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Experimental Drug Aids Kids With Nervous System Tumor
Date:9/29/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Adding an experimental immunotherapy drug to the standard regimen of care extended the lives and decreased the risk of a disease recurrence in children with high-risk neuroblastoma, a new study says.

This type of tumor is not actually a brain tumor because it appears outside the brain and spinal cord. But it accounts for 12 percent of cancer-related deaths in children under the age of 15. Half of patients with this type of malignancy have the high-risk form, according to background information with the study.

In this trial, 46 percent of children who had the conventional treatment were alive after two years, compared to 66 percent of those who also received the immunotherapy, known as ch14.18.

The difference was significant enough to halt the study early so all children could start receiving ch14.18.

"It's a statistically significant improvement, so the kids who received this treatment were less likely to relapse with neuroblastoma," said Dr. Amal Abu-Ghosh, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center, in Washington, D.C.

And the improvement was seen in a very vulnerable population.

"These are young children who have neuroblastoma who receive very intensive treatment with high dose chemotherapy and, despite that, many are not successfully treated," said Dr. Malcolm Smith, co-author of the study and associate branch chief for pediatric oncology at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, which co-funded the study.

Georgetown was one of the centers participating in the trial, although Abu-Ghosh was not an author on the paper, which was published in the Sept. 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

But the immune therapy is highly unusual in that the National Cancer Institute, not a pharmaceutical company, manufactured the drug, Abu-Ghosh said. '/>"/>

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