From Nerves to Immunity

Ten years ago, pediatric neuroblastoma patients at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), were receiving an experimental anti-body treatment.

The Scientist Staff
Mar 27, 2005

Ten years ago, pediatric neuroblastoma patients at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), were receiving an experimental anti-body treatment. Though it successfully treated their tumors, it left the children in intense pain. Sensitive to the lightest touch all over their bodies, the children would lie in their beds, practically naked.

The immunotherapy was given over the course of four days and repeated every few months. "And we're talking kids, who are 6 and 7, who are sick, but who are fighting and screaming to not come back," says Linda Sorkin, a pain researcher at UCSD called upon for help in understanding the mysterious side effect. The pain clinicians were able to manage the pain with opiates and anesthetics, but wondered about better options.

"It had all the earmarks of neuropathic pain," says Sorkin, except that nerve damage was not causing it. To model the situation, she gave the antibody...

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