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SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital

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

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Successfully operated on a female patient with a large neuroblastoma

Barbara poses with her family on the terrace of the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona

This highly complex procedure has been performed at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital and the patient is in complete remission. In some cases of neuroblastoma, the tumour does not respond to pharmaceutical treatment and can only be cured by surgery.

The family of Barbara, a 3-year-old patient of Polish origin, was alarmed when the little girl began to complain of severe tummy ache. It all started in October 2021, when one night Barbara slept very badly complaining of tummy ache. The parents saw that her tummy was quite swollen and the next day her father, a pediatric anesthetist at a university hospital in Poland, examined the little girl and quickly suspected a tumour in her abdomen. 

After the diagnostic tests carried out in her country, it was confirmed that the little girl had a large neuroblastoma and she started treatment with sessions of chemotherapy. However, the treatment did not work and the tumour did not shrink. She underwent surgery in Poland, but during the course of the surgery the doctors decided that resection was impossible and concluded that she had metastases, and Barbara began another round of high-dose chemotherapy.

The parents of another girl who had also been treated for neuroblastoma at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital told them about the care received at the centre. Interestingly, Barbara's father had studied at Sant Joan de Déu, and when he heard the name of the Hospital, he immediately recognised it.

They contacted Dr Jaume Mora, Scientific Director of the Hospital's Hematology and Oncology Department, who insisted that they come to Barcelona, as he was confident that they had a good chance of removing the entire tumour thanks to the high specialisation of the centre's oncologists and surgeons. So the family decided to travel to Barcelona.

When the girl arrived at the Hospital, she was very weak. After examining her and performing all the necessary tests at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital, Dr Mora concluded that the little girl had no metastasis. It was an abdominal, specifically a pelvic, neuroblastoma, a large mass surrounding and displacing large blood vessels and the ureters that had probably been confused with metastasis in the hospital of origin.

In some cases of neuroblastoma such as Barbara's, the tumour does not respond to pharmaceutical treatment and can only be cured by surgery. In this scenario, chemotherapy is not only ineffective but can also be harmful due to the resulting toxicity. 

In February 2022, Dr Lucas Krauel, Dr Rosalía Carrasco and their pediatric surgery team operated on Barbara. Before the surgery, the tumour was mapped and printed out in 3D to plan the operation, which was expected to be complex. The procedure lasted seven hours and the team managed to resect practically the entire tumour. 

Acording to Dr Krauel, "the biology of the resected tumour was considered to be 'favourable'. This means that, despite part of the tumour remaining in the area that extends into the spinal cord, it is expected to evolve towards maturation and, therefore, not grow or pose a problem in the future (the girl will grow and the tumour will remain the same)".

A month after the surgery, and with a postoperative period without any complications, Barbara was able to return to her school in Poland and get back to life as normal, without having to have any more treatments, just her usual regular check-ups to make sure everything is still fine. 

"Now the girl is perfectly fine; she runs, she talks, she wants to play... Just like any other girl her age. All this has brought us together, we cry with happiness", says Anna, Barbara's mother. "At the Hospital we had the best experience. Here, the patient comes first, then her brother, who was very important to Barbara as he played a lot with her, because he didn't see her as a sick little girl, but as his sister. They love each other a lot and this was very important to her. And thirdly, the parents, because we were able to be with Barbara all the time", Anna adds.

Szymon, Barbara's father says that "here, I didn't feel like we were in a hospital; you can see that the children and their families are the most important thing. We are very grateful for the treatment received by Dr Mora and Dr Krauel. They have helped us a lot, and we knew and felt that we had placed Barbara in the best hands. Now we advise people in the same situation to come to SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital".