Neuroblastoma is the second most common solid tumor in childhood affecting about 7% of all children with cancer. It is the most common solid cancer in infants. There are over 700 cases 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 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 this type of cancer, the neuroblasts grow and divide without the usual controls, leading to the growth of a cancerous mass of cells, also called a tumor.