Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Last year while I was in Japan at the Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Meeting there was an article published in the Journal Of Pediatric Surgery. The subject of this study was GCSF, or Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor. AS you may or may not know, GCSF is used regularly in neuroblastma treatment to help patients recover their neutrophil counts more quickly. By using this drug we are able to give significantly more chemotherapy and we are able to give it more often. Surprisingly the researchers of this article found that, like certain blood cells, neuroblastoma cells also had a GCSF receptor. More interestingly, they had found that GCSF actually increased neuroblastoma cell proliferation and invasiveness.

Yes, I said it made neuroblastoma grow.

As one might expect, this article created quite an uproar amongst the parent community. Many went rushing back to their doctors refusing to allow them to use GCSF on their children. Many others were wondering what to do. It just so happens that when I received the news about the article and saw the emails flying back and forth between the parents I also happened to be sitting next to one of the articles authors.


The short and the long of the story was that although this was very interesting research it was probably too early to throw the baby out with the bath water. While GCSF might promote growth of neuroblastoma, at this point its benefits severely outweighed the disadvantages. Future research was now aimed not at getting rid of GCSF but on learning how to use it more effectively. The trick for me became damage control. How do we get the word out that GCSF is still an important and integral part of neuroblastoma therapy. Thankfully, the authors drafted a letter to the families explaining the study and its implications. Additionally, Dr. Heidi Russell even offered to speak on the subject at the CNCF's Neuroblastoma Conference for Parents and Caregivers. I posted this video on the CNCF site. it can be found here:

I wonder if purpose has a GCSF receptor

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