SAN DIEGO, May 19 (UPI) -- Adding an antibody-based therapy that harnesses the body's immune system resulted in children with neuroblastoma living longer, U.S. researchers said.
Lead author Dr. Alice Yu of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said neuroblastoma, a hard-to-treat cancer arising from nervous system cells, is responsible for 15 percent of cancer-related deaths in children.
The therapy targets a specific glycan -- a complex sugar chain found on the surface of cells -- on neuroblastoma cells called GD2, which inhibit the immune system from killing cancer cells. The antibody -- ch14.18 -- binds to this glycan, enabling various types of immune cells to attack the cancer.
Yu and colleagues compared both the percentage of patients who were still alive without experiencing a recurrence after two years as well as overall survival in two groups of 113 patients each.
Patients began the trial when they were newly diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma. After conventional treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, stem cell rescue and radiotherapy, one group was given the standard treatment of retinoic acid plus immunotherapy, while 113 similar patients received the standard treatment alone.
After two years, 66 percent of individuals in the immunotherapy group were living free of cancer compared to 46 percent in the standard treatment group.
The findings are published online on the American Society of Clinical Oncology Web site in advance of a presentation June 2.