Minnesota Patient First to Undergo Unique Cancer Treatment
Matt Thuente sat up in his hospital bed with a Minnesota Twins baseball cap perched on his head as the four-inch-thick lead door to his room opened slowly. In stepped his mother, Patricia, wearing a protective gown and carrying Matt’s lunch on a tray.
After sharing some small talk, Patricia exited the room, making sure beforehand to remove the gown and dispose of it into a tall waste basket.
The door closed slowly as Patricia joined her husband Paul in an adjacent room where they could talk to their son on an intercom system and watch his movements on a television monitor. In another room, nurses checked out Matt’s vital signs on several computer screens.
Matt, a 23-year-old resident of Eagan, Minn., was the first patient with neuroblastoma treated with use of meta-iodobenzylgaudine (MIBG) at American Family Children's Hospital. The treatment involves the patient receiving high doses of radiation in a room specially designed with lead-lined walls. To avoid radiation exposure, family members and caregivers are allowed only limited contact with the patient and must wear protective clothing and equipment for several days.
It is a sacrifice Matt was willing to make because other treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, had not worked.
American Family Children's Hospital is one of just a handful of medical facilities in the country to provide this unique treatment for neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that often begins in the abdomen and may spread to the lymph nodes, liver, bones and bone marrow.
While most cases involve children under age five, Matt was diagnosed in 2009 after graduating from college. As the cancer progressed, he was forced to use a wheelchair.
According to Ken DeSantes, MD, pediatric oncologist and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the MIBG is attached to large amounts of radioactive iodine before it is infused into patients.
"After being administered to the patient, MIBG is selectively absorbed by neuroblastoma cells, bringing with it high doses of radiation which kills the cancer," he says. "The accumulation of radiation within the tumor is much greater than the accumulation within normal organs, so the therapy is well tolerated."
Dr. DeSantes was instrumental in bringing the MIBG treatment to American Family Children’s Hospital after seeing how well it worked at a children’s hospital in San Francisco.
"We knew we wanted to offer the treatment," he says. "So we had the luxury of planning the MIBG treatment facility at the time the Children's Hospital was being built in 2007."
After seven days in the hospital, Matt was discharged and returned home to Minnesota. He experienced significant benefit from the MIBG therapy and has subsequently returned for a second course of treatment.