Children are especially vulnerable to serious ADRs. Most drugs are not specifically trialed or tested in children, and children’s smaller size means that drug toxicity can occur more rapidly and more dramatically than in adults.
In the treatment of pediatric cancer, it’s a daily challenge for oncologists to navigate a fine balance between drug benefit versus potential harm to their patients. While powerful chemotherapy drugs save many children’s lives, adverse drug reactions are a well-known and troubling aspect of cancer treatment.
Two in five pediatric cancer patients suffer some type of severe permanently disabling, life-threatening, or lethal ADR as a result of their treatment. Further, ADRs alone account for 22% of all pediatric oncology patient admissions into hospital.
ADRs among pediatric cancer patients can have serious short- and long-term outcomes for health and function, including:
- Hearing loss
- Heart damage
- Life-threatening skin reactions
- Damage to the peripheral nervous system (peripheral neuropathy) causing pain, loss of motor control and potentially lethal vocal cord paralysis
- Damage to the white matter of the brain (leukoencephalopathy)
- Painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract (mucositis)