How We Care for Children & Teens

Pictured: Paul Meyers Pediatric oncologist Paul Meyers speaks with a young patient.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we take a team approach to caring for children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer. Our experts – from physicians and nurses to child life specialists and teachers – share the goal of curing your child and returning him or her to a life focused on family, friends, and the future.

We care for young people with all types of cancer, from the most common to the rarest, and at any stage, including a cancer recurrence. Our patients receive the latest, most-effective cancer treatments, and in some cases have access to innovative therapies through clinical trials, many of which may not be available elsewhere.

In addition, we provide comprehensive services to reduce the likelihood of nervous system, heart, and developmental complications associated with cancer and its treatment, and to care for such issues when they do arise.

Advancing Childhood Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Our pediatric physicians engage in many areas of research. As clinicians and scientists, we are committed to continuously improving cancer therapies and outcomes. Our research has led to numerous discoveries and treatment strategies, including the first use of outpatient chemotherapy.

Here are some of our other firsts:

  • First use of anthracyclines in pediatric cancer treated in the United States
  • First development and clinical application of cytoreductive combination chemotherapies in children, now standard of care for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Development and first use of asparaginase, now standard of care for ALL
  • First cooperative clinical trial group, Acute Leukemia Group A, predecessor of the COG and POG
  • New York 1 and New York 2 regimens for the treatment of ALL, which have helped increase the cure rates for children with high-risk leukemia from 50 percent to close to 80 percent
  • Development of clofarabine for acute leukemias
  • First treatment plans for brain tumors that employ chemotherapy alone and avoid radiation therapy, which can cause developmental delays in young children
  • Development and first clinical trials of intrathecal administration of radiolabeled tumor-reactive antibodies to treat brain metastases of several cancers and to treat droplet metastases of medulloblastoma in children
  • Development of a radiolabeled tumor-reactive antibody, and a convection enhanced diffusion technique to infuse the antibody directly into brain tumors and thereby treat a lethal tumor of the brainstem, diffuse interstitial pontine glioma (DIPG)
  • First successful use of direct infusion of chemotherapy into arteries supporting retinoblastomas in the eye to eliminate cancer cells while preserving the affected eye, its visual function, and reducing toxic side effects. This is now becoming the treatment of choice for retinoblastoma
  • Lifesaving surgery with no additional therapy required to cure some children with neuroblastoma
  • First demonstration of the capacity of chemotherapy, specifically high-dose cyclophosphamide, to induce remissions in advanced neuroblastoma
  • Initial development of anti-GD2 immunotherapy, a mouse monoclonal antibody that targets neuroblastoma. This antibody-targeted therapy, when combined with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, has dramatically improved long-term prospects for children with advanced neuroblastoma from <20% to over 60%
  • Development of radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies to target and kill cancer cells that can be administered directly and safely into the spinal cord, resulting in long-term remission in some children with neuroblastoma that has relapsed in the central nervous system
  • Development of a fully humanized anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody, Hu3F8 – resulting in better efficacy and less toxicity in the treatment of advanced neuroblastoma and osteogenic sarcoma
  • First use of high-dose methotrexate, now standard of care for osteosarcoma
  • First use of limb-sparing surgery in the treatment of bone sarcomas
  • Development of effective drug combinations that continue to be treatments of choice for the bone tumor, osteogenic sarcoma
  • First effective chemotherapy regimen to treat desmoplastic small round cell tumors (DSRCT)
  • Development of tumor-reactive monoclonal antibodies to treat DSRC, and introduction of intraperitoneal treatment with these antibodies
  • Development of neoadjuvant therapy, now standard of care for osteosarcoma
  • First use of histological necrosis for response evaluation, now standard for care in osteosarcoma
  • Demonstration of improved survival with muramyl tripeptide for patients with osteosarcoma
  • Identification and characterization of tumor-causing fusion genes that distinguish different types of Ewings sarcoma and desmoplastic small round cell tumors
  • Creation of individualized surgery plans for our young patients
  • Development of limb-preservation surgery for removing tumors and reconstructive procedures to rebuild functional bones and joints with bone transplants and joint replacements
  • Development of surgical procedures for the removal of large and widespread abdominal tumors and tumors from infants and children considered inoperable elsewhere
  • First successful bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor
  • First use of T-cell-depleted transplants for hematologic (blood-based) cancers and disorders. This type of transplant permits safe and effective transplants form HLA half-matched donors with low risk of graft vs host disease, a potentially lethal side effect in patients without perfectly matched blood stem cell donors
  • First to demonstrate that a T-cell-depleted marrow transplant from half-matched parents could correct and cure lethal genetic immune deficiencies (“Bubble Babies”). This is now the treatment of choice for these diseases
  • First to show that adoptive transfer of immune cells (T cells) could cure Epstein-Barr virus-associated lymphoma, which can be a complication of a bone marrow or organ transplant
  • Development of safer, more consistently curative transplants for Fanconi anemia and other life-threatening inherited blood diseases 
  • Initial demonstration of umbilical cord blood as a source of blood-forming cells for transplantation
  • Development of safe reduced-intensity conditioning for transplantation of patients with Fanconi anemia and other genetic disorders of DNA repair
  • Clinical introduction of hyper-fractionated total body irradiation radiation regimens and busulfan/cyclophosphamide chemotherapy regimens for pretransplant conditioning.  These are now standard of care for stem cell transplant conditioning
  • First effective treatment of cytomegalovirus infection in transplant recipients
  • First use of virus specific T-cells for treatment of Epstein-Barr virus infection and Epstein-Barr virus lymphomas
  • Development of self-inactivating gene therapy vectors for gene therapy of thalassemia and ADA deficiency 
  • First demonstration of autoimmune mechanisms of idiopathic aplastic anemia
  • First randomized clinical trial of anti-thymocyte globulin in aplastic anemia
  • Development of DEB chromosomal breakage test, now standard for the diagnosis of Fanconi anemia
  • First description of severe genetic immune deficiencies caused by mutations of the IL-2 gene and the ɣ helicase gene
  • First definitions of the human Natural Killer cell receptor gene complex
  • First isolation of mesenchymal stem cells
  • Development of immunotherapies using T-cells engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors and T-cell receptor mimics
  • Discovery, pre-clinical evaluation and first clinical introduction of a drug called G-CSF, now widely used to boost white blood cell counts during cancer therapy, which allows patients to receive more-effective doses of chemotherapy and reduces the risk of infection
  • Initial demonstration and definitive clinical trials showing that G-CSF can induce long lasting production of normal granulocytes in children with genetic diseases that prevent granulocyte production, specifically Kostmann’s agranulocytosis and the Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
  • Discovery of Stem Cell Factor, a protein that stimulates early blood-forming cells in the bone marrow
  • Development of new antibody-based and immune cell transplant therapies that may be more effective and safer than conventional treatment for curing blood-based cancers and solid tumor diseases
  • New and improved genetic approaches for identifying more aggressive tumors and tumors resistant to chemotherapy
  • Development of new drug regimens that attack childhood cancers by targeting a tumor’s genetic characteristics, with treatment tailored to be the most effective with the fewest side effects
  • First description of distinctive chromosonal fusions in Ewings-like tumors, desmoplastic small round cell tumor, alveolar small parts sarcoma, and fibromellular hepatocellular carcinoma

Providing a Supportive Environment for Cancer Care

The majority of children will survive cancer and go on to live full and productive lives. Keeping this in mind, our specialists look beyond a cancer diagnosis to focus on your child and family as a whole, offering a comfortable and supportive environment including:

  • The world’s first Pediatric Day Hospital, opened in 1969. Our Day Hospital allows children and young adults to receive more than 90 percent of their treatment in an outpatient environment, leaving the hospital with family at the end of the day.
  • A vibrant and interactive community, featuring recreational activities, special events, a school program, programs for patients’ siblings, and celebrations of all milestones including birthdays, holidays, high school graduation, and prom.
  • Specialized psychosocial support available for patients and family members during treatment, including child life therapists to help younger children prepare for, participate in, and comply with treatment.
  • Expert long-term follow-up programs track the health of pediatric cancer survivors soon after treatment and through the years after therapy, long into adulthood. These programs also help our experts gain information to improve the care of children and young adults currently being treated for cancer.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our goal is to cure your child, while at the same time making sure that he or she remains emotionally and psychologically healthy during the treatment journey and beyond. We treat children with the expectation that they will survive their disease and return to a life filled with hope and health.