for people ages 2 years and up (full criteria)
study started
Principal Investigator
by Paul Fitzgerald, MD (ucsf)
Headshot of Paul Fitzgerald
Paul Fitzgerald



This is a compassionate use protocol to allow palliative therapy for patients with malignant pheochromocytoma and paragangliomas.


Pheochromocytomas (PHEO) and paragangliomas (PGL) are rare tumors, with an incidence of 2-8 cases per million annually. These tumors develop in both children and adults. About 15-20% metastasize. Chemotherapy for this tumor usually consists of a combination of cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and dacarbazine delivered over two days and repeated every 3 weeks. Such combined chemotherapy is ineffective for the majority of patients with metastatic PHEO/PGL. A few patients with malignant PHEO have experienced remissions with sunitinib, but the drug may produce severe toxicity and the experience with that drug is limited. Those patients who do experience a remission with chemotherapy must continue it indefinitely to stay in remission. However, most such patients experience such severe side effects from the chemotherapy (marrow suppression, neuropathy, etc) that their chemotherapy must be discontinued. Thus, chemotherapy is either ineffective or intolerable for the vast majority of patients with metastatic PHEO/PGL.


Pheochromocytoma, Paraganglioma, MIBG, 131I-MIBG, Resistant, Relapsed, Treatment, UCSF, Pediatric, Adult, Oncology, 3-Iodobenzylguanidine, 131 I-Metaiodobenzylguanidine (131 I-MIBG)


You can join if…

Open to people ages 2 years and up

  • Diagnosis: Refractory or relapsed PHEO/PGL with original diagnosis based on tumor histopathology or the finding of PHEO/PGL tumor cells in the bone marrow. The diagnosis may also be based upon the presence of high plasma fractionated metanephrines or high urine catecholamines/metanephrines with diagnostic MIBG uptake.
  • Age: > 2 years and able to cooperate with radiation safety restrictions during therapy period.
  • Disease status: It must be determined that either the PHEO/PGL tumors are not amenable to safe surgical resection or are metastatic. Disease evaluable by MIBG scan must be present within 6 weeks of study entry and subsequent to any intervening therapy.
  • Life Expectancy: greater than 3 months.
  • Lanksy and Karnofsky Performance Status: 70% or higher.
  • Prior Therapy: Patients may enter this study with or without having had other therapy for recurrent tumor. Patients may be treated who have not had chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Patients may also be treated who have failed to respond to standard chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Patients must have fully recovered from the toxic effects of any prior therapy. At least 2 weeks should have elapsed since any anti-tumor therapy and the patient must meet hematologic criteria below. Three months should have elapsed in the case of completing radiation to any of the following fields: total craniospinal, total abdominal, whole lung, total body irradiation). Cytokine therapy (eg G-CSF, GM-CSF, IL-6, erythropoietin) must be discontinued a minimum of 24 hours prior to MIBG therapy. Prior 131I-MIBG therapy is allowed if > 8 weeks from previous treatment. Cumulative lifetime dose of 131I-MIBG, including the planned treatment, should not exceed 36 mCi/kg.
  • Liver function: bilirubin < 2x upper limit of normal (ULN). Exception: Gilbert syndrome); AST < 10x ULN.
  • Kidney function: Creatinine =< 2x ULN.
  • Hematopoietic Criteria Patients must have adequate hematopoietic function (without transfusion): ANC >750 x 10E9/L; Platelets >50 x 10E9/L if stem cells are not available; if stem cells are available, the patient should be independent of platelet transfusions with a platelet count of at least 20 x 10E9/L. Hemoglobin >10g/dl at time of treatment (transfusion allowed). Patients with granulocytopenia and/or thrombocytopenia due to tumor metastatic to the bone marrow may be eligible after discussion with Dr. Fitzgerald or designee.
  • Normal lung function as manifested by no dyspnea at rest or exercise intolerance, no oxygen requirement.
  • No clinically significant cardiac dysfunction, normal EKG and EJ >50%

You CAN'T join if...

  • Patients with disease of any major organ system that would compromise their ability to withstand therapy. Any significant organ impairment should be discussed with the Study Chair or Vice Chair prior to patient entry.
  • Patients with proteinuria in the absence of urinary infection 4 weeks prior to the planned treatment date.
  • Because of the teratogenic potential of the study medications, no patients who are pregnant or breast feeding will be allowed. Patients of childbearing potential must practice an effective method of birth control while participating on this study, to avoid possible pregnancy.
  • Patients who are on hemodialysis.
  • Patients with active infections that meet grade 3-4 toxicity criteria.


  • University of California, San Francisco
    San Francisco California 94143 United States

Lead Scientist at University of California Health

  • Paul Fitzgerald, MD (ucsf)
    Clinical Professor, Medicine, School of Medicine. Authored (or co-authored) 21 research publications. Research interests: Author · Endocrine Disorders Chapter in Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment (CMDT) · McGraw-Hill Pub · Author · Adrenal Medulla & Paraganglia Chapter in Basic and Clinical Endocrinology · McGraw-Hill Pub · Editor · Handbook of Clinical Endocrinology · Appleton & Lange Pub


not accepting new patients
Start Date
University of California, San Francisco
Study Type
Expanded Access
Last Updated