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What is neuroblastoma?

Neuroblastoma is a rare and aggressive childhood cancer that affects around 100 children each year in the UK. Most children are under the age of five.

Where in the body does neuroblastoma start?

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, with tumours often occurring in the adrenal glands or abdomen.

Does neuroblastoma spread?

Half of all neuroblastoma cases are classified as ‘high-risk’, where the cancer has spread by the time it is diagnosed, and immediate treatment is required. Children diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma have about a 40-50% chance of long-term survival. It has one of the lowest survival rates of any childhood cancer and the causes are not known.  

Read more information on the stages of neuroblastoma.

What treatment is there for neuroblastoma?

Due to the nature of neuroblastoma, treatment can be intensive and can include chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, stem cell treatment and immunotherapy.

40-50% of children diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma will not respond completely (this is known as refractory) during standard treatment, or the cancer will come back (this is known as relapse) after. If a child does relapse with neuroblastoma, their chances of long-term survival are less than 10%.


Another important factor is the presence of the MYCN oncogene, which is found in around 30% of patients and is strongly associated with a poor prognosis. 

ALK - mutated ALK genes

Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) is a gene that tells your body how to make proteins that help cells talk to each other. Having mutated ALK genes is often indicative of a lower prognosis but the third-generation ALK inhibitor Lorlatinib trial is available for those deemed eligible.

Neuroblastoma progress

Despite progress in the treatment and understanding of neuroblastoma, survival rates – particularly when it comes to high-risk neuroblastoma – are still unacceptable. 

It’s essential that promising developments in research are translated into effective treatment interventions that not only save lives but also offer the maximum quality of life after cancer.