According to WHO, 400,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. The most common type of childhood cancer is leukemia. Other common malignancies are lymphomas, brain cancer, and solid tumors such as neuroblastoma, a type of tumor that occurs virtually only in children. Once again, Vall d’Hebron joins International Childhood Cancer Day, a day to raise awareness of the need for all children to have access to proper diagnosis and treatment.
"Last year, we maintained 100% of our healthcare activity despite the pandemic. We didn’t have delays in chemotherapy, or transplants, or surgeries, thanks to the joint effort of the Hospital", explains Dr. Lucas Moreno, head of the Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Service and principal investigator of the Translational Research Group on Cancer in Childhood and Adolescence of the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR). "In 2020, despite the context that arose for the Covid-19", continues Dr. Moreno, "we treated more than 100 new pediatric cancer patients, 89 of whom were diagnosed at our center."
Patients from all over the state come to Vall d’Hebron for treatment. The task of the Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Service is to improve the effectiveness of treatments and try to have the least possible impact on the lives of children. This Service is a CSUR reference center (Center, Service and Reference Unit of the National Health System) for the transplantation of hematopoietic progenitors, neuroblastoma, sarcomas, ocular and orbital tumors and congenital spinal cord failure, as well as a center for European networks of reference for childhood cancer and hematology (Paed-CAN and EuroBloodNet). Its parent transplant unit led by Dra. Cristina Diaz de Heredia is accredited by the JACIE quality program and is a national and international reference.
In the words of Esther Diaz, the Service’s nursing supervisor, “we have made great strides in the treatment and care of children and adolescents and we need to give relevance to the specialization of pediatric oncology nurses. Specific knowledge and deep social skills such as active listening, empathy or modulation of emotional expression are needed. It is also key to improving care to invest in nursing research in relation to improving the quality of life of children and adolescents with cancer”.
Last year, in addition, hospital humanization projects were carried out, such as Superbox, an initiative so that underage patients can live a more positive experience of medication and increase their well-being during the stay in the hospital. These are boxes that cover serums, transfusions and chemotherapies. Patients can decide which illustrations decorate the boxes.
At the research level, "year after year we have a more robust research and closer to the patient", says Dr. Lucas Moreno. The Translational Research Group in Childhood and Adolescent Cancer at the VHIR, led by Dr. Soledad Gallego is currently working on five lines of research, three on translational research in sarcomas, neuronal tumors and rare anemias, and two on clinical research, focusing on transplants, clinical trials and personalized medicine. They are working, for example, on a liquid biopsy project on sarcomas or on the search for new therapeutic targets in neuroblastomas. It should also be noted that the Comik (Cancer Omics for Kids-Omic Medicine in Children) program of personalized medicine with genomic sequencing has remained open during 2020. In addition, last year 41 open clinical trials phase 1-2 of new drugs were conducted and patients treated have doubled compared to 2019, providing new treatment options for boys and girls with incurable cancers.
On the other hand, Vall d'Hebron has collaborated, together with Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, in a video made by the Onco-Hematology Commission of the College of Physiotherapists of Catalonia, where two professionals talk about role of the oncopedic physiotherapist. In addition, the video shows Tania, a patient from Sant Joan de Déu, and Bruno, a patient from Vall d'Hebron, two children who are working very hard to overcome the consequences of cancer, and their families, who are grateful the work carried out inside the hospital and, in particular, the role of physiotherapists as children's companions in the process of combating the effects of cancer. Denys Santa Marina, physiotherapist at the Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Unit (UFiTO) - Vall d'Hebron Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, explains that her role, as a pediatric oncology physiotherapist, is to ensure that both children and adolescents have good functional condition, good physical condition and autonomy. Santa Marina emphasizes that, in the case of children, to ensure maximum adherence to treatment, play is a very important tool, as well as the involvement of families. You can watch the video in this link.
Exhibition "Put on your hat!" in the lobby of the Children’s Hospital
Finally, from today, Monday, the exhibition “Posa’t la gorra!”, a campaign by AFANOC (Association of Relatives and Friends of Oncological Children of Catalonia), can be seen at the Children’s Hospital. The reason why the cap is the protagonist is that one of the side effects that children and adolescents suffer from due to treatment is hair loss and they usually cover their head with a cap. With this symbol of awareness about childhood cancer and through this retrospective exhibition, the last 20 years of AFANOC are commemorated. The Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Service wants to keep the patient’s voice in mind and work closely with patient associations. In this sense, in Vall d'Hebron, we have been working hand in hand with AFANOC for more than 20 years to provide the most humane and quality care for children with cancer.