognitive problems long term," Scott said.

Advocates say federal investment decisions should go beyond a simple tally of the number of kids with cancer compared with the number of adults. Scott says the life-years lost when a child dies of cancer magnify the urgency to boost funding.