Around 50% of all children with NB have HR disease (essentially Stage IV i.e. metastatic NB or NB with mycn gene amplification with some caveats for age and histology). A study from the Children's Oncology Group published last month (Yu et al, 2010) reports a 2-year overall survival of 86% and event-free survival of 66% in children with HR NB who were treated with multi-drug induction + stem cell transplantation + isotretinoin + immunotherapy. Prior to the introduction of immunotherapy, the event-free survival in the developed world had plateaued at less than 50%. Thus, this new report of further improvement in outcomes is significant.
This brings me to the situation in India. As far as I am aware, while multi-drug induction (followed by surgery and radiotherapy) is standard treatment for children with HR NB, use of stem cell transplantation is not standard and immunotherapy has not been tried. In such a setting, what are the outcomes of HR NB? It is difficult to answer this question precisely, because assessment of mycn amplification is not standard practice in India either. Outcome of children with Stage IV i.e. metastatic NB can give us some indication, although very few institutes from India have published their outcomes. This includes 3 long term survivors out of 32 children with Stage IV neuroblastomas reported from Thiruvanathapuram (Kusumakumary et al, 1998); 1 out of 27 reported from Chandigarh (Bansal et al, 2008); and 0 out of 38 reported from Mumbai (Bhatnagar et al, 2007, SIOP).
Based on these reported outcomes i.e. less than 10% reported long-term survivors of HR NB, is there an argument for not offering curative treatment to the above group of patients in India? Has anybody reported better outcomes from India?