Web-based tool helps treatment for cancer survivors who move


POSTED: Monday, October 19, 2009

About three-fourths of children with cancer are being cured, but therapies also can cause long-term medical effects, says a Texas physician who helps track more than 1,000 childhood cancer survivors.

Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, medical director of the Long-Term Survivor Program at Texas Children's Hospital, says children cured of cancer should be monitored because treatment can cause problems ranging from learning and hormonal growth issues to heart, liver, lung or kidney problems.

Toward that end, Dreyer was instrumental in developing a Web-based program, Passport for Care, that helps physicians care for cancer survivors as they become adults and move away from where they were treated.

“;It's a new tool ... an Internet-based medical record for each survivor,”; she said in an interview.

Dreyer was here last month at the invitation of the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation to help establish a Hawaii long-term cancer survivor program.

Dreyer estimates that by 2010 one in 250 young adults in the general population will be a cancer survivor. She said more than half will have at least one lingering complication, from fairly minor learning or employment issues to rare cases of serious heart, lung or other organ system complications.

“;It's a new phenomenon,”; said Diane Ono, chairwoman of the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation, explaining children are surviving because of new treatments and clinical trials. About 75 percent to 85 percent of leukemia patients survive what was “;once a death sentence,”; and survival is 90 to 95 percent for some forms of cancer, she said.

Her daughter, Mari Galiher, a 17-year-old 'Iolani School student, is a cancer survivor who would benefit from a Passport for Care program when she leaves home for college, Ono said.

“;She is way past her treatment, which lasted 2 1/2 years, but that part of her medical history is significant and should be easily accessible to any physician treating her from now on.”;

Dreyer said the Passport for Care program soon will be available to the Children's Oncology Group nationally, and Kapiolani and Tripler Army medical centers are members.

Ono said the Children's Cancer Foundation hopes to develop a program with Kapiolani, which treats most Hawaii children with cancer and has a clinic Wednesday afternoons for cancer survivors. Her daughter goes once a year, she said.

The program will be part of the protocol for Hawaii kids who are being treated in clinical trials—about 60 percent—but that does not include those who were treated in the past, Ono said.

Dreyer said children treated for cancer at Texas Children's Hospital are seen about once a year for comprehensive checkups and a variety of studies.

“;I call it the 100,000-mile check each year to make sure every organ system is working well,”; she said. “;If not, we set them up with specialists to care for them.”;