The role of bone marrow evaluation in the staging of patients with otherwise localized, low-risk neuroblastoma

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2005 Dec;45(7):916-9. doi: 10.1002/pbc.20520.


Background: Bone marrow aspirations and biopsies are standard staging procedures for neuroblastoma because the tumor frequently metastasizes to the bone marrow. The presence of bone marrow metastases indicates stage 4 or 4S neuroblastoma by International Neuroblastoma Staging System (INSS) criteria; these stages are also associated with other metastatic sites of disease. We questioned whether bone marrow studies changed the staging or treatment of children with localized, completely resected tumors if there was no other evidence of metastatic spread. If stage of disease rarely changed with bone marrow results, it might be possible to avoid this procedure in a subset of patients with neuroblastoma.

Procedure: The staging studies of patients with INSS stage 1 (n = 29), 4 (n = 60), and 4S (n = 13) neuroblastoma from two institutions were reviewed.

Results: There were no patients upstaged from stage 1 to 4 or 4S by bone marrow metastases alone. Fifty-nine of 60 stage 4 patients had other sites of metastases on imaging studies, the remaining patient had an unresectable primary tumor and marrow disease. All subjects with stage 4S disease had liver metastases.

Conclusions: Bone marrow studies did not contribute data that changed the stage of patients who had surgically resectable tumors and no evidence of metastatic spread on imaging studies. When present, metastatic spread to the marrow was associated with advanced local tumors or other sites of metastatic disease. Given the relatively small size of our study population, further studies are warranted that investigate the utility of bone marrow studies for patients who otherwise have INSS stage 1 neuroblastoma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biopsy
  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / secondary
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Neuroblastoma / surgery