Langerhan’s Cell Histiocytosis is a type of blood cancer that affects roughly 1 in 200,000 children born each year in the United States. Characterized by invasive tumors composed of immune cells, it is a little-known, potentially fatal disease that primarily impacts children under 10 years of age. Although LCH occurs with similar frequency as other blood cancers such as AML or Hodgkin’s disease, it remains underfunded with little research devoted to it.
Cancer does not discriminate, but perhaps no cancer is more devastating than those that occur in children. In the United States alone, 13,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. More than 1,000 of those children will die. Although pediatric cancer death rates have declined by nearly 70% over the past four decades, cancer remains the leading cause of death among children and the lasting effects can be devastating both physically and emotionally for the young patients and family members alike. While the fear and uncertainty following a cancer diagnosis is immeasurable, the physical effects are very real and significant. Of childhood cancer survivors, 74% have a chronic illness and 40% have a severe illness or die from a severe illness.
Although advancements in treating pediatric cancer have saved countless young lives over recent decades, there has been little progress made in understanding the cause and prevention of childhood and adolescent cancers. And while there have been substantial improvements in survival rates of many pediatric cancers, others have seen little progress like LCH. Unlike other rare white blood cell disorders, such as acute myelogenous leukemia or lymphoma, the cell of origin and causes of LCH remain unknown due to gross underfunding by the government. Because of the lack of funds for research, LCH has not been rigorously studied by pediatric cancer clinical trial organizations to the extent that other blood disorders have. Researching the causes and treatment of LCH is vital in the fight against cancer as well as other inherited neurologic conditions.