A Phase 3 study has recently found that children who receive double autologous stem cell transplants are more likely to survive neuroblastoma, a particularly deadly strain of cancer, than those who have only received a single stem cell transplant. A follow up to the treatment with immunotherapy drugs often provides the best results.
Dr. Julie Park, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle, Washington has said that the double stem cell transplant will allow children to undergo two rounds of chemo therapy instead of one. This can increase their chance of survival significantly.
According to research, 61 percent of children with neuroblastoma who have received a double stem cell transplant are alive and cancer free three years after their initial diagnosis, as opposed to 48 percent who only received the single stem cell transplant.
Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, and one of the senior authors of the study, said:
“Our ability to treat children with neuroblastoma has improved significantly over the past 25 years, particularly with the introduction of high-intensity chemotherapy regimens and stem-cell transplantation. The findings of this study define a new standard for the treatment of this disease.”
Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that sees about 700 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. It is a tumor that starts in nerve cells outside of the brain and is usually diagnosed in children under the age of six. It is the most common type of infant cancer.
Typically, fewer than half of children diagnosed with neuroblastoma survive more than five years. Children with neuroblastoma receive extremely toxic doses of chemotherapy, which is actually ten times more toxic than therapy given to children with other types of cancers. These huge doses of chemotherapy help destroy the neuroblastoma, but can damage bone marrow, making it difficult for the tiny patients to regenerate new blood cells.
This is why patients are given a stem cell transplant, as it allows their bodies to produce new blood cells. The majority of stem cell transplants given to children with neuroblastoma were taken from their own bodies before they began treatment.