Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid cancer in childhood and the most common cancer in infancy, with an annual incidence of about 650 new cases per year in the US. Close to 50 percent of neuroblastoma cases occur in children younger than two years old. It is a neuroendocrine tumor, arising from any neural crest element of the sympathetic nervous system or SNS. It most frequently originates in one of the adrenal glands, but can also develop in nerve tissues in the neck, chest, abdomen, or pelvis.
Neuroblastoma is one of the few human malignancies known to demonstrate spontaneous regression from an undifferentiated state to a completely benign cellular appearance.
A disease exhibiting extreme heterogeneity, neuroblastoma is stratified into three risk categories: low, intermediate, and high risk. Low-risk disease is most common in infants and highly curable with observation only or surgery, whereas high-risk disease is difficult to cure even with the most intensive multi-modal therapies available.
Note: Esthesioneuroblastoma, also known as olfactory neuroblastoma, is believed to arise from the olfactory epithelium and its classification remains controversial. However, since it is not a sympathetic nervous system malignancy it is a distinct clinical entity and is not to be confused with neuroblastoma.