Making cancer treatments safer to avoid serious side effects

Healing without harm

Survival rates for many types of childhood cancers have reached 80%—a huge increase from a few decades ago. But there’s still a lot more to do, like making sure the treatments used to treat kids don’t harm them down the road.

Dr. Bruce Carleton at BC Children’s is working on just that. Three of the most common cancer drugs can have serious side effects, causing heart failure, hearing loss, and significant lowering of infection-fighting cells. So, he created tests that use genomic technology to predict the likelihood of kids experiencing these serious side effects to cancer drugs before they’re treated. That information can then be used to tailor treatment specifically to a child.


“Survival is important, but so is harm. If families know in advance the likelihood of their child developing a life-threatening side effect, they can be empowered to ask questions and assess their options.” — Dr. Bruce Carleton

So far, more than 250 kids have been tested at BC Children’s Hospital. Dr. Carleton is now working to develop tests for five more serious side effects, and to expand the impact of this work across Canada and around the world.

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