Rare Cancer Responds Unusually Well to New Treatment

“Vienna, Austria: Patients with advanced gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) have limited treatment options and there are few oncologists who are specialised in this relatively rare disease. But now results from a multi-centre randomised international trial of an innovative treatment show a marked improvement in the length of time patients with mid-gut NETs live without the disease getting worse (progression-free survival, or PFS), researchers will report to the 2015 European Cancer Congress today.

“Professor Philippe Ruszniewski, MD, Head of the Department of Gastroenterology-Pancreatology, Beaujon Hospital, Clichy, France, who is also a Professor at Paris Diderot University, will tell the Congress that results of the NETTER-1 phase III trial of 177Lu-DOTATATE (Lutathera) show a PFS that has never been shown before in this type of cancer. “Because these patients have a real unmet medical need, this is particularly pleasing for us,” he says.

“Lutathera is a member of the family of novel treatments called Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRTs) which involve targeting tumours with radiolabelled somatostatin analogue (SSA) peptides. The technique belongs to the larger family of molecular nuclear medicine, where trace amounts of active substances, or radiopharmaceuticals, are used to create images and to treat various diseases including cancer. SSAs are widely used in gastrointestinal NETs cancer to reduce symptoms such as diarrhoea.”


Two-Drug Combination Shows Promise Against One Type of Pancreatic Cancer

“One form of pancreatic cancer has a new enemy: a two-drug combination discovered by UF Health researchers that inhibits tumors and kills cancer cells in mouse models.

“For the first time, researchers have shown that a certain protein becomes overabundant in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, allowing them to thrive. They also found that pairing a  with an existing drug provides a more effective anticancer punch than a single drug. The findings were published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by a group that includes Rony A. François, an M.D./Ph.D. student working with Maria Zajac-Kaye, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of anatomy and cell biology.

“Finding new treatments is critical because less than 5 percent of patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors respond to everolimus, the most commonly used pharmaceutical, François said. Neuroendocrine tumors, which form in the hormone-making , account for 3 percent to 5 percent of pancreatic malignancies and have a five-year survival rate of about 42 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are increasingly common, which medical experts and researches have attributed to better diagnostic imaging, an aging population and heightened awareness of the disease stemming from the 2011 death of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs.”


Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors: A Lesser Threat than Adenocarcinomas, but Still Hard to Treat


Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) constitute only about 3% to 5% of all pancreatic cancers. Compared to the most common pancreatic cancer—adenocarcinoma (aka exocrine tumors), PNETs have a longer disease course and better prognosis; the 5-year survival rate is 42% for PNETs, but only about 5% to 6% for adenocarcinomas. When PNETs are localized, they can usually be removed by surgery. However, PNETs tend to metastasize, most often to the liver, and present a formidable treatment challenge at this stage. Continue reading…


Hormone-Mimicking Drugs Are Used To Treat Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (GEP-NETs)


Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) can arise wherever neuroendocrine (hormone-producing) cells are found—which is in most organs. Most NETs (65%-70%) are gastroenteropancreatic, or GEP, arising in different gastrointestinal organs. GEP-NETs are most commonly found in the small bowel (including the appendix), stomach, and rectum. Still, NETs in general are rare, which complicates the development of new treatments and identification of the genetic drivers of these cancers. Treatment of GEP-NETs is clearly an unmet medical need, and is now even more urgent because their incidence has been on the rise in the last 20 years. Continue reading…