Young Adult Cancer Program



Burbank, CA - A new partnership of Providence Health & Services, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles Medical Group has been developed to treat young adults with cancer, providing diagnostics and treatment for a group that nationwide falls in a gap between adult and pediatric health care.

The Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Program is believed to be the first such endeavor in the United States developed as a partnership between a pediatric academic medical center and a community-based cancer program.

The AYA Program will serve patients, 18 to 39, and will be housed at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center’s new Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, scheduled to open early next year on the Burbank campus.

It will be jointly directed by Raul Mena, M.D., medical director of the Disney Cancer Center, and Stuart E. Siegel, M.D., head of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and director of the Childrens Center for Cancer and Blood Disease at Childrens Hospital, and professor and vice chairman of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

“These young cancer patients historically have fallen between the cracks,” Dr. Mena said. “A 20-year-old who has been treated for cancer as a teenager is no longer a pediatric case, but his treatment is not the same as for a 55-year-old patient. They have very special needs. This may include not only treatments and research studies that are specific for this group of patients but also programs that deal with the long term side effects of therapy.”

Dr. Siegel, a nationally recognized expert on AYA cancers and current co-chairman of the Standards Task Force for the Lance Armstrong Foundation/Young Adult Alliance, said that the new joint program will be designed to improve awareness, access, diagnosis and treatment for young adults with cancer, as well as “…sponsor specifically developed clinical research and provide services that promote the highest possible quality of life for young adults receiving treatment for cancer in the AYA Program, and for cancer survivors.”

Nationally, the adolescent and young adult cancer population is under-diagnosed and underserved. The incidence of cancer in 15- to 29-year-olds is nearly three times higher than for children under 15. Nearly 65,000 adolescents and young adults from 15 to 40 are diagnosed with cancer, which kills more 20- to 30-year-olds than any other disease in America.

Survival rates for these young cancer patients have not increased significantly since the 1970s.

Twenty-year-old Brittney Edwards of Burbank was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago at Providence Saint Joseph and subsequently treated at Childrens Hospital. Today she volunteers at Providence Saint Joseph and said she is thrilled to see the AYA Program open in Burbank.

“It will bring some really good doctors, different kinds of doctors, together to help people like me,” Edwards said. “Childrens Hospital has some great doctors, and I love St. Joe’s. It’s exciting that this will be at ‘my’ hospital.”

The new partnerships will join a limited number of distinguished AYA Programs, including those at Oregon Health & Science University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.