Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

New Treatment Offers Hope for Kids With Deadly Nerve Cancer

New Treatment Offers Hope for Kids With Deadly Nerve Cancer

THURSDAY, Oct. 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Early treatment with an immune-boosting therapy might improve the outlook of young children with an advanced form of cancer, a new small study suggests.

The trial involved 43 children with high-risk neuroblastoma, a cancer that starts in immature nerve cells. Researchers found that a new treatment approach -- involving an experimental antibody given right off the bat -- started to quickly beat back the cancer in most kids.

After two years, most were still free of a relapse or cancer progression, according to findings published online Oct. 10 in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that primarily affects babies and children younger than 5. Each year in the United States, about 800 children are diagnosed with the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Roughly half of those children are diagnosed after the cancer has spread and is considered "high-risk."

Treatment in such cases is aggressive: The typical regimen starts with high-dose chemotherapy, followed by surgery to remove any remaining visible tumors. Next comes additional chemo, followed by a stem cell transplant to rebuild the immune system, and then radiation.

In more recent years, doctors have added another weapon to the end of that regimen: the monoclonal antibody drug dinutuximab. The drug latches onto GD2, a protein on the surface of many neuroblastoma cells. It's given along with certain immune system proteins, boosting the child's immune response to cancer cells that have survived the treatment onslaught.

"We come at it with everything we have, trying to hit a home run," said Dr. Wayne Furman, the lead researcher on the new trial.

Despite it all, more than half of children with high-risk neuroblastoma have a recurrence, said Furman, an oncologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tenn.

So his team tried a different tactic. Instead of waiting to give antibody therapy at the tail end, they gave it to children up front, along with their initial chemo.

The premise was based, in part, on studies of adults with certain cancers -- where giving antibody therapy at the same time as chemo improved patients' responses.

Furman's team did not use dinutuximab, however. They opted for an experimental antibody that is similar to dinutuximab, acting on the same GD2 protein. The difference is the new antibody was designed to cause fewer allergic reactions and less pain, the researchers said.

Children in the study received six rounds of chemo, along with the antibody therapy. After just two rounds, 76% showed at least some regression in their tumors.

Following that initial chemo/antibody combination, the children moved on to other standard treatments, including a round of antibody therapy as the final step.

Two years later, nearly 86% remained free of a relapse or progression. That compares with a rate of 50% in a previous study where no early antibody therapy was used, the study authors said.

Furman had major caveats, however. "This was done at a single institution and it still needs to be proven in a larger trial done at multiple centers," he explained.

Critically, the experimental antibody is not approved for use outside of a trial. And it's not clear whether dinutuximab -- the approved drug -- can match its results.

A pilot trial has already been launched to answer that question, Furman said. It's being run by the Children's Oncology Group, a clinical trials network that involves children's cancer centers nationwide.

The latest findings do argue for further studies into immune-boosting therapies as a "frontline" treatment for high-risk neuroblastoma, said Dr. Rochelle Bagatell.

She's an oncologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia whose research focuses on the disease.

"These data are of considerable interest to the neuroblastoma community," Bagatell said. "They add to a growing body of evidence that suggests the combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy may change outcomes for children with high-risk neuroblastoma."

Furman said he thinks that, ultimately, using antibody therapy at the start will be the way to go, and if the latest results are confirmed, they could be "practice changing."

"This process takes time, though," he stressed. "And we're not there yet."

The trial was funded by St. Jude and private foundation grants.

More information

The American Cancer Society has an overview on neuroblastoma.

SOURCES: Wayne Furman, M.D., oncologist, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.; Rochelle Bagatell, M.D., pediatric oncologist, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Oct. 10, 2019, Clinical Cancer Research, online

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Dr. Sarah Chagnon
Dr. Thomas Enlow
Dr. Ralph Northam
Dr. Crystal Proud
Dr. Svinder Toor
Dr. Ryan Williams
Hematology and Oncology
Dr. Wilson File
Dr. Eric Lowe
Dr. Melissa Mark
Dr. William Owen
Dr. Linda Pegram
Dr. Katherine Watson
Dr. Eric Werner
Health Tips
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
How Old Is "Old Enough" for Contacts?
6 Tips for Life as a Cancer Survivor
Diseases & Conditions
About Cancer
Alternative Therapy for Cancer
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma in Children Index
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Cancer Treatment for Children
Causes of Cancer
Chemotherapy for Children
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Coping with a Diagnosis of Cancer in Children
Diagnosing Cancer
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Children
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Meningitis in Children
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Nutritional Requirements for a Child With Cancer
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Television and Children
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Heart
The Kidneys
Your Child's Asthma
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.