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Study Led by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Expert Shows Improved Clinical Trial Enrollment in Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Patients

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Adolescents and young adults who have cancer were more likely to enroll in clinical trials with the establishment of a unified program of both pediatric and adult cancer specialists, according to a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) study.

Results of the study, led by Peter Shaw, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program at Children’s Hospital, are published in the July 15 issue of Cancer.

“Since 1975, there have been dramatic increases in the survival rates of pediatric and older cancer patients, but we haven’t seen similar improvements in adolescent and young adult patients ages 15 to 40,” said Dr. Shaw, also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Shaw and colleagues previously published research indicating lower clinical trial enrollment when adolescent and young adult patients were treated at an adult oncology center instead of at a pediatric oncology center.

To address this deficit, pediatric oncologists at Children’s Hospital and medical oncologists at UPCI established a joint AYA oncology program with the primary objective of improving outcomes by increasing clinical trial enrollment in this population. Patients who were referred to the program from July 2006 through June 2010 were reviewed retrospectively to establish whether clinical trial enrollment increased or not.

Fifty-seven patients, ages 15 to 22, were referred to the AYA program from nine area hospitals. Eight patients were referred for consultation only and were not treated at UPCI or Children's Hospital.

Nine of 27 patients (33 percent) patients who received treatment at the adult cancer center were enrolled into a clinical trial. In the three years before the start of the AYA program, only 4 percent of patients in this age range who received treatment at UPCI were enrolled in clinical trials.

“Our research demonstrates that establishing a unified AYA oncology program can lead to increased clinical trial enrollment for patients who are treated at medical oncology centers,” said Dr. Shaw. “It is too soon to conclude whether enrolling more of these patients in clinical trials will translate into improved disease-free survival, but we hope our collaborative program will serve as a blueprint for other oncology centers to enhance the care provided to young people who have cancer.”

For more information on Dr. Shaw and the AYA Oncology Program, please visit