Cancer and Blood Disorders
About 700 children in the U.S. are diagnosed annually with neuroblastoma, a common type of cancer that begins in the neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis or, most commonly, in the adrenal gland. Each year, 15 children with neuroblastoma are treated in the Gill Center. Our multidisciplinary approach to develop treatment plans ensures that each child receives the best possible care.
The Neuroblastoma Program team is led by Tanya Watt, M.D., a pediatric oncologist with specialized interest in the care of children with neuroblastoma. The team also includes pediatric surgeons with expertise in removing these tumors, as well as pediatric pathologists and pediatric radiologists.
After a patient is admitted to Children’s Health, the team quickly biopsies the tumor to determine a diagnosis and then develops a treatment plan that relies typically on chemotherapy and surgery. Surgeons play a critical role in treating neuroblastoma, because some lower-stage tumors can be treated solely with surgical resection. Therefore, most of the pediatric surgeons are members of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). Oftentimes children with aggressive forms of neuroblastoma require stem cell transplants. In fact, the majority of autologous stem cell transplants performed at Children’s Health are patients with neuroblastoma. To help provide care for families of children with these tumors both during and after transplant, the team provides continuity of care for families of children with these tumors both during and after transplant.
Children younger than 18 months with neuroblastoma tumors tend to have much higher survival rates than older children. Led by Drs. Watt and Dinesh Rakheja, this UT Southwestern study is investigating the metabolism of neuroblastoma tumors with the objective of identifying targetable variances in tumors from younger and older patients.
We are able to 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. DFMO has been demonstrated in early studies to prolong remission and decrease risk of relapse. 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 are able to provide MIBG therapy. We have a comprehensive team in place to help ensure that all these therapies are well tolerated, both for the patient and their families.