Know the Facts and Help Children Fight Neuroblastoma
Neuroblastoma it is the most common cancer in children under 2 years of age and is diagnosed in about 650 children in the U.S. each year. Arising in the developing nerves of a child, often appearing as a tumor in the chest or abdomen. Neuroblastoma attacks the sympathetic nervous system and in 2/3rds of cases it goes undiagnosed until it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Once neuroblastoma spreads, it is often considered High Risk disease which has a 5 year survival rate of just 30 percent.The cause of neuroblastoma is unknown.
Neuroblastoma Survival National Cancer Institute Funding
Childhood Cancer Facts
- One in 330 children will develop cancer by age 20.
- About 1,320 children are expected to die from cancer in 2012.
- Each school day, 62 children are diagnosed with cancer. (based on 180 day year).
- Each child in the U.S. diagnosed with cancer receives approximately one sixth of the federal research support allocated to each patient afflicted with AIDS.
-The National Cancer Institute's funded research portfolio in 2010 was $3 billion. Of that, breast cancer received 21%, prostate cancer received 10% and ALL 12 major groups of pediatric cancers combined received less than 3%.
-Cancer accounts for the greatest number of deaths of children in the U.S. and kills more children per year than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, asthma and AIDS combined.
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In the 1980s, fewer than 5% of children diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma survived.
Although intensified chemotherapy and radiation treatments improved the chances of killing this vicious cancer, many children suffered severe side effects–including developing other forms of cancer caused by the treatments themselves.
In 1987, the MSKCC team began treating children with 3F8, a monoclonal antibody developed by Dr. Cheung. 3F8 can attach to neuroblastoma cells and kill them, and can also train the child’s own immune system to attack and kill neuroblastoma. In the last 2 decades, 3F8 treatment notably improved survival, without lasting side effects.
Today, 80 percent of children with high risk neuroblastoma treated at MSKCC from diagnosis achieve remission. More than 50% of these patients are expected to remain in remission after consolidation with 3F8/GMCSF immunotherapy.
What is the treatment for neuroblastoma?
For children with lower stages of disease and favorable risk factors, surgery and/or some chemotherapy may be sufficient treatment. Children with high risk disease typically receive multiple rounds of harsh high-dose chemotherapies, radiation, surgeries, and retinoid therapy. In addition, many undergo stem cell transplantation, immunotherapy and other painful treatments. Life is disrupted for the entire family—constant visits to the cancer clinic are required and weeks are spent in the hospital. It is common for families to travel to different parts of the country and even the world seeking treatment options for their children.
What innovative projects are on the horizon?
The 3F8 antibody has shown amazing success in eradicating high-risk chemo-resistant neuroblastoma infiltrating the bone marrow. Still, about 20 percent of those diagnosed with this deadly cancer never reach remission, and many of those in remission see their cancer return.
Because 3F8 is made from mouse antibodies, many children develop immunity to it, making further 3F8 treatment ineffective. For those who form immunity too soon, the problem is huge—their disease is likely to return or progress. Thus, one of the most exciting projects is the development of a “humanized” 3F8 antibody (Hu3F8). Humanizing the antibody may also increase the immune reaction for children whose white blood cells have a low “affinity” for 3F8, which means their immune system does not learn to attack the cancer on its own.
Hu3f8 entered the clinic in August 2011 as a phase one clinical trial- fully funded by the BOP, this therapy promises to become a vital part of saving more precious lives. There are several children currently enrolled in this escalation study which will determine the levels of Hu3F8 that are safe for use. Our members who have children in the trial have been sharing their experiences on the protocol and it continues to look promising. We are hopeful Hu3F8 could potentially be used long-term to prevent neuroblastoma relapse.
Hu3F8-IgG1n – or, Turbo 3F8, our largest grant ever; banding together with a number of sister foundations, the Band of Parents has fully funded this new antibody which shows promise as being many times stronger and more effective than any current antibody. Laboratory tests have
shown Turbo 3F8’s ability to kill Neuroblastoma cells to be almost 100 times greater than regular 3f8. Turbo 3F8 should be coming to clinic sometime in 2012 as a phase one clinical trial.
The MSKCC team is also developing other innovative treatments, such as vaccines intended to strengthen a child’s immune system against neuroblastoma, ways to improve the tumor-killing activity of 3F8, and antibodies that bring liquid radiation directly to tumor cells. In recent years a new antibody, 8H9, has been successful in killing neuroblastoma that has recurred in the central nervous system – a type of relapse that was 100 percent fatal just 5 years ago. The 8H9 antibody may have great promise as a systemic treatment, but more research is needed to understand its workings.