How We Care for Your Child

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 children 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 also 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 following.

  • First use of anthracyclines in pediatric cancer treated in the United States
  • First use of outpatient chemotherapy
  • New York 1 and New York 2 regimens for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which have helped increase the cure rates for children with high-risk leukemia from 50 percent to close to 80 percent
  • Development of cytoreductive combination chemotherapy, now standard of care for 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
  • Development of clofarabine for acute leukemias
  • First treatment plans for brain tumors that avoid radiation therapy, which can cause developmental delays in young children
  • Development of monoclonal antibody 8H9 to treat tumors directly
  • Development of antibody to treat DIPG directly
  • First successful use of direct infusion of chemotherapy into retinoblastomas in the eye to eliminate cancer cells while preserving vision and reducing toxic side effects
  • Development of intra-arterial chemotherapy
  • Lifesaving surgery with no additional therapy required to cure some children with neuroblastoma
  • Antibody-targeted therapy that, when combined with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, has dramatically improved long-term prospects for children with neuroblastoma
  • Tagging of an antibody with radioactive iodine to target and kill cancer cells, resulting in long-term remission in some children with neuroblastoma that has relapsed in the central nervous system
  • Development of anti-GD2 immunotherapy, now standard of care for neuroblastoma
  • First use of high-dose cyclophosphamide for neuroblastoma
  • Fully humanized monoclonal antibody, Hu3F8 – resulting in better efficacy and less toxicity 
  • First successful drug combinations to treat bone cancer
  • First use of limb-sparing surgery in the treatment of bone sarcomas
  • First effective chemotherapy regimen to treat desmoplastic small round cell tumors
  • Development and use of antibodies to treat desmoplastic small round cell tumors
  • First use of high-dose methotrexate, now standard of care for osteosarcoma
  • 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
  • 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
  • Performance of challenging procedures such as the removal of large abdominal tumors and tumors often 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 significantly lowers the chances of harmful side effects in patients without perfectly matched blood stem cell donors
  • First to demonstrate that a T-cell-depleted marrow transplant from parents could correct and cure lethal genetic immune deficiencies (“Bubble Babies”).
  • 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 transplant
  • Development of safer, more consistently curative transplants for Fanconi anemia and other life-threatening inherited blood diseases 
  • First successful unrelated bone marrow stem cell transplant
  • First use of T-cell depletion, now standard of care for haploidentical stem cell transplantation 
  • Development and first use of umbilical cord blood transplantation 
  • Development of reduced-intensity conditioning for transplantation of patients with Fanconi anemia
  • First use of hyper-fractionated radiation and busulfan/cyclophosphamide regimens, now standard of care for stem cell transplant conditioning
  • First effective treatment of cytomegalovirus infection in transplant recipients
  • First use virus specific T-cells for treatment of Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • Development of self-inactivating gene therapy vectors and first gene therapy for 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 of care for Fanconi anemia
  • First description of immune deficiency of IL2 receptor
  • First description of HLA and KIR classification
  • First isolation of mesenchymal stem cells
  • Development of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy
  • Discovery and 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
  • 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
  • Personalized cancer therapy based on a tumor’s genetic characteristics, with treatment tailored to be the most effective with the fewest side effects
  • First description of 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.