Know the Facts and Help Children Fight Neuroblastoma
Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer in children under two years of age and is diagnosed in approximately 700 children in the U.S. each year. Arising in the developing nerves of a child, it often appears as a tumor in the chest or abdomen. Neuroblastoma attacks the sympathetic nervous system and in 2/3 of cases it goes undiagnosed until it has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Once neuroblastoma spreads, it is often considered a high-risk disease which has a 5-year survival rate of just 30%. The cause of neuroblastoma is unknown.
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 two decades, 3F8 treatment notably improved survival, without lasting side effects.
Today, 80% 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.
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.
In 2014, along with our sister organizations, the Band of Parents committed a record-breaking $2.7 million to the Band of Parents neuroblastoma initiatives fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. This included $2 million for the GMP manufacture and clinical testing of an Hu3F8 bi specific anti body and Phase I Study of Haploidentical Natural Killer Cells plus Humanized 3F8 for High-Risk Neuroblastoma.
Combined with our smaller gifts to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and St. Jude's, The Band of Parents granted more than $3 million with our partners in 2014.
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% 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.
3F8, Hu3F8 AND TURBO 3F8
The 3F8 antibody has shown amazing success in eradicating high-risk chemo-resistant neuroblastoma infiltrating the bone marrow. Still, about 20% 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. This lead to the development of a “humanized” 3F8 antibody (Hu3F8).
Hu3F8 entered the clinic in August 2011 as a phase one clinical trial - fully funded by the Band of Parents. Today, this therapy has become a vital part of saving more precious lives. Hu3F8 is our greatest accomplishment to date, Hu3F8 is now being used to treat kids every week at MSKCC. This therapy may become a vital part of saving more precious lives.
Hu3F8-IgG1n – or, Turbo 3F8, is 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.