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Neuroendocrine Tumors

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Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) refer to group of malignant tumors arising from cells in the body’s endocrine glands. They usually occur in the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, small and large intestine, pancreas and appendix) and lungs.

Treatment for NETs depends on the cancer's stage (location and extent of disease), hormonal hypersecretion, and growth and differentiation rates.

Our Gastrointestinal Cancer Unit provides novel, thoughtful and compassionate care for adults with NETs

Lutathera for Neuroendocrine Tumors

With the highest level of safety standards in place, UC San Diego Health is offering a new radiotherapy, known as Lutathera or lutetium Lu 177 dotatate, for adult neuroendocrine cancers.

Approved by the FDA in 2018, Lutathera is the first radio-labeled drug approved for neuroendocrine cancers affecting the digestive tract. It may also be used for bronchopulmonary and thymic NETs.

Who is a candidate for Lutathera?

This therapy is used for inoperable, advanced metastatic disease of the digestive tract, with positive somatostatin receptor imaging. Treatment with Lutathera may be appropriate for adults who have not responded to other treatments. Diagnostic imaging with a Galium-68 PET/CT scan is used to locate tumors that are most likely to respond to the therapy.

How does the drug work?

Lutathera contains a lutetium Lu-177 labeled somatostatin analogue peptide. NETs have receptors for somatostatin. The drug carries a radioactive component for treatment. The drug binds to the somatostatin receptor-expressing cells and destroys the tumor cells.

What does treatment involve?

The drug is administered intravenously at our new Infusion Center at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest. Patients typically receive one injection of Lutathera, followed by an injection of long-acting octreotide (a hormone therapy), every eight weeks for a total of four injections. Each treatment takes between six and eight hours. Prior to beginning treatment, patients discontinue taking somatostatin analogs for at least four weeks. Treatments to date have been well tolerated, and delivered with utmost safety.

How effective is Lutathera?

It is not a cure, but the clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval showed that Lutathera slows progression of the disease, allowing patients to live longer, better lives. In the trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study demonstrated that the patients treated with Lutathera showed 79 percent reduction in risk of disease progression or death compared to those treated with octreotide LAR. The treatment has been shown to improve overall survival in more recent studies. Lutathera was also shown to significantly improve patients' quality of life, reducing pain, fatigue and diarrhea.

Will insurance pay for treatment?

In many cases, yes. Lutathera is not an experimental therapy. It is a novel therapy that is the standard of care for the right patient. Many insurance plans will cover the treatment when it is indicated.

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