Neuroblastoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version
Treatment of Low-Risk Neuroblastoma
Low-risk neuroblastoma represents nearly one-half of all newly diagnosed patients. The success of previous Children's Oncology Group (COG) clinical trials has contributed to the continued reduction in therapy for select patients with neuroblastoma.
The previously used COG neuroblastoma low-risk group assignment criteria are described in Table 7.
Table 7. Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Neuroblastoma Low-Risk Group Assignment Schema Used for COG Studiesa
DI = DNA index; INPC = International Neuroblastoma Pathologic Classification; INSS = International Neuroblastoma Staging System.
bDNA ploidy: DI >1 is favorable, DI =1 is unfavorable; a hypodiploid tumor (with DI <1 a="" as="" be="" di="" treated="" tumor="" will="" with="">1 (DI <1 be="" considered="" favorable="" hypodiploid="" ploidy="" td="" to="">1>1>
cINSS stage 2A/2B symptomatic patients with spinal cord compression, neurologic deficits, or other symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy for four cycles.
d2A/2B tumors must be >50% resected to be classified as low risk. Tumors <50 are="" as="" classified="" intermediate="" resected="" risk.="" td="">50>
eINSS stage 4S infants with favorable biology and clinical symptoms are treated with immediate chemotherapy until asymptomatic (2–4 cycles). Clinical symptoms include the following: respiratory distress with or without hepatomegaly or cord compression and neurologic deficit or inferior vena cava compression and renal ischemia; or genitourinary obstruction; or gastrointestinal obstruction and vomiting; or coagulopathy with significant clinical hemorrhage unresponsive to replacement therapy.
Resection ≥50%, asymptomatic
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Table 8 shows the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) classification schema for very low-risk or low-risk neuroblastoma used in current COG studies, including theANBL1232 (NCT02176967) study for low-risk and intermediate-risk patients.
Table 8. International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Pretreatment Classification Schema for Very Low-Risk or Low-Risk NeuroblastomaaENLARGE
Grade of Tumor Differentiation
Pretreatment Risk Group
GN = ganglioneuroma; GNB = ganglioneuroblastoma; NA = not amplified.
For patients with localized disease that appears to be resectable (either based on the absence of image-defined risk factors [L1] or on the surgeon's expertise), the tumor should be resected by an experienced surgeon. If the biology is confirmed to be favorable, residual disease after surgery is not considered a risk factor for relapse and chemotherapy is not indicated. Several studies have shown that patients with favorable biology and residual disease have excellent outcomes, with event-free survival (EFS) exceeding 90% and overall survival (OS) ranging from 99% to 100%.[2,3] Some patients with presumed neuroblastoma have been observed without biopsy; this strategy is being studied further by the COG in the ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) trial.[4,5]
Treatment options for low-risk neuroblastoma include the following:
Observation without biopsy (for perinatal neuroblastoma with small adrenal tumors). The COG experience with observation of apparent neuroblastoma without diagnostic biopsy is limited and under investigation.
Radiation therapy (only for emergency therapy).
Surgery followed by observation
Treatment for patients categorized as low risk (refer to Table 7) may be surgery alone.
Evidence (surgery followed by observation):
Results from the COG-P9641 study showed that surgery alone, even without complete resection, can cure nearly all patients with stage 1 neuroblastoma and the vast majority of patients with asymptomatic, favorable-biology, International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) stage 2A and stage 2B disease.
Similar outcomes were seen in a nonrandomized clinical trial in Japan.
Chemotherapy with or without surgery
Chemotherapy with or without surgery is used to treat the following:
Symptomatic disease. Chemotherapy is also reserved for low-risk patients (e.g., INSS stage 1 or L1) who are symptomatic (e.g., spinal cord compression). The chemotherapy consists of carboplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and etoposide. The cumulative chemotherapy dose of each agent is kept low to minimize long-term effects. Symptomatic patients with stage 2A/2B or 4S disease are categorized as intermediate risk and receive chemotherapy.
Unresectable progressive disease after surgery.
The COG-P9641 study was one of the first COG studies to test risk stratification based on consensus-derived factors. In this phase III nonrandomized trial, 915 patients underwent an initial operation to obtain tissue for diagnosis and biology studies and for maximal safe primary tumor resection. Chemotherapy was reserved for patients with, or at risk of, symptomatic disease, with less than 50% tumor resection at diagnosis or with unresectable progressive disease after surgery alone.
Stage 1: Patients with stage 1 disease achieved a 5-year EFS of 93% and a 5-year OS of 99%.
Stage 2A and 2B: Asymptomatic patients with stage 2A and 2B disease (n = 306) who were observed after initial operation had a 5-year EFS of 87% and an OS rate of 96%. EFS was significantly better for patients with stage 2A than for patients with stage 2B neuroblastoma (92% vs. 85%; P = .0321), but OS did not differ significantly (98% vs. 96%; P = .2867). The primary study objective (to achieve a 3-year OS of 95% for asymptomatic patients with stage 2A and 2B disease) was met.
Patients with stage 2B disease had a lower EFS and OS for those with unfavorable histology (EFS, 72%; OS, 86%) or diploid tumors (EFS, 75%; OS, 84%) or for patients older than 18 months. Outcomes for patients with stage 2B, diploid tumors, and unfavorable histology were particularly poor (EFS, 54%; OS, 70%), with no survivors among the few patients who had additional 1p loss of heterozygosity, and all of the deaths occurred in children older than 18 months.
Asymptomatic patients at diagnosis who were observed after initial operation: Of the initial 915 patients, 800 were asymptomatic at diagnosis and observed after their initial operations. Within this group, 11% of patients experienced recurrent or progressive disease. Of the 115 patients who received immediate chemotherapy (median, four cycles; range, one to eight), 81% of the patients had a very good partial response or better. After chemotherapy, 10% of the patients had disease recurrence or progression.
For patients treated with surgery alone, the 5-year EFS rate was 89%, and the OS estimate was 97%; for patients treated with surgery and immediate chemotherapy, the 5-year EFS rate was 91%, and the OS estimate was 98%.
MYCN amplification: The impact of MYCN-amplified tumors was analyzed in patients with stage I disease. For patients with MYCN-nonamplified tumors, the 5-year EFS was 93%, and OS was 99%; for MYCN-amplified tumors, the 5-year EFS was 70% (P = .0042), and OS was 80% (P < .001).
Observation without biopsy
Observation without biopsy has been used to treat perinatal neuroblastoma with small adrenal tumors.
A COG study determined that selected small INSS stage 1 or stage 2 adrenal masses, presumed to be neuroblastoma, detected in infants younger than 6 months by screening or incidental ultrasonography may safely be observed without a definitive histologic diagnosis being obtained and without surgical intervention, thus avoiding potential complications of surgery in the newborn. Patients are observed frequently to detect any tumor growth or spread that would indicate a need for intervention. Additional studies, including an expansion of criteria allowing observation without surgery, are underway in the COG ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) study (refer to Table 9).
Evidence (observation without biopsy):
The COG-ANBL00P2 study reported that expectant observation is safe in patients younger than 6 months with solid adrenal tumors smaller than 3.1 cm (or cystic tumors smaller than 5 cm) and INSS stage 1 disease.
Eighty-one percent of patients demonstrated spontaneous regression and avoided surgical intervention.
Eighty-three of 87 eligible patients were observed without biopsy or resection; only 16 patients (19%) ultimately underwent surgery.
Three-year EFS (for a neuroblastoma event) was 97.7%, and OS was 100%.
Controversy exists about the need to attempt resection, whether at the time of diagnosis or later, in asymptomatic infants aged 12 months or younger with apparent stage 2B and stage 3 MYCN-nonamplified and favorable-biology disease. In a German clinical trial, some of these patients were observed after biopsy or partial resection without chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and many patients did not progress locally and never underwent an additional resection. This cohort is also being evaluated in the COG ANBL1232 (NCT02176967) study (refer to the Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation section of this summary for more information). Infants younger than 18 months who have L2 tumors with favorable biology are being observed after tumor biopsy.
Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation
Information about National Cancer Institute (NCI)–supported clinical trials can be found on the NCI website. For information about clinical trials sponsored by other organizations, refer to the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted:
ANBL1232 (NCT02176967)(Response and Biology-Based Risk Factor–Guided Therapy in Treating Younger Patients With Non–High-Risk Neuroblastoma): This phase III trial is studying how well response and biology-based, risk factor–guided therapy works in treating younger patients with non–high-risk neuroblastoma. Table 9 describes the treatment assignments for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma on the ANBL1232 trial. Many patients with low-risk and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma are not being studied on a COG trial but are registered on ANBL00B1 (NCT00904241), the neuroblastoma biology study, to keep track of outcomes.
Table 9. ANBL1232 Treatment Assignment for Low-Risk Neuroblastoma
Biology (Histology and Genomicsa)
INRG = International Neuroblastoma Risk Group.
aGenomic features include MYCN gene amplification, segmental chromosome aberrations (somatic copy number loss at 1p, 3p, 4p, or 11q, or somatic copy number gain at 1p, 2p, or 17q), and DNA index.
bFavorable genomic features are defined by one or more whole-chromosome gains or hyperdiploid tumor (DNA index >1) in the absence of segmental chromosome aberrations as defined above.
cAsymptomatic is defined as no life-threatening symptoms and no impending neurologic or other sequelae (e.g., epidural or intraspinal tumors with existing or impending neurologic impairment, periorbital or calvarial-based lesions with existing or impending cranial nerve impairment, or anatomic or mechanical compromise of critical organ function by tumor [abdominal compartment syndrome, urinary obstruction, etc.]).
Immediate treatment, response-based chemotherapy, as per protocol
Favorable histology and genomicsb
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Asymptomaticcwithout existing or evolving hepatomegaly
Observe per clinical scoring system
Favorable histology and genomicsb
Observe per clinical scoring system
Response-based chemotherapy, as per protocol
Current Clinical Trials
Use our advanced clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are now enrolling patients. The search can be narrowed by location of the trial, type of treatment, name of the drug, and other criteria. General information about clinical trials is also available.
Pinto NR, Applebaum MA, Volchenboum SL, et al.: Advances in Risk Classification and Treatment Strategies for Neuroblastoma. J Clin Oncol 33 (27): 3008-17, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
Matthay KK, Perez C, Seeger RC, et al.: Successful treatment of stage III neuroblastoma based on prospective biologic staging: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 16 (4): 1256-64, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
Strother DR, London WB, Schmidt ML, et al.: Outcome after surgery alone or with restricted use of chemotherapy for patients with low-risk neuroblastoma: results of Children's Oncology Group study P9641. J Clin Oncol 30 (15): 1842-8, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
Nuchtern JG, London WB, Barnewolt CE, et al.: A prospective study of expectant observation as primary therapy for neuroblastoma in young infants: a Children's Oncology Group study. Ann Surg 256 (4): 573-80, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
Hero B, Simon T, Spitz R, et al.: Localized infant neuroblastomas often show spontaneous regression: results of the prospective trials NB95-S and NB97. J Clin Oncol 26 (9): 1504-10, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
Iehara T, Hamazaki M, Tajiri T, et al.: Successful treatment of infants with localized neuroblastoma based on their MYCN status. Int J Clin Oncol 18 (3): 389-95, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
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