Relapsed or Refractory Neuroblastoma

What is relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma?

Relapsed neuroblastoma refers to the return of neuroblastoma in patients who have already undergone treatment for the disease. Approximately half of children who are treated for high-risk neuroblastoma and achieve an initial remission will have the disease come back.

In addition, in approximately 15 percent of children with high-risk neuroblastoma, the tumor does not respond to initial treatment. These children are said to have refractory neuroblastoma. The treatment approach for children with refractory neuroblastoma is similar to that for children with relapsed neuroblastoma.

How we care for relapsed and refractory neuroblastoma

Children and adolescents with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Neuroblastoma Program, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric neuroblastoma programs in the world.

Our neuroblastoma specialists are known for treating children with the most complex cases, as well as for their expertise in delivering specialized treatments. We are one of only about 10 centers in the country, and the first and only center in New England, to offer MIBG therapy, an advanced treatment option for neuroblastoma that delivers targeted radiation to kill neuroblastoma cells.

Our areas of research for relapsed and refractory neuroblastoma

Research is a top priority at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders, and our physicians work continuously to translate laboratory findings into clinical therapies.

It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of the Neuroblastoma Program’s current clinical trials. In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also offer the most Phase I studies in New England for children whose disease has recurred through the Children's Oncology Group and the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) consortium.

Our current research efforts focus on improving established therapies for newly diagnosed and relapsed or recurrent neuroblastoma, studying the genetic causes of the disease and developing novel therapies. For instance, recent laboratory and animal studies by researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's have focused on ways to counter MYCN amplification, one of the most common genetic features of aggressive neuroblastomas.

Our researchers are also teasing apart the relationship between neuroblastoma and a gene called ALK. We are working on therapies that target this gene and may improve treatment for newly diagnosed and relapsed neuroblastoma.