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Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that usually occurs in infants and young children. It begins in the nerve tissue outside the brain where a solid tumor is formed by special nerve cells called neuroblasts. Normally, these cells would grow and mature into functioning nerve cells, but in neuroblastoma, they grow into cancer cells instead.
The way neuroblastoma affects children depends on where the disease first started and how much it has spread to other parts of the body. At first, the symptoms may be similar to those of other common childhood illnesses and could be hard to diagnose. These symptoms may include irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite and fever. These early warning signs can develop gradually.
Sometimes neuroblastoma is found when a doctor or parent feels an unusual lump or mass somewhere in the child's body — most often in the abdomen, though tumors also can appear in the neck, chest and other places.
Signs of neuroblastoma can also happen when the tumor presses on nearby tissues as it grows, or when the cancer spreads to other areas. The signs are different depending on where the cancer is found or how much it has grown.
After the doctor runs tests to diagnose neuroblastoma, and to find out how big the tumor is and where it's located, he or she will determine the best treatment plan. Treatment will depend on the age of the child, the biologic characteristics of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. Most cases of neuroblastoma require treatment.
In young toddlers, neuroblastoma may sometimes go away without any treatment and in other cases it can be treated with surgery alone. However, in most patients the tumors spread to other parts of the body, including the bones and bone marrow. In these cases, a combination of several treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant and targeted or biologic therapy, may be needed.
Beginning January, 2013, Cook Children's is opening the doors on a new era of treatment for neuroblastoma patients, the I-131 metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG). MIBG is a targeted therapy that delivers radiation directly to cancer cells. Our MIBG facility is the only one in Texas and in the Southwest, which means families don't have to travel and stay away from home to receive this innovative treatment. Learn more about I-131 MIBG therapy.
Our neuroblastoma team, comprised of a clinical, surgical and research team, is able to meet the many needs of patients with neuroblastoma and their family. Our clinical team is headed by Meaghan Granger, M.D., a pediatric oncologist with special emphasis in neuroblastoma. Our surgical team is headed by James Miller, M.D., a technically proficient surgeon with extensive neuroblastoma experience. We have a dedicated clinical research associate, neuroblastoma research interns and other research professionals. Our RN coordinator, Tracey Easley, acts as a liaison between the clinical team and research members and works with families during the referral process. We look forward to providing hope to patients and their families through the continued growth of our neuroblastoma program as we continue to pursue new advances for patients with this disease.
Granger, Meaghan M.D.View physician biography
Miller, James M.D. View physician biography
Cook Children's Neuroblastoma program is a member of the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) consortium. Our program was chosen because of our record of clinical care and commitment to clinical research and clinical trials. Our program is also a very active member of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) and is involved in clinical trial design and conduct of research. Learn more about Cook Children's neuroblastoma research.
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