Almost 90% of children diagnosed with the third most common form of cancer, neuroblastoma, can survive even with drastically reduced chemotherapy. The research result published in the New England Journal Medicine found that almost 96% of the cancer affected children could survive for a period of three years with four to eight cycles of chemotherapy which meant a 40% -70% reduction in their normal doses.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines neuroblastoma as a cancer of the nerve tissue that initiates at the adrenal gland located in the neck, chest as well as the spinal cord.
Katherine Matthay, the leader of the research team, commented that the lowering of the amount of chemotherapy might help the children escape from long time side effects which includes secondary cancer, loss of hearing as well as fertility issues. The reduced amount does not affect the survival rate significantly, said Matthay, and remains almost the same when compared with the children given 10 cycles.
The study was conducted by keeping 479 children and infants under observation from 1997-2005. The effects of a reduced chemotherapy on the survival rate were then checked. The tumors in most of these cases had been located in the chest and abdomen. The patients were of the intermediate risk group. Some of them had tumors which were inoperable while others had cancer that had spread widely to the bones and even the bone marrow.
The researchers classified each of the tumors into groups of favorable and unfavorable on basis of a number of characteristics including the rapidity of tumor cell division. 98% of the children with favorable tumors were found to have a three year survival rate while it was 93% for those with unfavorable tumors. The study results also revealed that personalized treatment is mandatory for children with neuroblastoma depending on the nature of the tumors.
Matthay, the Chief of Pediatric Oncology at the Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco, said that they had been over treating the children so far. They need to reduce chemotherapy, she emphasized adding that the next round of studies would be conducted by decreasing the chemotherapy even further. She felt that there might be some children who would need almost no chemotherapy at all.