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Treating Neuroblastoma TOPICS

Immunotherapy for neuroblastoma

Immunotherapy is the use of medicines to help a patient’s own immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Several types of immunotherapy are now being studied for use against neuroblastoma (some of which are described in the section “What’s new in neuroblastoma research and treatment?”).

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made versions of immune system proteins that can be made to attack a very specific target. They can be injected into the body to seek out and attach to cancer cells.

A monoclonal antibody called dinutuximab (Unituxin) attaches to GD2, a substance found on the surface of many neuroblastoma cells. This antibody can be given together with cytokines (immune system hormones) such as GM-CSF and interleukin-2 (IL-2) to help the child’s immune system recognize and destroy neuroblastoma cells. This antibody is now part of the routine treatment for many children with high-risk neuroblastoma, often after a stem cell transplant.

Possible side effects

Side effects of dinutuximab treatment can include:

  • Nerve pain (which can sometimes be severe)
  • Leaking of fluid in the body (which can lead to low blood pressure, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, and swelling)
  • Allergic reactions (which can lead to airway swelling, trouble breathing, and low blood pressure)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Infections

Last Medical Review: 03/14/2014
Last Revised: 03/10/2015