Neuroblastoma in Children

lilly and dr sholler 
Our multidisciplinary team of experienced children’s cancer professionals at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is uniquely qualified to provide hope and healing for children with high-risk cancers such as neuroblastoma. We are actively involved in ground-breaking research to further understand neuroblastoma and are proud to be at the forefront of advanced personalized medicine with national collaborations that are moving this research forward. This means we can offer your child and family leading-edge treatments for his or her specific genetic analysis that are showing the most encouraging results.

Our pediatric oncology research program oversees the Beat Childhood Cancer consortium, which includes 33 hospitals across the United States. Within the consortium, we enrolled 203 children on our clinical trials in 2017. These trials are based on the research from collaborating investigators who are linked with laboratory programs developing novel therapies and technologies. 

Neuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer that usually affects infants and young children. It is a solid cancerous tumor that typically starts in the tissue of the adrenal glands or spinal nerves, and then spreads to other parts of the body. Neuroblasts are immature nerve cells found in unborn babies. Normal neuroblasts mature into nerve cells or adrenal medulla cells, which are cells found in the center of the adrenal gland. Neuroblastoma forms when neuroblasts don’t mature properly. Sometimes, babies are born with small clusters of neuroblasts that eventually mature into nerve cells and do not become cancer. A neuroblast that does not mature can continue to grow, forming a mass called a tumor. With improved treatment, more and more children with neuroblastoma have a good chance of remission and a cure.

Your Child's Care Begins Here

Our Haworth Innovative Therapeutics Clinic is a leader in precision medicine for childhood cancer. We are proud to offer young patients access to clinical trials and the latest treatment strategies for neuroblastoma. We offer phase I and phase II trials that include a sophisticated gene analysis of a tumor sample so that personalized treatment can be designed specifically for each individual child. If surgery is needed as part of treatment, we collaborate with our pediatric surgeons and neurosurgeons, who are skilled at helping kids of all ages.

How Precision Medicine Works

Just as every child is different, so is every tumor. We collect both tumor and normal cells from each patient and our pediatric oncology research laboratory does deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid sequencing to determine the genomic makeup of the cancer, identifying mutations and pathways activating the tumor. These tumor cells are tested against an extensive panel to identify the most sensitive medication for each child's cancer. Our pediatric oncologists use the clinical genomic analysis to create a personalized treatment plan.

National Research Consortium

Our pediatric oncology specialists at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital lead the Beat Childhood Cancer consortium, which includes 33 hospitals across the United States, and offers a network of clinical trials for neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers. We collectively enrolled 203 children on our clinical trials in 2017. 

Together we successfully completed a pilot study of children with high-risk neuroblastoma using precision medicine at diagnosis combined with standard of care and the addition of DFMO as maintenance therapy. This study showed the safety and feasibility of this approach and was approved to move forward in a Phase II clinical trial.

Treatments We Provide

Your child will likely require chemotherapy before and/or after surgery. If the primary tumor cannot be removed surgically, chemotherapy may become the main treatment.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation uses powerful X-rays to destroy neuroblastoma cells remaining after chemotherapy and surgery.

Immunotherapy ("Antibody Therapy")
Special antibodies are used to direct and stimulate the immune system so it can attack the neuroblastoma cancer cells.

Most children with neuroblastoma will need the primary tumor removed surgically. Surgery is sometimes the only treatment needed if tumors are small and the cancer hasn't spread.

Retinoid Therapy
In children with high-risk neuroblastoma, a drug related to vitamin A can help cancer cells turn into mature nerve cells, and prevent the cancer from growing or spreading.

Clinical Trials for Neuroblastoma
Helen DeVos Children's Hospital leads the Beat Childhood Cancer consortium, a group of children's hospitals and universities working to develop new ways to treat neuroblastoma. Your child may be a candidate for our phase I and II clinical trials.  

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