Neuroendocrine Treatment Options
Because neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are rare, treating them can be complex and varied— especially since treatment is dependent on various factors such as the type of tumor you have, its location, and whether you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of excess hormones produced by the tumor.
The good news is that the specialists at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC) have extensive knowledge and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of neuroendocrine tumors disorders. We offer our patients the most advanced medical and surgical procedures, interventional radiologic procedures, and advanced medical treatments including clinical trials.
With the wide variety of treatment options now available, the outlook for most patients, even those with the more aggressive NETs, is more hopeful than it used to be. Keep reading to learn more about the treatments used to treat neuroendocrine tumors.
Surgical removal of the tumor is the preferred first treatment option whenever possible. Determining factors include the location and size of the tumor, the extent of its growth to other organs as well as your overall health.
At RMCC, our internationally-recognized surgeon, Dr. Eric Liu, has specialized expertise in minimally invasive procedures that allow patients faster recovery times. Frequently, when patients are told that their tumor is inoperable, they may still benefit from surgical removal of as much tumor as is safely possible. This is something we call debulking surgery. Removal of tumors may prevent future complications, hormone relapse, and slow the progression of the disease.
Chemotherapy uses strong drugs— given orally or intravenously— to kill tumor cells. Your oncologist may recommend chemo if there’s a risk that your neuroendocrine tumor might recur after surgery. It might also be used for advanced tumors that can’t be removed with surgery.
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the tumor’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of tumor cells while limiting damage to healthy cells. Not all tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor.
Lutathera® is a radioisotope therapy for cancers affecting the neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract. It has been shown to slow or stop tumor growth, improving a patient’s quality of life by reducing side effects and discomfort caused by the tumors. Lutathera is a radioactive targeted therapy that delivers medication directly to the tumor while sparing surrounding healthy cells. Lutathera is given as an intravenous (IV) infusion administered several weeks apart over a period of months.
RMCC is currently using this therapy for our patients and is a leader in these types of treatments. In early 2021, RMCC will have a one of a kind theranostics treatment center utilizing Lutathera and other radioisotope therapies as they become available.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy tumor cells. A radiation therapy regimen, or schedule, usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time. The most common type of radiation treatment for a NET is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body.
Liver Directed Neuroendocrine Tumor Treatment
If cancer has spread to the liver, your treatment plan may include advanced techniques such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or radioembolization. These procedures are usually performed by an experienced interventional radiologist and may require an overnight hospital stay. Unfortunately, when the disease is very severe, liver failure can be a cause of death.
Additional Medical Treatment Options
Oftentimes, when the tumor has spread to many organs and surgery is not an option or only partially effective, additional medical treatment options such as synthetic hormonal drug injections or investigational agents can be used to slow tumor growth or control symptoms.
Neuroendocrine Tumors Clinical Trials
If you have a neuroendocrine tumor (NET), you may want to talk with your doctor about participating in a clinical trial. Neuroendocrine tumor clinical trials allow participants to try promising new treatment options that may be more effective than the current standard of care.
At the Neuroendocrine Institute at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, we are committed to finding new treatments and therapies for patients through clinical trials. Dr. Liu completed a fellowship under Dr. Kjell Oberg in Sweden, considered the pioneer of neuroendocrine research, and was responsible for establishing the first clinical trial in the United States for the Gallium 68 PET/CT, an important tool in diagnosing patients with NET.
If taking part in a clinical trial is something that interests you, talk with your specialist to see if you fit the criteria.