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

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 14, 2014 Last Revised: January 22, 2016

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