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Health: Radioactive Treatment Helps Children Battling Cancer

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stephanie-web Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It sounds a little bit like science fiction, but a special radioactive treatment may be the only thing that saves some children who are battling cancer.

3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on it , and how a local hospital is trying to make it work even better.

At the end of a hospital hallway in a room lined with lead, is a little boy with a deadly disease.

“I hope that he kicks cancer in the butt,” says Cathy Shin, his mother.

Cathy’s son, Noah, is battling neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the nerve cells. Chemotherapy wasn’t working, so doctors are trying to shrink the cancer using a special drug containing a radioactive isotope.

“I hope that we can get his disease under control with this therapy, that we can shrink his tumors,” adds Dr. Clay Gustafson, a pediatric oncologist.

The therapy is given by IV, and only cancerous nerve cells can absorb it.

“It’s a way of delivering high energy radiation to tumors — not just in one place, but to tumors everywhere in the entire body,” explains Dr. Gustafson.

But it also turns Noah radioactive. He must be kept isolated, in a lead-shielded room, for days. He’s kept sedated enough to keep the edge off, but he isn’t put into a deep sleep. Everyone who enters the room has to wear a radiation detector and disposable clothing.

Thanks to cameras around the room, Noah’s family and hospital staff can keep a trained eye on him and his vital signs.

“I want him to grow up to be a healthy, happy, normal boy and put this all behind him. That’s my hope,” says Cathy.

The goal is to shrink Noah’s tumors and get him ready for a bone marrow transplant.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was one of the first hospitals to offer the treatment. Now, they’re working in the lab on how to make this radioactive treatment even more targeted and effective.

Kids like Noah have about a 50 percent chance of survival.

For more info on the treatment, visit: http://mibg.chop.edu

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