Neuroblastoma

Found only in children, neuroblastoma arises in the adrenal glands, located in the abdominal area near the kidneys, and along the sympathetic nerve chain in the chest and abdomen.

Overview

Currently, one in every 285 children in the United States develops cancer before the age of 20. Progress in the development of effective new treatments and cures for childhood cancer has been spectacular during the past three decades, but progress is beginning to plateau. Most children now can be cured if they are treated at childhood cancer treatment and research centers by teams of experts in childhood cancer.

As one of the nation’s largest cancer treatment and research centers, Nationwide Children's is leading the fight against childhood cancer, determined to beat it in all its forms. The Cancer Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary diagnosis, treatment and long-term management for pediatric and adolescent patients with any type of cancer. Learn more about neuroblastoma.

What is Neuroblastoma?

Found only in children, neuroblastoma arises in the adrenal glands, located in the abdominal area near the kidneys, and along the sympathetic nerve chain in the chest and abdomen. It attacks very young children, with one-fourth of those affected showing initial symptoms during the first year of life. Neuroblastoma spreads quickly, and often is discovered only after the disease is widespread. Early stages are curable by surgery alone. Researchers have discovered new treatments for advanced stages which are increasingly effective.

What are the Treatment Options for Neuroblastoma?

The types of treatment used most often to treat childhood cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and bone marrow transplantation. The goal of treatment is to destroy the cancer cells. Your child may have one kind of treatment or a combination of treatments and they may have to have a variety of tests and procedures during treatment. Their treatment plan depends on the type of cancer, stage of disease and many other factors. Before treatment starts, your doctor will discuss the treatment plan with you including expected benefits, risks and side effects. Nationwide Children's also participates in clinical trials.

The Blood and Cancer Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital is one of the largest pediatric cancer centers in the country and a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), which ensures that your child will get the highest quality care available anywhere in the country. Our program is uniquely family-centered, with patients benefiting from a multi-disciplinary clinical team and state-of-the-art facility.

  • Surgery is a local therapy that involves the surgical removal of all or part of the cancer. Often, surgery is used with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The type of operation will depend on the location of the main tumor, its size and other individual factors.

  • Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with “anti-cancer” drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy drugs slow or stop cancer cells from growing and making more abnormal cells. These drugs also may affect normal healthy cells, but healthy cells can repair and return to normal.

  • Radiation Therapy is the treatment of cancer and other diseases with high-energy rays to damage or destroy cancer cells. Radiation damages or destroys the cells in the area being treated making it impossible for the cancers cells to continue to grow and multiply. Most radiotherapy is delivered from the outside of the body (external beam radiotherapy) usually in the form of high energy X-rays. Radiation therapy can damage normal cells as well as cancer cells. When this happens, side effects occur. If your child is receiving radiation therapy, you will receive more information from your doctors and nurses.

  • Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft material inside the bones of the body that makes blood cells.  In an autologous bone marrow transplant, the patient’s own bone marrow is treated and reinfused (put back into the patient). In an allogenic bone marrow transplant, healthy marrow comes from a donor.

Treatment Outcomes

Nationwide Children's Hospital has the largest and most advanced pediatric cancer program in Ohio – and one of the largest in the nation. In 2004, more than 1,000 children were treated at Nationwide Children's – the highest number of pediatric oncology inpatient visits in the state. More than 75 percent of children who receive a diagnosis of cancer in 2005 will be cancer-free five years later, but much work remains to be done to find cures for cancers for which there is no effective pro-tocol. Nationwide Children's Research Institute ranks in the top 10 of free-standing pediatric research centers based on National Institutes of Health funding.

Learn more about pediatric cancer research.

Tests and Procedures

Depending on your child’s diagnosis, he or she may need to have tests or procedures done periodically through their treatment. These may be done to see how your child is responding to treatment or to keep a watch on side effects.

Click on the links below to learn more about specific tests and procedures:

Clinical Trials

You or your child may be asked to participate in a clinical trial. Your participation in this research study is voluntary.

A clinical trial is a research study in which physicians find ways to improve cancer treatment. The goals of these studies are to answer scientific questions about preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.

A clinical trial for cancer treatment occurs in three phases.

  • Phase I – This is a first study done on a drug to test its safeness, to determine the right dose, and to determine when and how to give the drug. These studies usually are limited to a small number of patients.

  • Phase II – As in Phase I, this phase also tests the safety of a drug, but the trial also tests how well the drug works to treat different types of cancers.

  • Phase III – This phase of a clinical trial studies various drugs, usually in combination, against standard therapy. These studies enroll large numbers of patients at many different cancer centers.

Cancer treatment has improved greatly over the past several decades due to the use of clinical trials. Children’s Hospital does Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials. If you are asked to participate in a clinical trial, the physician will review the study and consent form with you and answer your questions. You will receive a pamphlet with more detailed information about clinical trials to help you make a decision.