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‘Astounding’ results reported for children with high-risk neuroblastoma

Memphis, Tennessee, December 7, 2021

black and white diagnostic image of a child showing cancer

MIBG scan of a child with high-risk neuroblastoma. Credit: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of immature nerve cells in the sympathetic nervous system. About 700 new cases are found each year in the United States, mostly in children 5 years old or younger. Despite aggressive treatment, nearly half of the kids with high-risk neuroblastoma die of their disease.

A molecule championed by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital doctors may help change that. The molecule is a monoclonal antibody called hu14.18K322A. It is made on the St. Jude campus. Hu14.18K322A works by attaching to the surface of the tumor and revving up the immune response to kill the tumor cells. 

Survival of children newly diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma improved about 20% when the monoclonal antibody was added to their treatment. The St. Jude clinical trial included 64 patients. Three years after their diagnosis, 73.7% of the children were cancer free. Even more, 86%, were alive. 

“The results are astounding,” said Wayne Furman, MD, of the St. Jude Department of Oncology. “I have treated high-risk neuroblastoma for more than 30 years and I have never seen results like this in high-risk patients.”

A larger study is needed to verify the results.

The Journal of Clinical Oncology published a report on the results.

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