The Neuroblastoma Program at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital offers babies and children the fullest range of treatment options available in the Chicago metropolitan area -- including the very newest therapies that can be obtained at select medical centers across North America.
Our physicians are very active in the Children's Oncology Group (COG), the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) consortium, and the Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Association. Participation in these organizations gives our program--and our patients--access to some of the very newest treatments being developed. Additionally, active roles in these organizations keep our physicians well-informed about advances in neuroblastoma care as they occur.
Our membership in the Children's Oncology Group links Comer Children's Hospital with more than 250 other medical centers worldwide that participate in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of promising new drug therapies.
As a member of the NANT consortium, Comer Children's Hospital is one of only 14 medical centers in North America with access to phase 1 clinical trials of the very newest treatments. Phase 1 trials are considered only for aggressive, relapsed neuroblastoma after limited success with more traditional therapies.
Comer Children's Hospital offers comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services for babies, children and teenagers who have neuroblastoma. Because of our neuroblastoma expertise and extensive cancer-focused resources, much of our work is with children who have aggressive, difficult-to-treat forms of neuroblastoma.
Accurate diagnosis is an important first step for treating neuroblastoma. Beyond just knowing that the child has neuroblastoma, determining whether the disease is low-risk, intermediate-risk or high-risk is essential for guiding treatment decisions. Pathologists at the University of Chicago and the Children's Oncology Group Reference Laboratory analyze tissue samples to look for certain genetic and biological factors, such as the presence or absence of specific chromosomal abnormalities. The results from these detailed pathology studies provide important details about the unique nature of each child's disease--and are crucial for treatment planning.
Comer Children's Hospital houses the centralized tracking center for the multi-center Children's Oncology Group. This COG tracking center is responsible for assigning patients enrolled on the COG biology study to the appropriate risk-group for treatment stratification.
Treatment approaches differ significantly for children with low- or intermediate-risk disease, versus children with high-risk or recurrent disease. Children with low- or intermediate-risk neuroblastoma have a very high likelihood of full recovery.
Most children with localized, low-risk neuroblastoma can be treated effectively with surgery. Occasionally, the neuroblastoma tumor goes away on its own, without any treatment.
Treatment of intermediate-risk neuroblastoma is more closely tailored to the unique biological profile of the child's tumor, based on the biologic features of the tumor. Most patients are treated with surgery and standard chemotherapy agents. The chemotherapy regimen that is recommended depends on the biologic features of the tumor.
Roughly half of children with neuroblastoma have an aggressive “high-risk” type that is more difficult to treat and more likely to recur or relapse. These children often require treatments beyond the standard therapies.
Treatment for children with high-risk neuroblastoma may include some or all of the following methods:
- Clinical trials of new drug therapies
- Stem cell transplantation
- Surgical removal of tumors
Comer Children's Hospital specializes in treating high-risk and relapsed neuroblastoma. We are on the ground floor in developing and testing the newest and most promising therapies. The neuroblastoma program here offers more clinical trials of investigative therapies than any other children's cancer program in the Chicago area, including phase 1 trials that are available at fewer than 15 hospitals across the U.S. Phase 1 trials are reserved only for advanced forms of neuroblastoma and are recommended only after other treatment approaches have been unsuccessful.
The pediatric oncology program here also draws on the resources and expertise of the University of Chicago's cancer program and extensive research. Through special protocols, adolescents as young as 14 years old who have neuroblastoma may be eligible to participate in clinical trials of anti-cancer agents currently under study in adults.
Learn More: University of Chicago pediatric cancer experts wrote the Encyclopedia Britannica entry about neuroblastoma.
Our neuroblastoma team is led by Susan Cohn, MD, one of the nation's leading experts on this common childhood cancer. Samuel Volchenboum, MD, PhD, MS, is a core member of the treatment team, and is also conducting important research on neuroblastoma. Other pediatric oncologists, pediatric surgeons, pediatric radiation oncologists, nurse practitioners who specialize in pediatric oncology, pathologists, and research scientists also play a key role in the neuroblastoma team. This multidisciplinary team provides comprehensive clinical care for children with neuroblastoma, supportive care for their families, and ongoing lab research.
Comer Children's Hospital provides many resources to help children and their families live with cancer. Our resources include
- Childhood Cancer Survivors Center: The impact of cancer and its treatment can last long after a child has been cured. This unique Center offers long-term follow-up through adulthood to monitor the impact of the disease and treatment on the patient's growth, organs, fertility, emotional development, and more.
- Child Life Program: Kids want to feel like kids, even when they're sick. Our Child Life services and personnel use play, art and other approaches to take some of the scare away from the cancer experience and to help kids feel as normal as possible, in spite of their disease.
- Ronald McDonald House: Located near Comer Children's Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for families while their child is hospitalized for cancer care.
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