Relapsed or Refractory Neuroblastoma

Also known as: Neuroblastoma relapse, secondary cancer.

What is relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is the most common solid cancerous tumor found outside the brain in children. It develops from nerve cells in the adrenal gland or from nerves in the neck, chest or pelvis that control voluntary body functions (sympathetic nervous system).

In some cases, the neuroblastoma can return after treatment. This is known as relapsed neuroblastoma. If the tumor doesn’t resolve with treatment, it is known as refractory neuroblastoma. They are often treated in a similar fashion.

What causes relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma?

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why neuroblastoma relapses or doesn’t respond to treatment in some children. It’s possible that not all of the cancer cells are killed with the initial treatment, or that some of them become resistant to the treatment during therapy.

What are the signs/symptoms of relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma?

Depending on site and size of the primary tumor and where it has spread (metastasized) signs and symptoms will vary. These can include:

  • enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  • a swollen abdomen
  • an abdominal mass
  • bruising
  • unexplained fever
  • weakness or paralysis
  • bone pain
  • weight loss
  • poor appetite
  • and other symptoms.

What are relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma care options?

A number of factors contribute to treatment decisions, however chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, stem cell transplantation and a special kind of treatment known as MIBG therapy (MIBG is a molecule that is absorbed by neuroblastoma cells to which radioactive iodine is added), may all be used to treat advanced neuroblastoma.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: April 06, 2022 03:54 PM

Neuro-Oncology Center

We offer the most comprehensive multidisciplinary center, providing specialized treatment of childhood tumors of the brain and spinal cord.

Learn More