A Revolution in the Treatment of Neuroendocrine Tumors

Patients with neuroendocrine tumors have more treatment options than ever before.
BY ARLENE WEINTRAUB
PUBLISHED: AUGUST 09, 2017
RONNY ALLAN, a patient in
the United Kingdom who was
diagnosed with a metastatic NET
in his small intestine in 2010, got
his carcinoid syndrome symptoms
under control with Somatuline. - COURTESY RONNY ALLAN
RONNY ALLAN, a patient in the United Kingdom who was diagnosed with a metastatic NET in his small intestine in 2010, got his carcinoid syndrome symptoms under control with Somatuline. - COURTESY RONNY ALLAN
Eileen Kaveney has been living with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) for 13 years, during which time she has benefitted from a revolution in treatment options for this rare tumor type. Kaveney, a retired New York City elementary school administrator, was free of cancer for three years after she underwent surgery to remove her first NET, which began in her pancreas and spread to her spleen and stomach. Then, the cancer reappeared in her liver and Kaveney tried a variety of drug treatments, including endocrine hormone injections and chemotherapy. But the hormones stopped working and she couldn’t tolerate the chemotherapy.

In May 2015, she joined a trial of peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT), an experimental treatment that combines a drug that binds to specific receptors on NETs with radiation and that is showing promise in patients with metastatic NETs.

Kaveney’s tumors started shrinking after just one dose and have stayed stable since then. Kaveney has no symptoms and says she’s thankful to be able to pursue an active lifestyle, complete with a daily walk, yoga and meditation. “My liver is functioning normally. My doctors say I could live 30 to 40 years with this,” Kaveney says. “I am very healthy. I like to help other patients. I tell them ‘you can live with this — it’s not the end of your life.’”

PRRT is one of several experimental approaches that is expected to expand the treatment options, and improve the prognosis, for many patients with NETs. Coupled with advances in imaging and surgery techniques, a growing selection of targeted drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are boosting survival times, says James Yao, M.D., a professor in the division of gastrointestinal medical oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “Before 2011, there were very few FDA-approved treatments for controlling NETs — that has completely changed,” Yao says. “Now we have a lot of options available.”



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