131I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (131I-MIBG) therapy for residual neuroblastoma: a mono-institutional experience with 43 patients

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Incomplete response to therapy may compromise the outcome of children with advanced neuroblastoma. In an attempt to improve tumour response we incorporated 131I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (131I-MIBG) in the treatment regimens of selected stage 3 and stage 4 patients. Between 1986 and 1997, 43 neuroblastoma patients older than 1 year at diagnosis, 13 with stage 3 (group A) and 30 with stage 4 disease (group B) who had completed the first-line protocol without achieving complete response entered in this study. 131I-MIBG dose/course ranged from 2.5 to 5.5 Gbq (median, 3.7). The number of courses ranged from 1 to 5 (median 3) depending on the tumour response and toxicity. The most common acute side-effect was thrombocytopenia. Later side-effects included severe interstitial pneumonia in one patient, acute myeloid leukaemia in two, reduced thyroid reserve in 21. Complete response was documented in one stage 4 patient, partial response in 12 (two stage 3, 10 stage 4), mixed or no response in 25 (ten stage 3, 15 stage 4) and disease progression in five (one stage 3, four stage 4) Twenty-four patients (12/13 stage 3, 12/30 stage 4) are alive at 22–153 months (median, 59) from diagnosis. 131I-MIBG therapy may increase the cure rate of stage 3 and improve the response of stage 4 neuroblastoma patients with residual disease after first-line therapy. A larger number of patients should be treated to confirm these results but logistic problems hamper prospective and coordinated studies. Long-term toxicity can be severe.


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  • neuroblastoma
  • radiometabolic therapy
  • 131I-metaiodobenzylguanidine

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