Chemotherapy for Neuroblastoma

Oncologists at the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, may prescribe chemotherapy to shrink a neuroblastoma and destroy the cancer cells. This can make the tumor easier to remove with surgery.

Your child’s doctor determines whether to use chemotherapy, which kind, and for how long. This is based on the size and location of the cancer, whether it has spread, the age of the child, how the tumor looks under the microscope, and certain changes in genes that may be analyzed during diagnostic testing.

Some children with neuroblastoma are treated with monoclonal antibodies, which are manmade molecules that attach to surface proteins on cancer cells to help the body fight cancer. Other treatments include retinoic acid, a compound related to vitamin A that slows the neuroblastoma’s ability to make more cancer cells.

If chemotherapy is required, it is given through a Mediport® or a Broviac® catheter. These devices are surgically implanted completely or partially under the skin to deliver chemotherapy directly to a vein. This method reduces pain from repeated needle sticks.

Your child's oncologist discusses with you the chemotherapy regimen that’s most appropriate for your child’s situation.

Managing Side Effects

Chemotherapy drugs attack cells that divide quickly. As a result, they affect healthy cells as well as cancerous ones. This can lead to side effects, which may include constipation, fatigue, hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. Chemotherapy can also cause a reduction in white blood cells, which can increase a child’s risk for infection.

Your child’s doctor discusses which side effects can occur based on the treatments your child receives, as well as options to treat any side effects. For example, the doctor may prescribe an injectable medication to boost production of white blood cells.

Most of the side effects of chemotherapy are temporary and usually disappear after treatment is completed.

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