The prognosis of high-risk neuroblastoma patients has improved over the last decades. However, many patients experience relapse after successful initial treatment. We retrospectively analyzed the long-term outcome of relapsed patients of three consecutive national neuroblastoma trials.
Patients were included when they fulfilled all of the following criteria: Age at diagnosis being 1 year or older, first diagnosis between 1990 and 2007, stage 4 disease or stage 3 neuroblastoma with MYCN amplification, and relapse or progression after successful first-line autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT).
A total of 451 high-risk neuroblastoma patients 1 year or older underwent ASCT during first-line treatment, 253 experienced recurrence of disease, 158 received salvage chemotherapy, and 23 of them finally underwent a second ASCT. These 23 patients had a better median survival (2.08 years) and 3-year survival rate from recurrence (43.5 ± 10.9%) compared to 74 patients who had no second chemotherapy (median survival 0.24 years, 3-year survival rate 4.0 ± 2.6%) and 135 patients who underwent second-line chemotherapy but did not undergo second ASCT (median survival of 0.89 years, 3-year survival rate 9.6 ± 2.8%, P < 0.001). By February 2010, 3/23 patients were in complete remission, 3/23 in very good partial remission, 1/23 in partial remission, 14/23 patients died of disease after successful second ASCT, and 2/23 died of complications due to second ASCT.
Intensive second-line therapy is feasible. A small subgroup of relapsed high-risk neuroblastoma patients may benefit from intensive relapse chemotherapy and second ASCT. The potential of long-term survival justifies clinical trials on intensive second-line treatment. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2011;56:578–583. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.