It is estimated that over 10,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in children from birth to age 14 in the United States this year. Fortunately, because of research-driven advancements in treatment and care, survivorship rates continue to rise each year. In fact, 84 percent of children with cancer now survive five years or more according to the American Cancer Society, compared to 58 percent just a few decades ago.

Peter Cole, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Cancer in Children Versus Adults

Cancers that are common in children are different than ones we think of in adults. None of the common cancers in adults (cancer of the breast, lung, prostate, skin, colon, or pancreas) are common in children. In general, the cancers seen among children and adolescents, including leukemia, lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcomas, are generally more curable than the cancers most often seen in adults. As a result, most children diagnosed with cancer have more positive outcomes.

The journey from diagnosis to cure can be extremely hard on children and their families, with frequent visits to the clinic or hospital for evaluations, treatment, and supportive care.  It’s important to note the strength and resilience among children and adolescents. While there is large variability, children are generally able to tolerate chemotherapy much better than most adults, experiencing less severe side effects. Ongoing research at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, is studying why some children experience more severe side effects than others and how we can tailor the treatment regimen to each individual’s needs.

Choosing a Care Provider for Your Child

Caring for a child with cancer or a blood disorder can be difficult for parents and families. At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health, our multidisciplinary team of world-renowned physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors work together to provide your child with comprehensive, state-of-the-art superior care, as well as assist parents and family members with questions and concerns and tend to all aspects of care for the patient and family.

“Cancer doesn’t travel well— especially cancer in children,” says Peter Cole, MD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. “New Jersey families dealing with a diagnosis as significant as cancer or blood disorder should not have to leave their neighborhood and support systems to travel to another state for treatment,” says Dr. Cole who is also the Director, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Cellular Therapies Program at the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health offer the most advanced approaches to cancer care and the treatment of blood disorders, using sophisticated techniques in diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Our program is a member of the National Cancer Institute-supported Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research and clinical trials. We also offer participation in innovative clinical trials through the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Consortium. Whether or not a child is enrolled on a clinical research study, care is provided in a comfortable setting designed specifically for young children and adolescents, with laboratory, pharmacy, and transfusion services on site.


RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey partner to provide world-class care to adult and pediatric cancer patients across the state. Our nationally renowned specialists provide the most advanced treatment options for children with cancer and blood disorders across the state at the following facilities:

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey/Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, under the direction of Peter Cole, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

The Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at The Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, under the direction of Teena Bhatla, MD, Director, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

The Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, under the direction of Richard Drachtman, MD, Section Chief, Clinical Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Children with cancer or blood disorders are also seen for consultations at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.


The Social and Emotional Impact of Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders  

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the social and emotional needs of the entire family are tremendous. Social workers and psychologists help families deal with the emotional issues surrounding cancer treatment and the practical matters of day-to-day life.  Some childhood cancer survivors will experience medical problems related to cancer therapy later in life known as “late effects,” however, impairment from cancer treatment may not be the only factor to consider.  Overall, the majority of survivors of pediatric cancer are psychologically healthy; however, there is a subset of individuals who may experience significant anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress symptoms.  Depending on the type of treatment and how disruptive it was to social and academic development, some survivors may show difficulty in these areas as well. Some symptoms that may suggest the need to talk with a mental health professional include changes in appetite or weight, crying easily, low energy level, feeling hopeless, increased irritability, increased worry or anxiety, unwanted memories about cancer, and feeling fearful, upset, or anger when thinking about cancer.

Surprisingly, the transition into survivorship can be a challenging one. While it is exciting to complete treatment, it can be very anxiety-provoking to no longer have frequent contact with the medical team. It is an adjustment to return to day-to-day life in which a fever no longer means a trip to the emergency room and nearly all survivors worry about relapse to some degree. Our psychosocial teams help children and families anticipate possible reactions during this transition and cope with whatever challenges arise during this transition and beyond. During active treatment and during long-term follow-up through our LITE (Long-term, Information, Treatment effects, and Evaluation) program at Rutgers Cancer Institute, we provide psychosocial support such as emotional support, academic support, psychotherapy, and psychiatric services.

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