Dr Benjamin Gesundheit told the 4th International Conference on Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Medicine today (Thursday 30 March) that more research was needed urgently to investigate why some patients did not comply correctly with their treatments. At the conference, organised by Teenage Cancer Trust, he identified key areas where doctors could make a difference to their patients' compliance, thereby improving their outcome.
Dr Gesundheit, a paediatric oncologist based at Hadassah Hospital of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Dr Gideon Koren from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, reviewed the medical literature concerning how and why some teenagers tended to give up on their treatment. They found that for some young people their only concern was with "surviving" the current treatment, rather than long-term survival of the disease itself.
"With today's improved treatments, physicians are treating teenage cancer patients with the aim of curing them, rather than simply buying them some time," he said. "Thus, the implications of poor drug compliance are enormous, and preventing this major factor of therapeutic failure is a paramount challenge. For example, non-compliance with oral chemotherapy may play a role in the long-term prognosis of childhood leukaemia in the relapse rate, and in the graft survival after transplantation.
"Furthermore, physicians tend to overestimate drug compliance, yet non-compliance with therapy is widespread amongst adolescents with cancer, who are at particularly high risk, since their malignancies may have a poorer prognosis than those of younger children. Although the literature we reviewed cited studies car
Contact: Emma Mason
Teenage Cancer Trust