What is neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that arises from the nerves of the sympathetic nervous system. The most common location for neuroblastoma to occur are the adrenal glands that are located above the kidneys, however, it may arise anywhere from the neck to the pelvis. The cause of neuroblastoma is unknown. It is one of the most common cancers in childhood and the most common cancer in infants. Nearly half of neuroblastoma cases are in children younger than two years old. Biologically it is a very age dependent cancer whereby the prognosis for infants and children less than 18 months of age is far better than older children. Neuroblastoma may spontaneously regress or differentiate and mature from a very malignant tumor to a benign, non-cancerous tumor from the neck to the pelvis.
How is neuroblastoma diagnosed?
Diagnosis of this condition entails:
- Imaging tests with ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI
- Radioisotope scans with MIBG
- Urine tests for hormones called catecholamines: dopamine, homovanillic acid, and vanillylmandelic acid
- Biopsy of the tumor
- Bone marrow aspirate and biopsy
- Identification of N-MYC amplification
What is the treatment for neuroblastoma?
In some cases, we use different therapies at once, as needed. They may include:
- Radiation therapy
- Differentiating and maturing agents such as Retinoic acid, a type of Vitamin A
- Stem cell transplant