LOS ANGELES--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--While cancer is often perceived as an adult disease, the incidence of this devastating prognosis is constantly rising among children. Each year, over 12,000 American youth under the age of 20 receive a cancer diagnosis. As part of the Radiation Oncology Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Medical Physicist Arthur J. Olch, PhD, FAAPM, has experienced a full measure of these unfortunate cases first-hand.
“all of the children with cancer who so bravely and optimistically endure their disease, and to the skill of those who carefully craft each radiotherapy treatment and ensure its safe delivery.”
“When I started at Children’s Hospital in 1998, our understanding of late effects of radiation was far less developed than today,” says Olch, chief of Physics in the hospital’s Radiation Oncology Program in the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases. “Since then, our technology and know-how has dramatically reduced these adverse affects, allowing our patients to grow up, finish school, and live an independent and productive life.”
Olch is playing a significant role in this treatment transformation. During his accomplished career, he has delivered approximately 2000 treatment plans for young cancer patients and authored more than 40 journal articles and book chapters. Five years ago, after delivering a one-hour symposium on pediatric radiotherapy, Olch was approached by medical publisher Taylor & Francis to write the definitive pediatric radiation oncology planning book: Pediatric Radiotherapy Planning and Treatment (CRC Press).
Aimed to assist radiation oncologists, medical physicists, dosimetrists, and other medical professionals, this textbook is coined as “the first single, focused resource available for healthcare providers to accurately plan and deliver radiation therapy to children,” by publisher CRC Press. “Children have lower tolerance to radiation doses,” says Olch. Pediatric Radiotherapy addresses the differences between treating pediatric and adult cancer patients and provides guidelines on how to optimize radiation therapy for children. “By becoming knowledgeable about optimal treatment methods designed specifically for childhood cancers,” the publisher states, “members of a radiotherapy team can help improve both pediatric cancer survival statistics and patients’ quality of life.”
In researching the book, Olch drew from working in one of the largest pediatric radiation oncology treatment programs in the country. Olch and his team at the hospital’s renowned Radiation Oncology Program at Children’s Hospital see approximately 150 patients per year. As this number continues to increase, Olch’s role in calculating, developing and monitoring treatment plans for these pediatric cancer patients is more essential than ever. “You see the children sitting in the waiting room playing with their toys or being held by mom,” says Olch, who resides in Northridge, Ca. “Occasionally they are so ill that they are confined to a wheelchair or gurney. These children have barely begun life but already have an overwhelming obstacle to overcome. Their survival and quality of life are very much in our hands.”
As a comprehensive resource, Olch’s book guides all professionals working in radiotherapy how to develop and accurately deliver a treatment plan for children with the most common childhood cancers such as neuroblastomas, Wilms’ tumors and medulloblastomas. The first section discusses the statistics of pediatric cancer incidence and survival and provides a literature review on radiation-induced secondary malignancies. It also addresses recent developments that have changed the course of Olch’s work, most notably Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT). By targeting the cancerous cells more directly, IMRT and VMAT are able to reduce the amount of harmful radiation that reaches unaffected tissues and minimize the adverse side effects.
The second section of Pediatric Radiotherapy contains chapters that highlight specific diseases, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, retinoblastoma, and tumors of the central nervous system. Each chapter provides a clinical overview, discusses ideal treatment planning and modes of delivery, and explains the known effects of radiotherapy and organ tolerance. The publisher notes, “This book also explores the historical background underpinning current treatment paradigms, which reveals the tremendous creativity of radiation oncologists and physicians in addressing difficult treatment dilemmas.”
Drawing on his decades-long career in this field, Olch, professor of clinical pediatrics and radiation oncology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, wrote this book as a testament to “all of the children with cancer who so bravely and optimistically endure their disease, and to the skill of those who carefully craft each radiotherapy treatment and ensure its safe delivery.” Aimed at educating all members of the radiation oncology team, Pediatric Radiotherapy provides a paradigm that illustrates the child’s course of cancer, from diagnosis and treatment to the expected outcomes 20 years down the road.
“It just tugs at your heartstrings to see a six year old child undergoing radiation treatment,” remarks Olch. “But then, to see the child after six months playing with friends and back to leading a normal life, going on to high school and college, that’s the balance we’re trying to achieve.”
About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious US News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States, is one of America's premier teaching hospitals and has been affiliated with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since 1932.