Stem Cell Transplantation for Neuroblastoma

Advanced neuroblastomas—those that have spread to lymph nodes and other organs—require aggressive treatment with a combination of therapies that may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplantation.

Stem cells are created in the bone marrow and develop into other kinds of cells, including infection-fighting white blood cells. Because intense treatment with chemotherapy also destroys healthy blood cells in the body, placing healthy stem cells into the body after chemotherapy can help to boost blood cell levels and create an immune response against the cancer.

For children with neuroblastoma, a stem cell transplant is typically autologous. This means that healthy stem cells are collected from your child’s blood prior to high-dose chemotherapy. The stem cells are filtered through a machine and then frozen and preserved.

Next, very high doses of chemotherapy are given through a vein with intravenous (IV) or Mediport® infusion for 10 to 14 days. Then the collected stem cells are infused back into the body to make new, healthy blood cells.

Recovery from Stem Cell Transplantation

After a stem cell transplant, your child stays in an isolation room at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, typically for three weeks. This protects him or her from infection immediately after the transplant. The number of visitors your child may see is restricted during the stay, and visitors must wear protective clothing, including masks and gloves.

During this time, doctors watch for signs that the stem cells are making new, healthy blood cells in your child’s body. Doctors also administer antibiotics to prevent or treat infections. Sometimes, doctors may perform red blood cell and platelet transfusions to support the immune system until the stem cells start successfully multiplying in your child’s body.

Full recovery from a stem cell transplant can take several months. Our doctors, nurses, and support staff work to make sure your child feels safe and cared for during this time.

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