MIBG (Metaiodobenzylguanidine) Therapy Suite at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

There's new hope for children with neuroblastoma — an aggressive form of childhood cancer. 

Infants tend to have a less aggressive form of the disease. Although rarer, neuroblastoma can also occur in teens and young adults.

MIBG is a compound that easily absorbs into neuroblastoma cells, often used for tumors that have returned. At the MIBG Therapy Suite at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we're using it as a front-line treatment to kill cancer cells.

Contact the MIBG Therapy Suite

To learn more about MIBG treatment at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, call 412-692-8570.

What is MIBG Therapy?

Doctors have used MIBG since the late 1980s to scan for tumors. But we've recently found that increased doses can start to kill tumors instead of just find them.

When combined with radioactive iodine, MIBG can travel directly to the tumor and kill the cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

That's good news for parents of children with cancer. Doctors diagnose about 700 new cases of neuroblastoma each year in the United States — mostly affecting children under 5.

Common front-line treatments for neuroblastoma include:

  • Chemo
  • Radiation
  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Stem cell transplants

Not all hospitals have MIBG rooms. UPMC Children's Hospital has the only one in western Pa.

Adding the MIBG Therapy Suite for childhood cancer treatment lets us take part in a long-term study of MIBG treatment. The Children's Oncology Group leads the study.

MIBG therapy is a standard treatment for people who have relapsed. The goal of this study is to gauge MIBG's effectiveness as the first form of treatment.

What to Expect During Your Child's MIBG Treatment

The day before MIBG treatment begins, your child will come to the hospital to receive:

  • An IV line.
  • A catheter to collect urine.
  • A drug called SSKI to block radioactive iodine from damaging the thyroid gland.

MIBG therapy requires strict safety measures. Your child's treatment will take place in a lead-lined room with a 1,400-pound door.

During treatment, we will mildly sedate your child and dispense the MIBG through the IV. Your child will get his or her nutrients from a feeding tube through the nose.

After treatment, your child must stay in the lead-lined room alone for 5 to 7 days because of the radioactivity. As the radiation levels decrease, you can spend more time with your child.

Since your child must stay in bed, we make the surroundings as warm as possible. There's a big-screen TV to watch, and you can stay in the room right next door. It has a window, so you and your child can see each other.

In case a child needs critical care, the MIBG Therapy Suite is also set up like an ICU with:

  • A dialysis machine
  • A ventilator
  • Other life-saving equipment

The Parents' Role During MIBG Treatment

Before we can admit a child to the MIBG Therapy Suite at UPMC Children's, parents must:

  • Commit to helping with their child's routine care during their entire stay.
  • Complete special training in radiation protocol.
  • Agree to take turns with staff caring for their child to minimize radiation exposure.