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SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

Passeig Sant Joan de Déu, 2, 08950 Esplugues de Llobregat

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“Immunotherapy has allowed us to see our child continue growing”

12 September 2017

Iván and his family came to Barcelona from Belarus after a long medical process that began in their country. When Vanya (as his parents call him) was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumour during early childhood. The boy’s tumour was removed in his home country and he was treated with chemotherapy. However, Iván’s parents wanted to prevent a relapse and so they came to SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital, the only hospital in Europe offering  anti-gd2 immunotherapy for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma.

In this patient’s case there was an added difficulty: Iván had to undergo an operation to correct his spinal column before receiving the treatment. The surgery was a success thanks to a coordinated process between our centre’s surgery and oncology teams. On seeing that Iván was progressing positively during rehabilitation,  and with the cancer in remission, the specialists believed this was the ideal time to start the anti-gd2 immunotherapy. As Jaume Mora, scientific director of the Oncology and Haematology Department, explains, this therapy consists of “modifying or educating the patient’s immune system so that it can recognise neuroblastoma cells and so that, when the tumour tries to reactivate, it is less likely to succeed.” 

Ivan’s mother, Larissa, outlines the process: “Doctor Mora explained the treatment to us. He showed us the immunotherapy schedule and explained its effects and the drugs that Iván would have to take. Everything was clear, we were guided through the whole process.” After briefing the boy’s family, with the help of the Hospital’s Russian interpreter, the treatment was begun.

Immunotherapy is effective in cases in which the disease is practically undetectable, meaning not all patients are candidates for receiving this therapy. According to Doctor Jaume Mora, in these patients alone, the results are hopeful:

It has been proven to reduce the likelihood of the disease recurring by 20%.

Iván’s prognosis is good, for the moment, and he is also expected to progress well. Recovery from the surgery also allows him to run and play, which he couldn’t do before. And as Iván grows and is monitored by the medical team, research continues at SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital. The objective: to provide the best solutions possible for each case.