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Childhood Colorectal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version

Incidence

Carcinoma of the large bowel is rare in the pediatric age group.[1] It is seen in one case per 1 million persons younger than 20 years in the United States annually; fewer than 100 cases are diagnosed in children each year in the United States.[2] From 1973 to 2006, the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database recorded 174 cases of colorectal cancer in patients younger than 19 years.[3] Colorectal carcinoma accounts for about 2% of all malignancies in patients aged 15 to 29 years.[4]

References
  1. da Costa Vieira RA, Tramonte MS, Lopes LF: Colorectal carcinoma in the first decade of life: a systematic review. Int J Colorectal Dis 30 (8): 1001-6, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Saab R, Furman WL: Epidemiology and management options for colorectal cancer in children. Paediatr Drugs 10 (3): 177-92, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Ferrari A, Casanova M, Massimino M, et al.: Peculiar features and tailored management of adult cancers occurring in pediatric age. Expert Rev Anticancer Ther 10 (11): 1837-51, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Bleyer A, O’Leary M, Barr R, et al., eds.: Cancer Epidemiology in Older Adolescents and Young Adults 15 to 29 Years of Age, Including SEER Incidence and Survival: 1975-2000. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, 2006. NIH Pub. No. 06-5767. Also available online. Last accessed August 16, 2019.

Clinical Presentation

Colorectal tumors can occur in any location in the large bowel. Larger series and reviews suggest that ascending and descending colon tumors are each seen in approximately 30% of cases, with rectal tumors occurring in approximately 25% of cases.[1-3]

Signs and symptoms in children with descending colon tumors include the following:

  • Abdominal pain (most common).
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Change in bowel habits.
  • Weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

The median duration of symptoms before diagnosis was about 3 months in one series.[4,5]

Changes in bowel habits may be associated with tumors of the rectum or lower colon.

Tumors of the right colon may cause more subtle symptoms but are often associated with the following:

  • Abdominal mass.
  • Weight loss.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Blood in the stool
  • Iron-deficiency anemia.

Any tumor that causes complete obstruction of the large bowel can cause bowel perforation and spread of the tumor cells within the abdominal cavity.

References
  1. Kaplan MA, Isikdogan A, Gumus M, et al.: Childhood, adolescents, and young adults (≤25 y) colorectal cancer: study of Anatolian Society of Medical Oncology. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 35 (2): 83-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Kim G, Baik SH, Lee KY, et al.: Colon carcinoma in childhood: review of the literature with four case reports. Int J Colorectal Dis 28 (2): 157-64, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Sultan I, Rodriguez-Galindo C, El-Taani H, et al.: Distinct features of colorectal cancer in children and adolescents: a population-based study of 159 cases. Cancer 116 (3): 758-65, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Hill DA, Furman WL, Billups CA, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in childhood and adolescence: a clinicopathologic review. J Clin Oncol 25 (36): 5808-14, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Saab R, Furman WL: Epidemiology and management options for colorectal cancer in children. Paediatr Drugs 10 (3): 177-92, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]

Diagnostic Evaluation

Diagnostic studies include the following:[1,2]

  • Examination of the stool for blood.
  • Studies of liver and kidney function.
  • Measurement of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA).
  • Various medical imaging studies, including direct examination using colonoscopy to detect polyps in the large bowel. Other conventional radiographic studies include barium enema or video-capsule endoscopy followed by computed tomography of the chest and bone scans.[3]
References
  1. Pratt CB, Rao BN, Merchant TE, et al.: Treatment of colorectal carcinoma in adolescents and young adults with surgery, 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin/interferon-alpha 2a and radiation therapy. Med Pediatr Oncol 32 (6): 459-60, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Kauffman WM, Jenkins JJ, Helton K, et al.: Imaging features of ovarian metastases from colonic adenocarcinoma in adolescents. Pediatr Radiol 25 (4): 286-8, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Postgate A, Hyer W, Phillips R, et al.: Feasibility of video capsule endoscopy in the management of children with Peutz-Jeghers syndrome: a blinded comparison with barium enterography for the detection of small bowel polyps. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 49 (4): 417-23, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]

Histology and Molecular Features

There is a higher incidence of mucinous adenocarcinoma in the pediatric and adolescent age group (40%–50%), with many lesions being the signet ring cell type,[1-5] whereas only about 15% of adult lesions are of this histology. The tumors of younger patients with this histologic variant may be less responsive to chemotherapy. In the adolescent and young adult population with the mucinous histology, there is a higher incidence of signet ring cells, microsatellite instability, and mutations in the mismatch repair genes.[5-7] Tumors with mucinous histology arise from the surface of the bowel, usually at the site of an adenomatous polyp. The tumor may extend into the muscle layer surrounding the bowel, or the tumor may perforate the bowel entirely and seed through the spaces around the bowel, including intra-abdominal fat, lymph nodes, liver, ovaries, and the surface of other loops of bowel. A high incidence of metastasis involving the pelvis, ovaries, or both may be present in girls.[8]

Colorectal cancers in younger patients with noninherited sporadic tumors often lack KRAS mutations and other cytogenetic anomalies seen in older patients.[9] In a genomic study that used exome and RNA sequencing to identify mutational differences in colorectal carcinomas of adults (n = 30), adolescents and young adults (n = 30), and children (n = 2), five genes (MYCBP2, BRCA2, PHLPP1, TOPORS, and ATR) were identified that were more frequently mutated in adolescents and young adult patients. These genes contained a damaging mutation and were identified through whole-exome sequencing and RNA sequencing. In addition, higher mutational rates in DNA mismatch and DNA repair pathways, such as MSH2, BRCA2, and RAD9B, were more prevalent in adolescent and young adult samples but the results were not validated by RNA sequencing.[10]

References
  1. Saab R, Furman WL: Epidemiology and management options for colorectal cancer in children. Paediatr Drugs 10 (3): 177-92, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Hill DA, Furman WL, Billups CA, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in childhood and adolescence: a clinicopathologic review. J Clin Oncol 25 (36): 5808-14, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Ferrari A, Rognone A, Casanova M, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in children and adolescents: the experience of the Istituto Nazionale Tumori of Milan, Italy. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (3): 588-93, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. da Costa Vieira RA, Tramonte MS, Lopes LF: Colorectal carcinoma in the first decade of life: a systematic review. Int J Colorectal Dis 30 (8): 1001-6, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Poles GC, Clark DE, Mayo SW, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in pediatric patients: A comparison with adult tumors, treatment and outcomes from the National Cancer Database. J Pediatr Surg 51 (7): 1061-6, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Tricoli JV, Seibel NL, Blair DG, et al.: Unique characteristics of adolescent and young adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia, breast cancer, and colon cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 103 (8): 628-35, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Khan SA, Morris M, Idrees K, et al.: Colorectal cancer in the very young: a comparative study of tumor markers, pathology and survival in early onset and adult onset patients. J Pediatr Surg 51 (11): 1812-1817, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Kauffman WM, Jenkins JJ, Helton K, et al.: Imaging features of ovarian metastases from colonic adenocarcinoma in adolescents. Pediatr Radiol 25 (4): 286-8, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Bleyer A, Barr R, Hayes-Lattin B, et al.: The distinctive biology of cancer in adolescents and young adults. Nat Rev Cancer 8 (4): 288-98, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Tricoli JV, Boardman LA, Patidar R, et al.: A mutational comparison of adult and adolescent and young adult (AYA) colon cancer. Cancer 124 (5): 1070-1082, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]

Staging

Most reports also suggest that children present with more advanced disease than do adults, with 80% to 90% of patients presenting with Dukes stage C/D or TNM stage III/IV disease (refer to the Stage Information for Colon Cancer section of the PDQ summary on adult Colon Cancer Treatment for more information about staging).[1-15]

References
  1. Hill DA, Furman WL, Billups CA, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in childhood and adolescence: a clinicopathologic review. J Clin Oncol 25 (36): 5808-14, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Saab R, Furman WL: Epidemiology and management options for colorectal cancer in children. Paediatr Drugs 10 (3): 177-92, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Chantada GL, Perelli VB, Lombardi MG, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in children, adolescents, and young adults. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 27 (1): 39-41, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Durno C, Aronson M, Bapat B, et al.: Family history and molecular features of children, adolescents, and young adults with colorectal carcinoma. Gut 54 (8): 1146-50, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Ferrari A, Rognone A, Casanova M, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in children and adolescents: the experience of the Istituto Nazionale Tumori of Milan, Italy. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (3): 588-93, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Karnak I, Ciftci AO, Senocak ME, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in children. J Pediatr Surg 34 (10): 1499-504, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. LaQuaglia MP, Heller G, Filippa DA, et al.: Prognostic factors and outcome in patients 21 years and under with colorectal carcinoma. J Pediatr Surg 27 (8): 1085-9; discussion 1089-90, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Radhakrishnan CN, Bruce J: Colorectal cancers in children without any predisposing factors. A report of eight cases and review of the literature. Eur J Pediatr Surg 13 (1): 66-8, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Sharma AK, Gupta CR: Colorectal cancer in children: case report and review of literature. Trop Gastroenterol 22 (1): 36-9, 2001 Jan-Mar. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Taguchi T, Suita S, Hirata Y, et al.: Carcinoma of the colon in children: a case report and review of 41 Japanese cases. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 12 (3): 394-9, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Pratt CB, Rao BN, Merchant TE, et al.: Treatment of colorectal carcinoma in adolescents and young adults with surgery, 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin/interferon-alpha 2a and radiation therapy. Med Pediatr Oncol 32 (6): 459-60, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Sultan I, Rodriguez-Galindo C, El-Taani H, et al.: Distinct features of colorectal cancer in children and adolescents: a population-based study of 159 cases. Cancer 116 (3): 758-65, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Kaplan MA, Isikdogan A, Gumus M, et al.: Childhood, adolescents, and young adults (≤25 y) colorectal cancer: study of Anatolian Society of Medical Oncology. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 35 (2): 83-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. Kim G, Baik SH, Lee KY, et al.: Colon carcinoma in childhood: review of the literature with four case reports. Int J Colorectal Dis 28 (2): 157-64, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Poles GC, Clark DE, Mayo SW, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in pediatric patients: A comparison with adult tumors, treatment and outcomes from the National Cancer Database. J Pediatr Surg 51 (7): 1061-6, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment and Outcome of Childhood Colorectal Cancer

Most patients present with evidence of metastatic disease,[1] either as gross tumor or as microscopic deposits in lymph nodes, on the surface of the bowel, or on intra-abdominal organs.[2,3] Of almost 160,000 patients with colorectal cancer included in the National Cancer Database, 918 pediatric patients were identified. Age younger than 21 years was a significant predictor of increased mortality.[4]

Treatment options for childhood colorectal cancer include the following:

  1. Surgery: Complete surgical excision is the most important prognostic factor and is the primary goal of surgery, but in most instances, this is impossible. Removal of large portions of tumor provides little benefit for those with extensive metastatic disease.[5] Most patients with microscopic metastatic disease generally develop gross metastatic disease, and few individuals with metastatic disease at diagnosis become long-term survivors.
  2. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy: Current therapy includes the use of radiation for rectal and lower colon tumors, in conjunction with chemotherapy using 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) with leucovorin.[6] Other agents, including irinotecan, may be of value.[1][Level of evidence: 3iiiA] No significant benefit has been determined for interferon-alfa given in conjunction with 5-FU/leucovorin.[7]

    A recent review of nine clinical trials comprising 138 patients younger than 40 years demonstrated that the use of combination chemotherapy improved progression-free survival and overall survival (OS) in these patients. Furthermore, OS and response rates to chemotherapy were similar to those observed in older patients.[8][Level of evidence: 2A]

    Ipilimumab and nivolumab demonstrated high response rates in pediatric patients aged 12 years and older with microsatellite instability–high or mismatch repair–deficient metastatic colorectal cancer who had disease progression after treatment with a fluoropyrimidine, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan.[9]

    Other active agents used in adults include oxaliplatin, bevacizumab, panitumumab, cetuximab, aflibercept, and regorafenib.[10-13]

Survival is consistent with the advanced stage of disease observed in most children with colorectal cancer, with an overall mortality rate of approximately 70%. For patients with a complete surgical resection or for those with low-stage/localized disease, survival is significantly prolonged, with the potential for cure.[14]

References
  1. Hill DA, Furman WL, Billups CA, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in childhood and adolescence: a clinicopathologic review. J Clin Oncol 25 (36): 5808-14, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Ferrari A, Rognone A, Casanova M, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in children and adolescents: the experience of the Istituto Nazionale Tumori of Milan, Italy. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (3): 588-93, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Chantada GL, Perelli VB, Lombardi MG, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in children, adolescents, and young adults. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 27 (1): 39-41, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Poles GC, Clark DE, Mayo SW, et al.: Colorectal carcinoma in pediatric patients: A comparison with adult tumors, treatment and outcomes from the National Cancer Database. J Pediatr Surg 51 (7): 1061-6, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Saab R, Furman WL: Epidemiology and management options for colorectal cancer in children. Paediatr Drugs 10 (3): 177-92, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Madajewicz S, Petrelli N, Rustum YM, et al.: Phase I-II trial of high-dose calcium leucovorin and 5-fluorouracil in advanced colorectal cancer. Cancer Res 44 (10): 4667-9, 1984. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Wolmark N, Bryant J, Smith R, et al.: Adjuvant 5-fluorouracil and leucovorin with or without interferon alfa-2a in colon carcinoma: National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project protocol C-05. J Natl Cancer Inst 90 (23): 1810-6, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Blanke CD, Bot BM, Thomas DM, et al.: Impact of young age on treatment efficacy and safety in advanced colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of patients from nine first-line phase III chemotherapy trials. J Clin Oncol 29 (20): 2781-6, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Overman MJ, Lonardi S, Wong KYM, et al.: Durable Clinical Benefit With Nivolumab Plus Ipilimumab in DNA Mismatch Repair-Deficient/Microsatellite Instability-High Metastatic Colorectal Cancer. J Clin Oncol 36 (8): 773-779, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Saltz LB, Clarke S, Díaz-Rubio E, et al.: Bevacizumab in combination with oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy as first-line therapy in metastatic colorectal cancer: a randomized phase III study. J Clin Oncol 26 (12): 2013-9, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Heinemann V, von Weikersthal LF, Decker T, et al.: FOLFIRI plus cetuximab versus FOLFIRI plus bevacizumab as first-line treatment for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (FIRE-3): a randomised, open-label, phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncol 15 (10): 1065-75, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Van Cutsem E, Tabernero J, Lakomy R, et al.: Addition of aflibercept to fluorouracil, leucovorin, and irinotecan improves survival in a phase III randomized trial in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer previously treated with an oxaliplatin-based regimen. J Clin Oncol 30 (28): 3499-506, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Grothey A, Van Cutsem E, Sobrero A, et al.: Regorafenib monotherapy for previously treated metastatic colorectal cancer (CORRECT): an international, multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. Lancet 381 (9863): 303-12, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. Kaplan MA, Isikdogan A, Gumus M, et al.: Childhood, adolescents, and young adults (≤25 y) colorectal cancer: study of Anatolian Society of Medical Oncology. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 35 (2): 83-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Childhood Colorectal Cancer

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:

  • APEC1621 (NCT03155620) (Pediatric MATCH: Targeted Therapy Directed by Genetic Testing in Treating Pediatric Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Advanced Solid Tumors, Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas, or Histiocytic Disorders): NCI-COG Pediatric Molecular Analysis for Therapeutic Choice (MATCH), referred to as Pediatric MATCH, will match targeted agents with specific molecular changes identified using a next-generation sequencing targeted assay of more than 4,000 different mutations across more than 160 genes in refractory and recurrent solid tumors. Children and adolescents aged 1 to 21 years are eligible for the trial.

    Tumor tissue from progressive or recurrent disease must be available for molecular characterization. Patients with tumors that have molecular variants addressed by treatment arms included in the trial will be offered treatment on Pediatric MATCH. Additional information can be obtained on the NCI website and ClinicalTrials.gov website.

Genetic Syndromes Associated With Colorectal Cancer

About 20% to 30% of adult patients with colorectal cancer have a significant history of familial cancer; of these, about 5% have a well-defined genetic syndrome.[1] Hereditary colorectal cancer has two well-described forms:[2,3]

  • Polyposis (including familial adenomatous polyposis [FAP] and attenuated FAP, which are caused by pathogenic variants in the APC gene; and MUTYH-associated polyposis, which is caused by pathogenic variants in the MUTYH gene).
  • Lynch syndrome (often referred to as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), which is caused by germline pathogenic variants in DNA mismatch repair genes (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2) and EPCAM.

Other colorectal cancer syndromes and their associated genes include oligopolyposis (POLE, POLD1),[3] NTHL1,[4] juvenile polyposis syndrome (BMPR1A, SMAD4), Cowden syndrome (PTEN), and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (STK11).[2]

The incidence of these genetic syndromes in children has not been well defined, as follows:

  • In one review, 16% of patients younger than 40 years had a predisposing factor for the development of colorectal cancer.[5]
  • A later study documented immunohistochemical evidence of mismatch repair deficiency in 31% of colorectal carcinoma samples in patients aged 30 years or younger.[6]
  • A retrospective review of patients younger than 18 years in Germany identified 31 patients with colorectal carcinoma.[7] Eleven of the 26 patients who were tested for a genetic predisposition syndrome tested positive (eight cases of Lynch syndrome, one patient with familial adenomatous polyposis, and two patients with constitutional mismatch repair deficiency). When compared with the patients without a genetic predisposition syndrome, the 11 patients with a genetic predisposition syndrome presented with more localized disease, allowing complete surgical resection and improved outcome (100% survival).

Familial polyposis is inherited as a dominant trait, which confers a high degree of risk. Early diagnosis and surgical removal of the colon eliminates the risk of developing carcinomas of the large bowel.[8] Some colorectal carcinomas in young people, however, may be associated with a mutation of the APC gene, which also is associated with an increased risk of brain tumors and hepatoblastoma.[9] FAP syndrome is caused by mutation of a gene on chromosome 5q, which normally suppresses proliferation of cells lining the intestine and later development of polyps.[10] A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized phase I trial in children aged 10 to 14 years with FAP reported that celecoxib at a dose of 16 mg/kg per day is safe for administration for up to 3 months. At this dose, there was a significant decrease in the number of polyps detected on colonoscopy.[11][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv] The role of celecoxib in the management of FAP in children is not clear.

Another tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 18 is associated with progression of polyps to malignant form. Multiple colon carcinomas have been associated with neurofibromatosis type I and several other rare syndromes.[12]

Despite the increased risk of multiple malignancies in families with Lynch syndrome, the risk of malignant neoplasms during childhood in those families does not seem to be increased when compared with the risk in children from non-Lynch syndrome colorectal carcinoma families.[13]

References
  1. Gatalica Z, Torlakovic E: Pathology of the hereditary colorectal carcinoma. Fam Cancer 7 (1): 15-26, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Hampel H: Genetic testing for hereditary colorectal cancer. Surg Oncol Clin N Am 18 (4): 687-703, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Briggs S, Tomlinson I: Germline and somatic polymerase ε and δ mutations define a new class of hypermutated colorectal and endometrial cancers. J Pathol 230 (2): 148-53, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Broderick P, Dobbins SE, Chubb D, et al.: Validation of Recently Proposed Colorectal Cancer Susceptibility Gene Variants in an Analysis of Families and Patients-a Systematic Review. Gastroenterology 152 (1): 75-77.e4, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. O'Connell JB, Maggard MA, Livingston EH, et al.: Colorectal cancer in the young. Am J Surg 187 (3): 343-8, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Goel A, Nagasaka T, Spiegel J, et al.: Low frequency of Lynch syndrome among young patients with non-familial colorectal cancer. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 8 (11): 966-71, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Weber ML, Schneider DT, Offenmüller S, et al.: Pediatric Colorectal Carcinoma is Associated With Excellent Outcome in the Context of Cancer Predisposition Syndromes. Pediatr Blood Cancer 63 (4): 611-7, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Erdman SH: Pediatric adenomatous polyposis syndromes: an update. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 9 (3): 237-44, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Turcot J, Despres JP, St Pierre F: Malignant tumors of the central nervous system associated with familial polyposis of the colon: report of two cases. Dis Colon Rectum 2: 465-8, 1959 Sep-Oct. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Vogelstein B, Fearon ER, Hamilton SR, et al.: Genetic alterations during colorectal-tumor development. N Engl J Med 319 (9): 525-32, 1988. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Lynch PM, Ayers GD, Hawk E, et al.: The safety and efficacy of celecoxib in children with familial adenomatous polyposis. Am J Gastroenterol 105 (6): 1437-43, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Pratt CB, Jane JA: Multiple colorectal carcinomas, polyposis coli, and neurofibromatosis, followed by multiple glioblastoma multiforme. J Natl Cancer Inst 83 (12): 880-1, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Heath JA, Reece JC, Buchanan DD, et al.: Childhood cancers in families with and without Lynch syndrome. Fam Cancer 14 (4): 545-51, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]

Special Considerations for the Treatment of Children With Cancer

Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975.[1] Referral to medical centers with multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists experienced in treating cancers that occur in childhood and adolescence should be considered for children and adolescents with cancer. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the following health care professionals and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will achieve optimal survival and quality of life:

  • Primary care physicians.
  • Pediatric surgeons.
  • Radiation oncologists.
  • Pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists.
  • Rehabilitation specialists.
  • Pediatric nurse specialists.
  • Social workers.
  • Child-life professionals.
  • Psychologists.

(Refer to the PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care summaries for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)

Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2] At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients and their families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapy for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%.[3] Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)

Childhood cancer is a rare disease, with about 15,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States in individuals younger than 20 years.[4] The U.S. Rare Diseases Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects populations smaller than 200,000 persons. Therefore, all pediatric cancers are considered rare.

The designation of a rare tumor is not uniform among pediatric and adult groups. Adult rare cancers are defined as those with an annual incidence of fewer than six cases per 100,000 people, and they are estimated to account for up to 24% of all cancers diagnosed in the European Union and about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States.[5,6] Also, the designation of a pediatric rare tumor is not uniform among international groups, as follows:

  • The Italian cooperative project on rare pediatric tumors (Tumori Rari in Eta Pediatrica [TREP]) defines a pediatric rare tumor as one with an incidence of less than two cases per 1 million population per year and is not included in other clinical trials.[7]
  • The Children's Oncology Group has opted to define rare pediatric cancers as those listed in the International Classification of Childhood Cancer subgroup XI, which includes thyroid cancer, melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, and multiple types of carcinomas (e.g., adrenocortical carcinoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and most adult-type carcinomas such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, etc.).[8] These diagnoses account for about 4% of cancers diagnosed in children aged 0 to 14 years, compared with about 20% of cancers diagnosed in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.[9]

    Most cancers within subgroup XI are either melanomas or thyroid cancer, with the remaining subgroup XI cancer types accounting for only 1.3% of cancers in children aged 0 to 14 years and 5.3% of cancers in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.

These rare cancers are extremely challenging to study because of the low incidence of patients with any individual diagnosis, the predominance of rare cancers in the adolescent population, and the lack of clinical trials for adolescents with rare cancers.

Information about these tumors may also be found in sources relevant to adults with cancer such as the PDQ summaries on adult Colon Cancer Treatment and adult Rectal Cancer Treatment.

References
  1. Smith MA, Seibel NL, Altekruse SF, et al.: Outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer: challenges for the twenty-first century. J Clin Oncol 28 (15): 2625-34, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Corrigan JJ, Feig SA; American Academy of Pediatrics: Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers. Pediatrics 113 (6): 1833-5, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Smith MA, Altekruse SF, Adamson PC, et al.: Declining childhood and adolescent cancer mortality. Cancer 120 (16): 2497-506, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Ward E, DeSantis C, Robbins A, et al.: Childhood and adolescent cancer statistics, 2014. CA Cancer J Clin 64 (2): 83-103, 2014 Mar-Apr. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Gatta G, Capocaccia R, Botta L, et al.: Burden and centralised treatment in Europe of rare tumours: results of RARECAREnet-a population-based study. Lancet Oncol 18 (8): 1022-1039, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. DeSantis CE, Kramer JL, Jemal A: The burden of rare cancers in the United States. CA Cancer J Clin 67 (4): 261-272, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Ferrari A, Bisogno G, De Salvo GL, et al.: The challenge of very rare tumours in childhood: the Italian TREP project. Eur J Cancer 43 (4): 654-9, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Pappo AS, Krailo M, Chen Z, et al.: Infrequent tumor initiative of the Children's Oncology Group: initial lessons learned and their impact on future plans. J Clin Oncol 28 (33): 5011-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al., eds.: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2012. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, 2015. Also available online. Last accessed June 04, 2019.

Changes to This Summary (10/22/2019)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

This is a new summary.

This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of pediatric colorectal cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

Reviewers and Updates

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:

  • be discussed at a meeting,
  • be cited with text, or
  • replace or update an existing article that is already cited.

Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.

The lead reviewers for Childhood Colorectal Cancer Treatment are:

  • Denise Adams, MD (Children's Hospital Boston)
  • Karen J. Marcus, MD, FACR (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children's Hospital)
  • Paul A. Meyers, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)
  • Thomas A. Olson, MD (Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta - Egleston Campus)
  • Alberto S. Pappo, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
  • Arthur Kim Ritchey, MD (Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC)
  • Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
  • Stephen J. Shochat, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)

Any comments or questions about the summary content should be submitted to Cancer.gov through the NCI website's Email Us. Do not contact the individual Board Members with questions or comments about the summaries. Board members will not respond to individual inquiries.

Levels of Evidence

Some of the reference citations in this summary are accompanied by a level-of-evidence designation. These designations are intended to help readers assess the strength of the evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. The PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board uses a formal evidence ranking system in developing its level-of-evidence designations.

Permission to Use This Summary

PDQ is a registered trademark. Although the content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text, it cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless it is presented in its entirety and is regularly updated. However, an author would be permitted to write a sentence such as “NCI’s PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks succinctly: [include excerpt from the summary].”

The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:

PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Colorectal Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/hp/child-colorectal-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.

Images in this summary are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use within the PDQ summaries only. Permission to use images outside the context of PDQ information must be obtained from the owner(s) and cannot be granted by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the illustrations in this summary, along with many other cancer-related images, is available in Visuals Online, a collection of over 2,000 scientific images.

Disclaimer

Based on the strength of the available evidence, treatment options may be described as either “standard” or “under clinical evaluation.” These classifications should not be used as a basis for insurance reimbursement determinations. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.

Contact Us

More information about contacting us or receiving help with the Cancer.gov website can be found on our Contact Us for Help page. Questions can also be submitted to Cancer.gov through the website’s Email Us.

  • Updated:

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product's title; e.g., “Childhood Colorectal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”