What is neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma arises from nerve tissue outside of the central nervous system. This usually occurs in the adrenal gland on top of the kidney, but it can be found anywhere along the spine. Despite the name, neuroblastoma is not a brain tumor. It is the most common solid tumor that affects children and accounts for about 15% of deaths due to childhood cancer. There are around 1,000 new cases per year in the United States, and despite advances in therapy and supportive care, about half of the children with aggressive tumors will die from their disease.
The signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma relate to the local effects the tumor has on the surrounding structures. Because they are vague and non-specific, it can take many months for a diagnosis of neuroblastoma to be made.
What are the signs and symptoms of neuroblastoma?
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Rarely, anemia or bruising from low blood counts secondary to tumor in the bone marrow
How are St. Baldrick’s Scholars helping to fight this type of cancer?
Dr. Samuel Volchenboum, a St. Baldrick’s Scholar, shares, “Despite significant advancements in the ability to deliver intensive chemotherapy and radiation, neuroblastoma remains a deadly disease. Three important areas in which advancements are needed include (1) better methods to separate patients into risk groups at diagnosis, (2) faster and more sensitive ways to evaluate which methods work and don’t work, and (3) more targeted and specific therapies.
My work attempts to tackle these issues by using the technique of proteomics to study neuroblastoma cells. In proteomics, one uses a machine called a mass spectrometer to identify the proteins within biological samples, such as tumor cells, blood, or other tissue. By studying the proteins unique to different types of neuroblastoma cells, I hope to develop better ways to distinguish these and treat children.”
How is YOUR support making a difference?
“Proteomics work is very labor intensive. The tumor cells must be grown in very controlled conditions, and the preparation of the samples requires a skilled lab technician. Furthermore, analyzing the samples on a mass spectrometer is expensive and time-consuming. Funds from St. Baldrick’s have been critical to propelling this project forward. We have had some early successes in identifying proteins unique to neuroblastoma cells, and we are taking the exciting next steps of verifying these in samples from patients. The generous support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has allowed me to conduct these early experiments and collect the data that will be critical for applying for government sponsored research funding.” – Samuel Volchenboum, M.D., Ph.D.
Find out how A Childhood Cancer Patient Beats the Odds against neuroblastoma with the help of St. Baldrick’s Scholar, Dr. Samuel Volchenboum.
Learn about St. Baldrick’s Research Outcome in Neuroblastoma, the first successful immunotherapy treatment for a type of childhood cancer.