Biologic and clinical characteristics of adolescent and young adult cancers: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, and sarcoma

Cancer. 2016 Apr 1;122(7):1017-28. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29871. Epub 2016 Feb 5.


Adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients with cancer have not attained the same improvements in overall survival as either younger children or older adults. One possible reason for this disparity may be that the AYA cancers exhibit unique biologic characteristics, resulting in differences in clinical and treatment resistance behaviors. This report from the biologic component of the jointly sponsored National Cancer Institute and LiveStrong Foundation workshop entitled "Next Steps in Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology" summarizes the current status of biologic and translational research progress for 5 AYA cancers; colorectal cancer breast cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, melanoma, and sarcoma. Conclusions from this meeting included the need for basic biologic, genomic, and model development for AYA cancers as well as translational research studies to elucidate any fundamental differences between pediatric, AYA, and adult cancers. The biologic questions for future research are whether there are mutational or signaling pathway differences (for example, between adult and AYA colorectal cancer) that can be clinically exploited to develop novel therapies for treating AYA cancers and to develop companion diagnostics.

Keywords: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); breast; colorectal; melanoma; sarcoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Sarcoma / pathology*
  • Young Adult