Treatment for neuroblastoma often is complex. MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital offers a team approach to neuroblastoma, bringing together some of the nation’s top experts to personalize your child’s course of treatment.
Your child’s care team will feature several physicians, including oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, radiation oncologists, as well as a highly specialized support staff. Their aim is to deliver therapies with the highest chance for success and the least impact on the growing body.
Surgical skill is key
Like all surgeries, neuroblastoma surgery is most successful when performed by a specialist with a great deal of experience in the particular procedure.
The surgeons at Children’s Cancer Hospital are highly specialized in neuroblastoma, and they are among the most skilled and renowned in the world. They perform a high number of surgeries for neuroblastoma each year, using the least-invasive and most advanced techniques.
We offer a range of clinical trials of innovative therapies for neuroblastoma, including high-risk, progressive and recurrent forms of the disease.
Our neuroblastoma treatments
Your child’s neuroblastoma treatment will be customized to provide the most effective treatment with the least effect on the body. Your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. These are based on:
- Your child’s age and health
- The size, location and features of the tumor
- Whether the cancer has spread
Some low-risk neuroblastoma tumors will go away without any treatment, and others may be cured by surgery alone. However, many times the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and will require intensive combinations of treatment.
Neuroblastoma treatment often includes surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Surrounding lymph nodes also may be removed to find out if the cancer has spread.
Sometimes, the entire tumor can be removed. However, if the tumor is close to important parts of the body or large blood vessels, only partial removal may be possible. In these cases, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are given after surgery.
Chemotherapy is sometimes given before surgery to make the tumor smaller and easier to remove.
Neuroblastoma often spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, liver, bones or lungs, before it is diagnosed. Chemotherapy travels all through the body, and that makes it effective in treating neuroblastoma.
Children’s Cancer Hospital offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for neuroblastoma. Chemotherapy may be given:
- Before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy)
- After surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy)
- As the main treatment if the cancer cannot be removed by surgery
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. New radiation therapy techniques, including proton therapy, and remarkable skill allow Children’s Cancer Hospital doctors to target neuroblastoma tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
Some children with neuroblastoma receive radiation therapy:
- After surgery to stop or slow the growth of tumors that cannot be treated successfully with surgery and chemotherapy
- After a stem-cell transplant
- To help with symptoms such as pain and breathing difficulties
Children with advanced neuroblastoma may sometimes benefit from MIBG radiotherapy. A radioactive chemical is injected into the blood and travels directly to neuroblastoma tumor cells in the body.
High-dose chemotherapy/radiation therapy and stem cell transplant
Children with treatment-resistant, advanced neuroblastoma may benefit from a stem cell transplant.
Treatment with vitamin A or a vitamin A-like compound may be used in some patients.
Children’s Cancer Hospital is leading into the future of neuroblastoma treatment by developing innovative targeted therapies. These agents are specially designed to treat each cancer’s specific genetic/molecular profile to help your child’s body fight the disease. Many of the doctors who treat neuroblastoma at Children’s Cancer Hospital are dedicated researchers who have pioneered and actively lead national and international clinical trials with novel targeted agents.
Treatment at MD Anderson
Neuroblastoma is treated in our Children's Cancer Hospital.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
Becoming Our Patient
Get information on patient appointments, insurance and billing, and directions to and around MD Anderson.
MD Anderson has licensed social workers to help patients and their loved ones cope with cancer.
When our son Lue was about 18 months old, we noticed he was sweating a lot. He was a happy toddler with no other visible symptoms. But when we had him checked by a doctor in Denmark, a lab test showed his blood counts were off. An ultrasound revealed neuroblastoma in his stomach and spine.
Traveling to Houston for proton therapy
In 2015, Lue started chemotherapy followed by surgery in Denmark. At the time, there were no proton treatment facilities available for children in Denmark, and proton therapy is the optimal radiation therapy treatment for pediatric patients. Because protons can be precisely controlled, pediatric proton therapy is ideal for tumors located near growing healthy tissues in the spinal cord, brain, eyes, ears or mouth.
So when the doctors in Denmark offered us the opportunity for Lue to receive treatment at MD Anderson, we made the trip to Houston. While Lue received proton therapy, he continued his chemotherapy.
We were fortunate to stay in Houston with other Danish families who also had children undergoing cancer treatment. It was encouraging to share our journey with them, and we remain in touch with some of the families.
Lue received a lot of love and care from Leo Flores and Yvette Rosenthal, the pediatric nurses at MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. They took care of Lue as he underwent anesthesia for proton therapy. Their support and encouragement helped us get through each day.
Family bonding through a childhood cancer diagnosis
When we traveled to Houston, we brought along Lue’s two older brothers. It was tough for us to be away from home at such a crucial time. But it strengthened us as a family. Having his brothers there helped Lue get through each day of treatment. We found comfort in spending time together every day and facing Lue’s diagnosis as a family.
There was a guestbook in the lobby that we read often. A former patient wrote a reminder to not walk like a sheep but to walk and fight like a tiger. We took this to heart and reminded ourselves that we wanted to hold on to hope and fight like the tiger. A former patient at the Proton Therapy Center gave us bracelets with the slogan: “Never ever give up.” We wore those bracelets as a daily reminder for years after Lue’s treatment.
After Lue finished proton therapy, we returned home to Denmark. He had follow-up visits from his doctors in Denmark every three months, then yearly until he was in remission.
Return to MD Anderson provides perspective
Because Lue was so young when he underwent treatment in Houston, we wanted to give him memories he could remember. So in February 2023, we returned to Houston to let him tour MD Anderson. It was amazing to see the gong at the Proton Therapy Center that Lue hit after he completed treatment. We also got to reconnect with some of his care team. It was an emotional experience for all of us. It was important to us for Lue and his brothers to make new memories of visiting the zoo and parks in Houston as we had done so many times in 2015.
On one of the walking trails in Hermann Park, we saw a quote that put our experience into perspective. It said: “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed. If you think in terms of 10 years, plant trees. If you think in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” It reminded us that when we were in Houston in 2015, we did not know what the future would have in store for us in just one year. All we could do was address the here and now and “plant a seed.”
Returning years later with our son in complete remission, we could see how our time had changed.
Today Lue is a healthy 9-year-old boy. He goes to school and loves playing soccer, reading, and spending time with his brothers. He has no side effects from the neuroblastoma or its treatment. He is in complete remission and sees his doctors in Denmark every year.
We are thankful for our time at MD Anderson and know it has shaped our son's path to never giving up.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.