Starting an Adolescent and Young Adult Program: Some Success Stories and Some Obstalces to Overcome
Adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients seem to be in a sort of no-man’s land, halfway between the two different worlds of pediatric and adult medical oncology and bearing the brunt, in terms of inclusion in clinical trials and quality of professional care, of the lack of integration between these two worlds. This article discusses the different organization models of care used in pediatric oncology (mainly family-focused) and in adult medical oncology (disease-focused). There is a growing awareness that these models are not ideally suited to the complex needs of AYA patients, which require a different, new, patient-focused multidisciplinary approach. A comprehensive, multipronged effort is required to bridge the gap in the care of AYA patients, with the ultimate challenge of creating a new discipline, AYA oncology. In this article, we review the experiences of AYA oncology programs in Europe, North America, and Australia, focusing on similarities and differences in strategy, as well as the major challenges and opportunities faced by these programs. Among the most important factors for the successful establishment of an AYA oncology service are the degree of engagement of both pediatric and adult medical oncologists, the philanthropic support of powerful charities, and the role of dedicated professionals across a range of disciplines in driving the development of services for AYA patients.