Neuroendocrine tumor cancer treatment are making a big difference for patients — and they’re happening fast.
Not long ago, few people had ever heard of neuroendocrine cancer, or NETs. Diagnosis was difficult because both physicians and patients weren’t familiar with the rare cancer, which strikes only about 12,000 people in the United States each year, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
But recent efforts to increase awareness of the complex cancer —led by Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers surgeon Dr. Eric Liu — have helped patients and physicians recognize and understand neuroendocrine cancers, and have brought unprecedented neuroendocrine tumor treatment advances to Colorado.
Types of neuroendocrine tumor cancer treatments
“Before 2011, there were few treatment options other than surgery for NETs,” says Dr. Liu. “In just a few years, that has changed significantly. Now we have a number of treatment options and more are on the horizon.”
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers is currently involved in five research trials for neuroendocrine tumor treatments including Lanreotide and PDR001.
Some of the neuroendocrine tumor treatment advances that are giving patients and physicians hope include:
Lutathera (177-lutetium – Dotatate). The first radioactive drug authorized for treatment of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs), Lutathera was granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in January following clinical trials at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. Also known as Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT), the drug works by binding to a cell, which then allows the radiation contained in the drug to attack cancer cells.
Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT imaging. Dr. Liu, an internationally recognized NETs expert, was instrumental in securing approval for the highly advanced imaging technology, and in 2016, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers became one of the nation’s first cancer centers to use the scan. Since then, the technology has changed how physicians across the country diagnose and treat NETs patients. The groundbreaking test arms oncologists and surgeons with precise information about the location and extent of tumors helping them make better informed treatment decisions for each NETs patient.
Afinitor (everolimus), a chemotherapy drug, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016 for use among patients with advanced gastrointestinal or lung NETs who aren’t candidates for surgery. The drug blocks a protein signaling pathway that, when it malfunctions, slows tumor growth. Afinitor now is being evaluated for use in combination with an experimental drug, LEE011 (robciclib), which inhibits two additional proteins. Those proteins also enable cancer cells to grow. The drug combination is being tested in a clinical trial of patients with NETs in the gastrointestinal tract.”
Somatuline (lanreotide) and Sandostatin (octreotide) injection. Many NET patients have tumors that produce an excess of many hormones. While these are naturally occurring chemicals in the body, too much of them can cause symptoms that dramatically impact quality of life. Advancements are being made now in medications to control many of those symptoms, and a somatostatin analogue is one of those medications. Recently, evidence emerged that the drug is effective in controlling tumor growth as well as tumor-caused symptoms.
XermeloTM (Telotristat ethyl). In 2017, Xermelo became the first oral therapy for the treatment of diarrhea that often is a side effect of NETs cancers.
“These treatment advancements are very encouraging,” Dr. Liu says. “And we believe they are just the beginning. We expect much more progress in treating NETs is ahead.”