The immune landscape of neuroblastoma: Challenges and opportunities for novel therapeutic strategies in pediatric oncology

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Immunotherapy holds great promise for the treatment of pediatric cancers. In neuroblastoma, the recent implementation of anti-GD2 antibody Dinutuximab into the standard of care has improved patient outcomes substantially. However, 5-year survival rates are still below 50% in patients with high-risk neuroblastoma, which has sparked investigations into novel immunotherapeutic approaches. T cell-engaging therapies such as immune checkpoint blockade, antibody-mediated therapy and adoptive T cell therapy have proven remarkably successful in a range of adult cancers but still meet challenges in pediatric oncology. In neuroblastoma, their limited success may be due to several factors. Neuroblastoma displays low immunogenicity due to its low mutational load and lack of MHC-I expression. Tumour infiltration by T and NK cells is especially low in high-risk neuroblastoma and is prognostic for survival. Only a small fraction of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes shows tumour reactivity. Moreover, neuroblastoma tumours employ a variety of immune evasion strategies, including expression of immune checkpoint molecules, induction of immunosuppressive myeloid and stromal cells, as well as secretion of immunoregulatory mediators, which reduce infiltration and reactivity of immune cells. Overcoming these challenges will be key to the successful implementation of novel immunotherapeutic interventions. Combining different immunotherapies, as well as personalised strategies, may be promising approaches. We will discuss the composition, function and prognostic value of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in neuroblastoma, reflect on challenges for immunotherapy, including a lack of TIL reactivity and tumour immune evasion strategies, and highlight opportunities for immunotherapy and future perspectives with regard to state-of-the-art developments in the tumour immunology space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-150
Number of pages28
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Immunotherapy
  • Neuroblastoma
  • NK cells
  • T cells
  • Tumour immune evasion
  • Tumour immunology
  • Tumour microenvironment


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