Promising high-dose radiation therapy for neuroblastoma

May 23, 2014 by Tiffani Washington

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital has become the first in Illinois to offer pioneering, targeted, high-dose, intravenous radiation therapy for relapsed neuroblastoma and other difficult-to-treat cancers. The hospital is one of only about a dozen across the country equipped to administer this advanced therapy, called metaiodobenzylguanidine or MIBG, which requires highly-specialized staff and a dedicated lead-lined patient room designed to minimize radiation exposure to families, other patients and staff.

Neuroblastoma, a solid tumor of the sympathetic nervous system that usually strikes infants and children under age 5, affects roughly 650 kids in the United States each year. For about 50 percent of cases, this cancer has high cure rates. For the other 50 percent of , an aggressive form can be very difficult to treat and has often spread widely by the time of diagnosis. For these children conventional treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and even stem cell transplant may not be enough to prevent relapse.

MIBG is a molecule that is internalized by neuroblastoma cells. When combined with radioactive iodine and administered to patients intravenously, MIBG can target and kill tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue. Once a child receives the medication, he or she is isolated in a lined with 45,000 pounds of lead brick for three to five days while the radiation is eliminated through urine and other bodily fluids.

Renowned neuroblastoma expert Susan Cohn, MD, director of clinical research in the section of pediatric hematology and oncology at the Comer Children's Hospital, says that while MIBG therapy is not yet a cure for neuroblastoma, it is a promising next step in a complex treatment plan for high-risk patients.

"MIBG is one of the most effective therapies available with a response rate of about 30 percent," said Cohn. "Over the last several years, we've developed an outstanding care team here at Comer Children's Hospital with expertise in neuroblastoma, nuclear medicine and radiation safety. We're pleased to have the facilities in place to provide every effective modality of treatment so that families do not need to travel away from Chicago to receive MIBG or other cutting-edge therapies."

Cohn's multidisciplinary team includes oncologists, advanced practice nurses, nuclear medicine physicians and technicians, radiation safety experts, radiopharmacists, child life specialists and social workers all focused on providing comprehensive medical care, safety and support for patients and their families. Parents play an important role on the care team during this unique procedure, serving as the primary caregivers in order to minimize radiation exposure for nurses who will care for dozens of patients in a given year.

Accommodations for each patient's family are a significant consideration. Parents can stay in an adjacent full-sized patient room for the duration of the treatment, an option often not available with other MIBG therapy providers. Technology, including a leading-edge two-way audio and visual communication system and iPads, allow parents ongoing interaction with their child.

"This is not an easy process for the child or the parents," said Cohn, "but for those who are emotionally able to tolerate the necessary separation, this is a promising treatment option for a complex cancer. It is my hope that MIBG will eventually become a standard of care for newly-diagnosed patients, versus just those who have relapsed. Our research continues."

Explore further: Multi-center clinical study intensifies first strike at high-risk cancer in kids

Related Stories

Multi-center clinical study intensifies first strike at high-risk cancer in kids

June 12, 2012
An experimental treatment that combines intense chemotherapy with a radioactive isotope linked to synthesized neurotransmitter is being tested in newly diagnosed cases of high-risk neuroblastoma – a deadly, hard-to-cure ...

Proton therapy offers new, precise cancer treatment for children with high-risk neuroblastoma

August 13, 2013
Proton therapy, using high-energy subatomic particles, may offer a precise, organ-sparing treatment option for children with high-risk forms of neuroblastoma. For patients in a new study of advanced radiation treatment, proton ...

New treatment hope for one of the deadliest childhood cancers

January 30, 2014
Cancer Research UK doctors have launched a new trial which offers a new type of molecular radiotherapy - never before tested in children - for one of the deadliest childhood cancers.

Experimental antibody shows early promise for treatment of childhood tumor

May 8, 2014
Tumors shrank or disappeared and disease progression was temporarily halted in 15 children with advanced neuroblastoma enrolled in a safety study of an experimental antibody produced at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. ...

Dendritic cell vaccine for relapsed neuroblastoma patient induces complete remission

January 29, 2013
One year after his last treatment, a six-year-old boy with recurrent neuroblastoma is in complete remission for his high-risk metastatic cancer. Doctors reported this case study in the January 2013 issue of Pediatrics, the ...

Recommended for you

Cancer-death button gets jammed by gut bacterium

July 27, 2017
Researchers at Michigan Medicine and in China showed that a type of bacterium is associated with the recurrence of colorectal cancer and poor outcomes. They found that Fusobacterium nucleatum in the gut can stop chemotherapy ...

Researchers release first draft of a genome-wide cancer 'dependency map'

July 27, 2017
In one of the largest efforts to build a comprehensive catalog of genetic vulnerabilities in cancer, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified more than 760 genes ...

Long-sought mechanism of metastasis is discovered in pancreatic cancer

July 27, 2017
Cells, just like people, have memories. They retain molecular markers that at the beginning of their existence helped guide their development. Cells that become cancerous may be making use of these early memories to power ...

Blocking the back-door that cancer cells use to escape death by radiotherapy

July 27, 2017
A natural healing mechanism of the body may be reducing the efficiency of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients, according to a new study.

Manmade peptides reduce breast cancer's spread

July 27, 2017
Manmade peptides that directly disrupt the inner workings of a gene known to support cancer's spread significantly reduce metastasis in a mouse model of breast cancer, scientists say.

Glowing tumor technology helps surgeons remove hidden cancer cells

July 27, 2017
Surgeons were able to identify and remove a greater number of cancerous nodules from lung cancer patients when combining intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI) - through the use of a contrast agent that makes tumor cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.