Researchers and physicians know that children who undergo cancer treatment are at risk for decreased bone mineral density because many cancer treatments negatively affect bone health. It is particularly important that children and adolescents develop strong bone density because bone strength decreases in adulthood. Despite this knowledge, little is known about the rate at which fractures actually occur in survivors of childhood cancer and if they can be prevented.
Lynda Vrooman, MD, MMSc of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a CureSearch Young Investigator interested in better defining the risks and long-term consequences of fracture in survivors of childhood cancer, and in intervening to minimize long-term complications. During her first year of research, Dr. Vrooman completed enrollment of 193 patients in a study of reported bone fracture. Her findings demonstrate that approximately 25% of cancer survivors experienced at least one fracture after cancer treatment. Of those with fracture, 35% experienced more than one fracture after treatment. In addition, survivors treated with corticosteroids, commonly used in the treatment of many types of children’s cancer, experienced significantly higher rates of fracture after cancer treatment. These results highlight the importance of minimizing the bony complications associated with corticosteroids and suggest that a treatment-associated fracture risk may extend beyond cancer therapy completion.
In the next year of her work, Dr. Vrooman will conduct detailed bone density testing in childhood cancer survivors with a history of fracture. Dr. Vrooman anticipates that this work will inform future interventional studies aimed at decreasing skeletal toxicity in survivors of childhood cancer.