Specialized Treatment for One of the Deadliest Forms of Childhood Cancer
American Family Children's Hospital has become one of just a handful of pediatric hospitals in the U.S. to open a specialized unit for treatment of neuroblastoma, the fourth most common childhood cancer.
The treatment, involving the use of meta-iodobenzylguadine (MIBG) attached to radioactive iodine, will be recommended for patients if standard cancer therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have failed.
"After being administered to the patient, MIBG is selectively absorbed by neuroblastoma cells, bringing with it large doses of radioactive iodine which kills the cancer," says Dr. Ken De Santes, pediatric oncologist and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "The accumulation of radiation within the tumor is much greater than the accumulation within normal organs, so the therapy is well tolerated."
Neuroblastoma is diagnosed in one of 100,000 children, most of them under age five. The cancer often begins in the abdomen and may spread to the lymph nodes, liver, bones and bone marrow.
"Once the cancer has spread, it is difficult to cure with current medical therapies," says De Santes. "MIBG offers another treatment option for children afflicted with this deadly disease."
Parents and caregivers will be allowed only limited contact with the child for the first 24 hours after the MIBG is administered. The treatment room is lined with lead and fitted with a four-inch-thick lead door to protect other areas of the hospital from radiation exposure.
The facility also includes special monitors in the nurses' station, and an overnight room with a closed-circuit television and intercom so parents can see and talk to their child at all times. The child will have a TV, DVD player and electronic gaming system for entertainment.
Staff at American Family Children's Hospital recently went through trials involving the MIBG room so treatment can be administered safely.
De Santes says due to the effectiveness of MIBG therapy, it may soon be incorporated as a front-line treatment for children with "high-risk" neuroblastoma.
Physicians and clinical staff are welcome to call (608) 263-6200 with any questions regarding MIBG therapy at American Family Children's Hospital.