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Immunotherapy effective against neuroblastoma in children
Date:5/14/2009

A phase III study has shown that adding an antibody-based therapy that harnesses the body's immune system resulted in a 20 percent increase in the number of children living disease-free for at least two years with neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma, a hard-to-treat cancer arising from nervous system cells, is responsible for 15 percent of cancer-related deaths in children. The researchers reported their findings the first to show that immunotherapy could be effective against childhood cancer online May 14, 2009 on the American Society of Clinical Oncology website in advance of presentation June 2.

"This establishes a new standard of care for a traditionally very difficult cancer in children," said lead author Alice Yu, MD, PhD, professor of pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. "High-risk neuroblastoma has always been a frustrating cancer to treat because, despite aggressive therapy, it has a high relapse rate."

The therapy targets a specific glycan (a complex sugar chain found on the surface of cells) on neuroblastoma cells called GD2, which inhibit the immune system from killing cancer cells. The antibody ch14.18 binds to this glycan, enabling various types of immune cells to attack the cancer.

Neuroblastoma in which the cancer cells arise from nerve cells in the neck, chest, or abdomen is the most common cancer diagnosed in the first year of life. Approximately 650 new cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed in this country every year, and about 40 percent of patients have high-risk neuroblastoma. These high-risk patients are usually treated with surgery, intensive chemotherapy with stem cell rescue (in which patients' adult stem cells, removed before treatment, are returned after chemotherapy to restore the blood and immune system), and radiation therapy. Still, only 30 percent of patients survive.

Yu and her colleagues compared both
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Contact: Steve Benowitz
sbenowitz@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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