Atrium Health Levine Children’s Among First Sites in Nation to Use DANYELZA® to Treat High-Risk Neuroblastoma Patients

06.30.2021 Atrium Health News | Levine Children's

Atrium Health Levine Children’s is the first site in the region and one of the first sites in the U.S. to offer a new FDA-approved treatment for neuroblastoma patients.      

DANYELZA (naxitamab-gqgk) is a drug used to treat patients who have experienced multiple relapses from neuroblastoma in the bone or bone marrow or did not respond to previous treatment. Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that most commonly affects the early nerve cells in children. Symptoms include a lump in the neck, chest or abdomen, bulging eye, dark circles around the eyes and bone pain. By the time the condition is diagnosed, neuroblastoma has often spread to other parts of the body. Neuroblastoma is the leading cause of pediatric cancer death in children age 1 to 5.  

Javier Oesterheld, M.D., division chief of Levine Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, and Giselle Sholler, M.D., pediatric oncologist and director of the Isabella Santos Foundation Solid and Rare Tumor Program at Levine Children’s, played an integral role in bringing the new treatment to Levine Children’s.  

“We know how detrimental it can be for young patients to have to leave their support system to seek treatment at another hospital,” explained Oesterheld. “That’s why we wanted to provide world-class neuroblastoma care that’s close to home.” 

The infusion process takes 60 minutes and requires close patient observation to monitor for signs of low or high blood pressure. Patients are treated three times a week once a month for up to six cycles. 

During the treatment, Levine Children’s provides each patient with two nurses as well as a nurse practitioner or a physician at the bedside. Patients also have access to services from Levine Children’s Supportive Oncology program, which include child life services, art therapy, chaplain services and Reiki therapy. Our hospital is the only one in the region to offer all the integrated oncology services we provide during these infusions, Oesterheld noted. “It requires a complex care team to be able to support patients both physically and emotionally during treatment.” 

Thanks to Levine Children’s specialized expertise, the hospital has also become a large referral site for neuroblastoma with the arrival of Dr. Sholler in August 2020, who is also the chair, founder and principal investigator for the nationally renowned Beat Childhood Cancer Research Consortium. Comprised of researchers at 47 hospitals, including Levine Children’s Hospital, the consortium and research lab headquarters are now located at Levine Children’s Hospital. Levine Children’s also offers remote second opinions for neuroblastoma patients 

For patients who travel to Levine Children’s for this innovative treatment, the hospital provides Global Healthcare Services to offer wraparound support for patients and their families. “Our Global Healthcare Services team coordinates housing, food, transportation, translation services, concierge services and insurance approvals,” said Oesterheld. “So, all you have to do is take care of your child during your visit.”  

The goal of the therapy is to get patients back into remission and stabilize them. As far as treatment efficacy, phase II clinical trials reveal an overall response rate of 34-45% for partial or complete remission  

Learn more 

To learn more about Levine Children’s pediatric oncology services, visit the pediatric cancer and blood disorders page. To refer a patient for DANYELZA treatment, call 704-381-9900.