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Brain Cancer Health Center

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Neuroblastoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview for Neuroblastoma

Table 5. Treatment Options for Neuroblastoma continued...


In patients without metastatic disease, the standard of care is to perform an initial surgery to accomplish the following:

  • Establish the diagnosis.
  • Resect as much of the primary tumor as is safely possible.
  • Accurately stage disease through sampling of regional lymph nodes that are not adherent to the tumor.
  • Obtain adequate tissue for biological studies.

The COG reported that expectant observation in infants younger than 6 months with small adrenal masses resulted in an excellent EFS and OS while avoiding surgical intervention in a large majority of patients.[15]

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.[16,17,18,19]

Radiation Therapy

In the completed COG treatment plan, 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.
  • Symptomatic spinal cord compression that has not responded to initial chemotherapy and/or surgical decompression.

Treatment of Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal cord compression is considered a medical emergency. Immediate treatment is given because neurologic recovery is more likely when symptoms are present for a relatively short period of 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 patients grouped as low risk or intermediate risk.[20,21,22]

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.[20,21,22] 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 deficit is improved with laminoplasty.[23] 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 and it was severe in about one-half of them. This supports the need for greater awareness and timely intervention in these infants.[24]

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