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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Why Choose Us for Pediatric Cancer Care?

At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, our pediatric oncology team is focused on all aspects of cancer care for children -- from diagnosis and treatment, to conducting research to find promising new therapies. All of our efforts are dedicated to helping kids with cancer beat the disease, so they can live active, full lives.

Comprehensive Cancer Care

Our experienced team of pediatric cancer specialists provides the most advanced care available to more than 3,000 young people each year. We diagnose and treat children from infancy to adulthood with all major and rare forms of cancer. We provide the latest cancer therapies and treatments, including:

  • CAR T-cell therapy, a breakthrough gene therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). UChicago Medicine was the first in Chicago to be certified to offer this advanced form of immunotherapy.
  • The most recent approaches to chemotherapy, including newer targeted agents
  • Stem cell transplants, which can often cure advanced cancers in very sick children
  • The latest radiation therapy techniques, which target cancer cells without harming healthy tissue
  • Surgery performed by pediatric surgeons who specialize in minimally invasive techniques and other surgical approaches that help to reduce the trauma of surgery
  • Supportive therapies to reduce fatigue, infections, bleeding, nausea, and other problems that may develop due to cancer or cancer treatments
  • Genetic testing and counseling to help children and families that may have hereditary forms of cancer
  • Proactive care for survivors of childhood cancers, to prevent and treat any long-term issues associated with cancer therapy

Specialized Care Programs

Though we take a comprehensive approach to caring for every child with cancer, our experts have developed specialized cancer treatment programs for certain conditions, including:

Other key programs include:

Access to New Therapies

We are on top of the latest breakthroughs in pediatric cancer--and pass these on to our patients as quickly as possible. Our program is a leading member of the Children's Oncology Group (COG)--the national cooperative group studying childhood cancer. As members of COG, our physicians collaborate with other leading pediatric oncologists from around the nation and the world to identify better ways to diagnose and treat childhood cancers. As a result, our patients benefit from the most promising cancer therapies soon after they are discovered.


Our physicians are continuously asked to participate in--and often lead--national research trials by the National Institutes of Health and other respected organizations. For example, we're one of only 14 medical centers in North America with access to phase 1 clinical trials for neuroblastoma.

At any one time, there are more than 80 cancer clinical trials available to young patients at Comer Children's. Because of the innovative research conducted here, our patients often have access to new treatment modalities years before they are widely available elsewhere.

Read about how clinical trials are changing pediatric cancer care (PDF)

World-Renowned Physicians

Susan Cohn, MD, and John Cunningham, MD

Our kid-friendly, family-centered program is staffed by outstanding physicians, some of whom are widely recognized for their efforts to improve cancer care in children. Here are just a few examples:

  • John Cunningham, MD, director of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation, has received acclaim for his work studying malignant and non-malignant blood diseases. One way Dr. Cunningham is helping advance care is by finding new methods to expand the donor pool for children awaiting stem cell transplants. He's now piloting a study that uses stem cells procured from biological parents for kids who don't have a sibling match.
  • The neuroblastoma program here is led by Susan Cohn, MD, an authority on this childhood cancer. Dr. Cohn is a national leader in conducting clinical trials for the disease, including phase 1 trials for aggressive, relapsed neuroblastoma.

One of our dedicated pediatric hematologist/oncologists oversees each child's care. Our patients also benefit from the collective knowledge of all the University of Chicago Medicine experts. We bring specialists from many disciplines--including radiology, surgery, pathology, radiation oncology, and genetics--together to develop individualized treatments for all of our patients. These experts meet on a regular basis to review each patient's status and to identify the most effective treatment options.

Premier Cancer Research Center

Our pediatric cancer program is a core part of the internationally recognized University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is dedicated to uncovering the causes of cancer and in finding the best methods to cure and prevent cancer. The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the state. Here, nearly 200 of the brightest minds in research are focused on cancer discoveries--working together to bring breakthroughs from the lab to the bedside as quickly as possible. This concentration of leading cancer scientists in basic, translational, clinical and population research is unmatched in Illinois.

The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center receives more research funding from the NCI than any other institution in the state. Funding from the NCI and other highly respected organizations provides valuable resources for a wide variety of cancer-fighting efforts, from investigating hematological malignant diseases, to developing new treatments for neuroblastoma and sarcoma. Other key programs are researching the best match of medicines to patients' specific genetic types (pharmacogenomics), and are advancing medical imaging techniques to better detect and visualize tumors.

Help for the Most Challenging Cases

Our staff's high level of expertise and skill allow them to take on very sick children who may be considered too difficult to treat at other pediatric hospitals. Our physicians regularly treat children who have advanced, refractory forms of cancer. 

Unsurpassed Diagnostic Skills

Our pediatric radiologists use a comprehensive battery of techniques, including ultrasound, ultra-fast CT scanning, MRI, radio-nucleotide imaging, and PET scanning to detect primary and metastatic tumors.

Our surgeons are leaders in minimally invasive diagnostic approaches. Using laparasopic techniques, our surgeons can biopsy (or sample) many tumors in the chest and other hard-to-reach places through tiny incisions. Our surgeons are considered pioneers in this area. They are using minimally invasive approaches for unique situations that would require open surgery at other medical centers--saving more children from unnecessary pain.

In addition, our hemato-pathologists are internationally respected for their abilities to diagnose complex cases of leukemia, lymphoma, and blood diseases. They literally wrote "the book" on leukemia--the World Health Organization's textbook on diagnosing leukemia. Because of their extensive knowledge and experience, our hemato-pathologists are regularly called upon to consult on difficult cases.

Understanding Adolescents

A large percentage of our patients are teenagers or pre-teens. As a result, our staff have a special appreciation for the issues that adolescents face when they develop cancer.

Our social workers, nurses, and child life specialists try to help adolescent patients through these issues. Teens can also talk to other teens in our teen lounge or through our teen support group. If necessary, patients and their families can meet with a therapist from our child and adolescent psychiatry group.

We Let Kids Be Kids

We understand the emotional toll that cancer and cancer treatment can have on a child and his or her family. We go to great strides to help our patients "be kids or teens"--despite having cancer. One way we do this is by keeping hospitalization to a minimum. Whenever possible, children and teens receive treatment in our day hospital, or outpatient clinic.