Preclinical evaluation of the therapeutic potential of radiolabeled antibodies is commonly performed in a xenografted nude mouse model. To assess therapeutic efficacy it is important to estimate the absorbed dose to the tumor and normal tissues of the nude mouse. The current study was designed to accurately measure radiation does to human neuroblastoma xenografts and normal organs in nude mice treated with I-131-labeled 3F8 monoclonal antibody (MoAb) against disialoganglioside GD2 antigen. Absorbed dose estimates were obtained using two different approaches: (1) measurement with teflon-imbedded CaSO4:Dy mini-thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLDs) and (2) calculations using mouse S-factors. The calculated total dose to tumor one week after i.v. injection of the 50 microCi I-131-3F8 MoAb was 604 cGy. The corresponding decay corrected and not corrected TLD measurements were 109 +/- 9 and 48.7 +/- 3.4 cGy respectively. The calculated to TLD-derived dose ratios for tumor ranged from 6.1 at 24 h to 5.5 at 1 week. The light output fading rate was found to depend upon the tissue type within which the TLDs were implanted. The decay rate in tumor, muscle, subcutaneous tissue and in vitro, were 9.5, 5.0, 3.7 and 0.67% per day, respectively. We have demonstrated that the type of tissue in which the TLD was implanted strongly influenced the in vivo decay of light output. Even with decay correction, a significant discrepancy was observed between MIRD-based calculated and CaSO4:Dy mini-TLD measured absorbed doses. Batch dependence, pH of the tumor or other variables associated with TLDs which are not as yet well known may account for this discrepancy.