The aim of immunotherapy - also commonly referred to as antibody therapy - (as with any maintenance therapy) is to keep your child in remission and keep the cancer away. 

It helps the body’s own defences to turn against the neuroblastoma cells using antibodies. 

This should hopefully stop the cancer from returning as the body will learn to recognise and kill the cells. 

After immunotherapy, some families look towards clinical trials for further prevention therapies.  

Immunotherapy is given into the bloodstream and lasts for six months. 

Anti-GD2 

Anti-GD2 therapy is a type of immunotherapy which targets a molecule on the surface of neuroblastoma cells called GD2. It is present in high amounts on cancer cells but not on normal cells. The standard anti-GD2 therapy used for neuroblastoma is call dinutuximab beta. Solving Kids’ Cancer worked alongside a range of other charities to push for the outcome of NICE recommending the life-saving drug for NHS use in England and Wales. Read our statement here. 

Dinutuximab beta is a monoclonal antibody, meaning it is a manmade version of naturally occurring antibodies. It binds to the surface of neuroblastoma cells and marks them as target for the patient’s own immune cells to destroy. 

It is usually given in 5 consecutive treatment cycles, each one lasting 35 days. The dinutuximab beta will be administered as a continuous infusion over the first 10 days of the cycle (240hrs continuous infusion). 

As with many treatments for neuroblastoma, there are side effects which your child may or may not experience, these include: 

  • Pain 
  • Fever 
  • Nerve problems, such as numbness of tingling in the limbs 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea 
  • Capillary leak syndrome, where proteins leak from small blood vessels in the body causing swelling and low blood pressure 

Your child may experience other side effects, and you can speak with your treatment team about the best way to manage these. 

Retinoic Acid 

Alongside anti-GD2 immunotherapy, your child may also be treated with a retinoid called 1,3-cis-retinoic acid (isoretinoin). This can reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant, by helping cancer cells to differentiate into normal cells. 

It is normally taken as a capsule, twice a day for 2 weeks, followed by a 2-week break. It is often recommended to be taken for around 6 months, but this will depend on your child’s circumstances and your treatment team will carry the best advice for this.