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Past, Present and Future of Medicine
Overview of Treatment Changes - In the late 1950's and early 1960's, there were very few drugs available to treat children with cancer. As more drugs were discovered, and used in combination, it soon began to increase cures for children with cancer. As children became survivors of their cancer, the medical care team began to realize that many of these drugs, although beneficial in curing the cancer, also could result in undesirable side effects. Knowledge of these problems have lead to designing clinical and pharmacological studies that better assist in selection of the drugs and amount of drug that will be effective against the cancer, and yet minimize these short and long-term complications. Also, the development of better supportive care agents used in conjunction with chemotherapy have decreased known side effects.
Accessing Information about Drugs - Every new drug used in the treatment of childhood cancer is tested through the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) clinical trial system, first on adults before being tested in children. The adult clinical testing may take several years to complete. After these studies, there is usually significant information on the short term effects of the specific drug before its use in children. The FDA also requires that any significant toxicity that occurs from any drug be reported through "Med Watch," the FDA medical products reporting program. Therefore, if you want to inquire about any late effects associated with any drug, you can contact the Federal Drug Administration for any information they may have. Also, The National Cancer Institute now has a division addressing survivor issues, that includes late toxicities of treatment. The NCI could also be contacted for information. Another source of information would be the national childhood cancer study group that performs the clinical trials on all new drugs used in children with cancer. The two national study groups are: Children's Cancer Group (CCG) or Pediatric Oncology Group (POG). It may also be helpful to check with the institution that treated you to ask if they have any information on the drugs.

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