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Advances In Neuroblastoma: Meeting Summary

With the need for new treatments and better outcomes for children with neuroblastoma, international efforts provide the best hope for understanding the causes of and best therapies for neuroblastoma. The Advances in Neuroblastoma Research (ANR) conference was recently held in Toronto, Canada, where over 500 experts in neuroblastoma research from around the world assembled to discuss new scientific findings and new treatments for children with neuroblastoma. Many exciting new findings were presented at the ANR meeting, and Texas Children's Hospital clinicians and scientists figured prominently in the conference proceedings, giving 3 presentations at the "plenary" sessions and also receiving the award for the best "translational science" poster!

Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, one of the co-chairmen of the neuroblastoma research program at Texas Children's Cancer Center, presented his research investigating the role of Natural Killer T (NKT) cells in neuroblastoma. Metelitsa presented his results that demonstrated targeting of these NKT cells against neuroblastoma tumor cells using a "chimeric antigen receptor," or "CAR" specific for the GD2 ganglioside that is expressed on neuroblastoma tumor cells resulted in dramatic responses in laboratory models of neuroblastoma.

Dr. Jed Nuchtern, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at Texas Children's Hospital, presented the results of a national trial through the Children's Oncology Group, which demonstrated that over 80% of infants with small neuroblastoma tumors do not require invasive surgery and can be safely observed, sparing these small infants the potential complications of major surgery.

Dr. Jason Shohet, also a co-chair of the neuroblastoma research program at Texas Children's Cancer Center, presented groundbreaking research from his laboratory that has identified a new population of neuroblastoma tumor "stem cells" based on the expression of the receptor for the granulocyte colony stimulating factor (or GCSF), and Eveline Barbieri from Dr. Shohet's laboratory was selected to receive the best translational science poster award for her poster entitled "The Epigenetic Modifier CHAF1A Regulates Neuroblastoma Differentiation and is a Novel Prognostic Indicator for Poor Survival."

The successes of these and other research projects at Texas Children's Hospital provide hope for better therapies and better outcomes in the future for children with neuroblastoma. Additional new treatments are currently undergoing testing in the neuroblastoma laboratories at Texas Children's Hospital, and new clinical trials are currently being developed to make these exciting new treatment options available for the children who need them most.

Future research by the scientists in the neuroblastoma program at Texas Children's Hospital will continue to explore new pathways, new targets, and new treatments in order to provide the most appropriate and most effective therapy for each and every child with neuroblastoma.