With over 70,000 new diagnoses annually, cancer remains the leading cause of non-accidental death in the adolescent and young adult (AYA) population (15-39 years old). Though AYA cancer has been recognized as a national public health challenge for decades, services and clinical trials for this population remain disproportionately limited.

Susceptible population

Lymphomas are responsible for approximately 20 percent of new cancer diagnoses in AYAs, however progress in AYA lymphoma outcomes has been hampered by a lack of coordinated research efforts, few clinical trials, limited study of biology and a scarcity of standardized follow up guidelines. Consequently, AYAs are often not treated according to the same standard practices as other age groups. This variation in treatment and follow up not only hinders research but also leads to disproportionately lower survival rates.

In October 2017, we published a landmark review in Blood Advances entitled “Adolescent and Young Adult Lymphoma: Collaborative Efforts toward Optimizing Care and Improving Outcomes.” The report came on the heels of the first AYA Symposium held by the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) — the nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted to funding innovative research and serving the lymphoma community through programs, outreach initiatives and patient services.

The symposium marked a pivotal moment in the field of oncology, when scientists and clinicians, from both pediatric and medical oncology, came together with one common goal to improve survival in AYAs with lymphoma. It would begin with a declaration between pediatric and medical oncologists of mutual commitment to this goal, in conjunction with focused efforts to bridge the gap between community and academic medicine.

Specialized support

In keeping with LRF’s longstanding tradition of addressing the needs of today’s lymphoma community, the Lymphoma Research Foundation launched an #EraseLymphoma initiative to provide support services and resources tailored specifically to the unique medical, psychosocial and access-related issues faced by AYAs. These resources can be found on the newly redesigned website, lymphoma.org, which was launched with the singular aim of putting this information in the hands of the patients who need it most.

As the advocates, care providers and scientists on the forefront of lymphoma research, we owe it to this vulnerable population to address both the persistent survival gap and the unique needs of the AYAs themselves. We feel an urgency to set these intentions as a step along the path to improving lymphoma outcomes for all.