"Now that the trial is over, we will have to find what other resources are available to get the antibody because it's still not commercially available," said Abu-Ghosh. "It still has to do go through the industry."
The National Cancer Institute is in talks with United Therapeutics Corp. to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and to manufacture and market the drug.
Meanwhile, the clinical trials network is trying to make the drug available to children who need it.
But even if the product were commercially available, patients would still have to endure the arduous conventional treatment, as the study participants did.
That means high-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplantation to replace blood cells lost during chemotherapy, then the drug isotretinoin (an acne medication that goes by Accutane and other brand names) to kill off any leftover cancer cells.
For this study, all 226 children received both chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation before being randomly chosen to receive isotretinoin alone or isotretinoin plus ch14.18 along with drugs to strengthen the immune system.
The immunotherapy, Smith explained, "is an antibody-based therapy and the antibody recognizes an antigen that's on the surface of the neuroblastoma cells. It binds to the neuroblastoma cells and then recruits immune cells to the neuroblastoma cells to kill the neuroblastoma cells."
Children in the immunotherapy group did have more side effects, including pain, than those in the conventional-treatment group.
"This tells us that we need to do more to prevent relapse by using immune therapy," said Abu-Ghosh.
A second study in the same issue of the journal found that children with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma who took a reduced regimen of chemotherapy plus a biologically based treatment were able to live just as long as those receiving conventional duration-and-dose chemotherapy.
At three years, 96 perc
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