Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that starts in certain very early forms of nerve cells found in an embryo or fetus. The term neuro refers to nerves, while blastoma refers to a cancer that affects immature or developing cells. This type of cancer occurs most often in infants and young children. It is rarely found in children older than 10 years. Neuroblastoma is the most common and most deadly solid tumour that occurs in children outside of the brain (1-5). Approximately 50-70 new cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed every year in Canada and in about 50-70% of these cases the disease has already metastasized at the time it is found.
Neuroblastoma accounts for about 15% of childhood cancer mortality . “Tumour groups that have disappointing survival rates include metastatic solid tumours such as Ewing’s sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and neuroblastoma” The main cells that make up the nervous system are called nerve cells or neurons. These cells interact with other types of cells in the body by releasing tiny amounts of chemicals (hormones). About 1 out of 4 begin in sympathetic nerve ganglia in the abdomen. It contains neuroblasts (immature nerve cells) that can grow and spread abnormally, similar to neuroblastoma, as well as areas of more mature tissue that are similar to ganglioneuroma.