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Neuroblastoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version

General Information About Neuroblastoma

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer.[1] Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%.[1-3] For neuroblastoma, the 5-year survival rate increased over the same time, from 86% to 95% for children younger than 1 year and from 34% to 68% for children aged 1 to 14 years.[2] Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close monitoring because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)

Incidence and Epidemiology

Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid tumor in childhood. More than 650 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States.[4,5] The prevalence is about 1 case per 7,000 live births; the incidence is about 10.54 cases per 1 million per year in children younger than 15 years. About 37% of patients are diagnosed as infants, and 90% are younger than 5 years at diagnosis, with a median age at diagnosis of 19 months.[6] The data on age at diagnosis show that this is a disease of infancy, with the highest rate of diagnosis in the first month of life.[4-6]

The incidence of neuroblastoma in black children is slightly lower than the incidence in white children.[7] However, there are also racial differences in tumor biology, with African Americans more likely to have high-risk disease and fatal outcomes.[8,9]

Population-based studies of screening for infants with neuroblastoma have demonstrated that spontaneous regression of neuroblastoma without clinical detection in the first year of life is at least as prevalent as clinically detected neuroblastoma.[10-12]

Epidemiologic studies have shown that environmental or other exposures have not been unequivocally associated with increased or decreased incidences of neuroblastoma.[13]

Anatomy

Neuroblastoma originates in the adrenal medulla and paraspinal or periaortic regions where sympathetic nervous system tissue is present (refer to Figure 1).

EnlargeDrawing shows parts of the body where neuroblastoma may be found, including the paraspinal nerve tissue and the adrenal glands. Also shown are the spine and right and left kidney.
Figure 1. Neuroblastoma may be found in the adrenal glands and paraspinal nerve tissue from the neck to the pelvis.

Neuroblastoma Screening (Genetic Predisposition and Familial Neuroblastoma)

Studies analyzing constitutional DNA in rare cohorts of familial neuroblastoma patients have provided insight into the complex genetic basis for tumor initiation. About 1% to 2% of patients with neuroblastoma have a family history of neuroblastoma. These children are, on average, younger (9 months at diagnosis) and about 20% have multifocal primary neuroblastoma.

Germline mutations. Several germline mutations have been associated with a genetic predisposition to neuroblastoma, including the following:

  • ALK gene mutation. The primary cause of familial neuroblastoma (about 75% of familial cases) is aberrant activation of the germline ALK signaling pathway resulting from point mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain of the ALK gene.[14] Somatic activating point mutations in ALK are also seen in about 9% of sporadic neuroblastoma cases. In addition, in a small proportion of neuroblastoma cases with MYCN amplification, ALK is co-amplified (ALK is near MYCN on chromosome 2), which may also result in ALK activation. ALK is a tyrosine kinase receptor (refer to the Genomic and Biologic Features of Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information about ALK mutations).
  • PHOX2B gene mutation. Rarely, familial neuroblastoma may be associated with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (Ondine curse), which is caused by a germline mutation of the PHOX2B gene.[15] Most PHOX2B mutations causing Ondine curse or Hirschsprung disease are polyalanine repeats and are not associated with familial neuroblastoma. However, germline loss-of-function PHOX2B mutations have been identified in rare patients with sporadic neuroblastoma and Ondine curse and/or Hirschsprung disease.[16] Germline aberrations of PHOX2B have not been seen in patients with sporadic neuroblastoma without associated Ondine curse or Hirschsprung disease. Additionally, somatic PHOX2B mutations occur in about 2% of sporadic cases of neuroblastoma.[17,18]
  • Deletion at the 1p36 or 11q14-23 locus. In case studies, germline deletion at the 1p36 or 11q14-23 locus has been associated with familial neuroblastoma, and the same deletions are found somatically in some sporadic neuroblastoma cases.[19,20]

Other cancer predisposition syndromes. Children with gene aberrations associated with other cancer predisposition syndromes can be at increased risk of developing neuroblastoma and other malignancies. The following syndromes primarily involve genes in the canonical RAS pathway:

  • Costello syndrome.[21]
  • Noonan syndrome.[22]
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1.[23]

In addition, neuroblastoma has been described in patients with the following syndromes:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
  • Hereditary pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma syndromes.[24]
  • ROHHAD syndrome (rapid-onset obesity, hypothalamic dysfunction, hypoventilation, and autonomic dysfunction).[25]
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.[26]

Sporadic neuroblastoma may also have an increased incidence resulting from less potent germline predispositions. Genome-wide association studies have identified several common genomic variables (single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs]) with modest effect size that are associated with increased risks of developing neuroblastoma. Most of these genomic risk variables are significantly associated with distinct neuroblastoma phenotypes (i.e., high-risk vs. low-risk disease).[27]

Neuroblastoma predisposition and surveillance

Screening recommendations from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) emerged from the 2016 Childhood Cancer Predisposition Workshop. The AACR recommends that the following individuals undergo biochemical and radiographic surveillance for early detection of tumors in the first 10 years of life:[24]

  • Individuals with highly penetrant, heritable ALK or PHOX2B (NPARM) mutations (45%–50% risk of developing one or more tumors).
  • Individuals with Li-Fraumeni syndrome and germline TP53-R337H mutations.
  • Individuals with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and germline CDKN1C mutations.
  • Individuals with Costello syndrome and HRAS mutations.
  • Individuals with neuroblastoma and a strong family history of neuroblastoma or clearly bilateral/multifocal neuroblastoma.

Surveillance consists of the following:[24]

  • Abdominal ultrasonography.
  • Quantitative, normalized assessment of urinary catecholamines, such as urine vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) and homovanillic acid (HVA), by gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy (can be a random urine collection normalized for urine creatinine).
  • Chest x-ray.

Surveillance begins at birth or at diagnosis of neuroblastoma predisposition and continues every 3 months until age 6 years and then continues every 6 months until age 10 years. Patients with Costello syndrome may have elevated urinary catecholamines in the absence of a catecholamine-secreting tumor, so only very high levels or significantly rising levels should prompt further investigation beyond the ultrasonography and chest x-ray.[28] Patients with Li-Fraumeni syndrome should not undergo chest x-rays.[24]

About 5% of children with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome have the molecular etiology of mutations causing decreased activity of CDKN1C. A review of all large studies of genetically subtyped Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome found 70 children with the CDKN1C mutation, 4.6% of whom developed neuroblastoma; there were no cases of Wilms tumor or hepatoblastoma. There is little experience with screening these children for neuroblastoma, so there are no generally accepted guidelines, although the authors of the study suggest screening with urinary VMA/HVA every 4 to 6 months. Other genetic subtypes of Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome have a prevalence of neuroblastoma of less than 1%, and no neuroblastic tumors were found among 123 children with the genotype gain of methylation at imprinting control region 1.[29]

Neuroblastoma Screening (General Population)

Current data do not support neuroblastoma screening in the general public. Screening at the ages of 3 weeks, 6 months, or 1 year did not lead to reduction in the incidence of advanced-stage neuroblastoma with unfavorable biological characteristics in older children, nor did it reduce overall mortality from neuroblastoma.[11,12] No public health benefits have been shown from screening infants for neuroblastoma at these ages. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Neuroblastoma Screening for more information.)

Evidence (against neuroblastoma screening):

  1. A large population-based North American study, in which most infants in Quebec were screened at the ages of 3 weeks and 6 months, has shown that screening detects many neuroblastomas with favorable characteristics [10,11] that would never have been detected clinically, apparently because of spontaneous regression of the tumors.
  2. Another study of infants screened at the age of 1 year showed similar results.[12]

Genomic and Biologic Features of Neuroblastoma

Children with neuroblastoma can be subdivided into subsets with different predicted risks of relapse on the basis of clinical factors and biological markers at the time of diagnosis.

  • Low-risk or intermediate-risk neuroblastoma patients. Patients classified as low-risk or intermediate-risk have a favorable prognosis, with survival rates exceeding 95%. Low-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma usually occur in children younger than 18 months. These tumors commonly have gains of whole chromosomes and are hyperdiploid when examined by flow cytometry.[30,31]
  • High-risk neuroblastoma patients. The prognosis is more guarded for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma, with less than a 50% long-term survival rate. High-risk neuroblastoma generally occurs in children older than 18 months, is often metastatic to bone, and segmental chromosome abnormalities (gains or losses) and/or MYCN gene amplification are usually detected in these tumors. They are near diploid or near tetraploid by flow cytometric measurement.[30-36] High-risk tumors may rarely harbor exonic mutations (refer to the Exonic mutations in neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information), but most high-risk tumors lack such gene mutations. Compared with adult cancers, neuroblastoma tumors show a low number of mutations per genome that affect protein sequence (10–20 per genome).[37]

Key genomic characteristics of high-risk neuroblastoma that are discussed below include the following:

  • Segmental chromosomal aberrations.
  • MYCN gene amplifications.
  • Low rates of exonic mutations, with activating mutations in ALK being the most common recurring alteration.
  • Genomic alterations that promote telomere lengthening.
Segmental chromosomal aberrations

Segmental chromosomal aberrations, found most frequently in 1p, 1q, 3p, 11q, 14q, and 17p, are best detected by comparative genomic hybridization and are seen in most high-risk and/or stage 4 neuroblastoma tumors.[32-36] Among all patients with neuroblastoma, a higher number of chromosome breakpoints (i.e., a higher number of segmental chromosome aberrations) correlated with the following:[32-36][Level of evidence: 3iiD]

  • Advanced age at diagnosis.
  • Advanced stage of disease.
  • Higher risk of relapse.
  • Poorer outcome.

An international collaboration studied 556 patients with high-risk neuroblastoma and identified two types of segmental copy number aberrations that are associated with extremely poor outcome. Distal 6q losses were found in 6% of patients and were associated with a 10-year survival rate of only 3.4%; amplifications of regions not encompassing the MYCN locus, in addition to MYCN amplification, were detected in 18% of the patients and were associated with a 10-year survival rate of 5.8%.[38]

In a study of children older than 12 months who had unresectable primary neuroblastomas without metastases, segmental chromosomal aberrations were found in most, and older children were more likely to have them and to have more of them per tumor cell. In children aged 12 to 18 months, the presence of segmental chromosomal aberrations had a significant effect on event-free survival (EFS) but not on overall survival (OS). However, in children older than 18 months, there was a significant difference in OS between children with segmental chromosomal aberrations (67%) and children without segmental chromosomal aberrations (100%), regardless of tumor histology.[36]

Segmental chromosomal aberrations are also predictive of recurrence in infants with localized unresectable or metastatic neuroblastoma without MYCN gene amplification.[30,31]

MYCN gene amplification

MYCN amplification is detected in 16% to 25% of neuroblastoma tumors.[39] Among patients with high-risk neuroblastoma, 40% to 50% of cases show MYCN amplification.[40]

In all stages of disease, amplification of the MYCN gene strongly predicts a poorer prognosis, in both time to tumor progression and OS, in almost all multivariate regression analyses of prognostic factors.[30,31] Within the localized-tumor MYCN-amplified cohort, patients with hyperdiploid tumors have better outcomes than do patients with diploid tumors.[41] However, patients with hyperdiploid tumors with MYCN amplification or any segmental chromosomal aberrations do relatively poorly compared with patients with hyperdiploid tumors without MYCN amplification.[32]

In a Children’s Oncology Group study of MYCN copy number in 4,672 patients with neuroblastoma, the following results were reported:[42]

  • 79% of patients had MYCN–wild-type tumors, 3% had tumors with MYCN gain (defined as a twofold to fourfold increase in signal by fluorescence in situ hybridization), and 18% had MYCN-amplified tumors.
  • When individual clinical/biological features were examined, the percentage of patients with unfavorable features was lowest in the MYCN–wild-type category, intermediate in the MYCN-gain category, and highest in the MYCN-amplified category (P < .0001), except for the tumors with 11q aberration, for which the highest rates of unfavorable features were in the MYCN-gain category.
  • Patients with non–stage 4 disease and patients with non–high-risk disease and MYCN gain had a significantly increased risk of death than did patients with MYCN–wild-type tumors.

Most unfavorable clinical and pathobiological features are associated, to some degree, with MYCN amplification; in a multivariable logistic regression analysis of 7,102 patients in the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group study, pooled segmental chromosomal aberrations and gains of 17q were poor prognostic features even when not associated with MYCN amplification. However, another poor prognostic feature, segmental chromosomal aberrations at 11q, are almost entirely mutually exclusive of MYCN amplification.[43,44]

Exonic mutations in neuroblastoma

Multiple reports have documented that a minority of high-risk neuroblastomas have a low incidence of recurrently mutated genes. The most commonly mutated gene is ALK, which is mutated in approximately 10% of patients (see below). Other genes with even lower frequencies of mutations include ATRX, PTPN11, ARID1A, and ARID1B.[45-51] As shown in Figure 2, most neuroblastoma cases lack mutations in genes that are altered in a recurrent manner.

EnlargeChart showing the landscape of genetic variation in neuroblastoma.
Figure 2. Data tracks (rows) facilitate the comparison of clinical and genomic data across cases with neuroblastoma (columns). The data sources and sequencing technology used were whole-exome sequencing (WES) from whole-genome amplification (WGA) (light purple), WES from native DNA (dark purple), Illumina WGS (green), and Complete Genomics WGS (yellow). Striped blocks indicate cases analyzed using two approaches. The clinical variables included were sex (male, blue; female, pink) and age (brown spectrum). Copy number alterations indicates ploidy measured by flow cytometry (with hyperdiploid meaning DNA index >1) and clinically relevant copy number alterations derived from sequence data. Significantly mutated genes are those with statistically significant mutation counts given the background mutation rate, gene size, and expression in neuroblastoma. Germline indicates genes with significant numbers of germline ClinVar variants or loss-of-function cancer gene variants in our cohort. DNA repair indicates genes that may be associated with an increased mutation frequency in two apparently hypermutated tumors. Predicted effects of somatic mutations are color coded according to the legend. Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature Genetics (Pugh TJ, Morozova O, Attiyeh EF, et al.: The genetic landscape of high-risk neuroblastoma. Nat Genet 45 (3): 279-84, 2013), copyright (2013).

ALK, the exonic mutation found most commonly in neuroblastoma, is a cell surface receptor tyrosine kinase, expressed at significant levels only in developing embryonic and neonatal brains. Germline mutations in ALK have been identified as the major cause of hereditary neuroblastoma. Somatically acquired ALK-activating exonic mutations are also found as oncogenic drivers in neuroblastoma.[50]

The presence of an ALK mutation correlates with significantly poorer survival in high-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma patients. ALK mutations were examined in 1,596 diagnostic neuroblastoma samples and the following results were observed:[50]

  • ALK tyrosine kinase domain mutations occurred in 8% of samples—at three hot spots and 13 minor sites—and correlated significantly with poorer survival in patients with high-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma.
  • ALK mutations were found in 10.9% of MYCN-amplified tumors versus 7.2% of those without MYCN amplification.
  • ALK mutations occurred at the highest frequency (11%) in patients older than 10 years.
  • The frequency of ALK aberrations was 14% in the high-risk neuroblastoma group, 6% in the intermediate-risk neuroblastoma group, and 8% in the low-risk neuroblastoma group.
  • The high-risk group included tumors with ALK aberrations, consisting of ALK co-amplification with MYCN amplification, which may also result in ALK activation.

In a study that compared the genomic data of primary diagnostic neuroblastomas originating in the adrenal gland (n = 646) with that of neuroblastomas originating in the thoracic sympathetic ganglia (n = 118), 16% of thoracic tumors harbored ALK mutations.[52]

Small-molecule ALK kinase inhibitors such as crizotinib (added to conventional therapy) are being tested in patients with newly diagnosed high-risk neuroblastoma and activated ALK (COG ANBL1531).[50]

Genomic evolution of exonic mutations

There are limited data regarding the genomic evolution of exonic mutations from diagnosis to relapse for neuroblastoma. Whole-genome sequencing was applied to 23 paired diagnostic and relapsed neuroblastoma tumor samples to define somatic genetic alterations associated with relapse,[53] while a second study evaluated 16 paired diagnostic and relapsed specimens.[54] Both studies identified an increased number of mutations in the relapsed samples compared with the samples at diagnosis; this has been confirmed in a study of neuroblastoma tumor samples sent for next-generation sequencing.[55]

  • In the first study, an increased incidence of mutations in genes associated with RAS-MAPK signaling were found in tumors at relapse compared with tumors from the same patient at diagnosis; 15 of 23 relapse samples contained somatic mutations in genes involved in this pathway and each mutation was consistent with pathway activation.[53]

    In addition, three relapse samples showed structural alterations involving MAPK pathway genes consistent with pathway activation, so aberrations in this pathway were detected in 18 of 23 relapse samples (78%). Aberrations were found in ALK (n = 10), NF1 (n = 2), and one each in NRAS, KRAS, HRAS, BRAF, PTPN11, and FGFR1. Even with deep sequencing, 7 of the 18 alterations were not detectable in the primary tumor, highlighting the evolution of mutations presumably leading to relapse and the importance of genomic evaluations of tissues obtained at relapse.

  • In the second study, ALK mutations were not observed in either diagnostic or relapse specimens, but relapse-specific recurrent single-nucleotide variants were observed in 11 genes, including the putative CHD5 neuroblastoma tumor suppressor gene located at chromosome 1p36.[54]

In a deep-sequencing study, 276 neuroblastoma samples (comprised of all stages and from patients of all ages at diagnosis) underwent very deep (33,000X) sequencing of just two amplified ALK mutational hot spots, which revealed 4.8% clonal mutations and an additional 5% subclonal mutations, suggesting that subclonal ALK gene mutations are common.[56] Thus, deep sequencing can reveal the presence of mutations in tiny subsets of neuroblastoma tumor cells that may be able to survive during treatment and grow to constitute a relapse.

Genomic alterations promoting telomere lengthening

Lengthening of telomeres, the tips of chromosomes, promotes cell survival. Telomeres otherwise shorten with each cell replication, resulting eventually in the lack of a cell’s ability to replicate. Low-risk neuroblastoma tumors have little telomere lengthening activity. Aberrant genetic mechanisms for telomere lengthening have been identified in high-risk neuroblastoma tumors.[45,46,57] Thus far, the following three mechanisms, which appear to be mutually exclusive, have been described:

  • Chromosomal rearrangements involving a chromosomal region at 5p15.33 proximal to the TERT gene, which encodes the catalytic unit of telomerase, occur in approximately 25% of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and are mutually exclusive with MYCN amplifications and ATRX mutations.[45,46] The rearrangements induce transcriptional upregulation of TERT by juxtaposing the TERT coding sequence with strong enhancer elements.
  • Another mechanism promoting TERT overexpression is MYCN amplification,[58] which is associated with approximately 40% to 50% of high-risk neuroblastoma cases.
  • The ATRX mutation or deletion is found in 10% to 20% of high-risk neuroblastoma tumors, almost exclusively in older children,[47] and is associated with telomere lengthening by a different mechanism, termed alternative lengthening of telomeres.[47,57]
Additional biological factors associated with prognosis
MYC and MYCN expression

Immunostaining for MYC and MYCN proteins on a restricted subset of 357 undifferentiated/poorly differentiated neuroblastoma tumors demonstrated that elevated MYC/MYCN protein expression is prognostically significant.[59] Sixty-eight tumors (19%) highly expressed the MYCN protein, and 81 were MYCN amplified. Thirty-nine tumors (10.9%) expressed MYC highly and were mutually exclusive of high MYCN expression; in the MYC-expressing tumors, MYC or MYCN gene amplification was not seen. Segmental chromosomal aberrations were not examined in this study.[59]

  • Patients with favorable-histology tumors without high MYC/MYCN expression had favorable survival (3-year EFS, 89.7% ± 5.5%; 3-year OS, 97% ± 3.2%).
  • Patients with undifferentiated or poorly differentiated histology tumors without MYC/MYCN expression had a 3-year EFS rate of 63.1% (± 13.6%) and a 3-year OS rate of 83.5% (± 9.4%).
  • Three-year EFS rates in patients with MYCN amplification, high MYCN expression, and high MYC expression were 48.1% (± 11.5%), 46.2% (± 12%), and 43.4% (± 23.1%), respectively, and OS rates were 65.8% (± 11.1%), 63.2% (± 12.1%), and 63.5% (± 19.2%), respectively.
  • Additionally, when high expression of MYC and MYCN proteins underwent multivariate analysis with other prognostic factors, including MYC/MYCN gene amplification, high MYC and MYCN protein expression was independent of other prognostic markers.
Neurotrophin receptor kinases

Expression of neurotrophin receptor kinases and their ligands vary between high-risk and low-risk tumors. TrkA is found on low-risk tumors, and absence of its ligand NGF is postulated to lead to spontaneous tumor regression. In contrast, TrkB is found in high-risk tumors that also express its ligand, BDNF, which promotes neuroblastoma cell growth and survival.[60]

Immune system inhibition

Anti-GD2 antibodies, along with modulation of the immune system to enhance the antibody's antineuroblastoma activity, are often used to help treat neuroblastoma. The clinical effectiveness of one such antibody led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of dinutuximab. The patient response to immunotherapy may, in part, be caused by variation in immune function among patients. One anti-GD2 antibody, termed 3F8, used for treating neuroblastoma exclusively at one institution, utilizes natural killer cells to kill the neuroblastoma cells. However, the natural killer cells can be inhibited by the interaction of HLA antigens and killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR) subtypes.[61,62] This finding was confirmed and expanded by an analysis of outcomes for patients treated on the national randomized COG-ANBL0032 (NCT00026312) study with the anti-GD2 antibody dinutuximab combined with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin-2. The study found that certain KIR/KIR-ligand genotypes were associated with better outcomes for patients who were treated with immunotherapy.[63][Level of evidence: 1A] The presence of inhibitory KIR/KIR ligands was associated with a decreased effect of immunotherapy. Thus, the patient's immune system genes help determine response to immunotherapy for neuroblastoma. Additional studies are needed to determine whether this immune system genotyping can guide patient selection for certain immunotherapies.

Clinical Presentation

The most frequent signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma are caused by tumor mass and metastases and include the following:

  • Abdominal mass: This is the most common presentation of neuroblastoma.
  • Proptosis and periorbital ecchymosis: Common in high-risk patients and arise from retrobulbar metastasis.
  • Abdominal distention: May occur with respiratory compromise in infants because of massive liver metastases.
  • Bone pain: Occurs in association with metastatic disease.
  • Pancytopenia: May result from extensive bone marrow metastasis.
  • Fever, hypertension, and anemia: Occasionally found in patients without metastasis.
  • Paralysis: Neuroblastoma originating in paraspinal ganglia may invade through neural foramina and compress the spinal cord extradurally. Immediate treatment is given for symptomatic spinal cord compression. (Refer to the Treatment of Spinal Cord Compression section of this summary for more information.)
  • Watery diarrhea: On rare occasions, children may have severe, watery diarrhea caused by the secretion of vasoactive intestinal peptide by the tumor, or they may have protein-losing enteropathy with intestinal lymphangiectasia.[64] Vasoactive intestinal peptide secretion may also occur with chemotherapeutic treatment, and tumor resection reduces vasoactive intestinal peptide secretion.[65]
  • Presence of Horner syndrome: Horner syndrome is characterized by miosis, ptosis, and anhidrosis. It may be caused by neuroblastoma in the stellate ganglion, and children with Horner syndrome without other apparent cause are also examined for neuroblastoma and other tumors.[66]
  • Subcutaneous skin nodules: Subcutaneous metastases of neuroblastoma often have bluish discoloration of the overlying skin and is usually seen only in infants.

The clinical presentation of neuroblastoma in adolescents is similar to the clinical presentation in children. The only exception is that bone marrow involvement occurs less frequently in adolescents, and there is a greater frequency of metastases in unusual sites such as lung or brain.[67]

Opsoclonus/myoclonus syndrome

Paraneoplastic neurologic findings, including cerebellar ataxia or opsoclonus/myoclonus, occur rarely in children with neuroblastoma.[68] Of young children presenting with opsoclonus/myoclonus syndrome, about one-half are found to have neuroblastoma.[69,70] The incidence in the United Kingdom is estimated at 0.18 cases of opsoclonus/myoclonus per 1 million children per year and the average age at diagnosis is 1.5 to 2 years.[71]

The usual presentation is the onset of progressive neurologic dysfunction over a few days before a neuroblastoma is discovered, but, occasionally, neurologic symptoms arise long after removal of the primary tumor.[69,72,73] Neuroblastoma patients who present with opsoclonus/myoclonus syndrome often have neuroblastoma with favorable biological features and have excellent survival rates, although tumor-related deaths have been reported.[69]

The opsoclonus/myoclonus syndrome appears to be caused by an immunologic mechanism that is not yet fully characterized.[69] The primary tumor is typically diffusely infiltrated with lymphocytes.[74] Cerebrospinal fluid shows increased number of B cells, and oligoclonal immunoglobulin bands are often seen. Steroid-responsive elevations of B-cell–related cytokines are also often seen.[75]

Some patients may rapidly respond neurologically to immune interventions or simply to removal of the neuroblastoma, but in many cases, improvement may be slow and partial. The improvement in acutely presenting motor deficits and ataxia seen with immunological therapy is not clearly associated with improvement in long-term neuropsychological disability, which primarily consists of cognitive and behavioral deficits. The long-term benefits of rapid improvement resulting from treatment, whether of symptoms or of the underlying neuroblastoma, are unclear, but rapid improvement appears to be worthwhile.[73,76]

Treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormones or corticosteroids can be effective for acute symptoms, but some patients do not respond to corticosteroids.[72,77] Other therapy with various immunomodulatory drugs, plasmapheresis, intravenous gamma globulin, and rituximab have been reported to be effective in select cases.[72,78-81] Combination immunosuppressive therapy has been explored, with improved short-term results.[82] The short-term neurologic outcomes may be superior in patients treated with chemotherapy, possibly because of its immunosuppressive effects.[68]

The first randomized, open-label, phase III study of patients with opsoclonus/myoclonus ataxia syndrome has been completed by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG).[83] Patients with newly diagnosed neuroblastoma and opsoclonus/myoclonus ataxia syndrome who were younger than 8 years were randomly assigned to receive either intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) or no IVIG in addition to prednisone and risk-adapted treatment of the tumor. Of the 53 patients who participated, 21 of 26 patients (81%) in the IVIG group had an opsoclonus/myoclonus ataxia syndrome response over a period of weeks to months, compared with 11 of 27 patients (41%) in the non-IVIG group (odds ratio [OR], 6.1; P = .0029). This study demonstrates that short-term neurologic response is improved in patients treated with chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and immunoglobulin, compared with patients treated with chemotherapy and corticosteroid without immunoglobulin.[83] Additional follow-up is needed to assess long-term neurodevelopment and learning problems in this population.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic evaluation of neuroblastoma includes the following:

  • Tumor imaging: Imaging of the primary tumor mass is generally accomplished by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast. Paraspinal tumors that might threaten spinal cord compression are imaged using MRI.

    Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scanning is a critical part of the standard diagnostic evaluation of neuroblastoma, for both the primary tumor and sites of metastases.[84,85] MIBG scanning is also critical to assess response to therapy.[85] About 90% of neuroblastoma cases are MIBG avid; fluorine F 18-fludeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) scans are used to evaluate extent of disease in patients with tumors that are not MIBG avid.[86] (Refer to the Stage Information for Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information about imaging of neuroblastoma.)

  • Urine catecholamine metabolites: Urinary excretion of the catecholamine metabolites VMA and HVA per milligram of excreted creatinine is measured before therapy. Collection of urine for 24 hours is not needed. If they remain elevated, these markers can be used to suggest the persistence of disease.

    In contrast to urine, serum catecholamines are not routinely used in the diagnosis of neuroblastoma except in unusual circumstances.

  • Biopsy: Tumor tissue is often needed to obtain all the biological data required for risk-group assignment and subsequent treatment stratification in current COG clinical trials. There is an absolute requirement for tissue biopsy to determine the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification (INPC). In the risk/treatment group assignment schema for COG studies, INPC has been used to determine treatment for patients with International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage 3 disease, patients with stage 4S disease, and patients aged 18 months or younger with stage 4 disease. Additionally, a significant number of tumor cells are needed to determine MYCN copy number, DNA index, and the presence of segmental chromosomal aberrations. Tissue from several core biopsies, or approximately 1 cm3 of tissue from an open biopsy, is needed for adequate biologic staging.

    For patients older than 18 months with stage 4 disease, bone marrow with extensive tumor involvement combined with elevated catecholamine metabolites may be adequate for diagnosis and assigning risk/treatment group; however, INPC cannot be determined from tumor metastatic to bone marrow. Testing for MYCN amplification may be successfully performed on involved bone marrow if there is at least 30% tumor involvement. However, every attempt should be made to obtain an adequate biopsy from the primary tumor.

    Diagnosis of fetal/neonatal neuroblastoma. In rare cases, neuroblastoma may be discovered prenatally by fetal ultrasonography.[87] Management recommendations are evolving regarding the need for immediate diagnostic biopsy in infants aged 6 months and younger with suspected neuroblastoma tumors that are likely to spontaneously regress. In a COG study of expectant observation of small adrenal masses of 3.1 cm or less in neonates, biopsy was not required for infants; 81% of patients avoided undergoing any surgery at all.[88] In a German clinical trial, 25 infants aged 3 months and younger with presumed localized neuroblastoma were observed without biopsy for periods of 1 to 18 months before biopsy or resection. There were no apparent ill effects from the delay.[89] Therefore, prenatally identified adrenal masses approximately 3.1 cm or less can be safely observed if no metastatic disease is identified and there is no involvement of large vessels or organs.[88]

The diagnosis of neuroblastoma requires the involvement of pathologists who are familiar with childhood tumors. Some neuroblastomas cannot be differentiated morphologically, via conventional light microscopy with hematoxylin and eosin staining alone, from other small round blue cell tumors of childhood, such as lymphomas, primitive neuroectodermal tumors, and rhabdomyosarcomas. In such cases, immunohistochemical and cytogenetic analysis may be needed to diagnose a specific small round blue cell tumor.

The minimum criterion for a diagnosis of neuroblastoma, as established by international agreement, is that diagnosis must be based on one of the following:

  1. An unequivocal pathologic diagnosis made from tumor tissue by light microscopy (with or without immunohistology or electron microscopy).[90]
  2. The combination of bone marrow aspirate or trephine biopsy containing unequivocal tumor cells (e.g., syncytia or immunocytologically positive clumps of cells) and increased levels of urinary catecholamine metabolites.[90]

Prognostic Factors

The prognosis for patients with neuroblastoma is related to the following:

Some of these prognostic factors have been combined to create risk groups to help define treatment. (Refer to the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Staging System section and the Children’s Oncology Group Neuroblastoma Risk Grouping section of this summary for more information.)

Treatment era

Between 1975 and 2010, the 5-year survival rate for neuroblastoma in the United States increased from 86% to 95% for children younger than 1 year and increased from 34% to 68% for children aged 1 to 14 years.[2] The 5-year overall survival (OS) for all infants and children with neuroblastoma increased from 46% when diagnosed between 1974 and 1989, to 71% when diagnosed between 1999 and 2005.[91] This single statistic can be misleading because of the extremely heterogeneous prognosis based on the patient's age, stage, and biology. However, studies demonstrate a significant improvement in survival for high-risk patients diagnosed and treated between 2000 and 2010 compared with patients diagnosed from 1990 to 1999.[92] (Refer to Table 1 for more information.)

Age at diagnosis

Infants and children

The effect of age at diagnosis on 5-year survival is profound. According to the 1975 to 2006 U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) statistics, the 5-year survival stratified by age is as follows:[91]

  • Age younger than 1 year: 90%.
  • Age 1 to 4 years: 68%.
  • Age 5 to 9 years: 52%.
  • Age 10 to 14 years: 66%.

The effect of patient age on prognosis is strongly influenced by clinical and pathobiological factors, as evidenced by the following:

  • Since 2000, nonrandomized studies of low-risk and intermediate-risk patients have demonstrated that patient age has no effect on outcome of INSS stage 1 or stage 2A disease. However, stage 2B patients younger than 18 months had a 5-year OS of 99% (± 1%) versus 90% (± 4%) for children aged 18 months and older.[93]
  • In the COG intermediate-risk study A3961 (NCT00003093) that included only MYCN nonamplified tumors, infants with INSS stage 3 tumors were compared with children with INSS stage 3 favorable-histology tumors. When INSS stage 3 infants with any histology were compared with stage 3 children with favorable histology, only EFS rates, not OS rates, were significantly different (3-year EFS, 95% ± 2% vs. 87% ± 3%; OS, 98% ± 1% vs. 99% ± 1%).[94]
  • Infants aged 18 months and younger at diagnosis with INSS stage 4 neuroblastoma who do not have MYCN gene amplification are categorized as intermediate risk and have a 3-year EFS of 81% and an OS of 93%.[6,94-97]
  • Infants younger than 12 months with INSS stage 4 disease and MYCN amplification are categorized as high risk and have a 3-year EFS of 10%.[95]
Adolescents and adults

Adolescents and adults rarely develop neuroblastoma, accounting for less than 5% of all cases. When neuroblastoma occurs in this age range, it shows a more indolent clinical course than does neuroblastoma in younger patients, and it shows de novo chemotherapy resistance.[47] Neuroblastoma has a worse long-term prognosis in adolescents older than 10 years or in adults, regardless of stage or site.

Although adolescent and young adult patients have infrequent MYCN amplification (9% in patients aged 10–21 years), older children with advanced disease have a poor rate of survival. Tumors from the adolescent and young adult population commonly have segmental chromosomal aberrations, and ALK and ATRX mutations are much more frequent.[36,37,98] In adolescents, approximately 40% of the tumors will have loss-of-function mutations in ATRX, compared with less than 20% in younger children and 0% in infants younger than 1 year.[47]

The 5-year EFS rate is 32% for patients between the ages of 10 years and 21 years, and the OS rate is 46%; for stage 4 disease, the 10-year EFS rate is 3%, and the OS rate is 5%.[99] Aggressive chemotherapy and surgery have been shown to achieve a minimal disease state in more than 50% of these patients.[67,100] Other modalities, such as local radiation therapy, autologous stem cell transplant, and the use of agents with confirmed activity, may improve the poor prognosis for adolescents and adults.[99,100]

Adults

The biology of adult-onset neuroblastoma appears to differ from the biology of pediatric or adolescent neuroblastoma based on a single-institution series of 44 patients (aged 18–71 years). Genetic abnormalities in adult patients included somatic ATRX (58%) and ALK mutations (42%) but no MYCN amplification. In the 11 patients with locoregional disease, 10-year progression-free survival (PFS) was 35%, and OS was 61%. Among 33 adults with stage 4 neuroblastoma, 7 (21%) patients achieved a complete response (CR) after induction chemotherapy and/or surgery. In patients with stage 4 disease at diagnosis, the 5-year PFS was 10% and most patients who were alive with disease at 5 years died of neuroblastoma over the next 5 years; 10-year OS was 19%. CR after induction was the only prognostic factor for PFS and OS. Anti-GD2 immunotherapy (m3F8 or hu3F8) was well tolerated in adults.[101]

Tumor histology

Neuroblastoma tumor histology has a significant impact on prognosis and risk group assignment (refer to the Cellular Classification of Neuroblastic Tumors section and Table 4 of this summary for more information).

Histologic characteristics considered prognostically favorable include the following:

  • Cellular differentiation/maturation. Higher degrees of neuroblastic maturation confer improved prognosis for stage 4 patients with segmental chromosome changes without MYCN amplification. Neuroblastoma tumors containing many differentiating cells, termed ganglioneuroblastoma, can have diffuse differentiation conferring a very favorable prognosis or can have nodules of undifferentiated cells whose histology, along with MYCN status, determine prognosis.[102,103]
  • Schwannian stroma.
  • Cystic neuroblastoma. About 25% of reported neuroblastomas diagnosed in the fetus and neonate are cystic; cystic neuroblastomas have lower stages and a higher incidence of favorable biology.[104]

High mitosis/karyorrhexis index and undifferentiated tumor cells are considered prognostically unfavorable histologic characteristics, but the prognostic value is age dependent.[105,106]

In a COG study (P9641 [NCT00003119]) investigating the effect of histology, among other factors, on outcome, 87% of 915 children with stage 1 and stage 2 neuroblastoma without MYCN amplification were treated with initial surgery and observation. Patients (13%) who had or were at risk of developing symptomatic disease, or who had less than 50% tumor resection at diagnosis, or who had unresectable progressive disease after surgery alone, were treated with chemotherapy and surgery. Those with favorable histologic features reported a 5-year EFS of 90% to 94% and OS of 99% to 100%, while those with unfavorable histology had an EFS of 80% to 86% and an OS of 89% to 93%.[93]

Biological features

(Refer to the Genomic and Biologic Features of Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information.)

Site of primary tumor

Clinical and biological features of neuroblastoma differ by primary tumor site. In a study of data on 8,389 patients entered in clinical trials and compiled by the International Risk Group Project, the following results were observed, confirming much smaller, previous studies with less complete clinical and biological data:[107]

  • Adrenal tumors. Adrenal primary tumors were more likely than tumors originating in other sites to be associated with unfavorable prognostic features, including MYCN amplification, even after researchers controlled for age, stage, and histologic grade. Adrenal neuroblastomas were also associated with a higher incidence of stage 4 tumors, segmental chromosomal aberrations, diploidy, unfavorable INPC histology, age younger than 18 months, and elevated levels of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and ferritin. The relative risk of MYCN amplification compared with adrenal tumors was 0.7 in abdominal nonadrenal tumors and about 0.1 in nonabdominal paraspinal tumors.
  • Thoracic tumors. Thoracic tumors were compared with nonthoracic tumors; after researchers controlled for age, stage, and histologic grade, results showed thoracic tumor patients had fewer deaths and recurrences (hazard ratio, 0.79; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.67–0.92) and thoracic tumors had a lower incidence of MYCN amplification (adjusted OR, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.11–0.39).

Using the Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effect Treatments (TARGET) and genome-wide association study datasets, a study compared the genomic and epigenomic data of primary diagnostic neuroblastomas originating in the adrenal gland (n = 646) with that of neuroblastomas originating in the thoracic sympathetic ganglia (n = 118). Neuroblastomas arising in the adrenal gland were more likely to harbor structural DNA aberrations such as MYCN amplification, whereas thoracic tumors showed defects in mitotic checkpoints resulting in hyperdiploidy. Thoracic tumors were more likely to harbor gain-of-function ALK aberrations than were adrenal tumors among all cases (OR, 1.89; P = .04), and among cases without MYCN amplification (OR, 2.86; P = .003). Because 16% of thoracic tumors harbor ALK mutations, routine sequencing for these mutations in this setting should be considered.[52]

It is not clear whether the effect of primary neuroblastoma tumor site on prognosis is entirely dependent on the differences in tumor biology associated with tumor site.

Multifocal neuroblastoma occurs rarely, usually in infants, and generally has a good prognosis.[108] Familial neuroblastoma and germline ALK gene mutation should be considered in patients with multiple primary neuroblastomas.

Stage of disease

Several imaged-based and surgery-based systems were used for assigning disease stage before the 1990s. In an effort to facilitate comparison of results obtained throughout the world, a surgical pathologic staging system, termed the International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS), was developed.[90] However, because surgical approaches differ from one institution to another, INSS stage for patients with locoregional disease may also vary considerably. More recently, to define extent of disease at diagnosis in a uniform manner, a presurgical International Neuroblastoma Risk Group staging system (INRGSS) was developed for the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Classification System.[30,109] The INRGSS is currently used in North American and European cooperative group studies. Unlike the INSS, the INRGSS stage is not affected by locoregional lymph node involvement.

Response to treatment

Response to treatment has been associated with outcome. In patients with high-risk disease, the persistence of neuroblastoma cells in bone marrow after induction chemotherapy, for example, is associated with a poor prognosis, which may be assessed by sensitive minimal residual disease techniques.[110-112] Similarly, the persistence of MIBG-avid tumor measured as Curie score greater than 2 (refer to the Curie score and SIOPEN score section of this summary for more information about Curie scoring) after completion of induction therapy predicts a poor prognosis for patients with MYCN-nonamplified high-risk tumors. A Curie score greater than 0 after induction therapy is associated with a worse outcome for high-risk patients with MYCN-amplified disease.[113,114]

Treatment-associated decrease in mitosis and increase in histologic differentiation of the primary tumor are also prognostic of response.[115]

The accuracy of prognostication based on decrease in primary tumor size is less clear. In a study conducted by seven large international centers, 229 high-risk patients were treated in a variety of ways, including chemotherapy, surgical removal of the primary tumor, radiation to the tumor bed, high-dose myeloablative therapy plus stem cell transplant, and, in most cases, isotretinoin and anti-GD2 antibody immunotherapy enhanced by cytokines. Primary tumor response was measured after induction chemotherapy in three ways: as 30% or greater reduction in the longest dimension, 50% or greater reduction in tumor volume, or 65% or greater reduction in tumor volume (calculated from three tumor dimensions, a conventional radiologic technique). The measurements were performed at diagnosis and after induction chemotherapy before primary tumor resection. None of the methods of measuring primary tumor response at end of induction chemotherapy were predictive of survival.[116]

Spontaneous Regression of Neuroblastoma

The phenomenon of spontaneous regression has been well described in infants with neuroblastoma, especially in infants with the 4S pattern of metastatic spread.[117] (Refer to the Stage Information for Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information.)

Spontaneous regression generally occurs only in tumors with the following features:[118]

  • Near triploid number of chromosomes.
  • No MYCN amplification.
  • No loss of chromosome 1p.

Additional features associated with spontaneous regression include the lack of telomerase expression,[119,120] the expression of the H-Ras protein,[121] and the expression of the neurotrophin receptor TrkA, a nerve growth factor receptor.[122]

Studies have suggested that selected infants who appear to have asymptomatic, small, low-stage adrenal neuroblastoma detected by screening or during prenatal or incidental ultrasonography often have tumors that spontaneously regress and may be observed safely without surgical intervention or tissue diagnosis.[123-125]

Evidence (observation [spontaneous regression]):

  1. In a COG study, 83 highly selected infants younger than 6 months with stage 1 small adrenal masses, as defined by imaging studies, were observed without biopsy. Surgical intervention was reserved for those with growth or progression of the mass or increasing concentrations of urinary catecholamine metabolites.[88]
    • Eighty-one percent of patients were spared surgery, and all were alive after 2 years of follow-up (refer to the Surgery subsection of this summary for more information).
  2. In a German clinical trial, spontaneous regression and/or lack of progression occurred in 44 of 93 asymptomatic infants aged 12 months or younger with stage 1, 2, or 3 tumors without MYCN amplification. All were observed after biopsy and partial or no resection.[89] In some cases, regression did not occur until more than 1 year after diagnosis.
  3. In neuroblastoma screening trials in Quebec and Germany, the incidence of neuroblastoma was twice that reported without screening, suggesting that many neuroblastomas are never noted and spontaneously regress.[10-12]
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  93. Strother DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Outcome after surgery alone or with restricted use of chemotherapy for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma: results of Children's Oncology Group study P9641. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1842-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  94. Baker DL, Schmidt ML, Cohn SL, et al.: Outcome after reduced chemotherapy for intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 363 (14): 1313-23, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  95. Schmidt ML, Lukens JN, Seeger RC, et al.: Biologic factors determine prognosis in infants with stage IV neuroblastoma: A prospective Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 18 (6): 1260-8, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  96. Schmidt ML, Lal A, Seeger RC, et al.: Favorable prognosis for patients 12 to 18 months of age with stage 4 nonamplified MYCN neuroblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group Study. J Clin Oncol 23 (27): 6474-80, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  97. George RE, London WB, Cohn SL, et al.: Hyperdiploidy plus nonamplified MYCN confers a favorable prognosis in children 12 to 18 months old with disseminated neuroblastoma: a Pediatric Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 23 (27): 6466-73, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  98. Mazzocco K, Defferrari R, Sementa AR, et al.: Genetic abnormalities in adolescents and young adults with neuroblastoma: A report from the Italian Neuroblastoma group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62 (10): 1725-32, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  99. Mossé YP, Deyell RJ, Berthold F, et al.: Neuroblastoma in older children, adolescents and young adults: a report from the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group project. Pediatr Blood Cancer 61 (4): 627-35, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  100. Kushner BH, Kramer K, LaQuaglia MP, et al.: Neuroblastoma in adolescents and adults: the Memorial Sloan-Kettering experience. Med Pediatr Oncol 41 (6): 508-15, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  101. Suzuki M, Kushner BH, Kramer K, et al.: Treatment and outcome of adult-onset neuroblastoma. Int J Cancer 143 (5): 1249-1258, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  102. Kubota M, Suita S, Tajiri T, et al.: Analysis of the prognostic factors relating to better clinical outcome in ganglioneuroblastoma. J Pediatr Surg 35 (1): 92-5, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  103. Peuchmaur M, d'Amore ES, Joshi VV, et al.: Revision of the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification: confirmation of favorable and unfavorable prognostic subsets in ganglioneuroblastoma, nodular. Cancer 98 (10): 2274-81, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  104. Isaacs H: Fetal and neonatal neuroblastoma: retrospective review of 271 cases. Fetal Pediatr Pathol 26 (4): 177-84, 2007 Jul-Aug. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  106. Teshiba R, Kawano S, Wang LL, et al.: Age-dependent prognostic effect by Mitosis-Karyorrhexis Index in neuroblastoma: a report from the Children's Oncology Group. Pediatr Dev Pathol 17 (6): 441-9, 2014 Nov-Dec. [PUBMED Abstract]
  107. Vo KT, Matthay KK, Neuhaus J, et al.: Clinical, biologic, and prognostic differences on the basis of primary tumor site in neuroblastoma: a report from the international neuroblastoma risk group project. J Clin Oncol 32 (28): 3169-76, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  108. Hiyama E, Yokoyama T, Hiyama K, et al.: Multifocal neuroblastoma: biologic behavior and surgical aspects. Cancer 88 (8): 1955-63, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  109. Monclair T, Brodeur GM, Ambros PF, et al.: The International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) staging system: an INRG Task Force report. J Clin Oncol 27 (2): 298-303, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  110. Burchill SA, Lewis IJ, Abrams KR, et al.: Circulating neuroblastoma cells detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA are an independent poor prognostic indicator in stage 4 neuroblastoma in children over 1 year. J Clin Oncol 19 (6): 1795-801, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  111. Seeger RC, Reynolds CP, Gallego R, et al.: Quantitative tumor cell content of bone marrow and blood as a predictor of outcome in stage IV neuroblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group Study. J Clin Oncol 18 (24): 4067-76, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  112. Bochennek K, Esser R, Lehrnbecher T, et al.: Impact of minimal residual disease detection prior to autologous stem cell transplantation for post-transplant outcome in high risk neuroblastoma. Klin Padiatr 224 (3): 139-42, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
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Cellular Classification of Neuroblastic Tumors

Neuroblastomas are classified as one of the small round blue cell tumors of childhood. They are a heterogenous group of tumors composed of cellular aggregates with different degrees of differentiation, from mature ganglioneuromas to less mature ganglioneuroblastomas to immature neuroblastomas, reflecting the varying malignant potential of these tumors.[1]

There are two cellular classification systems for neuroblastoma:

International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification (INPC) System

The INPC system involves evaluation of tumor specimens obtained before therapy for the following morphologic features:[2-6]

  • Amount of Schwannian stroma.
  • Degree of neuroblastic maturation.
  • Mitosis-karyorrhexis index of the neuroblastic cells.

Favorable and unfavorable prognoses are defined on the basis of these histologic parameters and patient age. The prognostic significance of this classification system, and of related systems using similar criteria, has been confirmed in several studies (refer to Table 1).[2-4,6]

In the future, the INPC system is likely to be replaced by a system that does not include patient age as a part of cellular classification.

Table 1. Prognostic Evaluation of Neuroblastic Tumors According to the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification (Shimada System)a
International Neuroblastoma Pathology ClassificationOriginal Shimada ClassificationPrognostic Group
MKI = mitosis-karyorrhexis index.
aReprinted with permission. Copyright © 1999 American Cancer Society. All rights reserved.[2] Hiroyuki Shimada, Inge M. Ambros, Louis P. Dehner, Jun-ichi Hata, Vijay V. Joshi, Borghild Roald, Daniel O. Stram, Robert B. Gerbing, John N. Lukens, Katherine K. Matthay, Robert P. Castleberry, The International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification (the Shimada System), Cancer, volume 86, issue 2, pages 364–72.
bSubtypes of neuroblastoma are described in detail elsewhere.[7]
cRare subtype, especially diagnosed in this age group. Further investigation and analysis required.
dPrognostic grouping for these tumor categories is not related to patient age.
Neuroblastoma: (Schwannian stroma-poor)b Stroma-poor 
 Favorable:FavorableFavorable
 <1.5 yPoorly differentiated or differentiating & low or intermediate MKI tumor  
 1.5–5 yDifferentiating & low MKI tumor  
 Unfavorable:UnfavorableUnfavorable
 <1.5 ya) undifferentiated tumorc  
b) high MKI tumor
 1.5–5 ya) undifferentiated or poorly differentiated tumor  
b) intermediate or high MKI tumor
 ≥5 yAll tumors  
Ganglioneuroblastoma, intermixed (Schwannian stroma-rich) Stroma-rich Intermixed (favorable) Favorabled
Ganglioneuroma: (Schwannian stroma-dominant)  
 Maturing  Well differentiated (favorable) Favorabled
 Mature  Ganglioneuroma 
Ganglioneuroblastoma, nodular (composite Schwannian stroma-rich/stroma-dominate and stroma-poor) Stroma-rich nodular (unfavorable) Unfavorabled

Most neuroblastomas with MYCN amplification in the INPC system also have unfavorable histology, but about 7% have favorable histology. Of neuroblastoma tumors with MYCN amplification and favorable histology, most do not express MYCN, despite the gene being amplified, and these patients have a more favorable prognosis than do patients whose tumors do express MYCN.[8]

International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Classification System

The INRG used a survival-tree analysis to compare 35 prognostic factors in more than 8,800 patients with neuroblastoma from a variety of clinical trials. The following INPC (Shimada system) histologic factors were included in the analysis:[9,10]

  • Diagnostic category.
  • Grade of differentiation.
  • Mitosis-karyorrhexis index.

Because patient age is used in all risk stratification systems, a cellular classification system that did not employ patient age was desirable, and underlying histologic criteria, rather than INPC or Shimada Classification, was used in the final decision tree. Histologic findings discriminated prognostic groups most clearly in two subsets of patients, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Histologic Discrimination of International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Subsets of Neuroblastoma Patientsa
INSS Stage/Histologic SubtypeNumber of Cases EFS (%) OS (%)
EFS = event-free survival; GN = ganglioneuroma; GNB = ganglioneuroblastoma; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System; NB = neuroblastoma; OS = overall survival.
aAdapted from Cohn et al.[9]
INSS stage 1, 2, 3, 4S 5,131 83 ± 1 91 ± 1
 GN, maturing 162 97 ± 2 98 ± 2
GNB, intermixed
NB 4,970 83 ± 1 90 ± 1
GNB, nodular
INSS stage 2, 3; age >547 d 260 69 ± 3 81 ± 2
 11q normal and differentiating 16 80 ± 16100
11q aberration or undifferentiated 49 61 ± 11 73 ± 11

The INRG histologic subsets are incorporated into the INRG Risk Classification Schema. (Refer to Table 6 in the Treatment Option Overview for Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information.)

References
  1. Joshi VV, Silverman JF: Pathology of neuroblastic tumors. Semin Diagn Pathol 11 (2): 107-17, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Shimada H, Ambros IM, Dehner LP, et al.: The International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification (the Shimada system). Cancer 86 (2): 364-72, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Shimada H, Umehara S, Monobe Y, et al.: International neuroblastoma pathology classification for prognostic evaluation of patients with peripheral neuroblastic tumors: a report from the Children's Cancer Group. Cancer 92 (9): 2451-61, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Goto S, Umehara S, Gerbing RB, et al.: Histopathology (International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification) and MYCN status in patients with peripheral neuroblastic tumors: a report from the Children's Cancer Group. Cancer 92 (10): 2699-708, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Peuchmaur M, d'Amore ES, Joshi VV, et al.: Revision of the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification: confirmation of favorable and unfavorable prognostic subsets in ganglioneuroblastoma, nodular. Cancer 98 (10): 2274-81, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Teshiba R, Kawano S, Wang LL, et al.: Age-dependent prognostic effect by Mitosis-Karyorrhexis Index in neuroblastoma: a report from the Children's Oncology Group. Pediatr Dev Pathol 17 (6): 441-9, 2014 Nov-Dec. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Shimada H, Ambros IM, Dehner LP, et al.: Terminology and morphologic criteria of neuroblastic tumors: recommendations by the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Committee. Cancer 86 (2): 349-63, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Suganuma R, Wang LL, Sano H, et al.: Peripheral neuroblastic tumors with genotype-phenotype discordance: a report from the Children's Oncology Group and the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Committee. Pediatr Blood Cancer 60 (3): 363-70, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Cohn SL, Pearson AD, London WB, et al.: The International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) classification system: an INRG Task Force report. J Clin Oncol 27 (2): 289-97, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Okamatsu C, London WB, Naranjo A, et al.: Clinicopathological characteristics of ganglioneuroma and ganglioneuroblastoma: a report from the CCG and COG. Pediatr Blood Cancer 53 (4): 563-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]

Stage Information for Neuroblastoma

Staging Evaluation

Approximately 70% of patients with neuroblastoma have metastatic disease at diagnosis. A thorough evaluation for metastatic disease is performed before therapy initiation. The studies described below are typically performed.[1]

Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan

The extent of metastatic disease is assessed by MIBG scan, which is applicable to all sites of disease, including soft tissue, bone marrow, and cortical bone. Approximately 90% of neuroblastomas will be MIBG avid. The MIBG scan has a sensitivity and specificity of 90% to 99%, and MIBG avidity is equally distributed between primary and metastatic sites.[2] Although iodine I 123 (123I) has a shorter half-life, it is preferred over 131I because of its lower radiation dose, better quality images, reduced thyroid toxicity, and lower cost.

Imaging with 123I-MIBG is optimal for identifying soft tissue and bony metastases and was shown to be superior to positron emission tomography–computed tomography (PET-CT) in one prospective comparison.[3] In a retrospective review of 132 children with neuroblastoma, technetium Tc 99m-methylene diphosphonate (99mTc-MDP) bone scintigraphy failed to identify unique sites of metastatic disease that would change the disease stage or clinical management determined using 123I-MIBG or PET scanning. It was concluded that bone scans can be omitted in most cases.[4]

Baseline MIBG scans performed at diagnosis provide an excellent method for monitoring disease response and performing posttherapy surveillance.[5] A retrospective analysis of paired 123I-MIBG and PET scans in 60 patients with newly diagnosed neuroblastoma demonstrated that for International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage 1 and stage 2 patients, PET was superior at determining the extent of primary disease and more sensitive for detection of residual masses. In contrast, for stage 4 disease, 123I-MIBG imaging was superior for the detection of bone marrow and bony metastases.[6]

Curie and SIOPEN scoring methods

Multiple groups have investigated a semiquantitative scoring method to evaluate disease extent and prognostic value. The most common scoring methods in use for evaluation of disease extent and response are the Curie and the International Society of Paediatric Oncology Europe Neuroblastoma (SIOPEN) methods.

  • Curie scoring method: The Curie score is a semiquantitative scoring system developed to predict the extent and severity of MIBG-avid disease. The use of the Curie scoring system was assessed as a prognostic marker for response and survival with MIBG-avid, stage 4, newly diagnosed, high-risk neuroblastoma (N = 280), treated on the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) protocol COG-A3973 (NCT00004188). For patients with MYCN-nonamplified neuroblastoma, a postinduction chemotherapy Curie score greater than 2 was associated with a higher risk of an event, independent of other known neuroblastoma clinical and biological factors, including age, MYCN status, ploidy, mitosis-karyorrhexis index, and histologic grade.[7] For patients with MYCN-amplified tumors, a postinduction Curie score greater than 0 was associated with worse outcomes.

    The prognostic significance of postinduction Curie scores has been validated in an independent cohort of patients.[8] A retrospective study of Curie scoring of 123I-MIBG scans obtained from high-risk patients who had been prospectively enrolled in the SIOPEN/HR-NBL1 (NCT00030719) trial was performed. Scans of ten anatomic regions were evaluated, with each region being scored 0 to 3 on the basis of disease extent, and a cumulative Curie score generated. The optimal prognostic cut point for Curie score at diagnosis was 12 in SIOPEN/HR-NBL1, with a significant outcome difference by Curie score noted (5-year event-free survival [EFS], 43.0% ± 5.7% [Curie score ≤12] vs. 21.4% ± 3.6% [Curie score >12], P < .0001). The optimal Curie score cut point after induction chemotherapy was 2 in SIOPEN/HR-NBL1, with a postinduction Curie score of greater than 2 being associated with an inferior outcome (5-year EFS, 39.2% ± 4.7% [Curie score ≤2] vs. 16.4% ± 4.2% [Curie score >2], P < .0001). The postinduction Curie score maintained independent statistical significance in Cox models when adjusted for the covariates of age and MYCN gene copy number.[8]

  • SIOPEN scoring method: SIOPEN independently developed an MIBG scan scoring system that, compared with the Curie scoring system, divided the body into 12 segments, rather than 10 segments, and assigned six degrees, rather than four degrees, of MIBG uptake in each segment.[9] Subsequently, the SIOPEN scoring system was independently validated using data from a second large clinical trial.[10]

The German Pediatric Oncology Group compared the prognostic value of the Curie and SIOPEN scoring methods in a retrospective study of 58 patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma who were older than 1 year. They demonstrated very similar results. At diagnosis, a Curie score of 2 or lower and a SIOPEN score of 4 or lower (best cutoff) at diagnosis correlated with significantly better EFS and overall survival (OS) rates, compared with higher scores. After four cycles of induction chemotherapy, patients with a complete response by SIOPEN and Curie scoring had a better outcome than did patients with residual uptake in metastases; however, subsequent resolution of MIBG-positive metastases occurring between the fourth and sixth cycles of chemotherapy did not affect prognosis.[11]

The cited clinical trials did not include postinduction-phase assessments of Curie or SIOPEN scores after transplant and immunotherapy, and cutoffs and outcomes associated with those assessments may differ from the preinduction and postinduction scores.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

Fluorine F 18-fludeoxyglucose PET scans are used to evaluate extent of disease in patients with tumors that are not MIBG avid.[6]

Other staging tests and procedures

Other tests and procedures used to stage neuroblastoma include the following:

  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: Bone marrow is assessed by bilateral iliac crest marrow aspirates and trephine (core) bone marrow biopsies to exclude bone marrow involvement. To be considered adequate, core biopsy specimens must contain at least 1 cm of marrow, excluding cartilage. Many COG studies require two core biopsies and two aspirates. Bone marrow sampling may not be necessary for tumors that are otherwise stage 1.[12]
  • Lymph node assessment: Palpable lymph nodes are clinically examined and histologically confirmed if INSS staging is used to evaluate extent of disease.[1] CT, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or both are used to assess lymph nodes in regions that are not readily identified by physical examination. The International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) staging system does not require lymph node assessment, although lymph node masses can affect image-defined risk factors (IDRFs) (refer to the lists of IDRFs [original IDRFs and COG IDRFs]).
  • CT and MRI scan:
    • Three-dimensional (3-D) imaging of the primary tumor and potential lymph node drainage sites is done using CT scans and/or MRI scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. Ultrasonography is generally considered suboptimal for accurate 3-D measurements.
    • Paraspinal tumors may extend through neural foramina to compress the spinal cord. Therefore, MRI of the spine adjacent to any paraspinal tumor is part of the staging evaluation.
    • A brain/orbit CT and/or MRI is performed if clinically indicated by examination and/or uptake on MIBG scan.

Lumbar puncture is avoided because central nervous system (CNS) metastasis at diagnosis is rare,[13] and lumbar puncture may be associated with an increased incidence of subsequent development of CNS metastasis.[14]

International Neuroblastoma Staging Systems

International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS)

The INSS combines certain features from each of the previously used Evans and Pediatric Oncology Group staging systems [1,15] and is described in Table 3. This system represented the first step in harmonizing disease staging and risk stratification worldwide. The INSS is a surgical staging system that was developed in 1988 and is used to assess the extent of resection in staging patients. This led to some variability in stage assignments in different countries because of regional differences in surgical strategy and, potentially, because of limited access to experienced pediatric surgeons. As a result of further advances in the understanding of neuroblastoma biology and genetics, a risk classification system was developed that incorporates clinical and biological factors in addition to INSS stage to facilitate risk group and treatment assignment for COG studies.[1,15-17]

Table 3. The International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS)
Stage/Prognostic GroupDescription
MIBG = metaiodobenzylguanidine.
Stage 1Localized tumor with complete gross excision, with or without microscopic residual disease; representative ipsilateral lymph nodes negative for tumor microscopically (i.e., nodes attached to and removed with the primary tumor may be positive).
Stage 2A Localized tumor with incomplete gross excision; representative ipsilateral nonadherent lymph nodes negative for tumor microscopically.
Stage 2BLocalized tumor with or without complete gross excision, with ipsilateral nonadherent lymph nodes positive for tumor. Enlarged contralateral lymph nodes must be negative microscopically
Stage 3 Unresectable unilateral tumor infiltrating across the midline, with or without regional lymph node involvement; or localized unilateral tumor with contralateral regional lymph node involvement; or midline tumor with bilateral extension by infiltration (unresectable) or by lymph node involvement. The midline is defined as the vertebral column. Tumors originating on one side and crossing the midline must infiltrate to or beyond the opposite side of the vertebral column.
Stage 4Any primary tumor with dissemination to distant lymph nodes, bone, bone marrow, liver, skin, and/or other organs, except as defined for stage 4S.
Stage 4SLocalized primary tumor, as defined for stage 1, 2A, or 2B, with dissemination limited to skin, liver, and/or bone marrow (by definition limited to infants younger than 12 months).[18] Marrow involvement should be minimal (i.e., <10% of total nucleated cells identified as malignant by bone biopsy or by bone marrow aspirate). More extensive bone marrow involvement would be considered stage 4 disease. The results of the MIBG scan, if performed, should be negative for disease in the bone marrow.

The COG Neuroblastoma Risk Grouping that incorporates INSS is described in Table 6 found in the Treatment Option Overview for Neuroblastoma section of this summary.

A study from the INRG database identified 146 patients with distant metastases limited to lymph nodes, termed stage 4N, who tended to have favorable-biology disease and a good outcome (5-year OS, 85%), which suggests that less-intensive therapy might be considered.[19]

International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Staging System (INRGSS)

The INRGSS is a preoperative staging system that was developed specifically for the INRG classification system (refer to Table 4). This staging system has replaced the INSS in active COG and SIOPEN clinical trials. The extent of disease is determined by the presence or absence of IDRFs and/or metastatic tumor at the time of diagnosis, before any treatment or surgery. IDRFs are surgical risk factors, detected by imaging, which could potentially make total tumor excision risky or difficult at the time of diagnosis and increase the risk of surgical complications.

Table 4. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Staging Systema
StageDescription
IDRFs = image-defined risk factors; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System.
aAdapted from Monclair et al.[20]; [21]
L1Localized tumor not involving vital structures as defined by the list of IDRFsa and confined to one body compartment.
L2Locoregional tumor with presence of one or more IDRFs.a
M Distant metastatic disease (except stage MS).
MSMetastatic disease in children younger than 18 months with metastases confined to skin, liver, and/or bone marrow. The primary tumor can be INSS stage 1, 2, or 3.

IDRFs, as defined in the original literature, include the following:[20]

  • Ipsilateral tumor extension within two body compartments: neck and chest; chest and abdomen; abdomen and pelvis.
  • Infiltration of adjacent organs/structures: pericardium, diaphragm, kidney, liver, duodenopancreatic block, mesentery.
  • Encasement of major vessels by tumor: vertebral artery, internal jugular vein, subclavian vessels, carotid artery, aorta, vena cava, major thoracic vessels, branches of the superior mesenteric artery at its root and the coeliac axis, iliac vessels.
  • Compression of trachea or central bronchi.
  • Encasement of brachial plexus.
  • Infiltration of portohepatic or hepatoduodenal ligament.
  • Infiltration of the costovertebral junction between T9 and T12.
  • Tumor crossing the sciatic notch.
  • Tumor invading renal pedicle.
  • Extension of tumor to base of skull.
  • Intraspinal tumor extension such that more than one-third of the spinal canal is invaded, leptomeningeal space is obliterated, or spinal cord MRI signal is abnormal.

COG IDRFs, using an anatomic localization approach, include the following:[21,22]

  • Neck/cervicothoracic junction: Tumor encasing brachial plexus roots; tumor encasing subclavian vessels and/or vertebral and/or carotid artery; tumor compressing the trachea.
  • Thorax: Tumor encasing the aorta and/or major branches; tumor compressing the trachea and/or principal bronchi; lower mediastinal tumor, infiltrating the costovertebral junction between T9 and T12; significant pleural effusion with or without presence of malignant cells.
  • Thoracoabdominal: Tumor encasing the aorta and/or vena cava.
  • Abdomen/pelvis: Tumor infiltrating the porta hepatis; tumor infiltrating the branches of the superior mesenteric artery at the mesenteric root; tumor encasing the origin of the celiac axis, and/or of the superior mesenteric artery; tumor invading one or both renal pedicles; tumor encasing the aorta and/or vena cava; tumor encasing the iliac vessels; pelvic tumor crossing the sciatic notch; ascites with or without presence of malignant cells.
  • Dumbbell tumors with symptoms of spinal cord compression.
  • Any localization involvement/infiltration of adjacent organs/structures: Pericardium, diaphragm, kidney, liver, duodenopancreatic block, mesentery, and others.

Assessment of surgical resectability should include IDRFs. The more IDRFs present, the higher the morbidity of the operation and the lower the chance of complete resection.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is not always effective in eliminating IDRFs, as seen in a retrospective study in the European Unresectable Neuroblastoma trial from 2001 to 2006 that examined data from 143 patients with INSS stage 3 neuroblastoma who were older than 1 year without MYCN amplification. All patients had surgical risk factors that deemed the tumors unresectable. In a centrally reviewed subset, unfavorable histology by International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification was found in 53% of patients. At diagnosis, 228 IDRFs were identified.[22]; [23][Level of evidence: 3iiA]

  • After four cycles of chemotherapy with carboplatin/etoposide alternating with vincristine/cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin, only 32.2% of patients demonstrated resolution of the IDRFs, 49% of patients showed no change in IDRFs, and 18.8% of patients developed new IDRFs.
  • Complete resection was possible in 71.2% of patients in whom the IDRFs were reduced or disappeared. Complete or near complete resection was achieved in 84% of patients (37 of 44) whose IDRFs decreased or disappeared. Complete or near complete resection was achieved in 70% of patients (39 of 56) who had stable IDRFs and in 52% of patients (13 of 25) who had new IDRFs appear.
  • No significant differences were observed in EFS or OS on the basis of the response of the IDRF to chemotherapy and surgical outcomes. There was no association between type of IDRF before surgery and extent of resection.
  • When the tumor was wrapped around the superior mesenteric artery and/or celiac axis, disease-free survival (DFS) and OS were impacted (perhaps because of the difficulty in achieving a complete resection in these areas).
  • Prolonged chemotherapy with more than five courses did not aid in the reduction of IDRFs and was associated with a lower DFS and OS.

The INRGSS has incorporated this staging system into a risk grouping system using multiple other parameters at diagnosis.[24] (Refer to Table 6 in the Treatment Option Overview for Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information.)

The INRGSS simplifies stages into L1, L2, M, or MS (refer to Table 4 and the lists of IDRFs [original IDRFs and COG IDRFs] for more information). Localized tumors are classified as stage L1 or L2 disease on the basis of whether one or more of the 20 IDRFs are present.[20] For example, in the case of spinal cord compression, an IDRF is present when more than one-third of the spinal canal in the axial plane is invaded, when the leptomeningeal spaces are not visible, or when the spinal cord magnetic resonance signal intensity is abnormal. The INRG collaboration has also defined techniques for detecting and quantifying neuroblastoma in bone marrow, both at diagnosis and after treatment. Quantification of bone marrow metastatic disease may result in more accurate assessment of response to treatment, but has not yet been applied to any clinical trials.[25]

By combining the INRGSS, preoperative image-defined IDRFs, and biological factors, each patient is assigned a risk stage that predicts outcome and dictates the appropriate treatment approach. The validity of the INRGSS was explored in the following retrospective studies of localized neuroblastoma with previously defined INSS stage without MYCN amplification:

  • In the first study, using data from a SIOPEN trial, L2 tumors were found in INSS stage 1 (21%), stage 2 (45%), and stage 3 (94%) patients. The INRGSS had predictive value for outcomes, with stage L1 having a 5-year EFS of 90% and OS of 96%, versus 79% EFS and 89% OS for L2.[20]
  • In the second study, using data from the European multicenter study LNESG1, a trial of primary surgery followed by observation performed between 1995 and 1999, 291 children had L1 tumors and all underwent primary surgery. Of the L2 patients, 118 had primary surgery and 125 had no surgery (106 of the latter group received neoadjuvant chemotherapy).[26]
    • Five-year EFS and OS was 92% and 98% for the L1 group, 86% and 95% for the L2 with primary surgery group, and 73% and 83% for the L2 without primary surgery group.
    • It should be noted that many children with L2 tumors underwent primary surgery and had an outcome significantly superior to that of children who underwent biopsy only as the initial operative procedure (5-year OS of 93% vs. 83%). The L2 tumors that underwent primary resection may have been selected for less-risky resectability. However, these children also had a 17% rate of operative complications (vs. 5% in L1 resections).
    • In patients who underwent primary surgery, those with operative complications had a lower OS (92% vs. 97%, P = .05), but this effect on outcome was statistically significant only in patients with L1 tumors.
    • For L2 patients, the operative complications were not statistically related to the IDRFs.[26]

Most international protocols have begun to incorporate the collection and use of IDRFs in risk stratification and assignment of therapy.[27,28] The COG has been collecting and evaluating INRGSS data since 2006. A COG trial that opened in 2014 uses the INRGSS along with input from the surgeon to determine therapy for subsets of patients not at high risk, including those with L1, L2, and MS disease (ANBL1232 [NCT02176967]). Note that the INSS allows patients up to age 12 months to be classified as stage 4S, while the INRGSS allows patients up to age 18 months to be staged as MS. The primary tumor in INSS stage 4S must be INSS stage 1 or 2, while the primary tumor in MS can be INSS stage 3. In August 2018, a COG study for subsets of high-risk patients was opened (ANBL1531 [NCT03126916]). Eligible patients include those with stage M disease older than 547 days, stage M patients younger than 547 days with MYCN amplification, and patients of any age with stage L2 or MS disease with MYCN amplification. It is anticipated that the use of standardized nomenclature will contribute substantially to more uniform staging and thereby facilitate comparisons of clinical trials conducted in different parts of the world.

References
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  2. Howman-Giles R, Shaw PJ, Uren RF, et al.: Neuroblastoma and other neuroendocrine tumors. Semin Nucl Med 37 (4): 286-302, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Papathanasiou ND, Gaze MN, Sullivan K, et al.: 18F-FDG PET/CT and 123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine imaging in high-risk neuroblastoma: diagnostic comparison and survival analysis. J Nucl Med 52 (4): 519-25, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Gauguet JM, Pace-Emerson T, Grant FD, et al.: Evaluation of the utility of (99m) Tc-MDP bone scintigraphy versus MIBG scintigraphy and cross-sectional imaging for staging patients with neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 64 (11): , 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Kushner BH, Kramer K, Modak S, et al.: Sensitivity of surveillance studies for detecting asymptomatic and unsuspected relapse of high-risk neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1041-6, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Sharp SE, Shulkin BL, Gelfand MJ, et al.: 123I-MIBG scintigraphy and 18F-FDG PET in neuroblastoma. J Nucl Med 50 (8): 1237-43, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Yanik GA, Parisi MT, Shulkin BL, et al.: Semiquantitative mIBG scoring as a prognostic indicator in patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma: a report from the Children's oncology group. J Nucl Med 54 (4): 541-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Yanik GA, Parisi MT, Naranjo A, et al.: Validation of Postinduction Curie Scores in High-Risk Neuroblastoma: A Children's Oncology Group and SIOPEN Group Report on SIOPEN/HR-NBL1. J Nucl Med 59 (3): 502-508, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Lewington V, Lambert B, Poetschger U, et al.: 123I-mIBG scintigraphy in neuroblastoma: development of a SIOPEN semi-quantitative reporting ,method by an international panel. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging 44 (2): 234-241, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Ladenstein R, Lambert B, Pötschger U, et al.: Validation of the mIBG skeletal SIOPEN scoring method in two independent high-risk neuroblastoma populations: the SIOPEN/HR-NBL1 and COG-A3973 trials. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging 45 (2): 292-305, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Decarolis B, Schneider C, Hero B, et al.: Iodine-123 metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy scoring allows prediction of outcome in patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma: results of the Cologne interscore comparison study. J Clin Oncol 31 (7): 944-51, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Russell HV, Golding LA, Suell MN, et al.: The role of bone marrow evaluation in the staging of patients with otherwise localized, low-risk neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 45 (7): 916-9, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. DuBois SG, Kalika Y, Lukens JN, et al.: Metastatic sites in stage IV and IVS neuroblastoma correlate with age, tumor biology, and survival. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 21 (3): 181-9, 1999 May-Jun. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. Kramer K, Kushner B, Heller G, et al.: Neuroblastoma metastatic to the central nervous system. The Memorial Sloan-kettering Cancer Center Experience and A Literature Review. Cancer 91 (8): 1510-9, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Brodeur GM, Seeger RC, Barrett A, et al.: International criteria for diagnosis, staging, and response to treatment in patients with neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 6 (12): 1874-81, 1988. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Castleberry RP, Shuster JJ, Smith EI: The Pediatric Oncology Group experience with the international staging system criteria for neuroblastoma. Member Institutions of the Pediatric Oncology Group. J Clin Oncol 12 (11): 2378-81, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Ikeda H, Iehara T, Tsuchida Y, et al.: Experience with International Neuroblastoma Staging System and Pathology Classification. Br J Cancer 86 (7): 1110-6, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Taggart DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Prognostic value of the stage 4S metastatic pattern and tumor biology in patients with metastatic neuroblastoma diagnosed between birth and 18 months of age. J Clin Oncol 29 (33): 4358-64, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Morgenstern DA, London WB, Stephens D, et al.: Metastatic neuroblastoma confined to distant lymph nodes (stage 4N) predicts outcome in patients with stage 4 disease: A study from the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Database. J Clin Oncol 32 (12): 1228-35, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. Monclair T, Brodeur GM, Ambros PF, et al.: The International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) staging system: an INRG Task Force report. J Clin Oncol 27 (2): 298-303, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Brisse HJ, McCarville MB, Granata C, et al.: Guidelines for imaging and staging of neuroblastic tumors: consensus report from the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Project. Radiology 261 (1): 243-57, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Chen AM, Trout AT, Towbin AJ: A review of neuroblastoma image-defined risk factors on magnetic resonance imaging. Pediatr Radiol 48 (9): 1337-1347, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Avanzini S, Pio L, Erminio G, et al.: Image-defined risk factors in unresectable neuroblastoma: SIOPEN study on incidence, chemotherapy-induced variation, and impact on surgical outcomes. Pediatr Blood Cancer 64 (11): , 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Burchill SA, Beiske K, Shimada H, et al.: Recommendations for the standardization of bone marrow disease assessment and reporting in children with neuroblastoma on behalf of the International Neuroblastoma Response Criteria Bone Marrow Working Group. Cancer 123 (7): 1095-1105, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Monclair T, Mosseri V, Cecchetto G, et al.: Influence of image-defined risk factors on the outcome of patients with localised neuroblastoma. A report from the LNESG1 study of the European International Society of Paediatric Oncology Neuroblastoma Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62 (9): 1536-42, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Cecchetto G, Mosseri V, De Bernardi B, et al.: Surgical risk factors in primary surgery for localized neuroblastoma: the LNESG1 study of the European International Society of Pediatric Oncology Neuroblastoma Group. J Clin Oncol 23 (33): 8483-9, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Simon T, Hero B, Benz-Bohm G, et al.: Review of image defined risk factors in localized neuroblastoma patients: Results of the GPOH NB97 trial. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (5): 965-9, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment Option Overview for Neuroblastoma

Most children with neuroblastoma in North America have been treated according to the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) risk-group assignment, even if they were not enrolled in a COG study. In contrast, in the ongoing COG studies, the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) risk grouping is used to assign treatment. Because the older system is still being used by some physicians to plan treatment, the treatments described in this summary are based on both the INRG risk grouping using the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Staging System (INRGSS) and the 2007 COG risk stratification system that uses the International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS), as described in the COG biology study ANBL00B1 (NCT00904241). The COG is in the process of revising the COG risk stratification schema and the next version will be based on the INRGSS.

In the previous COG risk system, each child was assigned to a low-risk, intermediate-risk, or high-risk group (refer to Tables 7, 10, and 13 for more information) on the basis of the following factors:[1-6]

  • INSS stage.
  • Age.
  • International Neuroblastoma Pathologic Classification (INPC).
  • Ploidy.
  • Amplification of the MYCN oncogene within tumor tissue.[1-6]

Other biological factors that influenced treatment selection in previous COG studies included unbalanced 11q loss of heterozygosity and loss of heterozygosity for chromosome 1p.[7,8] However, in 2012, the COG Neuroblastoma Committee defined favorable genomics, for purposes of risk assignment, as hyperdiploid neuroblastoma cells without segmental copy number aberrations, including no loss of copy number at 1p, 3p, 4p, or 11q and no gain of copy number at 1q, 2p, or 17q. This does not correspond to the INRGSS, which only includes 11q abnormalities; however, the criteria may change in future versions.

Generally, treatment is based on whether the tumor is classified as low, intermediate, or high risk, as follows:

  • Low risk. For patients with low-risk tumors, the approach is either observation or resection, with chemotherapy restricted to symptomatic patients with low-risk biology. Five-year overall survival (OS) was 97% in a large COG study.[9] The ongoing COG study is looking at the reduction of therapy in a limited subset of patients with low-risk tumors.
  • Intermediate risk. For patients with intermediate-risk tumors, chemotherapy is often given before definitive resection, and the number of chemotherapy cycles is based on clinical and tumor biological risk factors and response to therapy. In recent studies, select patients have been observed without undergoing chemotherapy or attempted resection. The 3-year OS rate for intermediate-risk patients was about 96% in a large COG study.[10] The current focus of ongoing studies is to decrease the intensity of chemotherapy in a limited subset of intermediate-risk children to further diminish side effects.
  • High risk. For high-risk patients, treatment has intensified to include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, myeloablative therapy and stem cell transplant (SCT), isotretinoin, and immunotherapy, resulting in survival rates of about 50%. Statistically significant improvement in survival was observed in a randomized phase III COG study (ANBL0532 [NCT00567567]) with tandem cycles of myeloablative therapy with SCT compared with a single cycle of myeloablative therapy and SCT among patients, all of whom received immunotherapy.[11]

Table 5 describes the treatment options for low-risk, intermediate-risk, high-risk, stage 4S, and recurrent neuroblastoma by INSS-based risk group.

Table 5. Treatment Options for Neuroblastoma
COG Risk-Group Assignment Treatment Options
COG = Children's Oncology Group; GM-CSF = granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor; 131I-MIBG = iodine I 131-metaiodobenzylguanidine; SCT = stem cell transplant.
Low-Risk NeuroblastomaSurgery followed by observation.
Chemotherapy with or without surgery (for symptomatic disease or unresectable progressive disease after surgery).
Observation without biopsy (for perinatal neuroblastoma with small adrenal tumors).
Radiation therapy (only for emergency therapy).
Intermediate-Risk NeuroblastomaChemotherapy with or without surgery.
Surgery and observation (in infants).
Radiation therapy.
High-Risk NeuroblastomaA regimen of chemotherapy, surgery, tandem cycles of myeloablative therapy and SCT, radiation therapy, and dinutuximab, with interleukin-2/GM-CSF and isotretinoin.
Stage 4S/MS NeuroblastomaObservation with supportive care (for asymptomatic patients with favorable tumor biology).
Chemotherapy (for symptomatic patients, very young infants, or those with unfavorable biology).
Radiation therapy (rarely for patients with symptoms related to hepatomegaly from metastatic disease).
Recurrent NeuroblastomaLocoregional recurrence in patients initially classified as low riskSurgery followed by observation or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy that may be followed by surgery.
Metastatic recurrence in patients initially classified as low riskObservation (if metastatic disease is in a 4S pattern in an infant).
Chemotherapy.
Surgery followed by chemotherapy.
High-risk therapy.
Locoregional recurrence in patients initially classified as intermediate riskSurgery (complete resection).
Surgery (incomplete resection) followed by chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy (only for patients with disease progression after chemotherapy and second-look surgery).
Metastatic recurrence in patients initially classified as intermediate riskHigh-risk therapy.
Recurrence in patients initially classified as high risk Chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy.
131I-MIBG alone, in combination with other therapy, or followed by stem cell rescue.
ALK inhibitors.
Chemotherapy.
Recurrence in the central nervous systemSurgery and radiation therapy.
Novel therapeutic approaches.

Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Neuroblastoma Risk Grouping

The treatment sections of this summary are organized to correspond with the COG risk-based treatment plan that assigned all patients to a low-, intermediate-, or high-risk group. The COG risk-based treatment plan is in use for the ongoing ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) COG study, while the ANBL1531 (NCT03126916) study of high-risk neuroblastoma is based on the INRG risk grouping. This risk-based schema was based on the following factors:

  • Patient age at diagnosis.
  • Certain biological characteristics of the tumor, which included MYCN status and genomic segmental aberrations, INPC histopathology classification, and tumor DNA index.
  • Stage of the tumor as defined by the INSS.

Table 7 (in the Treatment of Low-Risk Neuroblastoma section), Table 10 (in the Treatment of Intermediate-Risk Neuroblastoma section), and Table 13 (in the Treatment of High-Risk Neuroblastoma section) describe the risk-group assignment criteria used to assign treatment in the low-risk COG-P9641 trial, the intermediate-risk COG-A3961 and ANBL0531 (NCT00499616) trials, and the high-risk COG-A3973 and ANBL0532 (NCT00567567) studies.

Assessment of risk for low-stage MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma is controversial because it is so rare. A study of 87 patients with INSS stage 1 and stage 2 neuroblastoma pooled from several clinical trial groups demonstrated no effect of age, stage, or initial treatment on outcome. The event-free survival (EFS) rate was 53% and the OS rate was 72%. Survival was superior in patients whose tumors were hyperdiploid, rather than diploid (EFS, 82% ± 20% vs. 37% ± 21%; OS, 94% ± 11% vs. 54% ± 15%).[12] The overall EFS and OS for infants with stage 4 and 4S disease and MYCN amplification was only 30% at 2 to 5 years after treatment in a European study.[13] The COG considers infants with stage 4 and stage 4S disease with MYCN amplification to be at high risk.[4]

International Neuroblastoma Risk Grouping

The INRG classification schema assigns neuroblastoma patients to one of 16 pretreatment risk groups on the basis of INRG stage, age, histologic category, grade of tumor differentiation, MYCN amplification, 11q aberration (the only segmental chromosomal aberration studied), and ploidy. Four levels of risk were defined according to outcomes among 8,800 patients with high-quality data, as they had been entered in clinical trials (refer to Table 6). In the overall risk grouping, histology is an important risk determinant for all stage L1 and L2 tumors, and grade of differentiation discriminates among neuroblastomas and nodular ganglioneuroblastomas in patients older than 18 months. The goals of the INRG are to develop shared data from the patients in clinical trials and to define risk groups for future trials.[14]

Table 6. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Pretreatment Classification Schemaa
INRG StageHistologic CategoryGrade of Tumor DifferentiationMYCN11q AberrationPloidyPretreatment Risk Group
GN = ganglioneuroma; GNB = ganglioneuroblastoma; NA = not amplified.
aReprinted with permission. © (2015) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. Pinto N et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma, J Clin Oncol 33 (27), 2015: 3008–3017.[15]
L1/L2GN maturing, GNB intermixed    A (very low)
L1Any, except GN maturing or GNB intermixed NA  B (very low)
Amplified  K (high)
L2 
 Age <18 moAny, except GN maturing or GNB intermixed NANo  D (low)
Yes G (intermediate)
 Age ≥18 moGNB nodular neuroblastomaDifferentiatingNANo  E (low)
Yes H (intermediate)
Poorly differentiated or undifferentiatedNA   H (intermediate)
Amplified  N (high)
M 
 Age <18 mo  NA HyperdiploidF (low)
 Age <12 mo  NA DiploidI (intermediate)
 Age 12 to <18 mo  NA DiploidJ (intermediate)
 Age <18 mo  Amplified  O (high)
 Age ≥18 mo     P (high)
MS 
 Age <18 mo  NANo C (very low)
Yes Q (high)
Amplified  R (high)

Controversy exists regarding the current COG risk grouping system, the INRG Risk Grouping Schema, and the treatment of certain small subsets of patients.[16-18] Risk group definitions of very low-, low-, intermediate-, and high-risk subsets and the recommended treatments are expected to evolve as new biomarkers are identified and additional outcome data are analyzed. For example, the risk group assignment for INSS stage 4 neuroblastoma in patients aged 12 to 18 months changed in 2005 for those whose tumors had single-copy MYCN and all favorable biological features; these patients had been previously classified as high risk, but data from both Pediatric Oncology Group and Children's Cancer Group studies suggested that this subgroup of patients could be successfully treated as intermediate risk.[19-21] Future versions of the INRG are expected to contain more tumor genomic criteria to help assign risk.[15]

Revised International Neuroblastoma Response Criteria (INRC)

In COG clinical trials, before therapy can be stopped after the initially planned number of cycles, certain response criteria, depending on risk group and treatment assignment, must be met.[22-24] The revised INRC depend on the use of three-dimensional (3-D) imaging combined with the following:

  • Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan. MIBG scanning for primary tumor, bone, and lymph node or soft tissue metastases.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scans are used instead of MIBG in the 10% of patients with MIBG non-avid tumors.

Technetium Tc 99m (99mTc) bone scans are no longer used, because a retrospective study of 132 patients who received both MIBG and 99mTc scans showed no staging benefit.[25]

Overall response in the revised INRC integrates tumor response of the primary tumor, bone marrow, and soft tissue and bone metastases. Primary and metastatic soft tissue sites are assessed using Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) and iodine I 123 (123I)-MIBG scans or fluorine F 18-fludeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) PET scans if the tumor is MIBG non-avid. Bone marrow is assessed by histology, immunohistochemistry and cytology, or immunocytology with the help of immunorecognition tools. Bone marrow with less than 5% tumor involvement is classified as minimal disease. Urinary catecholamine levels are not included in response assessment.[24]

The overall INRC response criteria are defined as follows:[22,23]

  • Complete Response: No evidence of disease, including resolution of MIBG uptake (or PET scan positivity in MIBG non-avid disease) in any location of soft tissue or bone, with less than 10 mm remaining on 3-D imaging of primary tumor; target lymph nodes less than 10 mm in short dimension; and no histologic tumor in two bone marrow biopsies and two bone marrow aspirates.
  • Partial Response: 30% or more decrease in longest diameter of primary site and no new lesions and MIBG (or 18F-FDG PET) stable or improved and at least a 50% reduction in absolute MIBG bone score or a 50% or greater reduction in number of 18F-FDG PET-avid bone lesions.
  • Minor Response: Partial response or complete response of at least one component of disease, but at least one other component with stable disease and no component with progressive disease.
  • Progressive Disease: Any new lesion; increase in longest diameter in any measurable lesion by 20% and increase of at least 5 mm in longest diameter; previous negative bone marrow now positive for tumor; any new soft tissue lesion that is MIBG (or 18F-FDG PET) avid or positive by biopsy; a new avid bone site; or increase in relative MIBG score of 1.25% or greater.
  • Stable Disease: Neither sufficient shrinkage for partial response nor sufficient increase for progressive disease and may have greater than 5% tumor infiltration as defined in minimal disease.

Care should be taken in interpreting the development of metastatic disease in an infant who was initially considered to have stage 1 or 2 disease. If the pattern of metastases in such a patient is consistent with a 4S pattern of disease (involvement of skin, liver, and/or bone marrow, the latter less than 10% involved), these patients are not classified as having progressive/metastatic disease, which would typically be a criterion for removal from protocol therapy. Instead, these patients are managed as stage 4S patients.

Controversy exists regarding the necessity of measuring the primary tumor response in all three dimensions or whether the single longest dimension, as in RECIST tumor response determination, is equally useful.[26] The latter has been adopted for use in the INRC.

Surgery

In patients without metastatic disease, the standard of care is to perform an initial surgery, on the basis of the stage and the risk group, to accomplish the following:

  • Obtain tissue for diagnosis.
  • Resect as much of the primary tumor as is safely possible. This is most appropriate for low-risk (excluding prenatally diagnosed infants) and intermediate-risk disease.
  • Accurately stage disease through sampling of regional lymph nodes that are not adherent to the tumor. This is most appropriate for non–high-risk patients undergoing resection at the time of diagnosis. Lymph node involvement alone is not used to discriminate between L1 and L2 disease.

The COG reported that expectant observation in infants younger than 6 months with small (L1) adrenal masses resulted in an excellent EFS and OS while avoiding surgical intervention in a large majority of patients.[27] According to the surgical guidelines described in the intermediate-risk neuroblastoma clinical trial (ANBL0531 [NCT00499616]), the primary tumor is not routinely resected in patients with 4S neuroblastoma.

In patients with L1 tumors (defined as having no image-defined surgical risk factors), the tumors are resectable and resection is less likely to result in surgical complications. L2 tumors, which have at least one image-defined surgical risk factor, are treated with chemotherapy when deemed too risky to attempt resection, followed by surgery when the tumors have responded. Recent German studies of selected groups of patients have biopsied tissue and observed infants with both L1 and L2 tumors without MYCN amplification, avoiding additional surgery and chemotherapy in most patients.[28]

Whether there is any advantage to gross-total resection of the primary tumor mass after chemotherapy in stage 4 patients older than 18 months remains controversial.[29-34] A meta-analysis of stage 3 versus stage 4 neuroblastoma patients, at all ages combined, found an advantage for gross-total resection (>90%) over subtotal resection in stage 3 neuroblastoma only, not stage 4.[35] Also, a small study suggested that after neoadjuvant chemotherapy, completeness of resection was affected by the number of image-defined risk factors remaining.[36] When an experienced surgeon performed the procedure, a 90% or greater resection of the primary tumor in stage 4 neuroblastoma resulted in a higher local control rate, but did not have a statistically significant impact on OS.[37]

Radiation Therapy

In the current treatment paradigm, radiation therapy for patients with low-risk or intermediate-risk neuroblastoma was reserved for symptomatic life-threatening or organ-threatening tumor bulk that did not respond rapidly enough to chemotherapy. Common situations in which radiation therapy is used in these patients include the following:

  • Infants aged 60 days and younger with stage 4S and marked respiratory compromise from liver metastases that has not responded to chemotherapy.[38]
  • For infants with spinal cord compression, treatment is generally with chemotherapy or neurosurgical intervention because of the responsiveness of neuroblastoma to chemotherapy and the potentially devastating late effects of radiation therapy in very young children.[39]

Radiation therapy has become part of the standard of care for patients with high-risk disease and is usually delivered after high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue. The basis for this approach initially came from a single-institution report that demonstrated only a 10% primary site relapse with administration of 21 Gy of radiation therapy.[40] Subsequent cooperative group trials have incorporated posttransplant primary tumor bed irradiation, although the optimal dose remains uncertain.

Treatment of Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal cord compression is considered a medical emergency. Patients receive immediate treatment because neurologic recovery is more likely when symptoms are present for a relatively short time before diagnosis and treatment. Recovery also depends on the severity of neurologic defects (weakness vs. paralysis). Neurologic outcome appears to be similar whether cord compression is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, although radiation therapy is used less frequently than in the past.

The completed COG low-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma clinical trials recommended immediate chemotherapy for cord compression in low-risk or intermediate-risk patients.[39,41,42] In a single study in this setting looking at the effect of glucocorticoids on neurological outcome, it was associated with improved early symptom relief. However, glucocorticoids did not prevent late residual impairment.[42]

Children with severe spinal cord compression that does not promptly improve or those with worsening symptoms may benefit from neurosurgical intervention. Laminectomy may result in later kyphoscoliosis and may not eliminate the need for chemotherapy.[39,41,42] It was thought that osteoplastic laminotomy, a procedure that does not remove bone, would result in less spinal deformity. Osteoplastic laminotomy may be associated with a lower incidence of progressive spinal deformity requiring fusion, but there is no evidence that functional neurologic deficit is improved with laminoplasty.[43]

The burden of long-term health problems in survivors of neuroblastoma with intraspinal extension is high. In a systematic review of 28 studies of treatment and outcome of patients with intraspinal extension, the severity of the symptoms at diagnosis and the treatment modalities were most associated with the presence of long-term health problems. In particular, the severity of neurological motor deficit was most likely to predict neurological outcome.[44] The severity of motor deficit at diagnosis is associated with spinal deformity and sphincter dysfunction at the end of follow-up, while sphincter dysfunction at diagnosis was correlated with long-term sphincter problems.[45] This supports the initiation of treatment before symptoms have deteriorated to complete loss of neurological function.

In a series of 34 infants with symptomatic epidural spinal cord compression, both surgery and chemotherapy provided unsatisfactory results once paraplegia had been established. The frequency of grade 3 motor deficits and bowel dysfunction increased with a longer symptom duration interval. Most infants with symptomatic epidural spinal cord compression developed sequelae, which were severe in about one-half of patients.[46]

Surveillance During and After Treatment

Surveillance studies during and after treatment are able to detect asymptomatic and unsuspected relapse in a substantial portion of patients. In an overall surveillance plan, which includes urinary vanillylmandelic acid and homovanillic acid testing, one of the most reliable imaging tests to detect disease progression or recurrence is the 123I-MIBG scan.[47,48]

Cross-sectional imaging with computed tomography scans is controversial because of the amount of radiation received and the low proportion of relapses detected with this modality.[49]

Special Considerations for the Treatment of Children With Cancer

Cancer in children and adolescents is rare, although the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975.[50] Children and adolescents with cancer are usually referred to medical centers that have a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists with experience treating the cancers that occur during childhood and adolescence. This multidisciplinary team approach incorporates the skills of the following health care professionals and others to ensure that children receive treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation that will enable them to achieve optimal survival and quality of life:

  • Primary care physician.
  • Pediatric pathologists.
  • Pediatric surgeons.
  • Pediatric radiation oncologists.
  • Pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists.
  • Pediatric nurse specialists.
  • Social workers.
  • Child life professionals.

(Refer to the PDQ summaries on Supportive and Palliative Care for specific information about supportive care for children and adolescents with cancer.)

Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.[51] At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents, and the opportunity to participate in these trials is offered to most patients and families. Clinical trials for children and adolescents with cancer are generally designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. Most of the progress made in identifying curative therapies for childhood cancers has been achieved through clinical trials. Other types of clinical trials explore or define novel therapies when there is no standard therapy for a cancer diagnosis. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

References
  1. Cotterill SJ, Pearson AD, Pritchard J, et al.: Clinical prognostic factors in 1277 patients with neuroblastoma: results of The European Neuroblastoma Study Group 'Survey' 1982-1992. Eur J Cancer 36 (7): 901-8, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Moroz V, Machin D, Faldum A, et al.: Changes over three decades in outcome and the prognostic influence of age-at-diagnosis in young patients with neuroblastoma: a report from the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Project. Eur J Cancer 47 (4): 561-71, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Look AT, Hayes FA, Shuster JJ, et al.: Clinical relevance of tumor cell ploidy and N-myc gene amplification in childhood neuroblastoma: a Pediatric Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 9 (4): 581-91, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Schmidt ML, Lukens JN, Seeger RC, et al.: Biologic factors determine prognosis in infants with stage IV neuroblastoma: A prospective Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 18 (6): 1260-8, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Berthold F, Trechow R, Utsch S, et al.: Prognostic factors in metastatic neuroblastoma. A multivariate analysis of 182 cases. Am J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 14 (3): 207-15, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Matthay KK, Perez C, Seeger RC, et al.: Successful treatment of stage III neuroblastoma based on prospective biologic staging: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 16 (4): 1256-64, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Attiyeh EF, London WB, Mossé YP, et al.: Chromosome 1p and 11q deletions and outcome in neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 353 (21): 2243-53, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Spitz R, Hero B, Simon T, et al.: Loss in chromosome 11q identifies tumors with increased risk for metastatic relapses in localized and 4S neuroblastoma. Clin Cancer Res 12 (11 Pt 1): 3368-73, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Strother DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Outcome after surgery alone or with restricted use of chemotherapy for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma: results of Children's Oncology Group study P9641. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1842-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Baker DL, Schmidt ML, Cohn SL, et al.: Outcome after reduced chemotherapy for intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 363 (14): 1313-23, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Park JR, Kreissman SG, London WB, et al.: A phase III randomized clinical trial (RCT) of tandem myeloablative autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) using peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) as consolidation therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma (HR-NB): a Children's Oncology Group (COG) study. [Abstract] J Clin Oncol 34 (Suppl 15): A-LBA3, 2016. Also available online. Last accessed February 11, 2019.
  12. Bagatell R, Beck-Popovic M, London WB, et al.: Significance of MYCN amplification in international neuroblastoma staging system stage 1 and 2 neuroblastoma: a report from the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group database. J Clin Oncol 27 (3): 365-70, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  15. Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Kushner BH, Cheung NK: Treatment reduction for neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 43 (6): 619-21, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Kushner BH, Kramer K, LaQuaglia MP, et al.: Liver involvement in neuroblastoma: the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Experience supports treatment reduction in young patients. Pediatr Blood Cancer 46 (3): 278-84, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Navarro S, Amann G, Beiske K, et al.: Prognostic value of International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification in localized resectable peripheral neuroblastic tumors: a histopathologic study of localized neuroblastoma European Study Group 94.01 Trial and Protocol. J Clin Oncol 24 (4): 695-9, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Schmidt ML, Lal A, Seeger RC, et al.: Favorable prognosis for patients 12 to 18 months of age with stage 4 nonamplified MYCN neuroblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group Study. J Clin Oncol 23 (27): 6474-80, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. London WB, Castleberry RP, Matthay KK, et al.: Evidence for an age cutoff greater than 365 days for neuroblastoma risk group stratification in the Children's Oncology Group. J Clin Oncol 23 (27): 6459-65, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. George RE, London WB, Cohn SL, et al.: Hyperdiploidy plus nonamplified MYCN confers a favorable prognosis in children 12 to 18 months old with disseminated neuroblastoma: a Pediatric Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 23 (27): 6466-73, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Brodeur GM, Pritchard J, Berthold F, et al.: Revisions of the international criteria for neuroblastoma diagnosis, staging, and response to treatment. J Clin Oncol 11 (8): 1466-77, 1993. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Brodeur GM, Seeger RC, Barrett A, et al.: International criteria for diagnosis, staging, and response to treatment in patients with neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 6 (12): 1874-81, 1988. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Park JR, Bagatell R, Cohn SL, et al.: Revisions to the International Neuroblastoma Response Criteria: A Consensus Statement From the National Cancer Institute Clinical Trials Planning Meeting. J Clin Oncol 35 (22): 2580-2587, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Gauguet JM, Pace-Emerson T, Grant FD, et al.: Evaluation of the utility of (99m) Tc-MDP bone scintigraphy versus MIBG scintigraphy and cross-sectional imaging for staging patients with neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 64 (11): , 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Bagatell R, McHugh K, Naranjo A, et al.: Assessment of Primary Site Response in Children With High-Risk Neuroblastoma: An International Multicenter Study. J Clin Oncol 34 (7): 740-6, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Nuchtern JG, London WB, Barnewolt CE, et al.: A prospective study of expectant observation as primary therapy for neuroblastoma in young infants: a Children's Oncology Group study. Ann Surg 256 (4): 573-80, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Hero B, Simon T, Spitz R, et al.: Localized infant neuroblastomas often show spontaneous regression: results of the prospective trials NB95-S and NB97. J Clin Oncol 26 (9): 1504-10, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  29. Adkins ES, Sawin R, Gerbing RB, et al.: Efficacy of complete resection for high-risk neuroblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Pediatr Surg 39 (6): 931-6, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  30. Castel V, Tovar JA, Costa E, et al.: The role of surgery in stage IV neuroblastoma. J Pediatr Surg 37 (11): 1574-8, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  31. La Quaglia MP, Kushner BH, Su W, et al.: The impact of gross total resection on local control and survival in high-risk neuroblastoma. J Pediatr Surg 39 (3): 412-7; discussion 412-7, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  32. Simon T, Häberle B, Hero B, et al.: Role of surgery in the treatment of patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma age 18 months or older at diagnosis. J Clin Oncol 31 (6): 752-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  33. Englum BR, Rialon KL, Speicher PJ, et al.: Value of surgical resection in children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62 (9): 1529-35, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  34. von Allmen D, Davidoff AM, London WB, et al.: Impact of Extent of Resection on Local Control and Survival in Patients From the COG A3973 Study With High-Risk Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 35 (2): 208-216, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  35. Mullassery D, Farrelly P, Losty PD: Does aggressive surgical resection improve survival in advanced stage 3 and 4 neuroblastoma? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatr Hematol Oncol 31 (8): 703-16, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  36. Irtan S, Brisse HJ, Minard-Colin V, et al.: Image-defined risk factor assessment of neurogenic tumors after neoadjuvant chemotherapy is useful for predicting intra-operative risk factors and the completeness of resection. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62 (9): 1543-9, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  37. Wolden SL, Gollamudi SV, Kushner BH, et al.: Local control with multimodality therapy for stage 4 neuroblastoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 46 (4): 969-74, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  38. Hsu LL, Evans AE, D'Angio GJ: Hepatomegaly in neuroblastoma stage 4s: criteria for treatment of the vulnerable neonate. Med Pediatr Oncol 27 (6): 521-8, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  39. Katzenstein HM, Kent PM, London WB, et al.: Treatment and outcome of 83 children with intraspinal neuroblastoma: the Pediatric Oncology Group experience. J Clin Oncol 19 (4): 1047-55, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  40. Kushner BH, Wolden S, LaQuaglia MP, et al.: Hyperfractionated low-dose radiotherapy for high-risk neuroblastoma after intensive chemotherapy and surgery. J Clin Oncol 19 (11): 2821-8, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  41. De Bernardi B, Pianca C, Pistamiglio P, et al.: Neuroblastoma with symptomatic spinal cord compression at diagnosis: treatment and results with 76 cases. J Clin Oncol 19 (1): 183-90, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  42. Simon T, Niemann CA, Hero B, et al.: Short- and long-term outcome of patients with symptoms of spinal cord compression by neuroblastoma. Dev Med Child Neurol 54 (4): 347-52, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  43. McGirt MJ, Chaichana KL, Atiba A, et al.: Incidence of spinal deformity after resection of intramedullary spinal cord tumors in children who underwent laminectomy compared with laminoplasty. J Neurosurg Pediatr 1 (1): 57-62, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  44. Kraal K, Blom T, van Noesel M, et al.: Treatment and outcome of neuroblastoma with intraspinal extension: A systematic review. Pediatr Blood Cancer 64 (8): , 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  45. Angelini P, Plantaz D, De Bernardi B, et al.: Late sequelae of symptomatic epidural compression in children with localized neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 57 (3): 473-80, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  46. De Bernardi B, Quaglietta L, Haupt R, et al.: Neuroblastoma with symptomatic epidural compression in the infant: the AIEOP experience. Pediatr Blood Cancer 61 (8): 1369-75, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  47. Papathanasiou ND, Gaze MN, Sullivan K, et al.: 18F-FDG PET/CT and 123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine imaging in high-risk neuroblastoma: diagnostic comparison and survival analysis. J Nucl Med 52 (4): 519-25, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  48. Kushner BH, Kramer K, Modak S, et al.: Sensitivity of surveillance studies for detecting asymptomatic and unsuspected relapse of high-risk neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1041-6, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  49. Owens C, Li BK, Thomas KE, et al.: Surveillance imaging and radiation exposure in the detection of relapsed neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 63 (10): 1786-93, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  50. Smith MA, Altekruse SF, Adamson PC, et al.: Declining childhood and adolescent cancer mortality. Cancer 120 (16): 2497-506, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  51. Corrigan JJ, Feig SA; American Academy of Pediatrics: Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers. Pediatrics 113 (6): 1833-5, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment of Low-Risk Neuroblastoma

Low-risk neuroblastoma represents nearly one-half of all newly diagnosed patients. The success of previous Children's Oncology Group (COG) clinical trials has contributed to the continued reduction in therapy for select patients with neuroblastoma.

The previously used COG neuroblastoma low-risk group assignment criteria are described in Table 7.

Table 7. Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Neuroblastoma Low-Risk Group Assignment Schema Used for COG Studiesa
INSS Stage  Age  MYCN Status  INPC Histology  DNA Ploidyb  Other
DI = DNA index; INPC = International Neuroblastoma Pathologic Classification; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System.
aThe COG-P9641 (NCT00003119) (low risk) and COG-A3961 (NCT00003093) (intermediate risk) trials established the current standard of care for neuroblastoma patients in terms of risk group assignment and treatment strategies.
bDNA ploidy: DI >1 is favorable, DI =1 is unfavorable; a hypodiploid tumor (with DI <1) will be treated as a tumor with a DI >1 (DI <1 [hypodiploid] to be considered favorable ploidy).
cINSS stage 2A/2B symptomatic patients with spinal cord compression, neurologic deficits, or other symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy for four cycles.
d2A/2B tumors must be >50% resected to be classified as low risk. Tumors <50% resected are classified as intermediate risk.
eINSS stage 4S infants with favorable biology and clinical symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy until asymptomatic (2–4 cycles). Clinical symptoms include the following: respiratory distress with or without hepatomegaly or cord compression and neurologic deficit or inferior vena cava compression and renal ischemia; or genitourinary obstruction; or gastrointestinal obstruction and vomiting; or coagulopathy with significant clinical hemorrhage unresponsive to replacement therapy.
Any  Any Any Any  
 2A/2Bc, d Any Nonamplified  Any AnyResection ≥50%, asymptomatic
4Se  <365 d Nonamplified Favorable  DI >1 Asymptomatic

Table 8 shows the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) classification schema for very low-risk or low-risk neuroblastoma used in current COG studies, including the ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) study for low-risk and intermediate-risk patients.

Table 8. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Pretreatment Classification Schema for Very Low-Risk or Low-Risk Neuroblastomaa
INRG StageHistologic CategoryGrade of Tumor DifferentiationMYCN11q AberrationPloidyPretreatment Risk Group
GN = ganglioneuroma; GNB = ganglioneuroblastoma; NA = not amplified.
aReprinted with permission. © (2015) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. Pinto N et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma, J Clin Oncol 33 (27), 2015: 3008–3017.[1]
L1/L2GN maturing, GNB intermixed    A (very low)
L1Any, except GN maturing or GNB intermixed NA  B (very low)
L2 
 Age <18 moAny, except GN maturing or GNB intermixed NANo  D (low)
 Age ≥18 moGNB nodular neuroblastomaDifferentiatingNANo  E (low)
M 
 Age <18 mo  NA HyperdiploidF (low)
MS 
 Age <18 mo  NANo C (very low)

(Refer to the Treatment of Stage 4S Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information about the treatment of patients with stage 4S neuroblastoma.)

Treatment Options for Low-Risk Neuroblastoma

For patients with localized disease that appears to be resectable (either based on the absence of image-defined risk factors [L1] or on the surgeon's expertise), the tumor should be resected by an experienced surgeon. If the biology is confirmed to be favorable, residual disease after surgery is not considered a risk factor for relapse and chemotherapy is not indicated. Several studies have shown that patients with favorable biology and residual disease have excellent outcomes, with event-free survival (EFS) exceeding 90% and overall survival (OS) ranging from 99% to 100%.[2,3] Some patients with presumed neuroblastoma have been observed without biopsy; this strategy is being studied further by the COG in the ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) trial.[4,5]

Treatment options for low-risk neuroblastoma include the following:

  1. Surgery followed by observation.
  2. Chemotherapy with or without surgery (for symptomatic disease or unresectable progressive disease after surgery).
  3. Observation without biopsy (for perinatal neuroblastoma with small adrenal tumors). The COG experience with observation of apparent neuroblastoma without diagnostic biopsy is limited and under investigation.
  4. Radiation therapy (only for emergency therapy).

Surgery followed by observation

Treatment for patients categorized as low risk (refer to Table 7) may be surgery alone.

Evidence (surgery followed by observation):

  1. Results from the COG-P9641 study showed that surgery alone, even without complete resection, can cure nearly all patients with stage 1 neuroblastoma and the vast majority of patients with asymptomatic, favorable-biology, International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage 2A and stage 2B disease.[3]
  2. Similar outcomes were seen in a nonrandomized clinical trial in Japan.[6]

Chemotherapy with or without surgery

Chemotherapy with or without surgery is used to treat the following:

  • Symptomatic disease. Chemotherapy is also reserved for low-risk patients (e.g., INSS stage 1 or L1) who are symptomatic (e.g., spinal cord compression). The chemotherapy consists of carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide. The cumulative chemotherapy dose of each agent is kept low to minimize long-term effects.[3] Symptomatic patients with stage 2A/2B or 4S disease are categorized as intermediate risk and receive chemotherapy.
  • Unresectable progressive disease after surgery.

Evidence (chemotherapy):

  1. The COG-P9641 study was one of the first COG studies to test risk stratification based on consensus-derived factors. In this phase III nonrandomized trial, 915 patients underwent an initial operation to obtain tissue for diagnosis and biology studies and for maximal safe primary tumor resection. Chemotherapy was reserved for patients with, or at risk of, symptomatic disease, with less than 50% tumor resection at diagnosis or with unresectable progressive disease after surgery alone.[3]
    • Stage 1: Patients with stage 1 disease achieved a 5-year EFS of 93% and a 5-year OS of 99%.
    • Stage 2A and 2B: Asymptomatic patients with stage 2A and 2B disease (n = 306) who were observed after initial operation had a 5-year EFS of 87% and an OS rate of 96%. EFS was significantly better for patients with stage 2A than for patients with stage 2B neuroblastoma (92% vs. 85%; P = .0321), but OS did not differ significantly (98% vs. 96%; P = .2867). The primary study objective (to achieve a 3-year OS of 95% for asymptomatic patients with stage 2A and 2B disease) was met.

      Patients with stage 2B disease had a lower EFS and OS for those with unfavorable histology (EFS, 72%; OS, 86%) or diploid tumors (EFS, 75%; OS, 84%) or for patients older than 18 months. Outcomes for patients with stage 2B, diploid tumors, and unfavorable histology were particularly poor (EFS, 54%; OS, 70%), with no survivors among the few patients who had additional 1p loss of heterozygosity, and all of the deaths occurred in children older than 18 months.

    • Asymptomatic patients at diagnosis who were observed after initial operation: Of the initial 915 patients, 800 were asymptomatic at diagnosis and observed after their initial operations. Within this group, 11% of patients experienced recurrent or progressive disease. Of the 115 patients who received immediate chemotherapy (median, four cycles; range, one to eight), 81% of the patients had a very good partial response or better. After chemotherapy, 10% of the patients had disease recurrence or progression.

      For patients treated with surgery alone, the 5-year EFS rate was 89%, and the OS estimate was 97%; for patients treated with surgery and immediate chemotherapy, the 5-year EFS rate was 91%, and the OS estimate was 98%.

    • MYCN amplification: The impact of MYCN-amplified tumors was analyzed in patients with stage I disease. For patients with MYCN-nonamplified tumors, the 5-year EFS was 93%, and OS was 99%; for MYCN-amplified tumors, the 5-year EFS was 70% (P = .0042), and OS was 80% (P < .001).

Observation without biopsy

Observation without biopsy has been used to treat perinatal neuroblastoma with small adrenal tumors.

A COG study determined that selected small INSS stage 1 or stage 2 adrenal masses, presumed to be neuroblastoma, detected in infants younger than 6 months by screening or incidental ultrasonography may safely be observed without a definitive histologic diagnosis being obtained and without surgical intervention, thus avoiding potential complications of surgery in the newborn.[4] Patients are observed frequently to detect any tumor growth or spread that would indicate a need for intervention. Additional studies, including an expansion of criteria allowing observation without surgery, are underway in the COG ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) study (refer to Table 9).

Evidence (observation without biopsy):

  1. The COG-ANBL00P2 study reported that expectant observation is safe in patients younger than 6 months with solid adrenal tumors smaller than 3.1 cm (or cystic tumors smaller than 5 cm) and INSS stage 1 disease.[4]
    • Eighty-one percent of patients demonstrated spontaneous regression and avoided surgical intervention.
    • Eighty-three of 87 eligible patients were observed without biopsy or resection; only 16 patients (19%) ultimately underwent surgery.
    • Three-year EFS (for a neuroblastoma event) was 97.7%, and OS was 100%.

Controversy exists about the need to attempt resection, whether at the time of diagnosis or later, in asymptomatic infants aged 12 months or younger with apparent stage 2B and stage 3 MYCN-nonamplified and favorable-biology disease. In a German clinical trial, some of these patients were observed after biopsy or partial resection without chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and many patients did not progress locally and never underwent an additional resection.[5] This cohort is also being evaluated in the COG ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) study (refer to the Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation section of this summary for more information). Infants younger than 18 months who have L2 tumors with favorable biology are being observed after tumor biopsy.

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:

  • ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) (Response and Biology-Based Risk Factor–Guided Therapy in Treating Younger Patients With Non–High-Risk Neuroblastoma): This phase III trial is studying how well response and biology-based, risk factor–guided therapy works in treating younger patients with non–high-risk neuroblastoma. Table 9 describes the treatment assignments for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma on the ANBL1232 trial. Many patients with low-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma are not being studied on a COG trial but are registered on ANBL00B1 (NCT00904241), the neuroblastoma biology study, to keep track of outcomes.
    Table 9. ANBL1232 Treatment Assignment for Low-Risk Neuroblastoma
    INRG StageBiology (Histology and Genomicsa)AgeOtherTreatment
    INRG = International Neuroblastoma Risk Group.
    aGenomic features include MYCN gene amplification, segmental chromosome aberrations (somatic copy number loss at 1p, 3p, 4p, or 11q, or somatic copy number gain at 1p, 2p, or 17q), and DNA index.
    bFavorable genomic features are defined by one or more whole-chromosome gains or hyperdiploid tumor (DNA index >1) in the absence of segmental chromosome aberrations as defined above.
    cAsymptomatic is defined as no life-threatening symptoms and no impending neurologic or other sequelae (e.g., epidural or intraspinal tumors with existing or impending neurologic impairment, periorbital or calvarial-based lesions with existing or impending cranial nerve impairment, or anatomic or mechanical compromise of critical organ function by tumor [abdominal compartment syndrome, urinary obstruction, etc.]).
    L1 <12 months<5 cm in diameter; confirmatory study if nonadrenalObserve on study without biopsy
    L2Favorable histology and genomicsb<18 monthsAsymptomaticcObserve on study
    MSAny histology and genomics<3 monthsExisting or evolving hepatomegaly or symptomaticImmediate treatment, response-based chemotherapy, as per protocol
    Favorable histology and genomicsb<3 monthsAsymptomaticc without existing or evolving hepatomegalyObserve per clinical scoring system
    Favorable histology and genomicsb3–18 monthsAsymptomaticcObserve per clinical scoring system
    SymptomaticResponse-based chemotherapy, as per protocol

Current Clinical Trials

Use our advanced clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now enrolling patients. The search can be narrowed by location of the trial, type of treatment, name of the drug, and other criteria. General information about clinical trials is also available.

References
  1. Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Matthay KK, Perez C, Seeger RC, et al.: Successful treatment of stage III neuroblastoma based on prospective biologic staging: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 16 (4): 1256-64, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Strother DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Outcome after surgery alone or with restricted use of chemotherapy for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma: results of Children's Oncology Group study P9641. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1842-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Nuchtern JG, London WB, Barnewolt CE, et al.: A prospective study of expectant observation as primary therapy for neuroblastoma in young infants: a Children's Oncology Group study. Ann Surg 256 (4): 573-80, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Hero B, Simon T, Spitz R, et al.: Localized infant neuroblastomas often show spontaneous regression: results of the prospective trials NB95-S and NB97. J Clin Oncol 26 (9): 1504-10, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Iehara T, Hamazaki M, Tajiri T, et al.: Successful treatment of infants with localized neuroblastoma based on their MYCN status. Int J Clin Oncol 18 (3): 389-95, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment of Intermediate-Risk Neuroblastoma

The previously used Children's Oncology Group (COG) neuroblastoma intermediate-risk group assignment criteria are described in Table 10. They are mostly derived from the COG-A3961 (NCT00003093) study and were used in the COG ANBL0531 (NCT00499616) study.

Table 10. Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Neuroblastoma Intermediate-Risk Group Assignment Schema Used for the COG-A3961 Studya
INSS StageAgeMYCN StatusINPC HistologyDNA PloidybOther
DI = DNA index; INPC = International Neuroblastoma Pathologic Classification; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System.
aThe COG-P9641 (NCT00003119) (low risk) and COG-A3961 (NCT00003093) (intermediate risk) trials established the current standard of care for non–high-risk neuroblastoma patients in terms of risk group assignment and treatment strategies.
bDNA ploidy: DI >1 is favorable, DI =1 is unfavorable; a hypodiploid tumor (with DI <1) will be treated as a tumor with a DI >1 (DI <1 [hypodiploid] to be considered favorable ploidy).
cINSS stage 3 or stage 4 patients with clinical symptoms as listed above receive immediate chemotherapy.
dINSS stage 4S infants with favorable biology and clinical symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy until asymptomatic (2–4 cycles). Clinical symptoms include the following: respiratory distress with or without hepatomegaly or cord compression and neurologic deficit or inferior vena cava compression and renal ischemia; or genitourinary obstruction; or gastrointestinal obstruction and vomiting; or coagulopathy with significant clinical hemorrhage unresponsive to replacement therapy.
2A/2BAnyNonamplified  AnyAnyResection ≥50%, symptomatic
AnyNonamplified  AnyAnyResection <50%
AnyNonamplified  AnyAnyBiopsy only
3c<547 dNonamplified  AnyAny 
≥547 dNonamplified  FavorableAny 
4c<365 dNonamplified  AnyAny 
365 d to <547 dNonamplified  FavorableDI >1 
4Sd<365 dNonamplified  AnyDI =1Asymptomatic or symptomatic
<365 dMissingMissingMissingToo sick for biopsy
<365 dNonamplified  AnyAnySymptomatic
<365 dNonamplified  UnfavorableAnyAsymptomatic or symptomatic

The COG-A3961 (NCT00003093) intermediate-risk study results,[1] associated with results from European studies, were used to redefine the intermediate-risk groupings for the next COG intermediate-risk clinical trial, ANBL0531 (NCT00499616). Modifications of the ANBL0531 risk grouping for the ongoing ANBL00B1 (NCT00904241) biology study are shown in Table 10.

Table 11 shows the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) classification for intermediate-risk neuroblastoma used in ongoing COG studies.

Table 11. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Pretreatment Classification Schema for Intermediate-Risk Neuroblastomaa
INRG StageHistologic CategoryGrade of Tumor DifferentiationMYCN11q AberrationPloidyPretreatment Risk Group
GN = ganglioneuroma; GNB = ganglioneuroblastoma; NA = not amplified.
aReprinted with permission. © (2015) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. Pinto N et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma, J Clin Oncol 33 (27), 2015: 3008–3017.[2]
L2 
 Age <18 moAny, except GN maturing or GNB intermixed NAYes G (intermediate)
 Age ≥18 moGNB nodular neuroblastomaPoorly differentiated or undifferentiatedNA Yes H (intermediate)
NANo H (intermediate)
M 
 Age <12 mo  NA DiploidI (intermediate)
 Age 12 to <18 mo  NA DiploidJ (intermediate)

(Refer to the Treatment of Stage 4S Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information about the treatment of patients with stage 4S neuroblastoma.)

Treatment Options for Intermediate-Risk Neuroblastoma

Treatment options for intermediate-risk neuroblastoma include the following:

Chemotherapy with or without surgery

Patients categorized as intermediate risk have been successfully treated with surgery and four to eight cycles of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide; the cumulative dose of each agent is kept low to minimize long-term effects from the chemotherapy regimen) (COG-A3961, ANBL0531 [NCT00499616]). As a rule, patients whose tumors had unfavorable biology received eight cycles of chemotherapy, compared with four cycles for patients whose tumors had favorable biology. The COG-A3961 phase III trial demonstrated that therapy could be significantly reduced for patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma while maintaining outstanding survival.[1] A nonrandomized clinical trial in Japan also reported excellent outcomes for infants with stage 3 neuroblastoma without MYCN amplification.[3]

In cases of abdominal neuroblastoma thought to involve the kidney, nephrectomy is not undertaken before a course of chemotherapy has been given.[4]

Whether initial chemotherapy is indicated for all intermediate-risk infants with localized neuroblastoma requires further study.

Evidence (chemotherapy with or without surgery):

  1. In North America, the COG-A3961 study investigated a risk-based neuroblastoma treatment plan that assigned all patients to a low-, intermediate-, or high-risk group on the basis of age, International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage, and tumor biology (i.e., MYCN gene amplification, International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification system, and DNA ploidy).

    This study investigated an overall reduction in treatment compared with previous treatment plans in patients with unresectable, localized, MYCN-nonamplified tumors and infants with stage 4 MYCN-nonamplified disease. The intermediate-risk group received four to eight cycles of moderate-dose neoadjuvant chemotherapy (carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide), additional surgery in some instances, and avoided radiation therapy. Of the 464 patients with intermediate-risk tumors (stages 3, 4, and 4S), 69.6% had favorable features, defined as hyperdiploidy and favorable histology, and were assigned to receive four cycles of chemotherapy.[1]

    • The administration of neoadjuvant chemotherapy facilitated at least a partial resection of 99.6% of the previously unresectable tumors. No significant difference was noted in overall survival (OS) according to the degree of resection accomplished (complete vs. incomplete, P = .37).
    • Only 2.5% of the 479 patients received local radiation therapy. The 3-year event-free survival (EFS) was 88%, and OS was 95%.
    • The 3-year EFS was 92% for patients with stage 3 disease with favorable histopathology (n = 269); 90% for patients with stage 4S disease and unfavorable biology, including diploidy or unfavorable histology (n = 31); and 81% for infants with stage 4 disease (n = 176) (P < .001 for stages 3 and 4S vs. stage 4).
    • Only infants were stratified by ploidy; those with diploid tumors received eight versus four cycles of chemotherapy. The 3-year OS estimates were 98% for stage 3 disease, 97% for stage 4S disease, and 93% for stage 4 disease (P = .002 for stages 3 and 4S vs. stage 4). Infants with diploidy had a poorer outcome (P = .03), as did all patients with diploidy studied, when combined (P = .03).
    • There was no difference in OS in patients with favorable biologic features between those who received eight cycles of chemotherapy (100%) for persistent disease and those who received four cycles (96%).
    • There was no unexpected toxicity.
  2. A German prospective clinical trial enrolled 340 infants aged 1 year or younger whose tumors were stage 1, 2, or 3, histologically verified, and lacked MYCN amplification. Chemotherapy was given at diagnosis to 57 infants with organs threatened by the tumor. The tumor was completely resected or nearly so in 190 infants who underwent low-risk surgery. A total of 93 infants whose tumors were not resectable without high-risk surgery, because of age or organ involvement, were observed without chemotherapy.[5]
    • Three-year OS was excellent (95%) for infants receiving chemotherapy.
    • Further surgery was avoided in 33 infants, and chemotherapy was avoided in 72 infants.
    • The 3-year OS rate for the infants who were observed without treatment was 99%. The metastases-free survival rate was 94% for infants with unresected tumors and did not differ from the rate for infants treated with surgery or chemotherapy (median follow-up, 58 months).
    • Forty-four of 93 infants with unresected tumors experienced spontaneous regression (17 were complete regressions), and 39 infants experienced progression.
    • The investigators suggested that a wait-and-see strategy is appropriate for infants with localized neuroblastoma because regressions have been observed after the first year of life.
  3. Moderate-dose chemotherapy has been shown to be effective in the prospective Infant Neuroblastoma European Study (EURO-INF-NB-STUDY-1999-99.1); about one-half of the infants with unresectable, nonmetastatic neuroblastoma and no MYCN amplification underwent a safe surgical resection and avoided long-term adverse effects.[6][Level of evidence: 3iiA]
    • The 5-year OS rate was 99%, and the EFS rate was 90% (median follow-up, 6 years).
    • In this study, infants who underwent surgical resection had a better EFS than did those who did not have surgery.
  4. A prospective International Society of Paediatric Oncology Europe Neuroblastoma (SIOPEN) trial treated infants with MYCN nonamplified stage 2 or stage 3 unresectable neuroblastoma, as well as those aged 12 to 18 months who had favorable International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification.[7][Level of evidence: 3iiD]
    • The EFS was 98% with conventional chemotherapy.
    • These results are similar to results from the COG-A3961 trial.
  5. In two European prospective trials of infants with disseminated neuroblastoma without MYCN gene amplification, infants with INSS stage 3 primary or positive skeletal scintigraphy without radiologic bone metastasis (identified mostly by metaiodobenzylguanidine scan, but a few with just technetium Tc 99m bone scan) were not started on chemotherapy unless life-threatening or organ-threatening symptoms developed. When given, chemotherapy consisted of short-dose and standard-dose chemotherapy.[8]
    • OS was 100% in the 41 patients who did not have INSS stage 4S, regardless of initial chemotherapy.
    • In infants with overt metastases to the skeleton, lung, and central nervous system (by radionuclide scan, but not by plain x-ray or computed tomography [CT] scan), the 2-year OS was 96% (n = 45).
    • No patients died of surgery-related or chemotherapy-related complications on either protocol.

Surgery and observation (in infants)

The need for chemotherapy in all asymptomatic infants with stage 3 or stage 4 disease is controversial, as some European studies have shown favorable outcomes with surgery and observation.[8]

Evidence (surgery and observation in infants):

  1. In a French study, infants classified as stage 4 because of a primary tumor infiltrating across the midline (INSS 3 primary with metastases limited to 4S category) or positive bone scintigraphy not associated with changes in the cortical bone documented on plain radiographs and/or CT were reported to have a better outcome with less aggressive chemotherapy than were other stage 4 infants (EFS, 90% vs. 27%).[9] However, a much higher proportion of those with radiologically demonstrated cortical bone lesions also had tumors with MYCN amplification.[9]
  2. Building on the French study, SIOPEN conducted a prospective trial of 125 infants (n = 41 with INSS 3 primary tumors or positive scintigraphy) with disseminated neuroblastoma without MYCN amplification to determine whether these patients could be observed in the absence of symptoms. However, treating physicians did not always follow the wait-and-see strategy.[8]
    • There was no significant difference in 2-year OS between patients with unresectable primary tumors and patients with resectable primary tumors (97% vs. 100%) and between patients with negative and positive skeletal scintigraphy without radiologic abnormalities (100% vs. 97%).
  3. A German prospective clinical trial enrolled 340 infants aged 1 year or younger whose tumors were stage 1, 2, or 3, verified histologically, and lacked MYCN amplification. Of the 190 infants who underwent resection, 8 infants had stage 3 disease. A total of 93 infants whose tumors were not resectable without high-risk surgery, because of age or organ involvement, were observed without chemotherapy, which included 21 stage 3 patients. Fifty-seven infants, including 41 stage 3 patients, were treated with chemotherapy to control threatening symptoms.[5]
    • Three-year OS was excellent for the entire group of infants with unresected tumors (99%), infants receiving chemotherapy (95%), and infants with resected tumors (98%) (P = .45).

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy for children with intermediate-risk disease is reserved for patients with progressive disease during treatment with chemotherapy or progressive unresectable disease after treatment with chemotherapy.

In a prospective randomized COG trial that tested reduced-intensity chemotherapy for patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma, only 12 of 479 patients (2.5%) received local radiation therapy (21 Gy). One patient had stage 4S disease, five patients had stage 3 disease, and six patients had stage 4 disease. Radiation therapy was administered for clinical deterioration despite initial therapy (eight patients), residual macroscopic disease and unfavorable biologic features (three patients), or relapse after therapy (one patient).[1,10,11]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:

  • ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) (Response and Biology-Based Risk Factor–Guided Therapy in Treating Younger Patients With Non–High-Risk Neuroblastoma): This phase III trial is studying how well response and biology-based, risk factor–guided therapy works in treating younger patients with non–high-risk neuroblastoma. Table 12 describes the treatment assignments for patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma on the ANBL1232 trial. Many intermediate-risk patients will not be eligible for this study; these patients can be registered and tracked on the COG biology study ANBL00B1 (NCT00904241).
    Table 12. ANBL1232 Treatment Assignment for Intermediate-Risk Neuroblastoma
    INRG StageBiology (Histology and Genomicsa)AgeOtherTreatment
    aGenomic features include MYCN gene amplification, segmental chromosome aberrations (somatic copy number loss at 1p, 3p, 4p, or 11q, or somatic copy number gain at 1p, 2p, or 17q), and DNA index.
    bFavorable genomic features are defined by one or more whole-chromosome gains or hyperdiploid tumor (DNA index >1) in the absence of segmental chromosome aberrations as defined above.
    cAsymptomatic is defined as no life-threatening symptoms and no impending neurologic or other sequelae (e.g., epidural or intraspinal tumors with existing or impending neurologic impairment, periorbital or calvarial-based lesions with existing or impending cranial nerve impairment, or anatomic or mechanical compromise of critical organ function by tumor [abdominal compartment syndrome, urinary obstruction, etc.]).
    dUnfavorable genomic features are defined by the presence of any segmental chromosome aberration (somatic copy number loss at 1p, 3p, 4p, or 11q, or somatic copy number gain at 1p, 2p, or 17q) or diploid tumor (DNA index = 1). This includes copy neutral loss of heterozygosity.
    eOnly patients with MYCN-nonamplified tumors are eligible for the ANBL1232 study.
    L2Favorable histology and genomicsb<18 monthsAsymptomaticcObserve on study
    MSFavorable histology and genomicsb3–18 monthsAsymptomaticcObserve per clinical scoring system
    SymptomaticResponse-based chemotherapy, as per protocol
    Unfavorabled/unknown histology and genomicse<18 months Response-based chemotherapy, as per protocol
    INRG = International Neuroblastoma Risk Group.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our advanced clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now enrolling patients. The search can be narrowed by location of the trial, type of treatment, name of the drug, and other criteria. General information about clinical trials is also available.

References
  1. Baker DL, Schmidt ML, Cohn SL, et al.: Outcome after reduced chemotherapy for intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 363 (14): 1313-23, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Iehara T, Hamazaki M, Tajiri T, et al.: Successful treatment of infants with localized neuroblastoma based on their MYCN status. Int J Clin Oncol 18 (3): 389-95, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Shamberger RC, Smith EI, Joshi VV, et al.: The risk of nephrectomy during local control in abdominal neuroblastoma. J Pediatr Surg 33 (2): 161-4, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Hero B, Simon T, Spitz R, et al.: Localized infant neuroblastomas often show spontaneous regression: results of the prospective trials NB95-S and NB97. J Clin Oncol 26 (9): 1504-10, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Rubie H, De Bernardi B, Gerrard M, et al.: Excellent outcome with reduced treatment in infants with nonmetastatic and unresectable neuroblastoma without MYCN amplification: results of the prospective INES 99.1. J Clin Oncol 29 (4): 449-55, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Kohler JA, Rubie H, Castel V, et al.: Treatment of children over the age of one year with unresectable localised neuroblastoma without MYCN amplification: results of the SIOPEN study. Eur J Cancer 49 (17): 3671-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. De Bernardi B, Gerrard M, Boni L, et al.: Excellent outcome with reduced treatment for infants with disseminated neuroblastoma without MYCN gene amplification. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1034-40, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Minard V, Hartmann O, Peyroulet MC, et al.: Adverse outcome of infants with metastatic neuroblastoma, MYCN amplification and/or bone lesions: results of the French society of pediatric oncology. Br J Cancer 83 (8): 973-9, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Matthay KK, Perez C, Seeger RC, et al.: Successful treatment of stage III neuroblastoma based on prospective biologic staging: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 16 (4): 1256-64, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Kim C, Choi YB, Lee JW, et al.: Excellent treatment outcomes in children younger than 18 months with stage 4 MYCN nonamplified neuroblastoma. Korean J Pediatr 61 (2): 53-58, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment of High-Risk Neuroblastoma

The previously used Children's Oncology Group (COG) neuroblastoma high-risk group assignment criteria are described in Table 13.

Table 13. Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Neuroblastoma High-Risk Group Assignment Schema
INSS Stage  Age  MYCN Status  INPC Histology  DNA Ploidya  Other
DI = DNA index; INPC = International Neuroblastoma Pathologic Classification; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System.
aDNA ploidy: DI >1 is favorable, DI =1 is unfavorable; a hypodiploid tumor (with DI <1) will be treated as a tumor with a DI >1 (DI <1 [hypodiploid] to be considered favorable ploidy).
bINSS stage 2A/2B symptomatic patients with spinal cord compression, neurologic deficits, or other symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy for four cycles.
cINSS stage 3 or stage 4 patients with clinical symptoms as listed above receive immediate chemotherapy.
2A/2Bb Any  Amplified  AnyAnyAny degree of resection
3c ≥547dNonamplified UnfavorableAny  
Any  Amplified Any Any 
4c <365 d Amplified Any Any  
365 d to <547 dAmplified Any Any  
365 d to <547 dAny Any DI =1 
365 d to <547 d Any UnfavorableAny  
≥547 dAny Any Any  
4S  <365 d Amplified Any Any  Asymptomatic or symptomatic

Table 14 shows the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) classification for high-risk neuroblastoma used in ongoing COG studies, including ANBL1531 (NCT03126916).

Table 14. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Pretreatment Classification Schema for High-Risk Neuroblastomaa
INRG StageHistologic CategoryGrade of Tumor DifferentiationMYCN11q AberrationPloidyPretreatment Risk Group
GN = ganglioneuroma; GNB = ganglioneuroblastoma; NA = not amplified.
aReprinted with permission. © (2015) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. Pinto N et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma, J Clin Oncol 33 (27), 2015: 3008–3017.[1]
L1Any, except GN maturing or GNB intermixed Amplified  K (high)
L2 
 Age ≥18 moGNB nodular neuroblastomaPoorly differentiated or undifferentiatedAmplified  N (high)
M 
 Age <18 mo  Amplified  O (high)
 Age ≥18 mo     P (high)
MS
 Age <18 mo  NAYes Q (high)
Amplified  R (high)

Approximately 8% to 10% of infants with stage 4S disease will have MYCN-amplified tumors and are usually treated on high-risk protocols. The overall event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) for infants with stage 4 and 4S disease and MYCN-amplification were only 30% at 2 to 5 years after treatment in a European study.[2]

For children with high-risk neuroblastoma, the 5-year OS with current treatments is about 50% for patients diagnosed between 2005 and 2010.[1,3] Children with aggressively treated, high-risk neuroblastoma may develop late recurrences, some more than 5 years after completion of therapy.[4,5]

A study from the INRG database found 146 patients with distant metastases limited to lymph nodes, termed stage 4N, who tended to have favorable-biology disease and a good outcome (5-year OS, 85%), which suggests that for this special subgroup of high-risk, stage 4 patients, less-intensive therapy might be considered.[6]

Treatment Options for High-Risk Neuroblastoma

Outcomes for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma remain poor despite recent improvements in survival in randomized trials.

Treatment options for high-risk neuroblastoma typically include the following:

Chemotherapy, surgery, tandem cycles of myeloablative therapy and SCT, radiation therapy, and dinutuximab, with IL-2/GM-CSF and isotretinoin

Treatment for patients with high-risk disease is generally divided into the following three phases:

  • Induction (includes chemotherapy and surgical resection).
  • Consolidation (tandem cycles of myeloablative therapy and SCT).
  • Postconsolidation (radiation therapy to the site of the primary tumor and residual metastatic sites, immunotherapy, and retinoid therapy).
Induction phase

The backbone of the most commonly used induction therapy includes dose-intensive cycles of cisplatin and etoposide alternating with vincristine, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin.[7] Topotecan and cyclophosphamide were added to this regimen on the basis of the antineuroblastoma activity seen in relapsed patients.[8] Response to therapy after four cycles of chemotherapy or at the end of induction chemotherapy correlates with EFS at the completion of high-risk therapy.[9,10]

After a response to chemotherapy, resection of the primary tumor is usually attempted. Whether a gross-total resection is beneficial either before or after induction chemotherapy is controversial.[11]

Evidence (resection of the primary tumor before or after chemotherapy):

  1. The COG A3973 (NCT00004188) study had central surgical review of 220 patients who underwent attempted gross-total resection after induction chemotherapy. By the surgeon’s estimate, the degree of resection was determined to be 90% or greater versus less than 90%, but only 63% concordance with central review of imaging was found.[12][Level of evidence: 3iiA]
    • Nevertheless, the surgeon’s assessment of 90% or greater resection versus less than 90% resection predicted EFS of 46% versus 38% (P = .01), respectively, and cumulative incidence of local relapse of 8.5% versus 20%, respectively.
    • OS was not significantly different (57% vs. 49%, P = .3).
    • The author's conclusion supports continued efforts to achieve greater than 90% resection in order to decrease local recurrence.
  2. A single-center retrospective study of 87 children with high-risk neuroblastoma demonstrated no significant benefit of gross-total resection compared with near-total (>90%) resection.[13][Level of evidence: 3iiD]
    • However, the results suggest that greater than 90% resection is associated with improved OS compared with less than 90% resection.

The potential benefit of aggressive surgical approaches in high-risk patients with metastatic disease to achieve complete tumor resection, either at the time of diagnosis or after chemotherapy, has not been unequivocally demonstrated. Several studies have reported that complete resection of the primary tumor at diagnosis improved survival; however, the outcome in these patients may be more dependent on the biology of the tumor, which itself may determine resectability, than on the extent of surgical resection.[14-16] In stage 4 patients older than 18 months, controversy exists about whether there is any advantage to gross-total resection of the primary tumor after chemotherapy.[12,15-17]

Consolidation phase

The consolidation phase of high-risk regimens involves myeloablative chemotherapy and SCT, which attempts to eradicate minimal residual disease (MRD) using otherwise lethal doses of ablative chemotherapy rescued by autologous stem cells (collected during induction chemotherapy) to repopulate the bone marrow. Several large randomized controlled studies have shown an improvement in 3-year EFS for treatment with SCT (31% to 47%) versus conventional chemotherapy (22% to 31%).[18-20] Previously, total-body irradiation had been used in SCT conditioning regimens. Most current protocols use tandem chemotherapy and SCT or carboplatin/etoposide/melphalan or busulfan/melphalan as conditioning for SCT.[21][Level of evidence: 3iA]

Evidence (myeloablative chemotherapy and stem cell rescue):

  1. A large European multicenter trial of consolidation therapy randomly assigned patients who had completed a multidrug induction regimen (cisplatin, carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and etoposide with or without topotecan, vincristine, and doxorubicin) and achieved an adequate response to receive either busulfan/melphalan or carboplatin/etoposide/melphalan.[22][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
    • Induction therapy with cisplatin, carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and etoposide, and consolidation for SCT with busulfan/melphalan resulted in an improved EFS, without an effect on OS or severe adverse events.
  2. Two sequential cycles of myeloablative chemotherapy and stem cell rescue given in a tandem fashion was shown to be feasible for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma.[23]
  3. A randomized clinical study (COG-ANBL0532) tested the efficacy of two cycles versus one cycle of myeloablative chemotherapy with stem cell rescue.[24] Children older than 18 months with stage 4 neuroblastoma who had received six cycles of induction chemotherapy were then randomly assigned to receive a single autologous SCT with carboplatin/etoposide/melphalan or tandem transplants with cyclophosphamide/thiotepa followed by reduced-dose carboplatin/etoposide/melphalan. After tumor bed radiation therapy, patients were randomly assigned on a second trial to receive isotretinoin alone or isotretinoin with dinutuximab and immune enhancement.
    • The 3-year EFS was 61% for tandem transplants and 48% for single autologous SCT (P = .008). The 3-year OS was 74% for tandem autologous SCTs and 69% for single autologous SCT (P = .19).
    • For patients who were randomly assigned to not receive dinutuximab and immune enhancement, the 3-year EFS was 74% for tandem SCTs and 56% for single autologous SCT (P = .003); for patients who received dinutuximab and immune enhancement, the 3-year OS was 84% for tandem SCTs and 74% for single SCT (P = .03).

(Refer to the Autologous Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation section in the PDQ summary on Childhood Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation for more information about transplantation.)

Radiation to the primary tumor site (whether or not a complete excision was obtained) is indicated after myeloablative therapy. Treatment of persistently metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG)-positive metastatic sites after induction therapy is often performed after myeloablative therapy. The optimal dose of radiation therapy has not been determined, although nonrandomized, retrospective studies suggest doses of 30 Gy to 36 Gy to the primary site improve local control if there is gross residual disease before SCT.[25]

Radiation of metastatic disease sites is determined on an individual basis or according to protocol guidelines for patients enrolled in studies. Metastatic bone relapse in neuroblastoma often occurs at anatomic sites of previous disease. Metastatic sites identified at diagnosis that did not receive radiation during frontline therapy appeared to have a higher risk of involvement at first relapse relative to previously irradiated metastatic sites.[26] These observations support the current paradigm of irradiating metastases that persist by MIBG uptake after induction chemotherapy in high-risk patients. In cases where diffuse bone metastases remain after induction chemotherapy, high-dose chemotherapy is followed by reassessment before consolidative radiation therapy. Irradiation of more than 50% of the bone marrow is not advised.

Preliminary outcomes of proton radiation therapy to treat high-risk neuroblastoma primary tumors have been published, demonstrating acceptable efficacy and toxicity.[27]

Postconsolidation phase

Postconsolidation therapy is designed to treat potential MRD after SCT.[28] Radiation therapy has been used to treat the primary site and sometimes to areas of incompletely resolved metastases. For high-risk patients in remission after SCT, dinutuximab combined with GM-CSF and IL-2 are given in concert with isotretinoin and have been shown to improve EFS.[29,30]

Evidence (all treatments):

  1. A randomized study compared high-dose therapy and purged autologous bone marrow transplant (ABMT) with three cycles of intensive consolidation chemotherapy. In addition, after the completion of either chemotherapy or ABMT, patients on this study were randomly assigned to stop therapy or to receive 6 months of isotretinoin. The EFS and OS results described below reflect outcome from the time of each randomization.[18]; [28][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
    • The 5-year EFS was significantly better in the ABMT arm (30%), than in the consolidation chemotherapy arm (19%; P = .04). There was no significant difference in 5-year OS between the two arms (39% vs. 30%; P = .08).
    • Patients who received isotretinoin had a higher 5-year EFS than did patients who received no maintenance therapy (42% vs. 31%), although the difference was not significant (P = .12). OS was higher for patients randomly assigned to receive isotretinoin (50%) than it was for those who stopped therapy (39%), but this difference was not significant (P = .10).
  2. An updated Cochrane review evaluated three randomized clinical trials comparing ABMT with standard chemotherapy.[18-20,28,31]
    • EFS was significantly better for ABMT, but there was no statistically significant difference in OS.
  3. A retrospective, single-institution, nonrandomized trial compared patients who received GM-CSF and 3F8 anti-GD2 antibody therapy after either autologous SCT or conventional chemotherapy.[32] The patients were a mixture of those referred for initial treatment or further therapy, and included refractory and relapsed patients, some of whom had received autologous SCT at referring institutions. In the autologous SCT group, there was a significantly longer time from first chemotherapy or from autologous SCT to initiation of GM-CSF and 3F8 anti-GD2 antibody treatment. The autologous SCT group also had significantly more ultra–high-risk patients.
    • A trend for better EFS with GM-CSF and 3F8 anti-GD2 antibody therapy and autologous SCT was observed (65% vs. 51%, P = .128), but there was no statistically significant difference in OS between patients who were treated with chemotherapy alone and those who were treated with autologous SCT.
  4. In a separate prospective, randomized study, there was no advantage to purging harvested stem cells of neuroblastoma cells before transplantation.[33]
  5. A review of 147 allogeneic transplant cases submitted to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research found no advantage for allogeneic transplant over autologous transplant, even if the allogeneic transplant recipient had received a previous autologous transplant.[34]
  6. In a COG phase III trial after SCT, patients were randomly assigned to receive dinutuximab administered with GM-CSF and IL-2 in conjunction with isotretinoin, versus isotretinoin alone.[29]
    • Immunotherapy together with isotretinoin (EFS, 66%) was superior to standard isotretinoin maintenance therapy (EFS, 46%). As a result, immunotherapy post-SCT is considered the standard of care in COG trials for high-risk disease.
    • As a result of the COG studies, dinutuximab has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  7. A European study compared dinutuximab-beta (dinutuximab manufactured in hamster cells instead of mouse cells) to dinutuximab-beta plus subcutaneous (SQ) IL-2 administered as maintenance therapy after high-dose chemotherapy with autologous SCT. All patients additionally received isotretinoin. [35]
    • The addition of SQ IL-2 did not improve outcome; the 3-year EFS was 56% for patients treated with dinutuximab-beta and 60% for patients treated with dinutuximab-beta and SQ IL-2 (P = .76).

Radiation therapy to consolidate local control after surgical resection of the primary tumor (whether or not a complete excision was obtained) and myeloablative therapy is often given.[36,37]; [38][Level of evidence: 3iiA] The optimal dose of radiation therapy has not been determined.[25] Extensive lymph node irradiation, regardless of the extent of surgical resection preceding SCT did not provide a benefit to patients for local progression or OS.[39][Level of evidence: 3iii]

Treatment of bony metastatic disease is also considered to maximize disease control, delivered at the time of primary tumor bed irradiation. Radiation therapy to metastatic disease sites is determined on an individual basis or according to protocol guidelines for patients enrolled in studies. Many children present with widespread bony metastases. Because it is not feasible to irradiate all initial sites, the current practice is to treat the sites that have not responded, as assessed by MIBG before SCT.[26,40,41] Metastatic sites identified at diagnosis that did not receive radiation during frontline therapy appeared to have a higher risk of involvement at first relapse relative to previously irradiated metastatic sites.[26] These observations support the current paradigm of irradiating metastases that persist by MIBG uptake after induction chemotherapy in high-risk patients. Irradiation of more than 50% of the bone marrow is not advised.

In cases where diffuse bone metastases remain after induction chemotherapy, high-dose chemotherapy is followed by reassessment before deciding on consolidative radiation therapy.

Preliminary outcomes of proton radiation therapy to treat patients with high-risk neuroblastoma primary tumors have been published, demonstrating acceptable efficacy and toxicity.[27]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:

  • ANBL1531 (NCT03126916) (A Phase III Study of 131I-MIBG or Crizotinib Added to Intensive Therapy for Children With Newly Diagnosed High-Risk Neuroblastoma): The standard current COG therapy has been described above; it consists of induction chemotherapy, consolidation with surgery and tandem SCT, and postconsolidation radiation therapy with isotretinoin and dinutuximab immune-enhanced immunotherapy. During the 4-week initial induction chemotherapy cycle, patients will be screened for the ALK gene aberration (occurs in approximately 10%–15% of high-risk patients). Before the second cycle of induction chemotherapy, the treatment arm assignment occurs. Most patients enrolled will be MIBG avid and lack the ALK aberration, and will be randomly assigned to one of the following three treatment arms:
    1. Arm A consists of standard COG therapy as described above.
    2. Arm B consists of standard COG therapy but with an MIBG cycle added after the third cycle of induction chemotherapy.
    3. Arm C consists of the same treatment as arm B but the consolidation ablative therapy for SCT will be a single transplant with busulfan/melphalan, rather than the COG standard tandem transplant.

    Patients with the ALK gene mutation or ALK amplification will receive nonrandomized COG current standard induction chemotherapy with the ALK inhibitor crizotinib added, followed by further therapy on the standard COG treatment plan.

    Patients with MIBG nonavid, ALK nonaberrant tumors will receive standard current chemotherapy as in arm A above.

    The classification for the ANBL1531 trial is based on the INRG staging system.

    Boost radiation was discontinued in this trial because no clear benefit over historical controls was apparent.

  • ANBL17P1 (NCT03786783) (Dinutuximab, Sargramostim, and Combination Chemotherapy in Treating Patients With Newly Diagnosed High-Risk Neuroblastoma Undergoing SCT): The need for innovative therapies for children with high-risk neuroblastoma remains critical because many children with high-risk disease experience progressive disease during induction therapy, have persistent metastatic disease, or relapse after the completion of therapy. Recent studies conducted in patients with recurrent or refractory neuroblastoma have demonstrated objective clinical responses after treatment with the combination of an anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody plus chemotherapy and GM-CSF. This limited-institution protocol will evaluate whether the addition of the anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody dinutuximab and GM-CSF to standard induction chemotherapy during cycles three to five for patients with newly-diagnosed neuroblastoma is safe and tolerable.

    Boost radiation was discontinued in this trial because no clear benefit over historical controls was apparent.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our advanced clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now enrolling patients. The search can be narrowed by location of the trial, type of treatment, name of the drug, and other criteria. General information about clinical trials is also available.

References
  1. Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Canete A, Gerrard M, Rubie H, et al.: Poor survival for infants with MYCN-amplified metastatic neuroblastoma despite intensified treatment: the International Society of Paediatric Oncology European Neuroblastoma Experience. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1014-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Maris JM: Recent advances in neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 362 (23): 2202-11, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Cotterill SJ, Pearson AD, Pritchard J, et al.: Late relapse and prognosis for neuroblastoma patients surviving 5 years or more: a report from the European Neuroblastoma Study Group "Survey". Med Pediatr Oncol 36 (1): 235-8, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Mertens AC, Yasui Y, Neglia JP, et al.: Late mortality experience in five-year survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer: the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Clin Oncol 19 (13): 3163-72, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Morgenstern DA, London WB, Stephens D, et al.: Metastatic neuroblastoma confined to distant lymph nodes (stage 4N) predicts outcome in patients with stage 4 disease: A study from the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Database. J Clin Oncol 32 (12): 1228-35, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Kushner BH, LaQuaglia MP, Bonilla MA, et al.: Highly effective induction therapy for stage 4 neuroblastoma in children over 1 year of age. J Clin Oncol 12 (12): 2607-13, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Park JR, Scott JR, Stewart CF, et al.: Pilot induction regimen incorporating pharmacokinetically guided topotecan for treatment of newly diagnosed high-risk neuroblastoma: a Children's Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 29 (33): 4351-7, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Decarolis B, Schneider C, Hero B, et al.: Iodine-123 metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy scoring allows prediction of outcome in patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma: results of the Cologne interscore comparison study. J Clin Oncol 31 (7): 944-51, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Yanik GA, Parisi MT, Shulkin BL, et al.: Semiquantitative mIBG scoring as a prognostic indicator in patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma: a report from the Children's oncology group. J Nucl Med 54 (4): 541-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. De Ioris MA, Crocoli A, Contoli B, et al.: Local control in metastatic neuroblastoma in children over 1 year of age. BMC Cancer 15: 79, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. von Allmen D, Davidoff AM, London WB, et al.: Impact of Extent of Resection on Local Control and Survival in Patients From the COG A3973 Study With High-Risk Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 35 (2): 208-216, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Englum BR, Rialon KL, Speicher PJ, et al.: Value of surgical resection in children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62 (9): 1529-35, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. DeCou JM, Bowman LC, Rao BN, et al.: Infants with metastatic neuroblastoma have improved survival with resection of the primary tumor. J Pediatr Surg 30 (7): 937-40; discussion 940-1, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Castel V, Tovar JA, Costa E, et al.: The role of surgery in stage IV neuroblastoma. J Pediatr Surg 37 (11): 1574-8, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Simon T, Häberle B, Hero B, et al.: Role of surgery in the treatment of patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma age 18 months or older at diagnosis. J Clin Oncol 31 (6): 752-8, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Adkins ES, Sawin R, Gerbing RB, et al.: Efficacy of complete resection for high-risk neuroblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Pediatr Surg 39 (6): 931-6, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Matthay KK, Villablanca JG, Seeger RC, et al.: Treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma with intensive chemotherapy, radiotherapy, autologous bone marrow transplantation, and 13-cis-retinoic acid. Children's Cancer Group. N Engl J Med 341 (16): 1165-73, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Berthold F, Boos J, Burdach S, et al.: Myeloablative megatherapy with autologous stem-cell rescue versus oral maintenance chemotherapy as consolidation treatment in patients with high-risk neuroblastoma: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Oncol 6 (9): 649-58, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. Pritchard J, Cotterill SJ, Germond SM, et al.: High dose melphalan in the treatment of advanced neuroblastoma: results of a randomised trial (ENSG-1) by the European Neuroblastoma Study Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 44 (4): 348-57, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Elborai Y, Hafez H, Moussa EA, et al.: Comparison of toxicity following different conditioning regimens (busulfan/melphalan and carboplatin/etoposide/melphalan) for advanced stage neuroblastoma: Experience of two transplant centers. Pediatr Transplant 20 (2): 284-9, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Ladenstein R, Pötschger U, Pearson ADJ, et al.: Busulfan and melphalan versus carboplatin, etoposide, and melphalan as high-dose chemotherapy for high-risk neuroblastoma (HR-NBL1/SIOPEN): an international, randomised, multi-arm, open-label, phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncol 18 (4): 500-514, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Seif AE, Naranjo A, Baker DL, et al.: A pilot study of tandem high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue as consolidation for high-risk neuroblastoma: Children's Oncology Group study ANBL00P1. Bone Marrow Transplant 48 (7): 947-52, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Park JR, Kreissman SG, London WB, et al.: A phase III randomized clinical trial (RCT) of tandem myeloablative autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) using peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) as consolidation therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma (HR-NB): a Children's Oncology Group (COG) study. [Abstract] J Clin Oncol 34 (Suppl 15): A-LBA3, 2016. Also available online. Last accessed February 11, 2019.
  25. Casey DL, Kushner BH, Cheung NV, et al.: Dose-escalation is needed for gross disease in high-risk neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 65 (7): e27009, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Polishchuk AL, Li R, Hill-Kayser C, et al.: Likelihood of bone recurrence in prior sites of metastasis in patients with high-risk neuroblastoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 89 (4): 839-45, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Hattangadi JA, Rombi B, Yock TI, et al.: Proton radiotherapy for high-risk pediatric neuroblastoma: early outcomes and dose comparison. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 83 (3): 1015-22, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Matthay KK, Reynolds CP, Seeger RC, et al.: Long-term results for children with high-risk neuroblastoma treated on a randomized trial of myeloablative therapy followed by 13-cis-retinoic acid: a children's oncology group study. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1007-13, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  29. Yu AL, Gilman AL, Ozkaynak MF, et al.: Anti-GD2 antibody with GM-CSF, interleukin-2, and isotretinoin for neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 363 (14): 1324-34, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  30. Cheung NK, Cheung IY, Kushner BH, et al.: Murine anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody 3F8 combined with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and 13-cis-retinoic acid in high-risk patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma in first remission. J Clin Oncol 30 (26): 3264-70, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  31. Yalçin B, Kremer LC, Caron HN, et al.: High-dose chemotherapy and autologous haematopoietic stem cell rescue for children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 8: CD006301, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  32. Kushner BH, Ostrovnaya I, Cheung IY, et al.: Lack of survival advantage with autologous stem-cell transplantation in high-risk neuroblastoma consolidated by anti-GD2 immunotherapy and isotretinoin. Oncotarget 7 (4): 4155-66, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  33. Kreissman SG, Seeger RC, Matthay KK, et al.: Purged versus non-purged peripheral blood stem-cell transplantation for high-risk neuroblastoma (COG A3973): a randomised phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncol 14 (10): 999-1008, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  34. Hale GA, Arora M, Ahn KW, et al.: Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation for neuroblastoma: the CIBMTR experience. Bone Marrow Transplant 48 (8): 1056-64, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  35. Ladenstein R, Pötschger U, Valteau-Couanet D, et al.: Interleukin 2 with anti-GD2 antibody ch14.18/CHO (dinutuximab beta) in patients with high-risk neuroblastoma (HR-NBL1/SIOPEN): a multicentre, randomised, phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncol 19 (12): 1617-1629, 2018. [PUBMED Abstract]
  36. Haas-Kogan DA, Swift PS, Selch M, et al.: Impact of radiotherapy for high-risk neuroblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group study. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 56 (1): 28-39, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  37. Casey DL, Kushner BH, Cheung NK, et al.: Local Control With 21-Gy Radiation Therapy for High-Risk Neuroblastoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 96 (2): 393-400, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  38. Gatcombe HG, Marcus RB, Katzenstein HM, et al.: Excellent local control from radiation therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 74 (5): 1549-54, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  39. Braunstein SE, London WB, Kreissman SG, et al.: Role of the extent of prophylactic regional lymph node radiotherapy on survival in high-risk neuroblastoma: A report from the COG A3973 study. Pediatr Blood Cancer 66 (7): e27736, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
  40. Li R, Polishchuk A, DuBois S, et al.: Patterns of Relapse in High-Risk Neuroblastoma Patients Treated With and Without Total Body Irradiation. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 97 (2): 270-277, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  41. Mazloom A, Louis CU, Nuchtern J, et al.: Radiation therapy to the primary and postinduction chemotherapy MIBG-avid sites in high-risk neuroblastoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 90 (4): 858-62, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment of INSS Stage 4S and INRG Stage MS Neuroblastoma

International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage 4S patients are younger than 12 months and have an INSS stage 1 or stage 2 primary tumor, whereas International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) stage MS patients are younger than 18 months with any stage of primary tumor. Both staging systems have the same definition of limited pattern of metastases.

Many patients with stage 4S neuroblastoma do not require therapy. However, tumors with unfavorable biology or patients who are symptomatic because of evolving hepatomegaly and organ compromise are at increased risk of death and are treated with low-dose to moderate-dose chemotherapy. Eight percent to 10% of these patients will have MYCN amplification and are treated with high-risk protocols.[1]

The previously used Children's Oncology Group (COG) neuroblastoma 4S group assignment criteria are described in Table 15.

Table 15. Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Neuroblastoma Stage 4S Group Assignment Schema Used for COG-P9641, COG-A3961, and COG-A3973 Studiesa
INSS Stage  Age  MYCN Status  INPC Classification  DNA Ploidyb  OtherRisk Group 
DI = DNA index; INPC = International Neuroblastoma Pathologic Classification; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System.
aThe COG-P9641 (NCT00003119), COG-A3961 (NCT00003093), and COG-A3973 (NCT00004188) trials established the current standard of care for neuroblastoma patients in terms of risk group assignment and treatment strategies.
bDNA ploidy: DI >1 is favorable, DI =1 is unfavorable; a hypodiploid tumor (with DI <1) will be treated as a tumor with a DI >1 (DI <1 [hypodiploid] to be considered favorable ploidy).
cINSS stage 4S infants with favorable biology and clinical symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy until asymptomatic or according to protocol guidelines. Clinical symptoms include the following: respiratory distress with or without hepatomegaly or cord compression and neurologic deficit or inferior vena cava compression and renal ischemia; or genitourinary obstruction; or gastrointestinal obstruction and vomiting; or coagulopathy with significant clinical hemorrhage unresponsive to replacement therapy.
4Sc  <365 d  Nonamplified  Favorable  DI >1  AsymptomaticLow 
<365 d  Nonamplified  Any  DI =1 Asymptomatic or symptomaticIntermediate 
<365 d  Nonamplified  Unfavorable  Any  Asymptomatic or symptomaticIntermediate 
<365 d  MissingMissingMissingToo sick for biopsyIntermediate 
<365 d  Nonamplified  Any  Any  Symptomatic Intermediate 
<365 d  Amplified  Any  Any  Asymptomatic or symptomaticHigh 

Table 16 shows the INRG classification for stage 4S neuroblastoma used in ongoing COG studies.

Table 16. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Pretreatment Classification Schema for Stage 4S Neuroblastomaa
INRG StageHistologic CategoryGrade of Tumor DifferentiationMYCN11q AberrationPloidyPretreatment Risk Group
NA = not amplified.
aReprinted with permission. © (2015) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved. Pinto N et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma, J Clin Oncol 33 (27), 2015: 3008–3017.[2]
MS 
 Age <18 mo  NANo  C (very low)
Yes Q (high)
Amplified  R (high)

Treatment Options for Stage 4S/MS Neuroblastoma

There is no standard approach to the treatment of stage 4S neuroblastoma.

Treatment options for stage 4S neuroblastoma include the following:

  1. Observation with supportive care (for asymptomatic patients with favorable tumor biology).
  2. Chemotherapy (for symptomatic patients, very young infants, or patients with unfavorable biology).
  3. Radiation therapy (rarely for patients with symptoms related to hepatomegaly from metastatic disease).

Resection of primary tumor is not associated with improved outcome.[3-5] Rarely, infants with massive hepatic 4S neuroblastoma develop cirrhosis from the chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy that is used to control the disease and may benefit from orthotopic liver transplant.[6]

Observation with supportive care

Observation with supportive care is used to treat asymptomatic patients with favorable tumor biology.

The treatment of children with stage 4S disease is dependent on clinical presentation.[3,4] Most patients do not require therapy unless bulky disease is causing organ compromise and risk of death.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to treat symptomatic patients, very young infants (diagnosed before age 2 months), or patients with unfavorable biology. Patients with evidence of rapid tumor growth in the first several weeks of life require immediate intervention with chemotherapy to avoid potentially irreversible abdominal compartment syndrome and hepatic and/or renal failure.[7]

Infants diagnosed with INSS stage 4S neuroblastoma, particularly those with hepatomegaly or those younger than 3 months, have the potential for rapid clinical deterioration and may benefit from early initiation of therapy.[7] It has been difficult to identify infants with stage 4S disease who will benefit from chemotherapy.

A scoring system to measure signs and symptoms of deterioration or compromise was developed to better assess this group of stage 4S patients.[8] This scoring system has been evaluated retrospectively, was predictive of the clinical course, and has been applied prospectively to guide the management of patients with INSS stage 4S disease.[8,9] The scoring system has been modified on the basis of the ANBL0531 results in the youngest infants discussed above to guide chemotherapeutic intervention for 4S in infants.[7]

Various chemotherapy regimens (cyclophosphamide alone, carboplatin/etoposide, cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin/vincristine) have been used to treat symptomatic patients. The approach is to administer the chemotherapy only as long as symptoms persist in order to avoid toxicity, which contributes to poorer survival. Additionally, lower doses of chemotherapy are often recommended for very young or low-weight infants, along with granulocyte colony-stimulating factors after each cycle of chemotherapy.

Evidence (chemotherapy for symptomatic patients, very young infants, or patients with unfavorable biology):

  1. The COG ANBL0531 (NCT00499616) trial prospectively studied a subset of 4S patients who had MYCN-nonamplified tumors with impaired or impending organ dysfunction or unfavorable biology (unfavorable histology and/or diploid DNA index). Forty-nine patients were enrolled, 41 of whom were symptomatic and 28 of whom had unfavorable biology. Patients were assigned to receive two, four, or eight cycles of chemotherapy on the basis of the tumor biology, age of the patient, and symptoms.[7][Level of evidence: 3iiiA]
    • The 3-year overall survival (OS) was 81.4%. Eight of the nine deaths occurred in patients younger than 2 months at diagnosis. Five deaths were related to acute complications of rapidly progressing hepatomegaly (i.e., abdominal compartment syndrome, renal failure, respiratory failure, coagulopathy, and infection). Patients younger than 40 days at diagnosis had more than 13 times the risk of dying compared with patients older than 47 days. The study was amended after the five deaths to mandate immediate chemotherapy for patients with 4S disease younger than 2 months at diagnosis with evolving hepatomegaly. No deaths related to complications of hepatomegaly occurred in the subsequent infants enrolled, including 18 infants who were younger than 2 months.

      Emergent surgical abdominal decompression can be used to avoid respiratory deterioration and improve ventilation.[10,11]

    • This study confirmed the inferior outcome of patients with unfavorable biology compared with symptomatic patients with favorable biology. Both of the patients with late death died as a result of metastatic disease and had unfavorable biology.
    • Resection of the primary tumor was not mandated in this study, with only 16 patients having a greater than 50% resection of the primary tumor. Symptomatic patients without a biopsy were eligible for enrollment in the trial to encourage rapid treatment and avoid risky procedures. The trial allowed, and thus studied, patients with symptomatic 4S disease to avoid biopsy and thus, biological characterization until the patient's condition improved and biopsy was considered safe.
  2. Eighty stage 4S patients were enrolled on the COG-P9641 trial.[12]
    • Overall, the 5-year event-free survival (EFS) was 77%, and the OS was 91%.
    • The 5-year EFS was 63% and OS was 84% for the 41 patients with asymptomatic stage 4S neuroblastoma treated with surgery or biopsy alone; the EFS was 95% and OS was 97% for the 39 patients treated with surgery and chemotherapy (EFS P = .0016; OS P = .1302).

      Previously, chemotherapy toxicity was thought to be responsible for the poorer survival of patients with stage 4S disease; however, the use of chemotherapy on the COG-P9641 trial was restricted to specific clinical situations with a recommended number of cycles.

  3. Also, on the COG-P9641 trial, asymptomatic infants with biologically favorable (MYCN-nonamplified) INSS stage 4S disease did not receive chemotherapy until the development of progressive disease or clinical symptoms.[12]
    • Infants who became symptomatic had disease-related organ failure and infectious complications resulting in an inferior OS compared with those who received immediate chemotherapy (four to eight cycles of therapy). The 3-year OS for infants who did not receive chemotherapy was 84% versus 97% for infants who received chemotherapy (P = .1321).
  4. On the COG-ANBL0531 trial, the 2-year OS rate for INSS stage 4S patients was 81%, which is lower than that reported in other cooperative trials such as COG-P9641.[7] Many patients enrolled on the ANBL0531 study were more ill than patients entered on previous trials, in part because tumor biopsy was not required in symptomatic infants. Previous trials mainly included asymptomatic patients and most had favorable biology. Treatment on ANBL0531 was allocated on the basis of symptoms, age, and tumor biology.
  5. A prospective study was performed in 125 infants with stage 4S MYCN-nonamplified tumors or INSS stage 3 primary tumors and/or positive bone scintigraphy not associated with changes in the cortical bone documented on plain radiographs and/or computed tomography.[9] A pretreatment symptom score was used to determine initial treatment; observation was recommended for infants with low symptom scores (n = 86) and chemotherapy was recommended for infants with high symptom scores (n = 37).

    The chemotherapy for patients with high symptom scores included two to four 3-day courses of carboplatin and etoposide; if symptoms persisted or progressive disease developed, up to four 5-day courses of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine were administered. One-half of the patients underwent complete or partial resection of the primary tumor.

    • There was no difference in the 2-year EFS and OS between asymptomatic and symptomatic patients (EFS, 87% vs. 88%; OS, 98% vs. 97%), although many of the investigators preferred to give chemotherapy in the presence of a low symptom score.
    • For infants with low symptom scores, there was no difference in the outcome between the initially untreated infants (n = 56; OS, 93%) and treated infants (n = 30; OS, 86%).
    • The OS was 90% for infants presenting with high symptom scores.
    • There was no significant difference in 2-year OS between patients with unresectable primary tumors and patients with resectable primary tumors (97% vs. 100%) and between patients with negative and positive skeletal scintigraphy without radiologic abnormalities (100% vs. 97%).

Radiation therapy (for patients with symptoms related to hepatomegaly from metastatic disease)

In rare cases of marked hepatomegaly in symptomatic MS (4S) infants with neuroblastoma who were unresponsive to chemotherapy, very low-dose radiation therapy has been used. In a series of 41 symptomatic infants with MS disease, radiation therapy was administered to five infants, three of whom died.[7]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:

  • ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) (Response and Biology-Based Risk Factor–Guided Therapy in Treating Younger Patients With Non–High-Risk Neuroblastoma):
    • For all newly diagnosed INRG MS patients younger than 18 months, the following occurs:
      • Patients younger than 3 months with existing or evolving hepatomegaly or who are symptomatic are entered in the trial, and chemotherapy begins immediately. Full staging must be completed within 1 month; a tumor biopsy is not performed until the patient is stable.
      • Patients aged 3 to 12 months who are symptomatic are entered in the trial, and chemotherapy begins immediately. Tumor biopsy is performed after the patient is stable.
      • Patients aged 12 to 18 months who are symptomatic have a tumor biopsy before starting chemotherapy.
      • Patients aged 3 to 18 months who are asymptomatic and patients younger than 3 months who are asymptomatic and have no evolving hepatomegaly have a tumor biopsy followed by close observation initially, to continue for 3 years.

        Patients with INRG MS tumors that have unfavorable histology or unfavorable genomic features with or without symptoms are treated according to a response-based algorithm to determine length of treatment. For INRG MS patients under observation without chemotherapy, an objective scoring system is used to monitor them for clinical changes and initiate therapy. For patients with complete resolution of symptoms and at least a 50% reduction in primary tumor volume (partial response), chemotherapy is discontinued, and observation continues for 3 years after completion of therapy. If the disease progresses, the patient leaves this study.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our advanced clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now enrolling patients. The search can be narrowed by location of the trial, type of treatment, name of the drug, and other criteria. General information about clinical trials is also available.

References
  1. Canete A, Gerrard M, Rubie H, et al.: Poor survival for infants with MYCN-amplified metastatic neuroblastoma despite intensified treatment: the International Society of Paediatric Oncology European Neuroblastoma Experience. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1014-9, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Guglielmi M, De Bernardi B, Rizzo A, et al.: Resection of primary tumor at diagnosis in stage IV-S neuroblastoma: does it affect the clinical course? J Clin Oncol 14 (5): 1537-44, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Katzenstein HM, Bowman LC, Brodeur GM, et al.: Prognostic significance of age, MYCN oncogene amplification, tumor cell ploidy, and histology in 110 infants with stage D(S) neuroblastoma: the pediatric oncology group experience--a pediatric oncology group study. J Clin Oncol 16 (6): 2007-17, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Nickerson HJ, Matthay KK, Seeger RC, et al.: Favorable biology and outcome of stage IV-S neuroblastoma with supportive care or minimal therapy: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 18 (3): 477-86, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Steele M, Jones NL, Ng V, et al.: Successful liver transplantation in an infant with stage 4S(M) neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 60 (3): 515-7, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Twist CJ, Naranjo A, Schmidt ML, et al.: Defining Risk Factors for Chemotherapeutic Intervention in Infants With Stage 4S Neuroblastoma: A Report From Children's Oncology Group Study ANBL0531. J Clin Oncol 37 (2): 115-124, 2019. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Hsu LL, Evans AE, D'Angio GJ: Hepatomegaly in neuroblastoma stage 4s: criteria for treatment of the vulnerable neonate. Med Pediatr Oncol 27 (6): 521-8, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. De Bernardi B, Gerrard M, Boni L, et al.: Excellent outcome with reduced treatment for infants with disseminated neuroblastoma without MYCN gene amplification. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1034-40, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Keene DJ, Minford J, Craigie RJ, et al.: Laparostomy closure in stage 4S neuroblastoma. J Pediatr Surg 46 (1): e1-4, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Harper L, Perel Y, Lavrand F, et al.: Surgical management of neuroblastoma-related hepatomegaly: do material and method really count? Pediatr Hematol Oncol 25 (4): 313-7, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Strother DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Outcome after surgery alone or with restricted use of chemotherapy for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma: results of Children's Oncology Group study P9641. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1842-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]

Treatment of Recurrent Neuroblastoma

Tumor growth resulting from maturation should be differentiated from tumor progression by performing a biopsy and reviewing histology. Patients may have persistent maturing disease with metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) uptake that does not affect outcome, particularly patients with low-risk and intermediate-risk disease.[1] An analysis of 23 paired MIBG and positron emission tomography (PET) scans in 14 patients with refractory or recurrent high-risk neuroblastoma treated with iodine I 131-MIBG (131I-MIBG) found that the MIBG scan was more sensitive than fluorine F 18-fludeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) PET for detecting metastatic bone lesions, although there was a trend for 18F-FDG PET to be more sensitive for soft tissue lesions.[2]

Subclonal ALK mutations or other MAPK pathway lesions may be present at diagnosis, with subsequent clonal expansion at relapse. Consequently, serial sampling of progressive tumors may lead to the identification of potentially actionable mutations.[3,4] Modern comprehensive molecular analysis comparing primary and relapsed neuroblastoma from the same patients revealed extensive clonal enrichment and several newly discovered mutations, with many tumors showing new or clonal-enriched mutations in the RAS-MAPK pathway. This was true for patients with both high-risk and low-risk tumors at diagnosis.[5,6] (Refer to the Genomic and Biologic Features of Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information).

If neuroblastoma recurs in a child originally diagnosed with high-risk disease, the prognosis is usually poor despite additional intensive therapy.[7-10] However, it is often possible to gain many additional months of life for these patients with alternative chemotherapy regimens.[11,12] Clinical trials are appropriate for these patients and may be offered. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

Prognostic Factors for Recurrent Neuroblastoma

The International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Project performed a survival-tree analysis of clinical and biological characteristics (defined at diagnosis) associated with survival after relapse in 2,266 patients with neuroblastoma entered on large clinical trials in well-established clinical trials groups around the world.[7] The survival-tree analysis revealed the following:

  • Overall survival (OS) in the entire relapsed population was 20%.
  • Among patients with all stages of disease at diagnosis, MYCN amplification predicted a poorer prognosis, measured as 5-year OS.
  • Among patients diagnosed with International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage 4 without amplification, age older than 18 months and high lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) level predicted poor prognosis.
  • Among patients with MYCN amplification, those diagnosed with stage 1 and stage 2 have a better prognosis than do those diagnosed with stage 3 and stage 4.
  • Among patients with MYCN-nonamplified tumors who are not stage 4, patients with hyperdiploidy had a better prognosis than did patients with diploidy in those younger than 18 months, while among those older than 18 months, patients with differentiating tumors fared much better than did patients with undifferentiated and poorly differentiated tumors.

Significant prognostic factors determined at diagnosis for postrelapse survival include the following:[7]

  • Age.
  • INSS stage.
  • MYCN status.
  • Time from diagnosis to first relapse.
  • LDH level, ploidy, and histologic grade of tumor differentiation (to a lesser extent).

The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) experience with recurrence in patients with low-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma showed that most patients can be salvaged. The COG reported a 3-year event free survival (EFS) of 88% and an OS of 96% in intermediate-risk patients and a 5-year EFS of 89% and OS of 97% in low-risk patients.[13,14] Moreover, in most patients originally diagnosed with low-risk or intermediate-risk disease, local recurrence or recurrence in the 4S pattern may be treated successfully with observation alone, surgery alone, or with moderate-dose chemotherapy, without myeloablative therapy and stem cell transplant.

Although the OS after recurrence in children presenting with high-risk neuroblastoma is generally extremely poor, patients with high-risk neuroblastoma at first relapse after complete remission or minimal residual disease (MRD) in whom relapse was a single site of soft tissue mass (a few children also had bone marrow or bone disease at relapse) had a 5-year OS of 35% in one single-institution study. All patients underwent surgical resection of the soft tissue disease. MYCN amplification and multifocal soft tissue disease were associated with a worse postprogression survival.[15]

Recurrent Neuroblastoma in Patients Initially Classified as Low Risk

Locoregional recurrence

Treatment options for locoregional recurrent neuroblastoma initially classified as low risk include the following:

  1. Surgery followed by observation or chemotherapy.
  2. Chemotherapy that may be followed by surgery.

Local or regional recurrent cancer is resected if possible.

Patients with favorable biology and regional recurrence more than 3 months after completion of planned treatment are observed if resection of the recurrence is total or near total (≥90% resection). Those with favorable biology and a less-than-near-total resection are treated with chemotherapy.[13,14]

Infants younger than 1 year at the time of locoregional recurrence whose tumors have any unfavorable biologic properties are observed if resection is total or near total. If the resection is less than near total, these same infants are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may consist of moderate doses of carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide, or cyclophosphamide and topotecan. The cumulative dose of each agent is kept low to minimize long-term effects from the chemotherapy regimen as used in previous COG trials (COG-P9641 and COG-A3961).[13,14]

Older children with local recurrence with either unfavorable International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification at diagnosis or MYCN gene amplification have a poor prognosis and may be treated with surgery, aggressive combination chemotherapy, or they may be offered entry into a clinical trial.

Evidence (surgery followed by observation or chemotherapy):

  1. A COG study of low-risk patients with stages 1, 2A, 2B, and 4S neuroblastoma enrolled 915 patients, 800 of whom were asymptomatic and treated with surgery alone followed by observation. The other patients received chemotherapy with or without surgery.[14]
    • About 10% of patients developed progressive or recurrent tumor. Most recurrences were treated on study with surgery alone or moderate chemotherapy with or without surgery, and most patients were salvaged, as demonstrated by the EFS (89%) and OS (97%) rates at 5 years.

Metastatic recurrence or disease refractory to standard treatment

Treatment options for metastatic recurrent neuroblastoma initially classified as low risk include the following:

  1. Observation.
  2. Chemotherapy.
  3. Surgery followed by chemotherapy.
  4. High-risk therapy.

Metastatic recurrent or progressive neuroblastoma in an infant initially categorized as low risk and younger than 1 year at recurrence may be treated according to tumor biology, as defined in the previous COG trials (COG-P9641 and COG-A3961):

  1. If the biology is completely favorable, metastasis is in a 4S pattern, and the recurrence or progression is within 3 months of diagnosis, the patient is observed systematically.
  2. If the metastatic progression or recurrence occurs more than 3 months after diagnosis or not in a 4S pattern, then the primary tumor is resected, if possible, and chemotherapy is given.

    Chemotherapy may consist of moderate doses of carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide. The cumulative dose of each agent is kept low to minimize long-term effects from the chemotherapy regimen, as used in previous COG trials (COG-P9641 and COG-A3961).

Any child initially categorized as low risk who is older than 1 year at the time of metastatic recurrent or progressive disease and whose recurrence is not in the stage 4S pattern usually has a poor prognosis and is treated as follows:

  1. High-risk therapy.

Patients with metastatic recurrent neuroblastoma are treated like patients with newly diagnosed high-risk neuroblastoma. (Refer to the Treatment Options for High-Risk Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information.)

Recurrent Neuroblastoma in Patients Initially Classified as Intermediate Risk

The treatment options for locoregional and metastatic recurrence in patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma are derived from the results of the COG-A3961 trial. Among 479 patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma treated on the COG-A3961 clinical trial, 42 patients developed disease progression. The rate was 10% of those with favorable biology and 17% of those with unfavorable biology. Thirty patients had locoregional recurrence, 11 patients had metastatic recurrence, and 1 patient had both types of recurrent disease. Six of the 42 patients died of disease, while 36 patients responded to therapy. Thus, most patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma and disease progression may be salvaged.[13]

Locoregional recurrence

Treatment options for locoregional recurrent neuroblastoma initially classified as intermediate risk include the following:

  1. Surgery (complete resection).
  2. Surgery (incomplete resection) followed by chemotherapy.
  3. Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is considered only for patients with disease progression after chemotherapy and second-look surgery.[13]

The current standard of care is based on the experience from the COG intermediate-risk treatment plan (COG-A3961). Locoregional recurrence of neuroblastoma with favorable biology that occurs more than 3 months after completion of chemotherapy may be treated surgically. If resection is less than near total, then additional chemotherapy may be given. Chemotherapy may consist of moderate doses of carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide. The cumulative dose of each agent is kept low to minimize long-term effects from the chemotherapy regimen, as used in a previous COG trial (COG-A3961).[13]

Metastatic recurrence

Treatment options for metastatic recurrent neuroblastoma initially classified as intermediate risk include the following:

  1. High-risk therapy.

Patients with metastatic recurrent neuroblastoma are treated like patients with newly diagnosed high-risk neuroblastoma. (Refer to the Treatment Options for High-Risk Neuroblastoma section of this summary for more information.)

Recurrent Neuroblastoma in Patients Initially Classified as High Risk

Any recurrence in patients initially classified as high risk signifies a very poor prognosis.[7] Clinical trials may be considered. Palliative care should also be considered as part of the patient's treatment plan.

An analysis of several trials included 383 patients with neuroblastoma whose tumor recurred or progressed on COG modern-era early-phase trials. The 1-year progression-free survival (PFS) rate was 21%, and the 4-year PFS rate was 6%, while the OS rates were 57% at 1 year and 20% at 4 years. Less than 10% of patients experienced no subsequent recurrence or progression. MYCN amplification predicted worse PFS and OS rates.[16] Although the OS after recurrence in children presenting with high-risk neuroblastoma is generally extremely poor, patients with high-risk neuroblastoma at first relapse after complete remission or MRD in whom relapse was a single site of soft tissue mass (a few children also had bone marrow or bone disease at relapse) had a 5-year OS of 35% in one single-institution study.[15]

Treatment options for recurrent or refractory neuroblastoma in patients initially classified as high risk include the following:

  1. Chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy.
    • Temozolomide, irinotecan, and dinutuximab.[17]
  2. 131I-MIBG. 131I-MIBG alone, in combination with other therapy, or followed by stem cell rescue.
  3. ALK inhibitors. Crizotinib, or other ALK inhibitors, for patients with ALK mutations.[18]
  4. Chemotherapy.
    • Topotecan in combination with cyclophosphamide or etoposide.[19]
    • Temozolomide with irinotecan.

Chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy produces the best response rate and response duration of treatments for high-risk patients with disease progression.

Evidence (chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy):

  1. In the ANBL1221 (NCT01767194) trial, patients in first relapse or progression were randomly assigned to receive either temozolomide/irinotecan/dinutuximab or temozolomide/irinotecan/temsirolimus.[17]
    • Of the 17 patients treated with the combination that included dinutuximab, 9 patients (53%) had an objective response, compared with 1 of 18 patients treated with the regimen that contained temsirolimus.

Evidence (131I-MIBG):

  1. For children with recurrent or refractory neuroblastoma, 131I-MIBG is an effective palliative agent and may be considered alone or in combination with chemotherapy (with stem cell rescue) in a clinical research trial.[20-25]; [26,27][Level of evidence: 3iiiA]
  2. A North American retrospective study of more than 200 patients treated with 131I-MIBG therapy compared children who had recurrence or progression of disease with children who had stable or persistent disease since diagnosis.[28]
    • The rate of immediate progression after 131I-MIBG therapy was lower and OS at 2 years was better (65% vs. 39%) in patients with stable, persistent disease.
  3. Tandem consolidation using 131I-MIBG, vincristine, and irinotecan with autologous stem cell transplant (SCT) followed by busulfan/melphalan with autologous SCT was retrospectively reported in eight patients and resulted in three complete responses, two partial responses, and one minor response.[27]
  4. Single autologous SCT with escalating dose 131I-MIBG and carboplatin/etoposide/melphalan was studied in additional patients.[29]
    • After induction chemotherapy, 27 refractory patients and 15 progressing patients were treated, resulting in four responses. Eight patients with partial response to induction were treated, resulting in three responses.
    • The 12% incidence of sinusoidal obstructive syndrome was dose limiting.

Evidence (chemotherapy):

  1. The combination of irinotecan and temozolomide had a 15% response rate in one study.[30][Level of evidence: 2A]
  2. A retrospective study reported on 74 patients who received 92 cycles of ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide; it included 37 patients who received peripheral blood stem cell rescue after responding to this drug combination.[31]
    • Disease regressions (major and minor responses) were achieved in 14 of 17 patients (82%) with a new relapse, 13 of 26 patients (50%) with refractory neuroblastoma, and 12 of 34 patients (35%) who were treated for progressive disease during chemotherapy (P = .005).
    • Grade 3 toxicities were rare.
  3. Topotecan in combination with cyclophosphamide or etoposide has been used in patients with recurrent disease who did not receive topotecan initially.[32,33]; [19][Level of evidence: 1A]
  4. High-dose carboplatin, irinotecan, and/or temozolomide has been used in relapsed patients resistant or refractory to regimens containing topotecan.[33]

Allogeneic transplant has a historically low success rate in recurrent or progressive neuroblastoma. In a retrospective registry study, allogeneic SCT after a previous autologous SCT appeared to offer no benefit. Disease recurrence remains the most common cause of treatment failure.[34]

Clinical trials of novel therapeutic approaches, such as a vaccine designed to induce host antiganglioside antibodies that can replicate the antineoplastic activities of intravenously administered monoclonal antibodies, are currently under investigation. Patients also receive a beta-glucan treatment, which has a broad range of immunostimulatory effects and synergizes with anti-GD2/GD3 monoclonal antibodies. In a phase I study of 15 children with high-risk neuroblastoma, the therapy was tolerated without any dose-limiting toxicity.[35] Long-term PFS has been reported in patients who achieve a second or later complete or very good partial remission followed by consolidation with anti-GD2 immunotherapy and isotretinoin with or without maintenance therapy. This includes patients who had previously received anti-GD2 immunotherapy and isotretinoin.[36]

Recurrent Neuroblastoma in the Central Nervous System

Central nervous system (CNS) involvement, although rare at initial presentation, may occur in 5% to 10% of patients with recurrent neuroblastoma. Because upfront treatment for newly diagnosed patients does not adequately treat the CNS, the CNS has emerged as a sanctuary site leading to relapse.[37,38] CNS relapses are almost always fatal, with a median time to death of 6 months.

Treatment options for recurrent neuroblastoma in the CNS include the following:

  1. Surgery and radiation therapy.
  2. Novel therapeutic approaches.

Current treatment approaches generally include eradicating bulky and microscopic residual disease in the CNS and minimal residual systemic disease that may herald further relapses. Neurosurgical interventions serve to decrease edema, control hemorrhage, and remove bulky tumor before starting therapy.

Compartmental radioimmunotherapy using intrathecal radioiodinated monoclonal antibodies has been tested in patients with recurrent metastatic CNS neuroblastoma after surgery, craniospinal radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.[12]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Recurrent or Refractory Neuroblastoma

Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

The following are examples of national and/or institutional clinical trials that are currently being conducted:

  • APEC1621 (NCT03155620) (Pediatric MATCH: Targeted Therapy Directed by Genetic Testing in Treating Pediatric Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Advanced Solid Tumors, Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas, or Histiocytic Disorders): NCI-COG Pediatric Molecular Analysis for Therapeutic Choice (MATCH), referred to as Pediatric MATCH, will match targeted agents with specific molecular changes identified using a next-generation sequencing targeted assay of more than 4,000 different mutations across more than 160 genes in refractory and recurrent solid tumors. Children and adolescents aged 1 to 21 years are eligible for the trial.

    Tumor tissue from progressive or recurrent disease must be available for molecular characterization. Patients with tumors that have molecular variants addressed by treatment arms included in the trial will be offered treatment on Pediatric MATCH. Additional information can be obtained on the NCI website and ClinicalTrials.gov website.

  • ADVL1312 (NCT02095132) (A Phase I/II Study of AZD1775 [MK-1775] in Combination With Oral Irinotecan in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults With Relapsed or Refractory Solid Tumors): Wee1 is a tyrosine kinase that is activated in response to DNA damage and plays a role in chemoresistance and tolerance of oncogene-induced cellular stress. The Wee1 inhibitor AZD1775 (MK-1775) was developed to overcome this checkpoint and render cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, and it may be more effective in tumors with high levels of the MYC or MYCN oncogene.
  • ADVL1621 (NCT02332668) (A Phase I/II Study of Pembrolizumab [MK-3475] in Children With Advanced Melanoma or a PD-L1–Positive Advanced, Relapsed or Refractory Solid Tumor or Lymphoma): Part 1 of this study will find the maximum tolerated dose, confirm the dose, and find the recommended phase II dose for pembrolizumab therapy. Part 2 of the study will further evaluate the safety and efficacy at the pediatric phase II recommended dose.
  • ENCIT-01 (NCT02311621) (A Phase I Feasibility and Safety Study of Cellular Immunotherapy for Recurrent/Refractory Neuroblastoma Using Autologous T-cells Lentivirally Transduced to Express CD171-Specific Chimeric Antigen Receptors [CAR]): Patients with recurrent or refractory neuroblastoma are resistant to conventional chemotherapy. For this reason, the investigators are attempting to use T cells obtained directly from the patient, which can be genetically modified to express a CAR. The CAR enables the T cell to recognize and kill the neuroblastoma cell through the recognition of CD171, a protein expressed on the surface of the neuroblastoma cell. This is a phase I study designed to determine the maximum tolerated dose of the CAR T cells.
  • NANT2015-02 (NCT03107988) (Phase I Study of Lorlatinib [PF-06463922], an Oral Small Molecule Inhibitor of ALK/ROS1, for Patients With ALK-Driven Relapsed or Refractory Neuroblastoma): This is a pediatric dose-finding study of a third-generation ALK inhibitor. Lorlatinib is sensitive to some ALK mutations to which crizotinib is resistant. An expansion study to include more children is also being planned.
  • N2011-01 (NCT02035137) (Randomized Phase II Pick-the-Winner Study of 131I-MIBG, 131I-MIBG With Vincristine and Irinotecan, or 131I-MIBG With Vorinostat for Resistant/Relapsed Neuroblastoma): This study will compare three treatment regimens containing MIBG, including their effects on tumor response and associated side effects, to determine whether one therapy is better than the other for people diagnosed with relapsed or persistent neuroblastoma.
  • NANT2017-01 (NCT03332667) (MIBG With Dinutuximab): In this pediatric phase I trial, 131I-MIBG will be administered in combination with dinutuximab (a chimeric 14.18 monoclonal antibody) to neuroblastoma patients with refractory or relapsed disease. This study will utilize a traditional phase I dose escalation 3+3 design to determine a recommended phase II pediatric dose. An expansion cohort of an additional six patients may then be enrolled.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our advanced clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now enrolling patients. The search can be narrowed by location of the trial, type of treatment, name of the drug, and other criteria. General information about clinical trials is also available.

References
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  13. Baker DL, Schmidt ML, Cohn SL, et al.: Outcome after reduced chemotherapy for intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. N Engl J Med 363 (14): 1313-23, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. Strother DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Outcome after surgery alone or with restricted use of chemotherapy for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma: results of Children's Oncology Group study P9641. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1842-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Murphy JM, Lim II, Farber BA, et al.: Salvage rates after progression of high-risk neuroblastoma with a soft tissue mass. J Pediatr Surg 51 (2): 285-8, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  17. Mody R, Naranjo A, Van Ryn C, et al.: Irinotecan-temozolomide with temsirolimus or dinutuximab in children with refractory or relapsed neuroblastoma (COG ANBL1221): an open-label, randomised, phase 2 trial. Lancet Oncol 18 (7): 946-957, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Mossé YP, Lim MS, Voss SD, et al.: Safety and activity of crizotinib for paediatric patients with refractory solid tumours or anaplastic large-cell lymphoma: a Children's Oncology Group phase 1 consortium study. Lancet Oncol 14 (6): 472-80, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. London WB, Frantz CN, Campbell LA, et al.: Phase II randomized comparison of topotecan plus cyclophosphamide versus topotecan alone in children with recurrent or refractory neuroblastoma: a Children's Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 28 (24): 3808-15, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. DuBois SG, Groshen S, Park JR, et al.: Phase I Study of Vorinostat as a Radiation Sensitizer with 131I-Metaiodobenzylguanidine (131I-MIBG) for Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Neuroblastoma. Clin Cancer Res 21 (12): 2715-21, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
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  23. Matthay KK, Tan JC, Villablanca JG, et al.: Phase I dose escalation of iodine-131-metaiodobenzylguanidine with myeloablative chemotherapy and autologous stem-cell transplantation in refractory neuroblastoma: a new approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy Consortium Study. J Clin Oncol 24 (3): 500-6, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Matthay KK, Quach A, Huberty J, et al.: Iodine-131--metaiodobenzylguanidine double infusion with autologous stem-cell rescue for neuroblastoma: a new approaches to neuroblastoma therapy phase I study. J Clin Oncol 27 (7): 1020-5, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. DuBois SG, Chesler L, Groshen S, et al.: Phase I study of vincristine, irinotecan, and ¹³¹I-metaiodobenzylguanidine for patients with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma: a new approaches to neuroblastoma therapy trial. Clin Cancer Res 18 (9): 2679-86, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Johnson K, McGlynn B, Saggio J, et al.: Safety and efficacy of tandem 131I-metaiodobenzylguanidine infusions in relapsed/refractory neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 57 (7): 1124-9, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. French S, DuBois SG, Horn B, et al.: 131I-MIBG followed by consolidation with busulfan, melphalan and autologous stem cell transplantation for refractory neuroblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 60 (5): 879-84, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Zhou MJ, Doral MY, DuBois SG, et al.: Different outcomes for relapsed versus refractory neuroblastoma after therapy with (131)I-metaiodobenzylguanidine ((131)I-MIBG). Eur J Cancer 51 (16): 2465-72, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  29. Yanik GA, Villablanca JG, Maris JM, et al.: 131I-metaiodobenzylguanidine with intensive chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation for high-risk neuroblastoma. A new approaches to neuroblastoma therapy (NANT) phase II study. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 21 (4): 673-81, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  30. Bagatell R, London WB, Wagner LM, et al.: Phase II study of irinotecan and temozolomide in children with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma: a Children's Oncology Group study. J Clin Oncol 29 (2): 208-13, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  31. Kushner BH, Modak S, Kramer K, et al.: Ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide for neuroblastoma: a high-dose salvage regimen and review of the literature. Cancer 119 (3): 665-71, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  32. Simon T, Längler A, Harnischmacher U, et al.: Topotecan, cyclophosphamide, and etoposide (TCE) in the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma. Results of a phase-II trial. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 133 (9): 653-61, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  33. Kushner BH, Kramer K, Modak S, et al.: Differential impact of high-dose cyclophosphamide, topotecan, and vincristine in clinical subsets of patients with chemoresistant neuroblastoma. Cancer 116 (12): 3054-60, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  34. Hale GA, Arora M, Ahn KW, et al.: Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation for neuroblastoma: the CIBMTR experience. Bone Marrow Transplant 48 (8): 1056-64, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  35. Kushner BH, Cheung IY, Modak S, et al.: Phase I trial of a bivalent gangliosides vaccine in combination with β-glucan for high-risk neuroblastoma in second or later remission. Clin Cancer Res 20 (5): 1375-82, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  36. Kushner BH, Ostrovnaya I, Cheung IY, et al.: Prolonged progression-free survival after consolidating second or later remissions of neuroblastoma with Anti-GD2 immunotherapy and isotretinoin: a prospective Phase II study. Oncoimmunology 4 (7): e1016704, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
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Changes to this Summary (06/04/2019)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

General Information About Neuroblastoma

Added text to state that about 5% of children with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome have the molecular etiology of mutations causing decreased activity of CDKN1C. Also added text about the results of a review of all large studies of genetically subtyped Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (cited Mussa et al. as reference 29).

Added text to state that in a study that compared the genomic data of primary diagnostic neuroblastomas originating in the adrenal gland with that of neuroblastomas originating in the thoracic sympathetic ganglia, 16% of thoracic tumors harbored ALK mutations (cited Oldridge et al. as reference 52).

The Opsoclonus/myoclonus syndrome subsection was extensively revised.

Added text to state that adolescents and adults rarely develop neuroblastoma, accounting for less than 5% of all cases. When neuroblastoma occurs in this age range, it shows a more indolent clinical course than does neuroblastoma in younger patients, and it shows de novo chemotherapy resistance.

Added text to state that in adolescents, approximately 40% of the tumors will have loss-of-function mutations in ATRX, compared with less than 20% in younger children and 0% in infants younger than 1 year.

Added Adults as a new subsection in the Prognostic Factors subsection.

Added text about the results of a study that compared the genomic and epigenomic data of primary diagnostic neuroblastomas originating in the adrenal gland with that of neuroblastomas originating in the thoracic sympathetic ganglia.

Stage Information for Neuroblastoma

Added text to state that the clinical trials did not include postinduction-phase assessments of Curie or International Society of Paediatric Oncology Europe Neuroblastoma (SIOPEN) scores after transplant and immunotherapy, and cutoffs and outcomes associated with those assessments may differ from the preinduction and postinduction scores.

Added text to describe the Children's Oncology Group (COG) image-defined risk factors, which use an anatomic localization approach.

Added text to state that the L2 tumors that underwent primary resection may have been selected for less-risky resectability in the European multicenter study LNESG1.

Treatment Option Overview for Neuroblastoma

Revised Table 5 to include radiation therapy as a treatment option for patients with stage 4S/MS neuroblastoma and recurrent neuroblastoma.

The Radiation Therapy subsection was extensively revised.

Treatment of Low-Risk Neuroblastoma

Added text to state that some patients with presumed neuroblastoma have been observed without biopsy; this strategy is being studied further by the COG in the ANBL1232 trial.

Treatment of Intermediate-Risk Neuroblastoma

The Radiation therapy subsection was extensively revised.

Treatment of High-Risk Neuroblastoma

Revised text to state that for children with high-risk neuroblastoma, the 5-year overall survival with current treatments is about 50% for patients diagnosed between 2005 and 2010.

Revised text to state that the postconsolidation phase consists of radiation therapy to the site of the primary tumor and residual metastatic sites, immunotherapy, and retinoid therapy.

The Postconsolidation phase subsection was extensively revised.

Added text to state that the classification for the ANBL1531 trial is based on the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group staging system.

Added text to state that boost radiation was discontinued in the ANBL1531 trial because no clear benefit over historical controls was apparent.

Added text to state that boost radiation was discontinued in the ANBL17P1 trial because no clear benefit over historical controls was apparent.

Treatment of INSS Stage 4S and INRG Stage MS Neuroblastoma

Added radiation therapy as a treatment option for stage 4S neuroblastoma.

Added Radiation therapy (for symptomatic patients related to hepatomegaly from metastatic disease) as a new subsection.

Treatment of Recurrent Neuroblastoma

Added radiation therapy as a treatment option for locoregional recurrent neuroblastoma initially classified as intermediate risk. Also added text to state that radiation therapy is considered only for patients with disease progression after chemotherapy and second-look surgery.

This summary is written and maintained by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of NCI. The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or NIH. More information about summary policies and the role of the PDQ Editorial Boards in maintaining the PDQ summaries can be found on the About This PDQ Summary and PDQ® - NCI's Comprehensive Cancer Database pages.

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the treatment of neuroblastoma. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.

Reviewers and Updates

This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board, which is editorially independent of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The summary reflects an independent review of the literature and does not represent a policy statement of NCI or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Board members review recently published articles each month to determine whether an article should:

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Changes to the summaries are made through a consensus process in which Board members evaluate the strength of the evidence in the published articles and determine how the article should be included in the summary.

The lead reviewers for Neuroblastoma Treatment are:

  • Christopher N. Frantz, MD (Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children)
  • Andrea A. Hayes-Jordan, MD, FACS, FAAP (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill School of Medicine)
  • Karen J. Marcus, MD, FACR (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children's Hospital)
  • Nita Louise Seibel, MD (National Cancer Institute)
  • Stephen J. Shochat, MD (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)

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Levels of Evidence

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The preferred citation for this PDQ summary is:

PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Neuroblastoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/neuroblastoma/hp/neuroblastoma-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389190]

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