MIBG for Neuroblastoma
We are among the elite pediatric hospitals taking a newer treatment approach for certain kinds of neuroblastoma. A special compound called metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) provides targeted radiation therapy for the most challenging tumors.
MIBG is the best choice when neuroblastoma returns or does not respond to initial treatment. We give the therapy through our robust Neuroblastoma Program, which is based at the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and offers:
- Top specialists
- Leading treatments
- Strong research component
We are among the country’s first 20 cancer programs (and among few in the state) treating neuroblastoma with MIBG therapy. That means our families can remain with a program they know and trust, rather than traveling for treatment.
Our meticulous procedures and protections ensure you and your child remain safe during MIBG therapy. We are also working to offer clinical trials associated with MIBG therapy that could help even more of our patients.
We use MIBG therapy to treat some of our patients with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that develops in immature nerve cells. These cancers most often occur in children under 5, usually forming in the adrenal glands but also appearing in the abdomen, chest or spine.
Learn more about neuroblastoma.
Not all children with neuroblastoma need MIBG therapy. Its use depends on the cancer’s stage and response to other treatment, with our team carefully assessing which patients might benefit. We currently offer MIBG therapy to two groups of patients:
- Refractory neuroblastoma: The cancer does not respond to established therapies, either showing resistance right away or developing it during the course of treatment.
- Relapsed or recurrent neuroblastoma: Treatment works initially but then the disease returns.
At the Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, we treat neuroblastoma with a dedicated team of experts. Our MIBG therapy staff provides the full level of support your family needs and includes:
- Pediatric oncologist: Our lead neuroblastoma specialist, Tanya Watt, M.D., is board-certified in pediatrics with a sub-certification in pediatric hematology (blood and blood disease) and oncology (cancer). She also completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology, meaning she underwent additional training beyond what was required.
- Nurse practitioner and social worker: Both our nurse practitioner and social worker have extensive experience working with children diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
- Psychologist and child life specialist: Our psychologist and child life specialist meet with your family well before MIBG therapy to begin providing emotional and psychological support. They continue this role throughout treatment.
We deliver MIBG therapy through an intravenous (IV) line. A special compound called metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) is paired with a radioactive iodine isotope (I-131). The MIBG compound seeks out only neuroblastoma cells, getting absorbed and delivering the isotope’s cancer-destroying radiation. The benefits of this approach for relapsed and refractory neuroblastoma include:
- Greater effectiveness: The therapy specifically targets neuroblastoma throughout the body. It can relieve pain caused by neuroblastoma quickly.
- Less burdensome: MIBG is well tolerated, with fewer side effects than treatments like chemotherapy. Nausea and vomiting are much less likely, for example. Patients can also leave the hospital sooner.
To ensure your child receives top treatment, we also offer:
- Thorough preparation: We meet with your family well before therapy begins to show you the treatment suite, explain the MIBG process and introduce you to our specially trained staff.
- Meticulous safety: Research shows that MIBG therapy is safe and effective. That means no long-term toxicity for patients, who just need medicated drops to protect their thyroid glands and regular blood tests. The use of radiation does require special measures to protect family and staff, which we carefully follow. Patients stay in a dedicated lead-lined room featuring special equipment, with their families next door. A lead shield around the patient’s bed protects guests, with staff and family limited in their visits. Staff will always make an exception when your child needs urgent care. Visitors wear protective clothing and radiation meters to monitor exposure.
- Thoughtful comfort: We take every step possible to make your child’s stay comfortable. The treatment room is painted in cheerful colors and is equipped with Internet, a TV and a videogame console. Our child life specialist meets with your child beforehand to determine what new toys or other items they might like in the room. These items are thrown away after therapy, for safety. We have equipped the adjacent family space with a bed, couch, TV and bathroom. We have also installed a window and intercom between the two rooms for constant communication with your child and have provided tablets for video chats.
Your child stays in the treatment room for four to five days on average. By the end of therapy, the radiation has come out through urine, so your child can safely return home and resume normal activities.