Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumor in childhood and the most common cancer for infants. There are over 700 cases of neuroblastoma each year in the U.S. Neuroblastoma most often originates in the adrenal glands, which are located on top of each kidney. However, tumors can begin anywhere in the body. Other common sites for neuroblastoma are the chest, neck and pelvis. While neuroblastoma may be found in only one spot in the body at the time of diagnosis in some patients, in others the cancer may have spread (metastasized) from its primary location to the lymph nodes, bone marrow, or bones.
Many researchers believe that neuroblastoma develops when normal neuroblasts (the immature cells of the sympathetic nervous system) fail to mature into normal nerve cells. The sympathetic nervous system aids in the control of the body’s internal organs. The cells that make up neuroblastoma tumors are called neuroblasts. In neuroblastoma, the neuroblasts grow and divide without the usual controls, leading to the growth of a cancerous mass of cells, also called a tumor.