What is I-131-MIBG therapy?

I-131-MIBG therapy is a type of radiation therapy used to kill cancer cells in children with certain kinds of cancer. It's a way to get radiation inside your child's body to target cancer cells wherever they are.

The medicine is a clear fluid that looks like water. This treatment is given by infusion through an intravenous (IV) line or central line. The fluid is slowly pumped through the line into your child's bloodstream so it can travel throughout their body.

The fluid contains I-131 and MIBG. I-131 is a kind of radioactive iodine. This is what gives off radiation to destroy the cancer. When it is attached to MIBG (another chemical), it brings the radiation into the tumor.

Once inside the cancer cells, the iodine gives off particles of radiation (beta radiation) that travel outward about half an inch in all directions. This kills the cancer cells and the cells around them.

The infusion is done in the hospital. It takes about two hours. After the infusion, you and your child stay in the hospital for about a week. For five to seven days, your child's body fluids (like urine, sweat and saliva) will give off radiation that could harm others. Special plans are followed to make sure your child gets the care they need but to contain the radiation at the same time.

What conditions does it treat?

I-131-MIBG therapy is used only for tumors that take up MIBG, such as neuroblastoma and some tumors of the adrenal glands (pheochromacytoma).

Radiation works well against neuroblastoma. But neuroblastoma may spread to many places in a child's body. So the most common way of giving radiation - sending a beam of radiation toward one spot - is not always useful. I-131-MIBG therapy works because it's a way to get radiation to neuroblastoma cells all around your child's body from the inside via the bloodstream.

What's special about I-131-MIBG therapy at Seattle Children's?

Seattle Children's is the only hospital in the Pacific Northwest and one of only about 12 centers in the country that offer I-131-MIBG therapy for children. It's part of our commitment to bring the best and newest treatments to all children with cancer. I-131-MIBG works because the beta radiation from the iodine damages cells. To treat your child safely and to keep your family, other patients and the hospital staff safe, I-131-MIBG must be given with great care. Hospitals need special rooms and equipment, as well as a full team of healthcare providers with special training, to offer this treatment.

Your child's I-131-MIBG team

Your child will be cared for by a compassionate, expert team of doctors, nurses, technologists and social workers. Team members are trained in how to give I-131-MIBG therapy safely.

During the week after the infusion, you will need to provide some of your child's care. Before treatment starts, the team will give you detailed training about what you will need to do. We work closely with you during your child's hospital stay.


Our team is led by a doctor with special training in diagnosing, treating and preventing blood diseases and cancers. That branch of medicine is called hematology-oncology.

Nuclear medicine doctors

Doctors specially trained in nuclear medicine use radioactive substances to diagnose, treat and research illness.

Nurse practitioners

Our nurse practitioners coordinate care for patients and communication between all members of the patient care team. They are usually the first contact for referring physicians, team physicians and patients.

Nuclear medicine technologists

Our certified nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive materials for patients undergoing scans in order to create images of internal parts of the body.

  • Lisa Aldape, CNMT, PET/CT supervisor
  • Marian Abrahamson, CNMT
  • Danielle Watkins, CNMT
  • Kristin Petkavich, CNMT
  • Aileen Corpuz, CNMT

Radiation safety officer

To protect the safety of our patients and staff, our radiation safety officer oversees the use of radiation for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Barb Michieli, MS

Social worker

Our social worker provides emotional and practical support throughout your child's treatment.

  • Ashlei Brooks, MSW

Who needs I-131-MIBG therapy?

Children with neuroblastoma that has come back may be able to have I-131-MIBG therapy. This is a newer treatment, so it's offered only through research studies (clinical trials).

Some children may be able to get I-131-MIBG therapy through an option called compassionate use. This means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lets a company give a drug to a patient before the drug is approved and without the patient taking part in a study.

In the future, I-131-MIBG therapy may be used as part of the treatment for all children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Before this can happen, researchers need more study results to tell whether standard treatment plus I-131-MIBG therapy may work at least as well as standard treatment alone.

Contact Us

For more information, please call 206-987-2106 or send us an email.

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