Neuroblastoma is the most common pediatric solid tumor occurring outside of the brain. The tumor is still relatively rare, however, with only about 700 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States.
What is Pediatric Neuroblastoma?
If a neuroblastoma is diagnosed in a young patient, or a possible tumor is detected in a fetus before birth, pediatric tumor specialists can help manage the complex cancer. Neuroblastomas usually form in nerve tissue of the adrenal glands, abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis or spinal cord. This aggressive tumor often has metastasized by the time it is diagnosed.
How is Pediatric Neuroblastoma diagnosed?
Neurological and physical exams can detect the effects of a neuroblastoma on spinal cord or nerve function, such as the gait, reflexes or senses. Urine catecholamine analysis may detect the presence of acids from catecholamine breakdown, and a blood chemistry analysis may detect increased levels of dopamine or norepinephrine. An MIBG scan can detect uptake of radioactive iodine by the neuroblastoma. Other imaging exams include positron emission tomography, ultrasonography, nuclear bone scans, computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance. A biopsy confirms the diagnosis, and bone marrow aspiration and biopsy can confirm whether the neuroblastoma has metastasized.
How is Pediatric Neuroblastoma treated?
Despite its aggressive nature, neuroblastoma is treatable, and outcomes have improved. Children who are younger generally have more positive prognoses, and the 5-year survival rate for those younger than 12 months at diagnosis is 90%. Ensuring that your child receives a rapid diagnosis and treatment from a multidisciplinary team of specialists who have experience caring for children with neuroblastoma can improve their outcome. We coordinate and provide care for infants, children and adolescents who need high-level attention from multiple subspecialists and develop a treatment plan that relies typically on chemotherapy and surgery. Surgeons play a critical role in treating neuroblastoma, because some lower-stage tumors (those without metastasis) can be treated solely with surgery. Children with aggressive forms of neuroblastoma require stem cell transplants.
Pediatric Neuroblastoma Research
We continue to participate in research to develop new targeted and biologic therapies to treat neuroblastoma and other complex pediatric tumors.
Led by Drs. Watt and Dinesh Rakheja, this study is investigating the metabolism of neuroblastoma tumors with the objective of identifying targetable variances in tumors from younger and older patients.
ALK Inhibitor Study
We offer many options for children with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma. We participate in consortiums to offer clinical trials, including a trial through the NMTRC with DFMO. Through participating in SPOC, we offer other trials, including one using fenretinide, a strong version of Accutane. This trial combines an oral medicine, fenretinide with vincristine and has success in the children who have relapsed or progressed through many other therapies. Finally, we provide MIBG therapy.
We have a comprehensive team in place to help ensure that all these therapies are appropriate for children and their families.