"One thing that really struck me when I first came to work here was the enthusiasm for asking questions. People never take things for granted, especially anything to do with cancer; they always ask questions, trying to find the underlying causes."
Rani George, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center pediatric oncologist, neuroblastoma expert
A diagnosis of neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that occurs most often in infants and young children, is extremely difficult for any parent. It’s important to understand that neuroblastomas come in many different forms, some of which are highly treatable.
Here at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center, we know that you have a lot of questions. How dangerous is neuroblastoma? What is the very best treatment? What do we do next? We’ve tried to provide some answers to those questions in the following pages, and our expert pediatric subspecialists can explain your child’s condition fully.
Neuroblastoma is a cancerous tumor that begins in nerve tissue of infants and very young children.
- Most children affected by neuroblastoma have been diagnosed before age 5.
- Neuroblastoma is often present at when a child is born, but isn’t discovered until the tumor begins to grow and compress the surrounding organs.
- In rare cases, neuroblastoma can be detected before birth by a fetal ultrasound.
- Neuroblastoma cancer cells can spread (metastasize) quickly to other areas of the body (lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones, central nervous system and bone marrow).
- The tumor will spread in about 70 percent of all children diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
How Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center approaches neuroblastoma
At Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC), we’re known for our science-driven approach. We’re home to the most extensive research enterprise located in a pediatric hospital in the world, and we partner with a number of top biotech and health care organizations—but our physicians never forget that your child is a child, and not just a patient.
Our researchers are conducting numerous studies that will help clinicians better understand and treat children who have neuroblastoma.
- Our scientists are currently studying how to use high-dose therapy in combination with stem cell transplantation to treat neuroblastoma.
- Our Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program is one of only eight institutions around the country investigating the use of umbilical cord transplantation.
- Also under study is a novel method for preventing graft-versus-host disease, a serious complication that occurs when transplanted cells don’t recognize the tissues and organs of the recipient's body and react against the recipient's tissue. This treatment approach may dramatically increase the pool of potential donors for each patient.
- Another promising area of research is developing treatments that allow doctors to use a patient's own stem cells to overcome neuroblastoma.