Radioactive isotope is effective against neuroblastoma

Attaching a radioactive chemical to a compound that binds to tumor cells, physicians can selectively kill those cells and improve treatment for children with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system. Using a compound called MIBG in 167 patients with neuroblastoma, researchers achieved a high number of responses with very few side effects.

John M. Maris, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, reported on a phase 2 trial of MIBG in a presentation today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Dr. Maris was the principal investigator of the multicenter study, carried out at Children's Hospital, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, San Francisco.

Neuroblastoma, which accounts for 10 percent of all pediatric cancers, often occurs as a solid tumor in a child's abdomen or chest. The most aggressive forms of the disease often are resistant to conventional treatment with surgery and chemotherapy.

The MIBG treatment makes use of the fact that a compound called meta-iodobenzylguanidine selectively concentrates in neuroblastoma tumor cells. When a radioactive isotope of iodine, iodine-131, is attached to MIBG, the MIBG travels to tumor cells, which are killed by the iodine's radiation. Hospital clinicians deliver MIBG as an intravenous infusion in a special lead-lined hospital room that shields parents and staff members from unnecessary radiation exposure.

In Dr. Maris's study, the patients ranged from four months to 25 years old; all had neuroblastoma that was refractory to first-line treatment, or had relapsed. The overall response rate to MIBG was 35 percent, with a higher response when the cancer was restricted to bone or bone marrow, and when the MIBG dose was higher. The main toxic effect was on blood cells, with 28 percent of the patients requiring infusions of hematopoetic (blood-forming) stem cells to counteract damage to their

Contact: John Ascenzi
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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