DES MOINES, Iowa — More than 80 percent of kids who get cancer survive five years or longer, but only three new pediatric drugs have been developed in the last six years to battle the disease.
The American Cancer Society said more than 10 thousand kids in the U.S. under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
In Iowa alone, 150 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to Children's Cancer Connection in Johnston.
Tabatha Shahan's daughter Avril was first diagnosed with leukemia at age three. After successfully completing two and a half years of treatment, she relapsed in July.
"I was in complete shock," Tabatha said. "I knew there was always a chance. but everything had been going so well, and she had been so healthy and I mean, back to everything that you'd want her to be," Tabatha said.
After getting the diagnosis, the Shahan family agreed to start Avril on an aggressive treatment.
Although it's harder on her body then the last go around, Tabatha shared the process is something her soon to be 9-year-old knows all too well.
"Avril has lived 63% of her life being poked and prodded. So, I mean, that's kind of all she's really known. Unfortunately," Tabatha said.
Dr. Wendy Woods is a physician at Blank Children's Hospital. Through her analysis, she's determined Avril's response to treatment is going well, but Avril isn't in the clear yet.
"We're very optimistic about her response and her outcome... but we also recognize that once you have a relapse, you're at risk for subsequent relapses," Woods said.
Before Avril got cancer, Tabatha didn't know a whole lot about childhood cancer. Now, she sees the lack of awareness as a bigger issue
"Only three drugs in the last six years have been approved for children, and there's been 77 for adults," she said. "There's just not not enough research and not enough awareness on on children needing more help."
Woods explained the state of Iowa is actively working on learning more about childhood cancer and the different genetic mutations
"We are constantly participating, both at the local level and internationally, on trials to continue to advance that, to where we get to 100% survival for every child," Woods said.
As families across Iowa and the world wait for a potential cure, Avril won't let cancer dim her light.
"She has done her treatment from three years old [and] up," Tabatha said. "Monday is her ninth birthday, and she's had a smile on her face the whole time."