Extending Cancer Patient's Lives with MIBG Therapy

Anastasia Kostaris
Anastasia had to travel for MIBG therapy. Her parents honor her memory by working to build a MIBG program at Cohen Children's.

MIBG therapy can give precious time to children with high-risk neuroblastoma.

Now, plans are underway to give kids in tri-state New York access to the advanced therapy, which hinges on the synthetic hormone metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) to deliver radiation directly to neuroblastoma cells.

"Over the years, new options have developed for treating neuroblastoma," said Jonathan Fish, MD, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist with Cohen Children's Medical Center. "The five-year survival rate is still just 40 to 50 percent for children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Unfortunately, there is no treatment option that can cure children whose cancer doesn't respond to standard therapy or comes back. But MIBG can add months or even upwards of a year to their lives."

Neuroblastoma cells naturally absorb MIBG. When a physician introduces the synthetic hormone into the system via radioactive iodine, neuroblastoma cells absorb it and the radiation therapy--effectively destroying the cells. After three to seven days of treatment, children return home.

Currently, local kids with high-risk neuroblastoma must travel out of state for MIBG therapy. But that's changing.

Anastasia's Legacy: MIBG Close to Home

In July 2015, Christina and Angelo Kostaris lost their daughter, Anastasia, to neuroblastoma. As part of her treatment, Anastasia traveled out of state for MIBG therapy. To help local children who need the advanced treatment, the Kostarises founded Anastasia's Legacy to fast-track the creation of an MIBG program within Cohen Children's Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation.

Implementing the program will add Cohen Children's to the ranks of the few hospitals in the US — and the only one in tri-state New York — to offer this specialized care.

"With the generous support of the communities we serve, particularly community members such as the Kostaris family, Cohen Children's plans to build an MIBG treatment suite on the fourth floor in our oncology unit," Dr. Fish said. "This will reduce travel stress for families and allow us to become part of the research process to help make MIBG a frontline therapy. We will also help families facing this difficult diagnosis with Child Life programming and hands-on care from specially trained providers."

Read the Fall 2016 issue of Kids First.


Focus onHealth TV

Watch Focus onHealth, Northwell Health's TV show. It's the healthy way to stay informed!