Clinical Perspectives

AYA Initiative Aims To Help Those In The Middle

February 01, 2016

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Damon Reed, MD

Nearly 90% of patients seen at pediatric cancer centers in the United States are under 15 years of age. More than 90% of patients seen by medical oncologists at adult hospitals are over 40. That leaves a large number in between those age groups for whom care and research are not a primary focus. They are called AYAs, or adolescents and young adults.

"Younger kids with sarcoma have seen improvement in treatment over the past 20 years, as have adults,” says G. Douglas Letson, MD, leader of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Sarcoma Program. “But that group in the middle, the AYAs, has seen little or no improvement and, in fact, they may be worsening.”

A new program at Moffitt, called the Adolescent and Young Adult Program (AYA), is aiming to change that. With a 2011 $500,000 gift from Richard and Melanie Gonzmart, owners of Tampa’s world-famous Columbia Restaurant, the AYA Program will study the biology of AYA cancers compared to those in older and younger patients with similar diagnoses; test promising agents and exploit the genetic changes in cancers of the AYA patient; and create Florida’s only dedicated clinical environment to care for these patients, including support groups with social workers and psychologists, while expanding access to cooperative studies and generating patient-specific therapies.

"The AYA Program is a collaborative effort between Moffitt and All Children’s Hospital because," says Dr. Letson, "many patients are too young to get into Moffitt, while others are young adults that have aged out of All Children’s."

“Hopefully, between better access to appropriate clinical care, elucidating research on the biology of sarcoma, and education and training of providers, the outcomes of all AYA patients will improve in the next 20 years,” says Dr. Letson.

Damon Reed, MD of Moffitt’s Sarcoma Program chairs the AYA Program. Clinical research and care is also provided by Odion Binitie, MD and other Moffitt medical and radiation oncologists. The basic research component includes Moffitt researchers.