New RCSI research into spread of neuroblastoma

  • Research

New RCSI research has provided insight into the spread of neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer. The research has important implications for the future development of drugs to treat children with the aggressive cancer.

Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer that mainly occurs in children under 14 and is the most common cause of cancer in infants of 1-2 years of age. Between 5 and 10 neuroblastoma cases are diagnosed in Ireland every year.

Childhood cancer is 1% of all newly diagnosed cancers globally. It is the second most common cause of death among children under age of 19 after accidents. Neuroblastoma contributes to 7% of all childhood cancers, but 15% to cancer related deaths in children

Almost half of children diagnosed have a tumour spread at the diagnosis.

This research found a difference as to how neuroblastoma cells migrate with some behaving more aggressively than others. The research also shows that the more aggressive cells may be responsible for invading specific organs.

Lead researcher, Dr Olga Piskareva, RCSI said: "Neuroblastoma is an aggressive solid tumour of early childhood. Though its incidence is low, this malignancy makes a disproportionate contribution to cancer related deaths in children. One of the biggest factors is cancer spread making it difficult to treat. This research is important as it gives us clues on different strategies that cancer cell from the same tumour use to travel from the original place to distant sites and the organs that may be affected. If we can find the weakness in the aggressive behaviour, then eventually we could be able to develop a drug to halt tumour spread and potentially reduce cancer related deaths in children."

Published in Cancers, the research was conducted by RCSI in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA; Texas Tech University Health Sciences Centre, USA and the National Children’s Research Centre, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Ireland.

This research is funded by Fulbright-HRB Health Impact Award 2018-2019, the National Children’s Research Centre, Science Foundation Ireland, the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (Prof. Ewald), Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for the COG Childhood Cancer Repository (Prof. Reynolds) and the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (Prof. Reynolds).

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.