Melissa A. Alderfer, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, The Center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences
Nemours Children’s Health System/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Alderfer completed a doctorate degree in clinical psychology at the University of Utah and a post-doctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology in the Division of Oncology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). After fellowship, she stayed on in the Division of Oncology at CHOP and joined the standing faculty in the Department Pediatrics at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She rose to the level of associate professor before transitioning in 2013 to her current position as a senior research scientist in the Center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences within Nemours Children’s Health System. Under the broad umbrella of healthcare delivery science, her program of research focuses on how childhood chronic illness impacts families, how families adapt and learn to manage illness and the healthcare system, and how we can intervene to improve the experience. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, and various other cancer foundations. She currently has 92 peer-reviewed manuscripts and chapters.
It is widely accepted that young age at the time of a cancer diagnosis is a risk factor for poorer neurocognitive development. Tumours and cancer treatments that impact the central nervous system are believed to disrupt the brain growth and development that uniquely characterizes the first few years of life. These concerns have led to clinical trials focused upon modifying treatment protocols to decrease CNS-related insults while maintaining survival rates. However, comparison-controlled prospective studies of the neurocognitive development of infants with cancer are scarce and empirical investigations of interventions to address the poorer developmental outcomes of those diagnosed and treated for cancer during infancy are even more rare. This presentation will provide a review of the current literature regarding neurodevelopmental outcomes and interventions for infants with cancer. It will also summarize current gaps in our knowledge and provide suggestions for moving research and clinical care forward for this special population.