Treatment advancements in pediatric cancer have improved prognosis, but the strength of supporting evidence has not been thoroughly evaluated. To critically appraise it, we performed an umbrella review of meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials examining the efficacy and safety of therapeutic interventions for pediatric malignancies. Fourteen publications (68 meta-analyses, 31,496 participants) were eligible. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was investigated at most. Substantial heterogeneity was detected in 10 associations, with limited indications for small-study effects and excess-significance bias. The most concrete evidence pertained to the use of methotrexate and vincristine-prednisone pulses for ALL, improving event-free survival. Evidence regarding other cancers was relatively weak. Conclusively, we found few small meta-analyses focusing mainly on ALL. Randomized evidence stemming from adult populations still seems to serve as valuable indirect evidence backup. More randomized evidence and individual patient data meta-analyses are needed to increase certainty and precision in the care of pediatric cancer patients.
Keywords: Childhood cancer; Leukemia; Randomized controlled trials; Survival; Therapeutic interventions; Umbrella review.
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