As babies are developing in the womb, immature cells called embryonal cells develop into the normal, mature parts of the body. Sometimes these cells can break and, instead of becoming normal body parts, they duplicate until a large ball of identical cells is formed.
These are called embryonal tumors, a group of childhood cancers that can occur in multiple different body parts. When they happen in the kidney, they are called nephroblastomas, also known as Wilms tumor. When they happen in the liver, they are called hepatoblastomas. When they happen in the peripheral nervous system, they are called neuroblastomas. Embryonal tumors typically happen in young children.
As a leading center for the treatment of childhood cancer, Cohen Children’s offers state-of-the-art collaborative treatment for childhood cancers. Our Embryonal Tumor Group is composed of pediatric oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists who work as a team in the treatment of these tumors.
As a member institution of the Children’s Oncology Group, we offer cutting edge treatment with access to national and institutional research protocols, including phase I and II trials through our developmental therapeutics program. Our cancer care is delivered in the setting of a full-service children’s hospital. This allows our Magnet®-recognized nurses, childlife specialists, pharmacists and radiology technicians to dedicate themselves exclusively to the compassionate care of children with embryonal cancers.
Surgery and radiation
Our pediatric cancer surgeons are skilled at all surgeries required to treat embryonal tumors, including complex liver surgery, nephron-sparing kidney surgery and kidney transplantation (if needed). Our surgeons collaborate closely with our oncology team and are members of the Children’s Oncology Group.
Our dedicated pediatric radiation oncologists provide all forms of radiation therapy, including proton radiation therapy when needed.
In addition to participation in national clinical trials through the Children’s Oncology Group, we also offer one of the only high-dose MIBG treatment protocols for relapsed or refractory high-risk neuroblastoma in New York. MIBG (metaiodobenzylguanidine) is a chemical that is preferentially taken up by neuroblastoma cells. It contains a radioactive iodine molecule that allows it to be seen by special nuclear medicine machines.
We have used MIBG as part of the "staging" – or locating – process for neuroblastoma for decades. By delivering high doses of MIBG, we are able to turn the chemical from a diagnostic tool into a treatment tool. As MIBG is concentrated in the tumor cells, high doses deliver targeted radiation to the neuroblastoma. This technique of using radiopharmaceuticals to deliver targeted treatment to childhood cancers is a rapidly growing field, and we are at the leading edge of developing this treatment.