The nationally ranked cancer program at Primary Children’s Hospital includes oncology and bone marrow transplant programs that use the latest treatments and research to restore childhood after cancer.
 
We treat children, adolescents and young adults—ranging in age from newborns through mid-20s—with pediatric cancers and non-malignant blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia. Our multi-disciplinary team belongs to several national cancer research consortiums dedicated to improving care, treatments, and outcomes for pediatric cancer patients.

What Sets Us Apart

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Nationally Ranked Care

Primary Children's Hospital has been ranked among the top 50 hospitals in the nation for pediatric cancer care by the U.S. News and World Report in their 2019 - 2020 Best Children's Hospitals rankings report. 
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Cutting-Edge Research

Primary Children’s Hospital is a key contributor to a number of national and international groups striving to improve the lives of children, adolescents, young adults, and their families. Our caregivers play key roles within these groups to set the standards for pediatric cancer care.

When appropriate, we offer our patients the opportunity to participate in state of the art clinical trials, with the goal of increasing cure rates, identifying underlying causes of cancer, and decreasing late effects of cancer and cancer therapy.

Children’s Oncology Group

The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The COG unites more than 9,000 experts in childhood cancer at more than 200 leading children’s hospitals, universities, and cancer centers across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe in the fight against childhood cancer.
The Children’s Oncology Group has nearly 100 active clinical trials open at any given time. These trials include front-line treatment for many types of childhood cancers, studies aimed at determining the underlying biology of these diseases, and trials involving new and emerging treatments, supportive care, and survivorship.

Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia (TACL)

The Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia & Lymphoma (TACL) consortium was formed in 2005 as a response to a need for a consortium that is focused on new drug studies in childhood leukemia and lymphoma. The TACL approach is to integrate translational laboratory research with early phase clinical trials to speed the progress of new therapy development for children with cancer.

Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutic Investigators’ Consortium (POETIC)

he mission of the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC) is to promote the early clinical development of promising therapies for the treatment of children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer and related disorders

Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC)

The Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium is a network of 18 children’s hospitals that conduct clinical trials of new therapies for children with brain tumors. The consortium’s goal is to improve outcomes by translating the latest findings in cancer biology into better treatments for these children.

Beat Childhood Cancer Research Consortium

The Beat Childhood Cancer research consortium is a group of 40+ universities and children's hospitals that offer a worldwide network of childhood cancer clinical trials. The consortium offers early phase clinical trials to children battling childhood cancer, with a focus on using precision medicine in patients at diagnosis as well as in difficult to treat relapsed and refractory cancers. 

National Pediatric Cancer Foundation

The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation collaborates with over 20 children’s hospitals to bring together the nation’s top doctors and researchers to fast-track less toxic, more targeted treatment and increase the survival rate for children battling cancer. Capitalizing on the strengths of researchers from a variety of scientific fields, the Foundation has streamlined the process of protocol development in the hopes of delivering more personalized medicine to children with cancer

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Groundbreaking Treatment

Our program is dedicated to being on the frontline of cancer treatment using research and cutting edge genetics to provide the best treatment possible for our patients. We participate in national research studies have achieved several groundbreaking milestones. In 2015, Primary Children's was selected as one of the original study sites for the groundbreaking CAR-T therapy for targeted treatment of high-risk leukemia patients and in 2017 was one of the first centers nationally to offer Kymriah as an FDA-approved CAR-T therapy, followed by reporting the highest enrollment rate in the country for this treatment.

Genetics

  • A focused effort to integrate germline and somatic genetics in pediatric cancer care
  • Collaboration with Family Cancer Assessment Clinic (Huntsman Cancer Institute), one of the oldest and most robust cancer genetic programs in the country, consisting of a multidisciplinary team of caregivers dedicated to care of familial cancer predisposition syndromes
  • Patients and families have readily available access to a team of 8 expert genetic counselors focused on familial cancer predisposition syndromes
  • Established cancer surveillance programs including dedicated pediatric whole body MRI imaging
  • Active research protocols including tissue banking for patients and families with heritable cancer syndromes
  • Genetic profiling of new and relapsed pediatric cancer with a focus on participation in clinical trials
  • Active participants in several national consortia with a focus on genomic profiling and translating findings to interventions for patients
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Multidisciplinary Care Team

Our cancer care team is comprised of a team of pediatric specialists who are experts in all aspects of treating childhood cancers. They will guide patient and family through treatment plans, emergency care, side effects, preventive medicine, and more. They can also offer support and education to you and your family.

Learn more about our cancer care team >


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Cancer Resources and Support

As your child is treated for childhood cancer, you may find you need support to meet the demands that will be placed on you and your family. Our care team partners with several organizations to provide support and resources for families of children with cancer. 

Learn more about cancer support and resources >

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Family Centered Care

We understand how important it is to support the entire family when a child has serious health issues. In addition to focusing on excellent care, we have dedicated significant resources to developing family support services. Our team includes physicians, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, and volunteers to engage patients and family members with therapeutic activities, positive distraction, and social support.

Learn more about our patient and family support services >

We also partner closely with Ronald McDonald House Charities to provide family rooms in the hospital, and a convenient and affordable place for families to stay nearby the hospital. Primary Children's hospital offers the largest inpatient Ronald McDonald family room in the United States and the Salt Lake City Ronald McDonald House features specialized apartments for immunosuppressed patients. 

Learn more about our Ronald McDonald Family Rooms >

Learn more about Ronald McDonald House Salt Lake City >

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What We Treat and How

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Cancers We Treat

Cancer is a broad term for many diseases that affect different parts of the body. Cancer means that certain cells in the body are growing too fast. These cells don’t look or act like normal cells. Normal cells in the body grow, divide and die in an orderly way. Cancer cells do not know when to stop growing and dividing. This abnormal growth may cause normal tissue to die or all the cancer cells can group together in a lump (called a tumor).

Anyone can get cancer—adults, children, dogs, cats, and even trees. There are more than 100 types of cancer, and they are grouped by where the cells come from. For example,

  • Leukemia is a cancer of white blood cells that starts in bone marrow cells
  • Lymphoma is a cancer of white blood cells that starts in the lymph nodes located throughout the body
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer of muscle cells

Cancers are different in how fast they grow, where they spread, and how they respond to treatment. An effective treatment for one type of cancer may have no effect on a different type. For this reason, your child’s cancer treatment is made specifically for her type of cancer. It is important to learn as much as possible about your child’s type of cancer and all the places it occurs within the body at the time of diagnosis.

Some cancers are named after the person who first described the tumor. For example, Wilm’s tumor is a common childhood kidney cancer and Hodgkin’s disease is a type of lymphoma (white blood cell cancer). Also, some cancers found in the brain, chest wall and limbs are similar when viewed under a microscope. They all come from similar cells found throughout the body, and are called primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs). These are only a few examples of childhood cancers.

In general, cancer can be divided into two categories: liquid tumors (leukemias) and solid tumors.

Leukemias

  • Leukemias are the most common childhood cancer. The most common form of childhood leukemia is acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).
  • Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and begins in the bone marrow where blood cells are made.
  • Leukemias are treated with chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy (see Chapter 3: What Happens in the Hospital for explanations of treatments).
  • Children with ALL receive most of their treatment in the outpatient clinic. In other words, once the diagnosis is made most children don’t stay overnight in the hospital except for sick visits.
  • The total length of treatment for ALL usually lasts 2-1/2 years for girls and 3-1/2 years for boys.
  • Children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) receive most of their treatment in the hospital, and the length of treatment is not as long as ALL.

Solid tumors

  • Solid tumors are lumps or masses that grow within body tissue. Not all lumps or tumors are cancer. Some tumors are benign (bee-nine), which means not cancerous. A cancerous tumor can spread to other parts of the body, but benign tumors do not. Benign tumors are generally not life-threatening but can cause serious problems if they are too big or if they are found somewhere like the throat, lung, or brain.
  • There are many types of malignant (cancerous) tumors that can grow, invade other tissues, and spread to other parts of the body.
  • Solid tumors are often treated with chemotherapy and surgery, and sometimes with radiation therapy (see Chapter 3: What Happens in the Hospital for explanations of treatments). Some solid tumors are treated with high-dose chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation (BMT). The exact treatment depends on the location, type, and extent of the disease.
  • Children with solid tumors usually receive some of their chemotherapy in the outpatient clinic and some while they stay in the hospital.
  • Treatment usually lasts 6 to 18 months.
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    Treatments

    There are many medical treatments and procedures that may be a part of a child's multidisciplinary cancer treatment, however, there are three main courses of treatment for most cancers. Our doctors and care team decide the best course of treatment for each individual patient. 

    Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to damage rapidly growing cells. Most cancer cells grow rapidly and the chemotherapy attacks them. Your child may get chemotherapy as capsules that are swallowed or as a liquid that is given through a catheter into a vein. The chemotherapy should not hurt at all, although children say they feel pressure or a sting if a needle is inserted. Ask your nurse if you have questions about how your child will receive chemotherapy. There are a number of chemotherapy drugs. Some of these work better for certain cancers and certain children.

    Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy is a form of x-ray treatment. The type of ray used in radiation therapy is different from the x-rays used to take pictures of the body. It stops cancer cells from growing and making more cancer cells. Radiation therapy is usually done on the specific body part that has a tumor. It is very important that children hold still when they are receiving this therapy so that no other body parts receive radiation. Children usually have to remain still for 5 to 15 minutes, and the care team may help your child relax with medicines or relaxation techniques if she needs it.

    There are two basic types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy and radioactive implants. With external beam radiation therapy, a machine is used to direct the radiation to the cancer through the skin. Most of the patients who are treated with radiation therapy are treated with external beam therapy.

    With radioactive implants, radioactive material is placed inside the body within or next to the tumor. Radioactive implants are often used to treat cancer that is in a small or specific part of the body. This is because a greater dose of radiation can be given to the tumor with less radiation affecting the surrounding healthy tissues. It is not unusual for a patient to receive a combination of external beam radiation therapy and a radioactive implant.

    Radiation therapy doesn’t work for every type of cancer, and so it is not a part of every treatment plan.

    Surgery

    Surgery may be used to take a tiny piece of tissue from your child’s cancer area. This process is called a biopsy. The biopsy helps doctors know your child’s type of cancer. Surgery may also be used to remove a tumor. This may be done before any other treatment or after chemotherapy has had a chance to shrink it.

    Your care team will completely explain surgery to you and your child. Sometimes children need medicine to help them relax or sleep. Other times, a procedure is very simple and they can be awake. Don’t be afraid to ask your care team any questions you have about surgery.

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    Bone Marrow Transplant

    For 25 years, our Bone Marrow Transplant program has been dedicated to research and groundbreaking treatment. Our experienced and caring team helps children and their families with all aspects of the bone marrow transplant process and continue to manage long term effects into the future. 

    Learn more about Primary Children's Bone Marrow Transplant Program >


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