OSF Children's Hospital

Treatment Options

Following a diagnosis of cancer, your health care team will create a treatment plan for your child. This treatment plan will outline what types of treatments will be used, how often they will be administered, and the expected length of treatment. The health care team will customize the treatment plan to your child’s overall health, age, cancer type, and stage of cancer.

Bone Marrow Transplant

Also known as a BMT, stem cell transplant, or hematopoietic stem cell transplant

Bone marrow is found in the center of bones and is where blood cells are made. It is found in the spongy part of the bones, especially the hips, ribs, breastbone and spine. Bone marrow contains the youngest type of blood cells known as hematopoietic stem cells. As a hematopoietic stem cell ages, it becomes a white cell, red cell, or platelet. Hematopoietic stem cells are found in bone marrow, peripheral blood (bloodstream) and umbilical cord blood.

A bone marrow transplant (BMT) replaces diseased or damaged cells with non-cancerous stem cells that can grow healthy, new cells. BMT is usually used when cancer treatments have destroyed normal stem cells in the bone marrow. The stem cells can be replaced through BMT. A BMT is also performed when the chances for cure with chemotherapy alone are low.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a general term for medications used to destroy or stop the growth of cancer cells. Your child’s treatment plan will use the best medicine or combination of medicines available to most effectively combat your child’s specific type and stage of cancer.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is sometimes referred to as either biotherapy or biological therapy. Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. It is also used to help control side effects from other cancer treatments.

Immunotherapy uses substances that naturally occur in the body to boost the functioning of the immune system. As a result, the body is able to destroy cancer cells more effectively. Because immunotherapy uses naturally occurring substances, it can lessen the side effects of cancer treatments and help the body replace normal cells that have been damaged or destroyed. Immunotherapy may also help prevent the spread of cancer cells in the body.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It is used to target tumors in specific locations. By delivering radiation to the tumor’s exact location, doctors hope to shrink its size. Sometimes, radiation takes place before surgery or chemotherapy is given to make the tumor small enough to remove, and other times, radiation takes place without the need for surgery.

Radiation therapy works by destroying or damaging rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells. It damages cells only in the area of the body where the radiation is given. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation does not cause cell damage throughout the body. It can, however, damage healthy cells in the area being irradiated, but normal cells are better able to repair themselves.

Surgery

Surgery is used to treat cancer in a variety of ways, including diagnosis, tumor removal, or to support a child undergoing cancer treatment.

The role that surgery plays in the treatment depends upon the type, location, and extent of the cancer. In some cases, the health care team may be able to take out a solid tumor. In other cases, chemotherapy or radiation may be used to shrink the size of a tumor so that it can be removed more easily during surgery.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies are a newer approach to cancer treatment and a major focus for research. These therapies use medications or other substances to stop the growth and spread of cancer.

Targeted therapies work by focusing on the ways cancer cells act differently from healthy cells and interrupting these processes. They “target” processes that play an important role in cancer growth so that cancer cells are unable to increase.