Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer mainly effecting children ages five and younger. The cancer is most commonly found in the adrenal glands near the kidneys but neuroblastoma cells can develop in other parts of the abdomen, neck, spine, chest, and parts of the body were groups of nerve cells are present. Neuroblastoma is responsible for 50% of cancer in infants and accounts for 7 to 10% of childhood cancers. 

A new study finds that advanced MRI techniques could test the effectiveness of drugs for the cancer without surgery.

The study, conducted by Children with Cancer UK’s Research Fellow, Dr. Yann Jamin explores how advanced MRI techniques can help administer life-saving medication to children suffering from neuroblastoma.

Researchers discovered non-invasive MRI scans allow for the mapping of blood vessels and red blood cells in neuroblastoma tumors without surgery. This method of treatment is much safer than surgical treatment and allows for targeted treatments making recovery easier and safer for both children and their caretakers. Traditional treatment methods include surgery and high doses of chemotherapy and radiation. Chances of a 5-year survival is low for children with reoccurring neuroblastoma. The MRI would allow for doctors to predict treatment options and administer medication into tumors.

Tumor biopsy helps doctors gauge the effectiveness of cancer treatment drugs in adults, but is too dangerous for many children with neuroblastoma. The advanced MRI scan provides doctors with a detailed image of the tumor size, shape, and structure. Images produced by the MRI will allow doctors to view blood supply and the altered metabolism of the tumors.

Magnets and contrast dye, which is safe for children, in the MRI scans react to iron in red blood cells in tumors, making it a safe and effective method when treating neuroblastoma in children.

Researchers believe the findings will revolutionize childhood cancer treatments and recommend the scans for treating other childhood cancers. The study is currently transitioning from animal to clinical trials.