Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumours – surgical decisions and new research on molecular sub-types



I offer you two subjects in one article but they are overlapping and very related. The piece of research in the 2nd half of the article is very exciting – did you know researchers have found there are two main sub-types of pNETs, one less likely to recur and metastasise than the other? This will hopefully lead to similar research in other types of Neuroendocrine Neoplasm.

Background 

I’ve written before about pancreatic NETs (pNETs), much of which has been on the awareness side of my advocacy work, particularly emphasising the differences with core Pancreatic Cancer (adenocarcinoma).

Pancreatic NETs are quite difficult to diagnose and treat, some of that difficulty is due to the location of the pancreas and accessibility for surgeons and radiographers. It’s not helped by the fact that most pNETs are non-functional making diagnosis more difficult as there is little clinical suspicion to scan, but also results in more late diagnoses.

Although biopsies are possible, mainly via endoscopic ultrasound or laparoscopy, it can still be difficult to reach.  In some cases biopsies are not done until after surgical removal of tumours. The latter scenario plus surgery after a positive biopsy result does present an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.  Consequently physicians (and patients) often have difficult decisions to make.   I discussed some of these issues in my article “To cut or not to cut” which covers all types of NETs, but it’s particularly relevant to pNETs

To cut or not to cut

There are guidelines for treatment of pNETs and most seem to have tumour size thresholds to aid decision making but that is just one factor.   I’ve listened to many presentations by NET specialists talking about the dilemma of cutting or not cutting and the ‘debate’ is still happening 3 years since I took an interest in the subject.  Most guidelines seem to use 2cm as a threshold for surgical removal (>2cm) or watch and wait (<2cm) but there are other factors which could also indicate surgical removal such as a functioning tumour producing one of the pNET syndromes (i.e. palliative surgery) or the tumour threatening important vessels (i.e. pre-emptive surgery).  These guidelines include ENETS, NANETS and NCCN.  Currently it’s difficult for physicians to know how aggressive a pNET could become over time and this hinders decision making.

For those interested in this debate, you may like a recent article from the 2019 Society of Surgical Oncology Annual Cancer Symposium where Cristina R. Ferrone, MD, the surgical director of the liver program in the Division of General Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, and Peter J. Allen, MD, the chief of surgical oncology at Duke Cancer Institute, in Durham, N.C., describe the benefits of resection versus observation in small neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas and outlined the risks of under- and over-treatment, respectively.  Click here.

Better and more accurate prognostic data is required to help therapy decisions

What we really need is more information from biopsies and blood tests to help make the right decisions.  I’ve been watching articles discussing the use of liquid biopsies (essentially a blood test) which not only provide the conventional biopsy information but also molecular DNA measurements which an lead to data analysis indicating prognostic trends in those with particular levels. For example, in one study for Pancreatic Cancer, higher levels of plasma Cell-free nucleic acid (cfNAs) were found to significantly correlate with metastasis and recurrences.  Work continues on liquid biopsies for many different cancer types, in some cases multiple types.

Latest Neuroendocrine research 2019

In a study sponsored by the NET Research Foundation, researchers used molecular analytic methods to describe new subtypes of pNETs that differ in the expression of specific regulatory proteins and found that the differences correlated with the risk of recurrence following surgical treatment. The regulatory proteins ARX and PDX1 are epigenetic modifiers that are involved in development of the pancreas.

The scientists found that tumors whose cells exclusively expressed the protein ARX had more than a 35% risk of recurrence following surgery, compared to less than a 5% risk if the tumor lacked ARX but expressed PDX1. Among study participants whose tumors showed high ARX levels, cancers recurred in the liver within 1 to 4 years, compared to the rare recurrence of tumors that expressed PDX1.

Dr. Shivdasani and his colleagues studied molecular findings first in about a dozen pNETs and then analyzed the molecular profiles of another 142 pNET specimens. They found that about half of the pNETs expressed the regulatory protein ARX and resembled normal alpha cells in the pancreas, whereas the other half expressed the PDX1 regulatory protein and resembled normal beta pancreatic cells. The presence or absence of those proteins was strongly correlated with outcomes: among 103 cases the researchers studied, distant metastatic relapses occurred almost exclusively in patients whose tumors expressed the ARX protein but not the PDX1 protein.

“This robust molecular stratification provides insight into cell lineage correlates of nonfunctional pNETs, accurately predicts disease course, and can inform postoperative clinical decisions,” the authors wrote.

On the basis of these findings, said Dr. Shivdasani, pathologists could easily test specimens of pNET tumors to classify them as type A (expressing ARX) or type B (expressing PDX1). “Now you can tell patients with type B that their recurrence risk after surgery is very small…,” said Dr. Shivdasani. For patients whose tumors are type A, with a higher risk of recurrence, close follow-up could be undertaken to detect new metastases, which may be treatable with chemotherapy or other methods.

To summarise this really important piece of research, the key points are:

  • Tumors whose cells exclusively expressed the protein ARX had more than a 35% risk of recurrence following surgery, compared to less than a 5% risk if the tumor lacked ARX but expressed another regulatory protein, PDX1.
  • Among study participants whose tumors showed high ARX levels, cancers recurred in the liver within 1 to 4 years, compared to the rare recurrence of tumors that expressed PDX1.
  • Distant metastatic relapses occurred almost exclusively in patients whose tumors expressed the ARX protein but not the PDX1 protein

These proteins can be measured by standard biopsy stains as used by pathologists in determining conventional prognostic data such as Ki67 and differentiation.  At this time, there is no plans to introduce a new stain and routinely measure all pNET biopsies.  It’s also envisaged that larger trials would need to be completed before such a change could happen.  Nonetheless, this is very positive news.

Hopefully similar research will follow on other types of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms.

Thanks for reading.

In addition to linked articles above, resources used to compile this article:

1. Subtypes of Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors and Effect on Disease Recurrence – By The ASCO Post, posted: 15 Jul 2019.

2. Robust molecular stratification provides insights into cell lineage correlates –  By ESMO posted 09 Jul 2019.

3. NET Research Blog – NETRF-Funded Finding May Help Predict Pancreatic NET (pNET) Recurrence posted 1 Jul 2019.

4. Surgeons Debate Management of Small Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors. Resect or Observe? – By Clinical Oncology News posted 17 Jul 2019.

 

Ronny

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Phase 1 clinical trial of single agent PV-10 for the treatment of symptomatic neuroendocrine tumors (NET) metastatic to the liver

An interesting trial from Provectus Biopharmaceuticals Inc.  Phase 1 results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2019 Annual Meeting, held in Chicago, IL from May 31-June 4, 2019

In an ogoing Phase 1 clinical trial of single agent PV-10 for the treatment of symptomatic neuroendocrine tumors (NET) metastatic to the liver. Intralesional injection of oncolytic immunotherapy PV-10 can yield immunogenic cell death in solid tumor cancers that results in tumor-specific reactivity in circulating T cells. PV-10 clinical development includes cutaneous melanoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, and metastatic liver cancers such as uveal melanoma in single-agent and combination therapy settings.

What is PV-10?

Described above as “Oncolytic Immunotherapy” but elsewhere as “Ablative Immunotherapy”, the latter indicates the method of administering the therapy i.e. tumour ablation.  It’s more well known for trials in treating Melanoma where tumour ablation (albeit subcutaneous) is more common as a treatment.

Scientific Description: PV-10 causes acute oncolytic destruction of injected tumors, releasing damage associated molecular pattern molecules (DAMPs) and tumor antigens that initiate an immunologic cascade where local response by the innate immune system facilitates systemic anti-tumor immunity by the adaptive immune system. The DAMP release-mediated adaptive immune response activates lymphocytes, including CD8+ T cells, CD4+ T cells, and NKT cells, based on clinical and preclinical experience in multiple tumor types. T cell function can be further augmented by combining PV-10 with immune checkpoint inhibition.  Sometimes it’s known as its short name “Rose Bengal“.

What is ‘Rose Bengal’?

It’s actually a 135 year old chemical stain, originally discovered in 1882, and for more than half a century used as a dye in cancer diagnosis.

Rose Bengal, in a 10% solution known as PV-10, has displayed greatest promise in the treatment of melanoma, where it was shown in an 80-patient Phase II trial to achieve a complete response rate in 50% of patients’ tumours and an overall response in 71%. A bystander effect was also seen in untreated lesions, suggesting a positive immune response, although it was more effective when all lesions were injected with PV-10.

Scientific Description: PV-10’s active pharmaceutical ingredient is rose bengal disodium (RB) (4,5,6,7-tetrachloro-2’,4’,5’,7’-tetraiodofluorescein disodium salt), a small molecule halogenated xanthene. PV-10 drug product is a bright rose red solution containing 10% w/v RB in 0.9% saline for injection, which is supplied in single-use glass vials containing 5 mL (to deliver) of solution and administered without dilution to solid tumors via intratumoral injection.

What is the trial doing and where is the trial located?

This single-center Phase 1 study is being conducted at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, Australia to evaluate the potential safety, tolerability, and preliminary efficacy of PV-10 in metastatic NET patients (NCT02693067). The primary endpoint for the trial is safety, and secondary endpoints include objective response rate (ORR) of injected target and measurable bystander lesions, target lesion somatostatin receptor expression, and biochemical response. Six patients in the first cohort each received one percutaneously-administered injection of PV-10 to one target lesion per treatment cycle. Patients in the second cohort can receive PV-10 injection of multiple lesions per cycle (2 of 6 patients in the second cohort have received at least one cycle of PV-10 thus far).

Results of Cohort 1 as follows:

Cohort 1 has fully enrolled, with 4 of 6 subjects male, median age 65yrs, range 47-72. Primary sites were: small bowel 3, pancreas 2, caecal 1; grade: Gd1 = 5, Gd2 = 1. All patients received prior Somatostatin Analogues (SSA) and PRRT. Median CgA was 645 (range 30-2819). To date 1 subject has received 4 PV-10 treatment cycles, 1 has received 2 cycles, and 4 have received a single cycle. Toxicity has been acceptable, including pain post procedure, carcinoid flare and nausea. LFT’s have remained stable. Overall QOL score was stable for 5 of 6 subjects. ORR in injected lesions is 50% (progression in 1 subject), with overall disease control of 84%. CgA response: 5 stable, 1 progression. One subject with “carcinoid pellagra” had rash resolution. Response follow-up is ongoing and additional efficacy and functional data will be presented. Hepatic IL PV-10 elicited no safety concerns with encouraging evidence of both local and systemic disease control. Enrolment to Cohort 2 is underway

Further reading:

The NET Clinical Trial document: click here

The ASCO poster for the NET trial: click here

ASCO trial update: click here

Thanks for listening

 

LUTATHERA (PRRT) – NETTER 2 Clinical Trial for Grade 2/Grade 3 Neuroendocrine Neoplasms


netter 2

Brief Summary

The NETTER-1 trials led to the approval of Lu177 (or Lutathera), more commonly known in the community as Peptide Receptor Radio Therapy (PRRT).  This led to an explosion of availability across the world but many gaps in service remain.

Many PRRT spin off trials are in the pipeline looking at different types of PRRT, mainly using slightly different radionuclides and techniques.  However, NETTER-2 builds on the success of the approved version formally known as Lutathera.

The aim of NETTER-2 is to determine if Lutathera in combination with long-acting octreotide prolongs PFS in GEP-NET patients with high proliferation rate tumors (G2 and G3), when given as a first line treatment compared to treatment with high dose (60 mg) long-acting octreotide. Somatostatin analog (SSA) naïve patients are eligible, as well as patients previously treated with SSAs in the absence of progression. This is a phase 3 trial that will be hoping for 222 participants at multiple locations.

This is an exciting trial because there are already data produced indicating that PRRT can be used on high grade tumours providing they have sufficient and efficient somatostatin receptors and a Ki67 of less than 55%.  2019 Updated data for Grade 3 Neuroendocrine Neoplasms: “Compared to studies evaluating the efficacy of chemotherapy for NEN patients with a Ki-67 index less than or equal to 55 percent, PRRT has a longer overall survival rate–22 months versus 14 months,” the researchers pointed out. “These results suggest that PRRT, rather than chemotherapy, may be a superior first-line therapeutic option in selected patients with a high level of SSTR expression and a Ki-67 index of less than or equal to 55%.”  Read more here.

This article will be fleshed out in due course. No locations listed yet.  Not recruiting yet.  Criteria listed – important section if this trial interests you. Clinical Trials document here.

In the meantime, read more about Lutathera (PRRT) by clicking here.

This looks like a very exciting development.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – High grade



High Grade – the forgotten patient group?

When reading articles in the mainstream media, found in medical publications; and even listening to doctors speak about my disease, it’s clear that the focus is on the term “Neuroendocrine Tumours” or NET for short.  Many websites of advocate foundation organisations and specialist scientific organisations, all still use the term “NET” in their naming.  I too am guilty of having a large Facebook site falling into this category.  It’s little wonder that those with high grade disease can often feel like the forgotten patient group.  Clearly all the aforementioned organisations support all patients regardless of grade, but it’s true to say that the naming and general use of terminology continues to fall behind. It’s also true that the term NET remains applicable to the majority of patients and that many use it as a convenience when they actually mean all types including Neuroendocrine Carcinoma. Nonetheless, context remains an important part of overall understanding and inclusivity – words and acronyms matter.

However, High grade or Grade 3 is no longer just Neuroendocrine Carcinoma (NEC).  Things have changed since 2017.

What are Neuroendocrine Neoplasms?

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) are without doubt a heterogeneous (i.e. diverse) bunch of tumours with a common phenotype (i.e. the physical appearance or biochemical characteristic).  However, there are two fundamentally different groups of NENs: well-differentiated, low-proliferating NENs, called neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), and poorly differentiated, highly proliferating NENs, called neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs).  The difference between well and poorly differentiated has been described as a ‘dichotomy’, most likely due to the origin from different neuroendocrine progenitor cells (i.e. source cells). Should the term Neuroendocrine Neoplasm be used more?  Yes, probably. But should we perhaps also ask if ENETS and NANETS will change their names to ENENS and NANENS?

This revised classification is not recent as many are currently suggesting.  These changes were covered in my Staging and Grading article produced in early 2017 and confirmed Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (or NENs) was the overarching term for all types of neuroendocrine disease.  See graphic below.

Traditionally, any proliferation score over 20% on the Ki-67 proliferation index (or over 20 mitoses/10 HPF on the Mitotic Index) would have been deemed a Neuroendocrine Carcinoma.  However, in the pancreas, NETs and NECs may overlap in their proliferation index, making the distinction between them difficult and leading to treatment uncertainties.

In 2017, the Endocrine ‘Blue Book’ of cancer classification systems introduced a new pancreatic NET category based on a Grade 3 tumour which is well differentiated (i.e. cancer cells look more like normal cells and tend to grow and spread more slowly).  While all classifications for all NENs recognise the existence of the two major groups (NET and NEC), there are proposals to develop common NEN classification across all the ‘Blue Books’ and future versions will reflect these changes. The most interesting change will be in the Lung classification because high grade NENs can be small cell or large cell and it’s probably the most controversial grouping.

Interestingly, ENETS guidelines already use the term across the board in their 2016 series (i.e. in advance of the 2017 changes).  These changes are part influenced by the results of the NORDIC NEC study which showed that although patients with a Ki67 <55% were less responsive to platinum-based chemotherapy (i.e. drug names ending in ‘platin’ such as Cisplatin, Carboplatin, Oxaliplatin), they had a longer survival, and concluded that not all NEC should be considered as one single disease entity.  Also worth noting that the NORDIC NEC study covered many different areas of the anatomy, not just the pancreas. Some of the rationale for the division of grade 3 into well differentiated NETs and poorly differentiated carcinomas is that some grade 3 tumours which are classified into this category according to the Ki67 index percentage, have been recognised to behave more like grade 2 NETs rather than aggressive carcinomas. The inference is that there could be treatment and prognostic significance if a patient is a Grade 3 NET.

MANEC vs MiNEN

Added for completeness.  This mixed and rare neoplasm type has traditionally been related to NEC but in 2017 the nomenclature change to a new term was necessary to reflect the fact that some of the tumours involved were not carcinomas or adenocarcinomas but rather were well differentiated tumours or even adenomas (i.e. benign). Previously known as Mixed AdenoNeuroendocrine Carcinoma (MANEC), they were renamed to Mixed Neuroendocrine Non-Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (MiNEN).

MiNEN are neoplasms with two distinct neuroendocrine and non-neuroendocrine cell populations. They can be morphologically classified into three entities: collision, composite, and amphicrine MiNEN. Currently, both components composing a MiNEN must represent at least 30% of the whole tumour.  Diagnosis of MiNEN is usually facilitated by the presence of at least one well-differentiated component which may be the Neuroendocrine or Non-Neuroendocrine component. However, the two components may be difficult to identify with conventional morphological techniques, particularly when they are poorly differentiated, and their identification may require additional immunohistochemical techniques. MiNEN usually originate from organs that contain neuroendocrine cells and in which “classical” NENs are known to develop, such as pancreas, appendix, colon, and to a lesser degree small intestine. Other locations in my source document includes Oesophagus, Stomach, Bilary Tract and Gallbladder, Duodenum and Ampulla of Vater and Rectum.

NEC vs NET

Having researched widely, I believe there are 8 key differences between NET and NEC:

      1. Grade – NEC is only Grade 3, NETs can be Grade 1, 2 or 3.
      2. Differentiation – all NETs are well differentiated, NECs are poorly differentiated.  Important difference at Grade 3.
      3. Aggressiveness – Most NETs tend to be indolent or slow growing while NECs tend to be aggressive and faster growing. However, Ki67 and/or mitotic count is an aggressiveness measurement tool.  Genetic profiles can also be a guide but this is beyond the purposes of this article but may be explored in subsequent parts.  It follows that NECs normally have a worse prognosis in comparison to NETs.
      4. Hormone Secretion – NETs can produce peptide hormones that may be associated with hormonal syndromes.  NECs usually fail to express hormones or produce hormonal syndromes.
      5. Somatostatin Receptors – A NET is much more likely to express somatostatin receptors which can influence treatments such as somatostatin analogues and peptide receptor radiotherapy (PRRT)
      6. Hereditary Syndromes – NETs are much more likely to be associated with hereditary syndromes such as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN).
      7. Platinum Based Chemotherapy – NETs are less likely to show a good response to platinum based chemotherapy which can often be the first line treatment for NEC.
      8. Primary Locations – can be vastly different in terms of commonality and therefore provide clues to investigators. Common locations for NEC include: Lung, Esophagus, Colon, Urogential Organs and Skin –  with the exception of Lung, these are very rare locations in NETs.  Conversely, rare/very rare locations for NEC but common in NET include: Rectal, Small Intestine, Appendix, Stomach, Pancreas.

Summary

I intend to cover more on Grade 3 tumours going forward and a ‘Part 2’ article will follow covering treatment differences, genetic profiles and unmet needs.

In addition to my own knowledge gained over the years of researching and writing, the following resources were key in establishing the facts used in compiling this article:

1. Sorbye H, Welin S, Langer SW, Vestermark LW, Holt N, Osterlund P, et al: Predictive and prognostic factors for treatment and survival
in 305 patients with advanced gastrointestinal neuroendocrine carcinoma (WHO G3): the NORDIC NEC study. Ann Oncol 2013; 24: 152–160

2. de Mestier L, Cros J, Neuzillet C, Hentic O, Egal A, Muller N, Bouché O, Cadiot G, Ruszniewski P, Couvelard A, Hammel P: Digestive System Mixed Neuroendocrine-Non-Neuroendocrine Neoplasms. Neuroendocrinology 2017;105:412-425. doi: 10.1159/000475527

3. Koppel G: Neuroendocrine Neoplasms: Dichotomy, Origin and Classifications. Visc Med 2017;33:324-330. doi: 10.1159/000481390

4. Rindi G, Klimstra DS, Abedi-Ardekani B, et al. A common classification framework for neuroendocrine neoplasms: an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organization (WHO) expert consensus proposal. Mod Pathol. 2018;31(12):1770–1786. doi:10.1038/s41379-018-0110-y

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

Ronny Allan is an award winning patient leader and advocate for Neuroendocrine Cancer.

 

Clinical Trial: Treatment of IBS with diarrhoea – titrated ondansetron (TRITON)

I was never diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) but sometimes I feel like I now have it.  I know many others feel the same way.  But when I look at the alternatives, I can’t help thinking it’s a small price to pay given that one of them might be a slow degrading quality of life until shuffling off  this mortal coil. If I had the choice again, I would still take the surgery.

Before the article continues, let me be clear – I’m not suggesting this is a potential treatment for NET patients with post abdominal surgery side effects or side effects of any other treatment, nor am I suggesting it’s a potential treatment for those with carcinoid syndrome diarrhea.  I publish it because there is a connection to serotonin and it may be a useful read for the more curious amongst us. In fact, since publishing I’ve been contacted by several people telling me they are aware of the drug having been treated with it for nausea.

I once wrote about IBS in an article entitled “Were you irritated by your misdiagnosis” (click the link to read).  This was written after I completed an online IBS course.  I wrote the article in a balanced way in an effort to explain why many patients are misdiagnosed with IBS in the lead up to the correct diagnosis some time later.  This is an issue with other conditions, not just NETs.  It was also designed to capture IBS readers and offer them a chance to review their diagnosis to ensure there wasn’t anything else they might try to double-check (markers and scans mainly).

A new drug on trial for IBS

Given the connection between NETs and IBS, I was really interested to see this in a UK national newspaper and I subsequently researched for some formal papers to back up the headline.  What I found most interesting was the suggestion that a drug designed to inhibit serotonin was involved (…… but read on rather than get too excited).

Diarrhea – the IBS and NET Effect

Diarrhea is a big feature of IBS although there are several types including diarrhea mainly, constipation mainly and a mixed of both – you can read more in my IBS article linked above.   Diarrhea is also a big feature of several of the NET Syndromes, in particular Carcinoid Syndrome.  It is known that the cause of carcinoid syndrome diarrhea is the oversecretion of serotonin.  This makes is quite distinct from other reasons for diarrhea, including but not limited to side effects of intestinal surgery (as one example).

Clinical Trial: Treatment of IBS with diarrhoea – titrated ondansetron (TRITON)

What is ‘ondansetron’. It’s actually a powerful anti-sickness drug given to cancer patients and some of you may recognise it as ZOFRON.  Interestingly it’s a serotonin receptor (5-HT3) antagonist (5HT3-RA) for antineoplastic chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Ondansetron is a drug which blocks the 5-HT receptor, which is used to treat nausea and sickness, and has an excellent safety record.  Other 5HT3-RAs include Tropisetron, Granisetron, Dolasetron, Palonosetron, Ramosetron (the group of drugs in the class known as 5HT3-RAs are known a ‘setrons’).

It is being offered to those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), helping to ease the most embarrassing and painful symptoms of the condition.  According to the Daily Mail, if the trial is successful, it could throw open the doors to the first targeted treatment for the millions of IBS patients with bloating, abdominal discomfort and urgent bowel movements. Two people on the trial are featured in the newspaper article reporting good outcomes.

Information on the Trial.  Researchers are hoping to recruit 400 volunteers in the UK aged over 18 who have IBS to take part in the 12-week study.  You can read more about the trial in the reference documents below.

Read more here:

1. The Daily Mail article. Click here.
2. Trial Sponsor site.  Click here.
3. Clincial Trial Document.  Click here.

Would this work for carcinoid syndrome diarrhea?

I guess many of you will now be thinking that but I advise not to get too excited as things are never that straightforward.  However, if I was a pharmaceutical involved in NET research, I would certainly be watching this trial carefully.  None of us know the interaction between NETs, NET treatments and titrated ondansetron and its mechanism of action. It may be more directed at brain and central nervous serotonin rather than gut serotonin which is mainly the issue with carcinoid syndrome diarrhea, i.e. it may not work in the same way and/or have the same effect as other approved NET drugs such as somatostatin analogues (Octreotide/Lanreotide) and tryptophan 5-hydroxylase (TPH) inhibitors such as XERMELO.

Still, it’s an exciting trial.

I will keep this article live for any developments.  Finally please note this is not in any way medical advice and not a recommendation to try these drugs to control your diarrhea.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

Ronny Allan is an award winning patient leader and advocate for Neuroendocrine Cancer.

 

 

Rosacea – the NET Effect


Rosacea The NET Effect

Around 2001, I started noticing some issues on my nose, particularly around the creases, an issue I still experience today.  It normally starts with a stinging feeling, an indication I’m about to experience some sort of inflammation. What eventually happens is something which looks like a ‘whitehead’ which I now know to be a ‘pustule’.  Sometimes there are multiples and most are not normally bigger than 2mm, mostly smaller. These pustules nearly always disappear within a short period of time, normally after washing/showering but they tend to leave reddish marks which eventually fade.  Very infrequently, these pustules would appear on my chin.  After 18 years of the issue, my nose is slightly discoloured and more reddish than the rest of my face.

Shortly after I started experiencing this issue, a doctor diagnosed me with ‘mild rosacea‘. If this is a correct diagnosis, then I would appear to have Subtype 2 or papulopustular (acne) rosacea (see breakdown of types below).  I also have the minor irritation of a recurrent mild eczema inside my right outer ear which has run parallel to this issue (…. spookily).

For around two years, I was treated with a mixture of low dose oral antibiotics (tetracycline) and a skin medication known as metronidazole. This did clear up the issue but it always returned and I stopped the medication opting instead for a commercial product which I find works better.  It doesn’t clear it 100% but I’ve learned to live with it and it is a long-term chronic condition.  I looked at many Rosacea sites online and none of the pictures seemed to apply to me and I agree with my diagnosing doctor in terms of a ‘mild’ version.

I worked out early on that the triggers were stress, when ‘run down’, and too long in the sun. There were possibly others.  Stress was part and parcel of the work I was involved in and it was at a time when I left my life in the military after 29 years and started a second career in industry (often I think in hindsight, I may have been overly stressed at the life change without realising it).  Without any medical input, I decided to try to make sure I got sufficient vitamins and I now appear to get less coughs and colds then I used to.  I now try to stay out of the direct sun.  Other common triggers are listed on reputable sites andinclude alcohol, hot and cold weather, exercise, hot baths and spicy foods.

What is Rosacea

A common skin condition, usually occurring on the face, which predominantly affects fair-skinned but may affect all skin types in people aged 40 to 60 years old. It is more common in women but when affecting men, it may be more severe.  It is a chronic condition, and can persist for a long time and, in any individual, the severity tends to fluctuate. Rosacea tends to affect the cheeks, forehead, chin and nose, and is characterised by persistent redness caused by dilated blood vessels, small bumps and pus-filled spots similar to acne. There may also be uncomfortable inflammation of the surface of the eyes and eyelids.  I found this site to be a very useful Rosacea reference.

Rosacea is sometimes classified into 4 subtypes that may overlap:

  • Subtype one, known as erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR), is associated with facial redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels.
  • Subtype two, papulopustular (or acne) rosacea, is associated with acne-like breakouts, and often affects middle-aged women.
  • Subtype three, known as rhinophyma, is a rare form associated with thickening of the skin on your nose. It usually affects men and is often accompanied by another subtype of rosacea.
  • Subtype four is known as ocular rosacea, and its symptoms are centred on the eye area.

What causes rosacea?  

The cause of rosacea is not fully understood. Your genetics, immune system factors, and environmental factors may all play a part. Factors that trigger rosacea cause the blood vessels in the skin of the face to enlarge (dilate). The theory that rosacea is due to bacteria on the skin or in the gut has not been proven. However, antibiotics have proven helpful to treat rosacea. This is because of their anti-inflammatory effect. Rosacea is not contagious.

Why is rosacea sometimes linked to NETs?

On certain sites and in certain texts about NETs, you will see mention of Rosacea, clearly as a misdiagnosis of someone who presents with flushing.  I started experiencing the sensation of NET related flushing in late 2009/early 2010 and I can honestly say this was a totally different experience to what I had with my mild rosacea. However, I don’t have the ‘blushing’ type of rosacea and I can see the presentational similarities.

Another issue commonly reported in both conditions is small visible blood vessels on the face, known formally as Telangiectasia or informally as ‘spider veins’ or ‘broken capillary veins’. This is quite common with erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (subtype 1).  I actually have at least two of these showing and this appears to be something I’ve only noticed since NET diagnosis and only in the last few years.  Interesting it says this is something normally caused by “chronic flushing” but I wouldn’t have labelled by flushing in that way. I have not felt any flushing since late 2010 after surgery and commencement of long acting somatostatin analogues.  Unless there has been something ‘sub-clinical’ going on, I’ve veered my minor issue towards long-term but mild rosacea as the cause rather than NETs.  Telangiectasia is mentioned in many NET texts including my own article “Neuroendocrine Cancer: A Witch’s Brew of Signs and Symptoms”

Histamine if often linked to both conditions.  Read about NET related histamine here and Rosacea histamine issues here.

Summary

I’ll be honest with you, I’m actually not 100% convinced I have rosacea as it has similarities with many other skin conditions. In fact, skin issues are pretty common with NET patients, some are actually directly linked to NETs including Merkel Cell Carcinoma,  pellagra (linked to Carcinoid Syndrome) and Sweet’s syndrome (linked to Glucagonoma).  In addition, many people develop skin issues as a side effect of treatment.  Read more here.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Proton Pump Inhibitors – the NET Effect


Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the production of acid by blocking the enzyme in the wall of the stomach that produces acid. Acid is necessary for the formation of most ulcers in the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum, and the reduction of acid with PPIs prevents ulcers and allows any ulcers that exist in the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum to heal. PPIs are prescribed to treat acid related conditions such as:

  • Esophageal duodenal and stomach ulcers
  • NSAID-associated ulcer
  • Ulcers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome – ZES (note this is a syndrome associated with a functioning duodenal or pancreatic NET known as a Gastrinoma)
  • They also are used in combination with antibiotics for eradicating Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that together with acid causes ulcers of the stomach and duodenum for eradicating H. pylori, a bacterium that together with acid causes ulcers of the stomach and duodenum.

Although this should not be considered a full list applicable to all countries, the drugs tend to be prescribed or purchased under the following names:

  • Aspirin and Omeprazole (Yosprala)
  • Dexlansoprazole (Dexilent, Dexilent Solutab)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium, Nexium IV, Nexium 24 HR)
  • Esomeprazole magnesium/naproxen (Vimovo)
  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid, Prevacid IV, Prevacid 24-Hour, Zoton FasTab)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, Losec, Mepradec)
  • Omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid, Zegerid OTC)
  • Pantoprazole (Protonix, Pantoloc Control)
  • Rabeprazole (Aciphex, Aciphex Sprinkle, Pariet)

PPIs have revolutionized the management of acid-related diseases and there is evidence supporting their superior efficacy and overall safety profile. Unfortunately, it would appear this has possibly led to their overuse and inappropriate use. When used appropriately, the overall benefits significantly outweigh the potential risks in most patients.

One US pharmacist magazine has stated that almost half of all patients taking a PPI do not have a clear indication. It follows that PPIs may not be the appropriate treatment for many people. The American Gastro Journal nicely covers this issue – click here.

What is the connection with NETs?

Millions of people will have been prescribed these drugs for the various reasons listed above and as I said above quoting from a reputable US Pharmacist magazine, perhaps many do not have a clear indication for their use. So this issue is much wider than NETs.

Above, you can see a direct link to duodenal/pancreatic NET syndrome – ZES. However, there is also a known link between the use of PPIs and the effect on the Chromogranin A blood test, the most common tumour marker used in the diagnosis and surveillance of many types of NET. Several studies have concluded that PPIs falsely elevate Chromogranin A but there is another option – read more here.

Any other risks of using PPIs?

There are several well-known risks of using PPIs in the long-term. However, many drugs have side effects, often the risks of not taking a particular drug can be outweighed by taking it. I will not comment further but leave you with some references to read yourself:

1. From the UK National Health Service (NHS). They took a balanced view adding the risk element I described above. Importantly they stated that PPIs are not usually intended to be taken long-term. Read more here. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published the study referred to by the NHS here.

2. The NHS also published an article based on the results of a US study. Again, they indicated the study had similar limitations to the one above. Read more here (links to the study contained within).

3. There are literally dozens of similar articles but most seem to point to these two studies. However, it should also be noted that the US FDA has issued safety warnings about long-term use of PPIs. This is covered in the aforementioned US Pharmacist magazine article here.

Are there alternatives to PPIs?

Firstly, you should NEVER stop taking PPIs without speaking to the doctor who prescribed them.

There’s a class of drugs known as Histamine H2 Receptor Antagonists (H2RA) that reduce the amount of acid produced by the cells in the lining of the stomach. They are also commonly called H2 blockers. They include Cimetidine (Tagamet, Tagamet HB), Famotidine (Pepcid, Pepcid AC), Nizatidine (Axid) and Ranitidine (Zantac). Brand names may differ from country to country. From what I read, they are not as powerful as PPIs but for some people they may prove adequate. Read more about H2 blockers here.

So I can just stop taking PPIs and start taking H2 blockers?

NO. As I said above, you should never discontinue a prescription for PPI without talking to your doctor. However …. it’s not common knowledge that suddenly stopping PPIs is not a good idea – you must gradually reduce (i.e. taper off).

Why taper? PPIs block the production of acid in your stomach which can help with the symptoms but that also turns on the release of gastrin. This is not ideal for two reasons according to NOLANETS:

  1. When you try to get off of PPI, the gastrin stimulates acid production and stays elevated, potentially for several months (depending on how long you were on the PPIs). This makes your reflux worse than before and makes getting off of this medication very difficult. Gastrin also stimulates Chromogranin A thus why this can be elevated in patients who have been taking PPIs.
  2. Gastrin also acts like a growth factor and stimulates the growth of ECL cells (enterochromaffin like cells). Clearly this does not happen to everyone on PPIs. However, and as per the NHS advice above, PPIs should not be considered a long-term solution except for conditions for which they are clinically indicated (e.g. Barrett’s oesophagus, Gastrinoma (Zollinger Ellison Syndrome).

What are NET Specialists saying about this?

The best source of information on this seems to be in two main areas:

1. One is NOLANETS (Dr Eugene Woltering et al) who appear to be leading the way on identifying those who may have a clinical indication for use of H2 blockers rather than PPI and this NET Specialist organisation has produced a sheet showing how to taper people off the drug and onto the less risky H2 blockers. Read the NOLANETS “Get off PPIs” Sheet by clicking here. They state that PPI use increases circulating gastrin which in turn increases the amount of acid in the stomach. The increase in gastrin also stimulates the enterochromaffin like cells (ECL) of the stomach to produce Chromogranin A and this explains why it can be elevated in PPI users. The US Pharmacy magazine quoted above, appears to confirm this thinking.

2. The European NET Society (ENETS) discusses the issue in their guidelines but only in relation to Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES). This is a direct quote from ENETS 2016 Guidance – “The widespread use of PPIs is a major problem for the diagnosis of ZES because these drugs have an extended duration of action (up to one week), they cause hypergastrinemia in 80-100% of all normal subjects, and can confound the diagnosis. Furthermore, if PPIs are abruptly stopped in a true ZES patient, anti-peptic complications can rapidly develop, and therefore some expert groups have recently recommended that the diagnosis of ZES should be established without stopping the PPIs or by attempting to taper the dose. Unfortunately, as suggested in a number of recent papers, in most patients, the diagnosis cannot be easily established without an interruption of the PPIs. Furthermore, a secretin test cannot be used while a patient is taking PPIs because it can result in a false positive test. Other tumour markers such as serum chromogranin A were found to be not reliable for the diagnosis of ZES patients, as up to 30% have normal plasma chromogranin A levels. PPIs also lead to increased chromogranin A levels on their own. It is therefore recommended that if the diagnosis is unclear, the patient should be referred to a centre of excellence and if this is not possible, PPI withdrawal should be cautiously performed (in an asymptomatic patients with no active acid-peptic disease or damage) and with adequate cover by H2 blockers and careful patient monitoring”.

PPIs and PERT

I have anecdotal evidence that people are being prescribed PPIs alongside Pancreatic Enzymes Replacement Therapy (e.g. Creon, Nutrizym etc). While most types of PERT are gastro-resistant, a high acid environment may impair their efficacy. The rationale behind using PPI (or H2 blocker) is to decrease the acid level and allow the PERT to work better. Given the research behind this article, I would certainly challenge the use of PPI alongside long-term use of PERT.

Summary

The aim of this article is not to scare anyone, I’ve been careful with the sources, quotes and facts. Like anything in life (including the medical world), there are risks and knowing about them allows us to manage these risks in conjunction with our doctors and healthcare specialists. If you are concerned about anything you find inside this article, I suggest you speak directly to your doctor/specialist for advice.

Personally speaking, I would like to see more from the NET Specialist community on this issue.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Clinical Trial: Lenvatinib Efficacy in Metastatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (TALENT)



Lenvatinib has just completed a Phase 2 trial in Gastrointestinal (GI) and Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumours.  The trial was sponsored by Grupo Espanol de Tumores Neuroendocrinos (Spanish NET scientific organisation) and the manufacturers.  A European venture with sites in Austria, Italy, Spain, UK.   Headline: The responses are better than Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent).

What is Lenvatinib?

It is a type of targeted therapy known as a multikinase inhibitor. The brand name is ‘LENVIMA‘. These work by inhibiting multiple intracellular and cell surface kinases, some of which are implicated in tumour growth and metastatic progression of cancer, thus decreasing tumour growth and replication. A range of receptor kinases are involved in these processes, including vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR), platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), stem cell factor (c-KIT), Flt3, fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR), which can be hyperactivated during tumour formation and progression.  Tumour growth may be prevented by inhibiting the action of these hyperactivated receptor kinases, and as tumour progression usually involves the action of multiple kinases rather than just one, it is logical to target multiple kinases.

The Lenvantinib mechanism of action is similar to targeted therapy drugs already in use (or in trial) for Neuroendocrine Tumours:

  • Sunitinib (Sutent) – a targeted therapy receptor protein-tyrosine kinase inhibitor.  It inhibits the actions of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and is an angiogenesis inhibitor (i.e. the development of blood vessels to supply the tumour with nutrients, which they need to grow).  It is a mutlikinase in inhibitor.
  • Everolimus (Afinitor) – a targeted therapy kinase inhibitor that inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor) kinase, an enzyme required for cell growth and survival. By blocking this enzyme, the medication prevents cell division and, in turn, tumor growth. The medication can also interrupt angiogenesis.
  • Cabozantinib, an oral potent inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2, MET, and AXL, and currently on trial for Neuroendocrine Cancer.  Click here.

Multikinase inhibitors such as Lenvatinib, may be used to treat advanced kidney cancer as well as other specific types of cancer (in my research I also noted that in addition to kidney cancer, the drug is already approved for liver and thyroid cancers).  Worth also noting that the 3 examples of targeted therapy above are not just in use/in trial for Neuroendocrine Cancer, they are also in use/in trial for others including Renal (Kidney) Cancer, Breast Cancer.  Often more than one single kinase inhibitor can be given as a combo treatment, perhaps in sequence, to tackle multi kinases.

Anything special about Lenvatinib for Neuroendocrine Cancer? 

Recent reports from oncology conferences indicate that Lenvatinib showed significant antitumor activity and a favourable toxicity profile in progressive advanced NETs. This is the highest reported ORR with a targeted agent, confirmed by central radiology assessment in pancreatic NETs and Gastrointestinal (GI) NETs with promising progression free survival (PFS) in a pre-treated population; further evaluation is warranted.

Adverse events were mild to moderate in 90% of patients, the most frequent being fatigue, diarrhea and hypertension.

Lenvatinib showed the highest reported overall response rate (ORR) by central radiology assessment with a targeted agent in advanced NETs:

Average 29.2%

pNETs: 40.4% (95% CI 27.3-54.9),

GI NETs: 18.5% (95% CI 9.7-31.9.

Worth noting that Everolimus and Sunitinib were approved with ORRs much less than these figures.

What’s next? 

Given the responses in comparison to other approved targeted agents, a phase 3 trial should be anticipated.  Studies are “currently ongoing” and “further evaluation warranted”.  I will keep this article live to provide updates.

New Trial using Lenvatinib and Everolimus in Treating Patients With Advanced, Unresectable Neuroendocrine Tumors

Under ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03950609, there is a trial being setup at MD Anderson in Texas USA.  Use of a combo of Lenvatinib along with Everolimus (Afinitor) in treating patients with advanced, unresectable Neuroendocrine Tumors (the word ‘Carcinoid’ is used in the trial documentation).

Reference material used in the compilation of this article:

1. Annals of Oncology – Efficacy of Lenvatinib in patients with advanced pancreatic (panNETs) and gastrointestinal (giNETs) grade 1/2 (G1/G2) neuroendocrine tumors: Results of the international phase II TALENT trial (GETNE 1509) 23 Oct 2018 –  click here.

2. ESMO Congress 2018 – Efficacy of Lenvatinib in patients with advanced pancreatic (panNETs) and gastrointestinal (giNETs) grade 1/2 (G1/G2) neuroendocrine tumors – click here

3. Prime Oncology Slide Show – click here (useful)

4. Clinical Trials Document NCT02678780 – click here

5. Manufactures website – click here.

6.  Clinical Trials Document NCT03950609 for the trial of combo treatment Lenvatinib and Everolimus.  Click here.   As at 15 May 2019, the trial was not recruiting but see document for contact details, quite often these documents can be behind in updating. Trial start date recorded as 30 June 2019.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Clinical Trial: Intra-arterial Lu177 (PRRT) for Neuroendocrine Cancer liver metastases (LUTIA)

The treatment of liver metastasis is a common approach following a metastatic diagnosis or discovery of liver metastasis downstream via re-staging. In addition to surgery, there are several liver directed therapies available via embolization techniques. This comes in several flavours:

1. Bland liver embolization – a minimally invasive technique which simply blocks the blood supply to the liver tumours in an attempt to reduce or kill those tumours. Sometimes called Hepatic Arterial Embolization or HAE.

2. Chemotherapy liver embolization – as above but adds in some cytotoxic chemo to the mix. Sometimes called Trans Arterial Chemo Embolization or TACE.

3. Radioembolization is a minimally invasive procedure that combines embolization and radiation therapy to treat liver cancer. Tiny glass or resin beads filled with the radioactive isotope yttrium Y-90 are placed inside the blood vessels that feed a tumour. Often known as Sirtex or SIR-Spheres.

Of course systemic treatment is body-wide and so includes the liver as a target. Systemic treatment includes (but is not limited to) Lu177 (PRRT), Chemotherapy, Targeted Therapies such as Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent). Also included are somatostatin analogues such as Lanreotide and Octreotide.

Sometimes systemic treatment is not fully effective on all metastases and although PRRT response rates are good, often patients still live with the burden of remnant liver tumours once therapy is finished.

Doctors in the Netherlands are looking at a trial using Lu177 (PRRT) as a liver directed therapy. The trial is based at 3 sites in the Netherlands and is titled: Intra-arterial Lutetium-177-dotatate for Treatment of Patients With Neuro-endocrine Tumor Liver Metastases (LUTIA). You can read more about the trial by clicking here.

In a clinical trial in USA, the NET Research Foundation is funding similar research at the UCSF Helen Diller Cancer Center led by Dr Tom Hope using Y90 intra-arterial for liver metastasis. See the NET RF’s information here and read more about the clinical trial by clicking here

I will keep this article open for any updates.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Clinical Trial SPARTALIZUMAB – Immunotherapy for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (PDR001)

THUMBNAIL_CarTcell.jpg

PDR001 (anti-PD-1) is an investigational immunotherapy being developed by Novartis to treat both solid tumors and lymphomas (cancers of the blood).  It is currently being trialled on many cancers including Neuroendocrine.  It’s brand name is SPARTLIZUMAB.

How PDR001 works

PDR001 is a type of immunotherapy, meaning that it acts by activating the body’s own immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells. Normally, an immune system cell called T-cells recognizes and kills infected or abnormal cells, including those that are cancerous. To prevent T-cells from accidentally damaging healthy and essential tissues, however several immune system checkpoints exist to inhibit, or block, them from going about this work. One example is the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) pathway. Healthy cells produce and display a protein called programmed cell death ligand-1 or ligand-2 (PD-L1 or PD-L2) on their surface. These proteins bind to and activate a receptor called PD-1 that is produced by T-cells. When activated, PD-1 sends a message to the T-cells that prevents them from attacking that particular cell. Cancer cells can hijack this system by producing PD-L1 or PD-L2, effectively hiding from T-cells and evade destruction.
PDR001 is an antibody, a protein designed to interact with and block a specific target. It acts by binding to PD-1, blocking it from interacting with both PD-L1 and PD-L2. This binding blocks the PD-1-mediated inactivation of the T-cells, so that they are able to recognize and target cancer cells. This should result in a reduction in tumor growth and size.

PDR001 in clinical trials

PDR001 has been investigated in multiple completed and ongoing clinical trials, both alone and in combination with a wide range of other agents.

Novartis presented results from an ongoing first-in-human Phase 1/2 clinical trial (NCT02404441) of PDR001 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in 2016. Preliminary trial results suggested that the drug is well-tolerated and safe, with a similar profile to other anti-PD-1 drugs currently being developed. The trial is still recruiting patients with various types of advanced cancer at 43 sites across North America, Europe, and Asia; more information is available by clicking on its identification number.

Novartis then initiated several dozen other Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials, all registered on clinicaltrials.gov, to continue investigating the safety and anti-tumor activity of PDR001 in a wide range of cancer types, and in combination with other investigational and approved therapies. For example, a Phase 3 trial (NCT02967692) is comparing the safety and efficacy of PDR001 to a placebo, in combination with Tafinlar (dabrafenib) and Mekinist (trametinib), as a treatment for advanced melanoma.

What about Neuroendocrine?

A phase 2, multi-center study assessed the efficacy and safety of PDR001 in patients with non-functional well and poorly-differentiated Neuroendocrine Neoplasms.  According to the clinical trial document, the types of NENs covered are:

  • Well-differentiated Non-functional NET of Thoracic Origin
  • Well-differentiated Non-functional NET of Gastrointestinal Origin
  • Well-differentiated Non-functional NET of Pancreatic Origin
  • Poorly-differentiated Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Carcinoma

The clinical trial indicates the trial is active but not recruiting but it would look like they have all the patients needed and are currently analysing the trial data so far awaiting the next phase perhaps.  In fact I have discovered two pieces of evidence from the trial sponsors:

pdr001 results conclusion
Annals of Oncology (2018) 29 (suppl_8): viii467-viii478. 10.1093/annonc/mdy293

In another analysis of the results:  “Patients with well-differentiated advanced NETs were eligible if they had progressed on prior therapy, including everolimus, while the GEP-NEC patients were eligible if they had progressed on one line of chemotherapy. All patients in the trial received spartalizumab via a 30-minute infusion once every 4 weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity.

In the full well-differentiated cohort, there were 7 partial responses (7%), and 55% had stable disease, while 31% had progressive disease. The confirmed objective response rate was 7%, and the disease control rate was 63%. In the GEP-NEC cohort, the objective response rate was 5%, and the disease control rate was 19%.

The thoracic NETs patients fared best with spartalizumab, with limited responses seen in the pancreatic and GI NETs groups; responses seemed to be associated with PD-L1 expression. In the thoracic NETs cohort, two of five PD-L1–positive patients had a partial response. PD-L1 positivity was more common in the GEP-NEC cohort; among 14 PD-L1–positive patients in that group, the partial response rate was 43%.

The most common adverse events regardless of cause included abdominal and back pain, anemia, dyspnea, and hypertension.

Kjell Öberg, MD, PhD, of Uppsala University in Sweden, discussed the study for ESMO. “We have hope,” he said. “We see that maybe there are some tumor types that might respond to immunotherapy.” In general, NETs are considered an “immunological desert.” There is usually very low infiltration of immune cells in these tumors, and there are a low number of genetic mutation events.”

You can also listen to two very well known NET experts (Simron Singh and Jonathan Strosberg) talk about this trial and the drug ……. “the highest response rate was seen in atypical lung neuroendocrine tumors. It was approximately 20%, but in most cases was not durable”.  See the remainder of the discussion by clicking here.

Also watch Dr Lowell Anthony talking about this drug by clicking here.

You can read more about immunotherapy trials for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms by clicking here. This article includes some advice in interpreting the ‘hype’ that can surround immunotherapy which is still a developing approach to treating cancer.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Q-Sphera™ – Next Generation Somatostatin Analogue delivery system?

 

In my article listing the somatostatin analogues and their drug delivery systems pipeline (click here), there has been a very interesting development in a product called Q-Sphera (was previously known as Q-Octreotide).  In a press release, it was announced that an unnamed ‘pharma giant’ has signed a deal with Midatech Pharma Plc that will see it evaluate the latter’s Q-Sphera drug delivery platform.  Later in Feb 2019, the pharma was identified as China Medical System Holdings Limited (based out of Hong Kong).  Adding to the excitement behind this development, it was announced in Mar 2019 that the Spanish Government had conditionally approved a €6.6m loan that will be used to help commercialise this flagship drug.

Midatech’s Q-Sphera™ is an advanced microencapsulation and polymer-depot sustained release (SR) drug delivery platform produced using a novel and disruptive printing based process, with numerous and distinct advantages over conventional reactor based technologies. From a manufacturing perspective Q-Sphera™ is a precise, scalable, efficient, and environmentally friendly microparticle platform. From a clinical perspective Q-Sphera™ ensures monodispersed microparticles that release active drug compounds into the body in a superior linear tightly controlled and predictable manner over an extended period of time from 1 – 6 months.  An injection lasting 6 months sounds very exciting but I have no more detail on the feasibility or likelihood of such a change in frequency with Octreotide or Lanreotide but the press release does mention the possibility, i.e. “Q-Sphera allows drug compounds to be released into the body in a “highly controlled manner” over a prolonged period of time; potentially from a few days to up to six months.”

What’s the main differences?

The current trials are based on the use of Sandostatin LAR (Octreotide) using the Q-Sphera delivery system (previously known as Q-Octreotide). The key aspects of usability are reconstitution and needle size but there is also an inference that less frequent injections could be possible.   A comparison of the trial output is as follows:

  • Reconstitution: For Sandostatin LAR (SLAR)™ the procedure to prepare the product for injection is a complex 30 step error prone process, taking up to 40 minutes and, once reconstituted, the product has to be given immediately to prevent solidifying and wastage of the injection. For MTD201™ Q-Octreotide the preparation process is a simple 5 – 7 minute procedure, after which the product is stable up to 2 hours. For the nurse preparing and giving the injection, the short and flexible process of MTD201™ has clear advantages over the all consuming SLAR process™.
  • Needle size: For SLAR, a large 19G needle is prescribed for the injection to prevent blockage, and often an even large 18G needle is required for successful injection. For MTD201 Q-Octreotide the precision microencapsulation technology means that a much smaller 21G needle can be used, and there are no blockages. Other Q-Sphera products use even finer needles as small as 27G. The importance of this is evident from the first-in-human phase I data where MTD201 had lower injection pain – 8% for MTD201 versus 25% for SLAR™, and much lower injection site
    tenderness – 8% for MTD201 versus 83% for SLAR.

This is an exciting development and I will keep this article live with further information as I receive it.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Neuroendocrine Cancer: a needle in a haystack, primary vs secondary


needle in a haystack

It’s no secret that Neuroendocrine Cancer can be difficult to diagnose. Although earlier diagnosis is improving (as reported in the SEER database report issued in 2017), there is still a lot of ground to cover. There are a number of reasons why these Neoplasms are often difficult to correctly and quickly  diagnose including but not limited to: – they grow silently, they often produce vague symptoms which can be mistaken for much more common illnesses, and their complexity is not fully understood.

I wanted to cover two different aspects of the problem of finding NETs. Firstly, in finding the primary tumour so that the type of NET can be properly established – this drives the best treatment regime. Secondly in finding all the tumours, as this establishes the correct and most detailed staging declaration – this drives treatment plans and surveillance regimes that need to be put into place.

Hunting Tumours – Primary vs Secondary

It’s really important to determine which tumours are primary and which are secondary (metastasis). There’s a number of ways to help work this out and knowledge of NETs epidemiology studies can help.

Specialist Knowledge – certain things are known about the behaviour of NETs

Specialists and in particular NET specialists will be aware of the vagaries of NETs in terms of what tumours are normally a primary and which are normally secondary and many of the pitfalls involved in working that out. Many NETs will have metastasized to the liver at diagnosis, so whilst it is not impossible to have a primary liver NET, the vast majority of liver tumours found will be secondary (metastases). NET Specialists are more likely to have the experience than generalists. They know that the varying metastatic potential depending on the primary site clearly indicates differing biology and genetics across sites and they know that NETs are indeed a heterogeneous group of tumours.

The differences cannot be explained by whether the NET is situated in the foregut, midgut, or hindgut. For example, Appendiceal NET is known to be less prone to metastasis. This may be due to the high rate of incidental findings during appendectomies, or because the appendix is an immunological organ where malignant cells can therefore be expected to be frequently recognized by the immune system.

The majority of the digestive tract is drained by the portal venous system, explaining the dominance of liver metastases in this group of tumours. This also explains the finding that many nervous system and bone metastases originate from NETs in the lungs. Disseminated tumour cells may directly reach the systemic circulation from the lungs, whereas if originating from the midgut region, they need to first pass both the liver and the lungs.

As an example of this heuristic knowledge, one Swedish study indicated that two-thirds of peritoneal metastases will be attributed to Small Intestine NETs (SI NETs). SI NETs and Pancreatic NETs (pNETs) are the most likely to metastasize. The least likely sites to metastasize are the Appendix and Rectum. The same study indicated that in addition to the common metastatic locations of lymph nodes and liver, Lung NETs are more likely to metastasize to the brain and bone than other types. I believe the findings from this study more or less correlates to other information I’ve had access to and also confirms the technical behaviour paragraph above.

Multiple Primary Tumours

With NETs there are two scenarios:

1. Multiple primaries in same organ/location (multicentric). This is fairly common in small intestine (SI NETs), stomach/gastric NETs (gNETs), and also found in Lung and pNETs too. NET experts will be aware of the issue and know to look for the possibility. This is an important point with SI NETs as the small intestine is a long and winding organ, although held together by the mesentery. So a ‘Mark 1 eyeball’ can normally be more efficient in finding NETs in this organ than scans.  There is a very well known surgical technique called “running the bowel” where they check the small intestine for signs of other primary tumours – they can do the same with the large intestine.  Additional surgeries due to this lack of knowledge could come with significant morbidity. Multiple ‘nodes’ and ‘lesions’ are common in the thyroid.

2. Multiple primaries in different locations. This is common with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) syndromes (the name gives it away) and these may be metasynchronous. MEN1 for example can have tumours in what is called the ‘3 P’ locations, pituitary, pancreas and parathyroid. Of course MEN guys may also have multiple primaries in the same organ (multicentric).  Read more about MEN by clicking here.

There’s probably a third scenario (for all cancers) and that is multiple primaries with different cancers (i.e a second, third and fourth cancer etc). Synchronous would be really unlucky but metasynchonous is more likely and there are many NET patients with a second cancer.

What else helps find a NET? 

There are many other clues open to those involved in diagnosing a NET:

Patient. Very often the patient plays a big part of determining where the primary and other tumours might be by carefully describing symptoms.

Incidental Finds. NETs are very often found incidentally during trips to the ER/A&E and also during tests for something else. This is particularly the case with Appendiceal NETs and might explain why the average age of a patient is significantly lower in this type of NET.

Blood tests and Hormone Markers. We are not yet in a position where these types of tests can diagnose (but we are moving in that direction). In the case of unknown primaries (CUP), sometimes test results can help to find where some of these cancers started. With NETs, symptomatic patients can often test to confirm an elevated hormone marker which may narrow it down to a specific organ or gland. Read more here.

Scans and Endoscopies. Most cancers of a certain size may show up on conventional scanning such as CT, MRI and Ultrasound. Nuclear scans are now playing a bigger part in finding tumours which betray their location through functional behaviour by lighting up or glowing on these imaging devices. Endoscopies (e.g. gastroscopies, colonoscopies, even gastro intestinal pill cameras can be used) can help but like scans are not foolproof). Generally with NETs, if you can see it, you can detect it. Read more here.

Hereditary Conditions. Around 5-10% of NETs are hereditary in nature, mostly involving the MEN group of syndromes. Many of those people will know they are at risk of developing NETs and their doctors should know the most common locations for primary tumours associated with each gene. So a declared or suspected hereditary syndrome is useful in finding primary tumours if they exist and are proving difficult to find.

Biopsies. “Tissue is the issue”. Pathology can very often give really strong clues as to the type of NET and therefore the likely location of a primary tumour, for example additional tests such as immunostains. Many biopsies will come from secondary cancer (metastases), mostly the liver.  Despite all the potential diagnostic routes above, the place the cancer started is sometimes still not found and this may lead to atypical diagnostic/treatment plans and in certain cases this might even include exploratory biopsies via surgery (invasive/minimally invasive), perhaps combined with opportunistic tumour removal if found during the procedure.

Staging. Simple staging can be given if locations of metastases are known. For example in the case of Liver metastases, the stage is automatically Stage 4. However, the full staging definition relies on knowing distant metastases, loco-regional metastases and the full Tumour/Node/Metastases (TNM) definition (size, spread, etc) cannot be fully complete without a primary. Read more here.

Cancers of Unknown Primary

Cancer is always named for the place where it started, called the primary site. Sometimes doctors can’t tell where a cancer may have started. When cancer is found in one or more places where it seems to have spread, but the site where it started is not known, it is called a cancer of unknown primary (CUP) or an occult primary cancer.

When you look at the ratio of all cancers, the figure for cancers of unknown primary (CUP) is quite startling. Depending on where you look the figure is around 2-10%. That doesn’t seem a lot but when you consider the amount of people diagnosed with cancer, the total figure must be staggering. Interestingly, Cancer Research UK say that 60% of CUP cases are in the over 75s. In another interesting Swedish study, doctors claimed that the rates of metastatic cases were higher with certain NETs than they were in their anatomical counterparts, reinforcing the dangerous and sneaky nature of NETs.

Despite quite advanced scanning and diagnostic testing currently in place, and the extensive knowledge of NET specialists, there can still be reasons for not being able to find the primary tumour:

  • The primary is just too small to be seen and is growing quite slow. Very small cancers might not cause symptoms or be seen on scans. This is a particularly relevant point with NETs.
  • The primary could be hidden in tissue in between different organs causing confusion about the actual primary location.
  • The body’s immune system killed the primary cancer. It’s also possible (but not common) that any secondary cancer (i.e. metastases) is still growing.
  • The tumour has become loose from its primary location and exited the body, e.g. from a wall of the bowel and excreted out in the stool.
  • The primary cancer was removed during surgery for another condition and doctors didn’t know cancer had formed. For example, a uterus with cancer may be removed during a hysterectomy to treat a serious infection.

Summary

I hope this is useful for many NET patients, particularly those who are looking for a diagnosis or looking for a primary tumour.

Neuroendocrine Cancer – at times, it can really be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Neuroendocrine Cancer Clinical Trial – Lutetium-177 OPS-201 (Satoreotide)

ops 201

What is Lutetium-177 OPS-201?

This is a ‘next generation’ Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) or more specifically the radiopharmaceutical that binds to both activated and unactivated somatostatin receptors which are upregulated on these tumours. There is far higher binding via this mechanism than standard octreotate. The technical name of the radiopharmaceutical is Satoreotide tetraxetan lutetium-177 (author’s note, I’m guessing but it could be a variant of Lanreotide).  It was once named JR11.

What’s the difference to the current approved therapy? 

Conventional PRRT (e.g. Lutathera, Lu177 Dotatate) is based on a somatostatin receptor ‘agonist’ approach, whereas 177Lu Ops 201 Satoreotide is a receptor ‘Antagonist’.  The differences are quite technical but in the most layman terms , the antagonist has the capability of attaching (binding) to more receptors, including those in a ‘resting’ or ‘inactive’ state, spends more time on the tumor than agonist based therapies. The result is a higher number of receptor binding sites and greater tumor uptake.  In addition it is said to show an improved tumor-to-kidney dose ratio compared to 177Lu-DOTA-TATE.

This would also be reflected in the theranostic use of the drug in Ga68 imaging (i.e. Ga68 Satoreotide).

Useful reading:

This presentation from Theranostics Australia

The Clinical Trial

The clinical trial is named “Study to Evaluate the Safety and Preliminary Efficacy of 177Lu-OPSC001 in NETs”.  The protocol involves 3 cycles 8 weeks apart of intravenous Lu-177 OPS-201. All patients will have baseline Ga-68 octreotate imaging performed.

The treatment is available for all NET patients with a histologically confirmed diagnosis of:

  • unresectable GEP NET (Grade I and Grade II according to WHO classification (2010, Annex 01), functioning and non-functioning).
  • unresectable “typical lung NET” or “atypical lung NET” are acceptable (with the exception of Large Cell Bronchial Neuroendocrine Neoplasms and Small Cell Lung Cancers).
  • malignant, unresectable pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma

Patients who have previously had Lu-177 octreotate (e.g. Lutathera) are not eligible. Patients may have had any other treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy or Somatostatin Analogues (e.g. octreotide, landreotide).

There are other inclusion and exclusion criteria to be found within the clinical trial document.  The trial is due to compete in May 2022.

Where is the Trial based?  

At the time of writing and according to the Clinical Trial document, Australia (Melbourne and Perth),  Austria (Vienna), Denmark (Aarhus), Switzerland (Basel), UK (Royal Free London).  Two sites are also listed in France (Nantes and Toulouse) but trial document currently marked as not yet recruiting.

I have anecdotal evidence to suggest one more UK site is possible in 2019, Windsor in UK, a private healthcare provider but it will be open to public and private patients.

What about USA?

I also found an additional trial based in Memorial Sloan Kettering New York designed to take a theranostic approach by using  Satoreotide (JR11) for the pre-treatment imaging, e.g. Ga68 satoreotide (JR11) and the 177Lu version for treatment. The clinical trial document indicates this trial is active but NOT RECRUITING and is entitled “Theranostics of Radiolabeled Somatostatin Antagonists 68Ga-DOTA-JR11 and 177Lu-DOTA-JR11 in Patients With Neuroendocrine Tumors”

Thanks for reading

You may also find these PRRT related articles useful:

PRRT Overview plus locations 

Phase 1 trial of Targeted Alpha-emitter Therapy (TAT) –  212 Pb-AR-RMX

COMPETE trial 177Lu Edotreotide-Solucin

PRRT and Chemo Trial

Ronny

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Short Update from NANETS 2018

NANETS 2018

I would love to go to a NANETS conference but I would need sponsorship or otherwise have to fund my own way there. Seattle sounds like a great place to visit. I would even have been their twitter correspondent had they asked!

I’ve been to the European equivalent twice, they always have theirs in Barcelona it would seem, at least NANETS uses different locations making it more interesting.  It’s a scientific conference for the most part, but I guess some basic stuff is also covered.

However, in the world of instant contact and communications on the internet, together with twitter, one can keep up to speed on what is or has been discussed.  One day, NANETS and ENETS will be sufficiently advanced that we can all watch the presentations from the comfort of our own homes (you heard it here!)

I’ve put together a collection of things I found interesting and offer them here for your perusal and selection via links.

One of the first issues to discuss was the confirmation of the new NANETS management team and board – you will recognise most names here:

Officers (2018 to 2020 Term):

    • Chair: James Howe, MD The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
    • Vice Chair: Emily Bergsland, MD The University of California San Francisco School of Medicine
    • Secretary: Jonathan Strosberg, MD Moffitt Cancer Center
    • Treasurer: Pam Kunz, MD Stanford University Medical Center

Board of Directors:

      • Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH (2018-2020) Dana Farber Cancer Institute
      • Thorvardur Halfdanarson, MD (2018-2020) The Mayo Clinic
      • Daniel Halperin, MD (2015-2019) University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
      • Erik Nakakura, MD, Ph.D. Research Committee Board Representative (2018-2020) The University of California San Francisco School of Medicine
      • Rodney Pommier, MD (2018-2020) Oregon Health and Science University
      • Diane Reidy, MD (2015-2019) Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
      • Simron Singh, MD, Conference Committee Board Representative (2018-2019) Odette Cancer Center at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center
      • Michael Soulen, MD (2018-2020) The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      • James Yao, MD (2018-2020) University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Abstract Selection

A selection of poster abstracts below.  There was a lot more but these ones made output on twitter so I guess these were headline acts and probably of interest to patients. The extract texts/short videos I’ve included are probably all that most patients will need but when I have electronic access to the posters, I will update with links if possible and repost for those who would like to see the full detail.

The Value of Genetic Testing in NETs

This cover two posters, one for Neuroendocrine Carcinoma (very interesting) and the other covering Neuroendocrine Tumours (i.e. well differentiated NETs).  Click on the title above or click here.

An Update on Lung NET Guidelines

Some interesting snippets here and an indication that the most comprehensive Lung NET Guidelines are those produced by ENETS by Caplin et al.   Click on the title above or click here.

A Comprehensive Look at Update and Developments in NETs (Dr Thorvardur Haldanasron).

Interesting summary of new stuff in trials. Plus some interesting bits on SI NETs and pNETs.  Click on the title or click here.   There’s also a short video of Dr Haldanasron (slightly different content) – click here.

Sequencing of Lanreotide Can Improve Outcomes in Patients With Advanced GEP-NETs

Interesting trial output looking at the potential benefits of Lanreotide after Octreotide.  Click on the title or click here.

Dr Scott Paulson on Current Challenges in the NETs Treatment Landscape

Interesting and as with many specialist videos I’ve seen, sequencing of treatment remains challenging.  Text and video inside.  Click on the title to see more or click here.

Debating Best First-Line Treatment in Well-Differentiated G3 NENs

As you will know from my staging and grading article, there is now a Grade 3 well differentiated tumour status (called a NET rather than a Neuroendocrine Carcinoma).  However, there is not yet enough data to work out the optimum treatments, which may, in certain circumstances, be different from their poorly differentiated counterparts (Neuroendocrine Carcinoma).  Click on the title above or click here.

Examining the Benefits of Integrative Oncology, Nutrition in NETs

An unmet need – very interesting text.  Click on the title or click here.

Dr Heloisa Soares Discusses the Roles of Somatostatin Analogs in GEP-NETs

Dr Soares discusses the two roles of Somatostatin analogs: treating symptoms related to the tumors and controlling tumor growth.  Complete with video. Click on the title or click here.

Analysis Demonstrates Effectiveness, Patient Satisfaction With Lanreotide in GEP-NETs

Interesting data analysis about Lanreotide.  Click on the title or click here.

Ipsen Presents Data on Somatuline Depot at the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society (NANETS) Annual Symposium

Some very interesting stuff in here including comparisons with Octreotide.  Click on the title or click here.

Immunotherapy -Hits, Misses With New Therapies for Neuroendocrine Tumors

You may be prompted for a login, if so, let me know, I will post you the content.  The ‘misses’ is mainly the fact that Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) does not look good as a single agent treatment for high grade NEC. Headline is “Pembrolizumab, though generally well tolerated, showed limited activity as a single agent in high-grade neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) in this study,” Arvind Dasari, MD, of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues concluded.”  Some other interesting points though.   Click on the title above or click here.

 

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Don’t worry, it’s benign!


OPINION

One of the most controversial aspects of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) is the ‘benign vs malignant’ question. It’s been widely debated and it frequently patrols the various patient forums and other social media platforms. It raises emotions and it triggers many responses ….. at least from those willing to engage in the conversation. At best, this issue can cause confusion, at worst, it might contradict what new patients have been told by their physicians (….or not been told). This post will not cover Neuroendocrine Carcinoma which by definition is malignant.

Any definition of the word ‘tumour’ will confirm it can either be benign or malignant. However, and while I’m sure there are benign NETs, the key statement to explain any slow growing or indolent NET is that they all have malignant potential – thus why surveillance and follow up is really important. This is the key factor in the changes found in the 2010 Digestive System World Health Organisation (WHO) classification system from the previous ‘flaky’ version. This reinforcement of the malignant potential of all NETs was duplicated in the recent 2017 Endocrine System equivalent, which is now proposed as a classification scheme for all NETs (see below).

“Carcinoid”

Of course we are not helped by the continued use of the term Carcinoid which decodes to ‘Cancer Like’ – that is potentially regressing the work of those specialists who are trying to undo the last 100 years of complacency in the medical world (and not really the type of awareness we need). The word is gradually being erased from NET nomenclature and the recent 2018 proposal by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and WHO NET expert consensus panel to ditch it from the remaining versions of out of date WHO classifications (e.g. Pulmonary/Lung, Pituitary, Head & Neck, Genito-urinary, Adrenal and Paraganglia, Skin), is the final nail in the coffin for Carcinoid. RIP Carcinoid. This also supports our awareness issues with the media reporting the wrong cancer types based on anatomy of the primary tumour. Dear Doctors, Patient Advocates and Patients ….. please stop using the word!

I have lost count of the stories from Neuroendocrine Cancer patients who have been told their tumour was benign but then returned with incurable and metastatic cancer sometime downstream. Clearly there are doctors who do not understand NETs and/or are not aware of the changes in WHO classification schemes since 2010. Sure, some will prove to be ‘benign’ in nature and may not cause many issues but any Ki-67 below 3% is a formal grade of Neuroendocrine Neoplasm. I accept that it’s currently difficult to work out which cases will turn more aggressive and when, thus why surveillance and follow up are really important and also why patients should be seeing doctors who understand NETs. Worth also noting that many slow growing and indolent tumors can still often produce troublesome NET syndromes.

I’ve even heard one patient story where it was claimed a doctor called a metastatic NET case benign! Any definition of ‘benign’ on any respectable cancer site, will include the statement that they do not spread to other parts of the body. The NET Patient world is full of slow growing Grade 1 Stage 4 patients – by definition, they’re all malignant.

Read more detail in these articles as these issues are inextricably linked.

‘Benign vs Malignant’.
‘Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine’
‘The Invisible NET Patient Population’
‘Staging and Grading’

I’m sure there are scenarios in all cancers where tumours can be benign and will never harm the person but if a Doctor says you have a Neuroendocrine Tumour and not to worry because it’s benign, ask questions.  Start with “how do you know it will never turn malignant” and “what will be done going forward to check”. 

Thanks for listening

Ronny

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Diabetes – The NET Effect


My chest infection is now settled, as too is the excitement and apprehension behind my first ever Ga68 PET – the outcome of that is still a work in progress. Earlier this year, my thyroid ‘lesion’ on watch and wait was given a ‘damping down’ with the prescription of a thyroid hormone supplement but I await a re-ignition of that small bush fire downstream.

Bubbling behind the scenes and clamoring for attention is the spiking of my blood glucose test results and I was very recently declared ‘at risk’ for diabetes One of my followers entitled a post in my group with “The hits keep coming” in reference to encountering yet another problem in the journey with Neuroendocrine Cancer. I now know how she feels, this issue is a bit of a ‘left fielder’. However, having analysed the situation and spoken to several doctors, I can now put pen to paper.

Neuroendocrine Cancer is not a household name (…… I’m working on that) but diabetes certainly is. The World Health Organisation reports that the number of adults living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults. In USA, estimates from CDC stated around 10 million people diagnosed with diabetes with a further 84 million in pre-diabetes state (at risk). In UK around 3.7 million people have diabetes with about 4 times that amount ‘at risk’. It’s a growth industry (…….. but so is NETs – in the last 40 years, the incidence of NETs is rising at a faster rate than diabetes, a disease which some writers have described as an epidemic).

With those numbers, it follows that many NET patients will be diabetic before diagnosis, some will succumb to diabetes whether they have NETs or not, and some may have an increased risk of succumbing due to their treatment. Some may even be pushed into diabetes as a direct result of their NET type or treatment. It’s important to understand diabetes in order to understand why certain types of NET and certain treatments could have an involvement.

The Pancreas

For understanding of this article, it’s worth noting the pancreas has two main functions: an exocrine function that helps in digestion and an endocrine function that regulates blood sugar. I have talked about the exocrine function in relationship to Neuroendocrine Cancer at length – check out this article on Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy. In this article, I now want to cover the issues with the endocrine function and blood sugar. First a short primer on diabetes – it is necessarily brief for the purposes of this article.

 

Diabetes Primer

TypeS OF DIABETES

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are fairly well-known. There’s actually more than two types, but these are the most common. Type 2 is the most prevalent with around 90% of diabetes cases. When you’ve got Type 1 diabetes, you can’t make any insulin at all. If you’ve got Type 2 diabetes, the insulin you make either can’t work effectively, or you can’t produce enough of it. Additional types may come up in the subsequent discussion.

What is the problem?

What all types of diabetes have in common is that they cause people to have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood. But we all need some glucose. It’s what gives us our energy. We get glucose when our bodies break down the carbohydrates that we eat or drink. And that glucose is released into our blood. We also need a hormone called insulin. It’s made by our pancreas, and it’s insulin that allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.

If you don’t have diabetes, your pancreas senses when glucose has entered your bloodstream and releases the right amount of insulin, so the glucose can get into your cells. But if you have diabetes, this system doesn’t work properly. Diabetes is associated by being overweight but there isn’t a 100% correlation with that. However, when an individual becomes overweight, there is an increase in free fatty acids in the blood stream which may contribute to reduced insulin sensitivity in the tissues, leading to increased glucose levels in blood.

Symptoms and diagnosis of Diabetes

Different people develop different symptoms. In diabetes, because glucose can’t get into your cells, it begins to build up in your blood. And too much glucose in your blood causes a lot of different problems. To begin with it leads to diabetes symptoms, like having to wee a lot (particularly at night), being incredibly thirsty, and feeling very tired. You may also lose weight, get infections like thrush or suffer from blurred vision and slow healing wounds.

I see these symptoms mentioned very frequently and normally people are trying to associate them with NETs and/or the treatment for NETs.

Diabetes diagnosis is normally triggered diagnosed based on blood tests such as fasting Blood Glucose (snapshot) and/or Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) or HbA1C.

Complications

Over a long period of time, high glucose levels in your blood can seriously damage your heart, your eyes, your feet and your kidneys. These are known as the complications of diabetes.

But with the right treatment and care, people can live a healthy life. And there’s much less risk that someone will experience these complications.

What are the direct connections with Diabetes and NETs?

It’s not surprising that diabetes is mostly associated with Neuroendocrine Tumors of the Pancreas but there are other areas of risk for other types of NETs including to those who are existing diabetics – see below.

Surgery

The main types of surgery for Neuroendocrine Tumors of the Pancreas are Distal Pancreatectomy (tail), Sub-total pancreatectomy (central/tail), Classic Whipple (pancreaticoduodenectomy – head and/or neck of pancreas), Total pancreatectomy (remove the entire pancreas) or an Enucleation (scooping out the tumour with having to remove too much surrounding tissue). From the PERT article link above (exocrine function), you can see why some people need this treatment to offset issues of reduced production of pancreatic enzymes. The same issue can develop with a reduced endocrine function leading to the development of diabetes.

NET Syndromes

The different types of functional pancreatic NETs often called syndromes in their own right due to their secretory role. One might think that Insulinomas are connected to diabetes issues but this hormonal syndrome is actually associated with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), although low blood sugar can turn out to be a complication of diabetes treatment.

A NET syndrome known as Glucagonoma (a type of functional pancreatic NET) is associated with high blood glucose levels. About 5-10% of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are Glucagonomas, tumors that produce an inappropriate abundance of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon balances the effects of insulin by regulating the amount of sugar in your blood. If you have too much glucagon, your cells don’t store sugar and instead sugar stays in your bloodstream. Glucagonoma therefore leads to diabetes-like symptoms (amongst other symptoms). In fact Glucagonoma is sometimes called the 4D syndrome – consists of diabetes, dermatitis, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), and depression.

Another functional pancreatic NET known as Somatostatinoma is prone to developing insulin resistance. Somatostatinomas produce excessive amounts of somatostatin which interferes with the insulin/glucagon function and could therefore lead to diabetes.

Diabetes caused by cancer or cancer treatment

Worth noting that this type of diabetes is sometimes known as ‘Pancreatogenic diabetes’ and this is actually classified by the American Diabetes Association and by the World Health Organization as type 3c diabetes mellitus (T3cDM) and refers to diabetes due to impairment in pancreatic endocrine function due to acute cancer and cancer treatment (and several other conditions). The texts tend to point to cancers (and other conditions) of the pancreas rather than system wide. Prevalence data on T3cDM are scarce because of insufficient research in this area and challenges with accurate diabetes classification in clinical practice. (Authors note: Slightly confusing as many text say that type 3 diabetes is proposed for insulin resistance in the brain (diabetes associated with Alzheimer’s disease).  There’s another term for a complete removal of the entire pancreas – Pancreoprivic Diabetes

Other treatment risks

Somatostatin Analogues (e.g. Octreotide and Lanreotide) are common drugs used to control NET Syndromes and are also said to have an anti-tumor effect. They are known to inhibit several hormones including glucagon and insulin and consequently may interfere with blood glucose levels. The leaflets for both drugs clearly state this side effect with a warning that diabetics who have been prescribed the drug, should inform their doctors so that dosages can be adjusted if necessary. The side effects lists also indicates high and low blood glucose symptoms indicating it can cause both low and high blood glucose (hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia). For those who are pre-diabetic or close to pre-diabetic status, there is a possibility that the drug may push blood tests into diabetic ranges.
Afinitor (Everolimus). The patient information for Afinitor (Everolimus) clearly states Increased blood sugar and fat (cholesterol and triglycerides) levels in blood: Your health care provider should do blood tests to check your fasting blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood before you start treatment with AFINITOR and during treatment with AFINITOR”
Sutent (Sunitinib). The patient information for Sutent (Sinitinib) clearly states that low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is a potential side effect. It also advises that low blood sugar with SUTENT may be worse in patients who have diabetes and take anti-diabetic medicines. Your healthcare provider should check your blood sugar levels regularly during treatment with SUTENT and may need to adjust the dose of your anti-diabetic medicines.

In rare cases, certain NETs may produce too much Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), a substance that causes the adrenal glands to make too much cortisol and other hormones. This is often associated with Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol increases our blood pressure and blood glucose levels with can lead to diabetes as a result of untreated Cushing’s syndrome.

Summary

I think it’s sensible for all NET patients, particularly those with involvement as per above and who are showing the signs of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, to be checked regularly for blood glucose and if necessary HbA1c. Many patient information leaflets for the common NET treatments also indicate this is necessary. Always tell your prescribing doctors if you are a diabetic or about any history of low or high blood glucose before treatment for NETs.

My brush with Diabetes (as at Jan 2019)

My blood glucose levels started to climb slightly in 2016 but HbA1c remained normal. However, an HbA1c test in early 2018 put me into pre-diabetic range (44 mmoL/moL). I explained some of the above article to my GP who is corresponding with a diabetes expert at secondary care – the expert suggested that I need to be monitored carefully as weight loss is not necessarily the best response. I have kept my NET team up to date.

At the time of updating, two separate and sequential HbA1c tests (3 month interval) came back normal at 36 mmoL/moL.  I’m pragmatic enough to know that I do not need to lose weight as one of the aims of reducing my blood glucose and HbA1c levels (something emphasised by the above mentioned diabetes specialist).

I even got on my bike to do a little bit more exercise just in case!

At this point, I cannot yet say if this is the beginning of progressive Type II diabetes or if my medication is causing these spikes in my blood glucose and HbA1c. Judging by 2 x normal HbA1c, looks like the somatostatin analogue (Lanreotide in my case) may caused a spike to a pre-diabetes score.  I will keep you posted.

Summary – if you are noticing these symptoms, get your blood sugar checked (with acknowledgement to Dr Pantalone from Cleveland Clinic)

1. You’re making more trips to the bathroom

Having to go to the bathroom more than normal, particularly at night, is a sign that your blood sugar might be out of whack.

Dr. Pantalone says one of his patients came in for a diagnosis after a family member noticed that he was using the bathroom during each commercial break when they watched TV.

2. You’re getting frequent urinary or yeast infections

When your blood sugar is high and your kidneys can’t filter it well enough, sugar ends up in the urine. More sugar in a warm, moist environment can cause urinary tract and yeast infections, especially in women.

3. You’re losing weight without trying

If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to use glucose (sugar) as effectively for its energy. Instead, your body will start burning fat stores, and you may experience unexpected weight loss.

4. Your vision is getting worse

High sugar levels can distort the lenses in your eyes, worsening your vision. Changes in your eyeglass prescription or vision are sometimes a sign of diabetes.

5. You’re feeling fatigued or exhausted

Several underlying causes of fatigue may relate to diabetes/high sugar levels, including dehydration (from frequent urination, which can disrupt sleep) and kidney damage.

This feeling of exhaustion is often persistent and can interfere with your daily activities, says Dr Pantalone.

6. You’re noticing skin discoloration

Something that Dr. Pantalone often sees in patients before a diabetes diagnosis is dark skin in the neck folds and over the knuckles. Insulin resistance can cause this condition, known as acanthosis nigricans.

 

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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64Cu-DOTATATE – a potential expansion of the Somatostatin Receptor PET Imaging for Neuroendocrine Cancer?


Edit 10 Jan 2019: RadioMedix and Curium Announce FDA Fast Track Designation For 64Cu-Dotatate.  Read more by clicking here.

Curium and RadioMedix Inc. announce an exclusive agreement to develop and commercialize 64Cu-Dotatate, an investigational positron emission tomography (PET) diagnostic agent for patients with Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs). RadioMedix is currently engaged in Phase III clinical trials of the agent and expects to file a New Drug Application with the Food and Drug Administration in 2019. This partnership builds on the initial development work conducted by RadioMedix and will benefit from Curium’s regulatory, manufacturing, distribution, and commercial expertise. The radionuclide is not new, it’s been in use for some time, mainly in Denmark.

64Cu is a PET isotope that can be produced at a central location in quantities to meet the commercial needs of hospitals and imaging centers without the supply limitations of nuclear generator-based PET isotopes,” said Ebrahim Delpassand, MD, CEO of RadioMedix. “Once approved, 64Cu-Dotatate will be available to patients in medical centers with PET capability across the country. This will address the shortage or lack of availability of somatostatin analogue PET agents that we are currently experiencing in many parts of the U.S.”

Ga68 PET Shortages explained

This statement is in relation to the current shortage of Ga68 PET radionuclide. For those not aware, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) has written a letter to the FDA about ongoing shortages of generators that produce gallium-68 (Ga-68), a radioisotope used regularly in medical imaging. The letter—available here.

The letter explains that Ga-68 is currently used to produce NETSPOT from Advanced Accelerator Applications (a Novartis company), which was approved in June 2016 to help treat neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) in adult and pediatric patients using PET. NETSPOT, however, is only approved using specific generators. And those generators are only approved for either 400 uses or one year, whichever comes first. This has led to shortages throughout the United States.

SNMMI notes some possible remedies for this shortage. For instance, “a temporary exemption to the 400-elution limit would have a major impact on NETSPOT capacity for patients,” according to the letter. In addition, using a wider variety of generators to produce NETSPOT or using cyclotron-produced gallium chloride are two other methods that could improve production in a relatively short amount of time. “Further discussion with the manufacturers is necessary,” the authors added.

Read more about Ga68 PET and its use in Neuroendocrine Cancer – click here. Worth also noting that RadioMedix is also involved in a number of NET related initiatives including:

1. Trials for a new type of PRRT called ‘Targeted Alpha-emitter Therapy (TAT) – I’ve written about this previously. Read my article here.
2. An exclusive distributor for the TM Isotopen Technologien München AG (ITM) PRRT product currently in trial. I wrote about this here.

How does 64Cu-Dotatate compare with Ga68 PET and Octreotide Scans?

To learn more about previous studies on 64Cu-Dotatate, here’s 2 articles published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine which are a head to head comparison of 64Cu-Dotatate with Ga68 Dotatoc and with 111 Indium Octreotide (Octreoscan).

Head-to-Head Comparison of 64Cu-DOTATATE and 68Ga-DOTATOC PET/CT: A Prospective Study of 59 Patients with Neuroendocrine Tumors – http://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/58/3/451.full

PET/CT (left) and PET (right) scans of patient with intestinal NET and multiple metastases. More lesions are seen in intestinal region with 64Cu-DOTATATE than with 68Ga-DOTATOC.

Conclusion: 64Cu-DOTATATE has advantages over 68Ga-DOTATOC in the detection of lesions in NET patients. Although patient-based sensitivity was the same for 64Cu-DOTATATE and 68Ga-DOTATOC in this cohort, significantly more lesions were detected by 64Cu-DOTATATE. Furthermore, the shelf life of more than 24 h and the scanning window of at least 3 h make 64Cu-DOTATATE favorable and easy to use in the clinical setting.

64Cu-DOTATATE PET for Neuroendocrine Tumors: A Prospective Head-to-Head Comparison with 111In-DTPA-Octreotide in 112 Patients –http://jnm.snmjournals.org/content/56/6/847.full

Multiple small liver metastases (>10), peritoneal solitary tumor mass, and 3 lymph node metastases shown on 64Cu-DOTATATE PET/CT in patient with pancreatic NET. No foci were detected by 111In-DTPA-OC SPECT (Precedence scanner). All findings on PET were confirmed to be true-positive. (A) 111In-DTPA-OC planar images. (B) 64Cu-DOTATATE maximum-intensity-projection image with arrows pointing at liver and lymph node metastases. Insert is fused PET/CT of peritoneal solitary tumor mass. (C) Axial CT and SPECT of liver. (D) Axial CT and PET of liver revealing several small liver metastases.

Conclusion: With these results, we demonstrate that 64Cu-DOTATATE is far superior to 111In-DTPA-OC in diagnostic performance in NET patients. Therefore, we do not hesitate to recommend implementation of 64Cu-DOTATATE as a replacement for 111In-DTPA-OC.

Summary

The shortage of Ga68 PET radionuclide caused by limitations of the generators in use is unfortunate. Reading the SNMMI letter, I think progress can be made downstream. However, the introduction of a new scanning agent could be useful as long as the trials prove its safety and efficiently and is comparable to current tools. There is no news of any plans to extend this potential new radionuclide outside the US but I suspect that would change following an FDA approval.

If you can see it, you can detect it!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Neuroendocrine Cancer: Ga68 PET Scan – a game changer?

When I was offered my very first Ga68 PET/CT at a 6 monthly surveillance meeting in May 2018, I was both excited and apprehensive. Let me explain below why I had a mix of emotions.

I was diagnosed in 2010 with metastatic NETs clearly showing on CT scan, the staging was confirmed via an Octreotide Scan which in addition pointed out two further deposits above the diaphragm (one of which has since been dealt with). In addition to routine surveillance via CT scan, I had two further Octreotide Scans in 2011 and 2013 following 3 surgeries, these confirmed the surveillance CT findings of remnant disease. The third scan in 2013 highlighted an additional lesion in my thyroid (still under a watch and wait regime, biopsy inconclusive but read on….).

To date, my 6 monthly CT scans seem to have been adequate surveillance cover and all my tumour and hormone markers remain normal. I’m reasonably fit and well for a 62-year-old.

Then I ventured into the unknown

this is not actually my scan!

I wrote a comprehensive post about the Ga68 PET entitled “…. Into the unknown” – so named because that is how I felt at the time. It’s well-known that the Ga68 is a far superior nuclear scan to the elderly Octreotide type, showing much greater detail with the advantage of providing better predictions of PRRT success if required downstream. It has been a game changer for many and if you look below and inside my article, you will see statistics indicating just how it can ‘change the game’ in somatostatin receptor positive Neuroendocrine Cancer diagnostics and treatment.

The excitement of the Ga68 PET

I was going to get the latest ‘tech’ and thought it could be useful confirmation of what I already knew. I also felt lucky to get one, they are limited in UK and there has to be a clinical need to get access. I was excited because it might just rubber stamp the stability I’ve enjoyed for the past 5 or so years since my last surgery in 2012.

The apprehension of the Ga68 PET

I also felt apprehensive because of the ‘unknown’ factor with cancer, i.e. what is there lurking in my body that no-one knows about, and which might never harm me but this scan will light it up demanding attention. I was also apprehensive in case this more detailed scan found something potentially dangerous. As we know, NETs are mostly slow-growing but always sneaky. Of course, any new tumours found may not actually be new, they were just not seen until the Ga68 PET was able to uncover them.  How annoying!

Is the Ga68 PET Scan a game changer?

To confirm the advantages of SSTR PET over Octreotide scans, a study comprising 1,561 patients reported a change in tumour management occurred in over a third of patients after SSTR PET/CT even when performed after an Octreotide scan.

  • Overall, change in management occurred in 44% (range, 16%-71%) of NET patients after SSTR PET/CT.
  • In 4 of 14 studies, SSTR PET/CT was performed after an 111In-Octreotide scan. In this subgroup, additional information by SSTR PET/CT led to a change in management in 39% (range, 16%-71%) of patients.
  • Seven of 14 studies differentiated between inter- and intramodality changes, with most changes being intermodality (77%); intramodality, (23%). (note: intermodality means changes within the same treatment, intramodality means change to another treatment).

In an older study, this slide from a NET Research Foundation conference shows some more interesting statistics:

wp-image-991783422jpg
This slide from a recent NET Research Foundation conference confirms the power of more detailed scanning

Was Ga68 PET a game changer for me?

Yes, I believe so.  I’m now in the ‘bone met club’ and although that single metastasis has probably been there for some time, it’s not a ‘label‘ I was keen to add to my portfolio. If I was to be 100% honest, I’m not totally convinced it’s a metastasis. The scan has brought more light onto my thyroid issue.  In fact it indicates even more potential issues above the diaphragm including what looks like a new sighting around my left pectoral lymph nodes.  The scan also lghts up a known issue in the left clavicle lymph nodes, first pointed out via Octreotide scan in 2010 and biopsy negative.

In addition to a nuclear scan update (routine surveillance), it also formed part of an investigation into progression of my retroperitoneal fibrosis (initially diagnosed 2010 but potential growth spotted on recent surveillance CT).  The Ga68 PET doesn’t make fibrosis light up (it’s not cancerous) but there are some hotspots in the area of the aorta close to the fibrosis, a potential source of the cause.  Surgery is on hold for now as my kidney function is fine following a renal MAG3 scan which reported no blockages. 

It would appear I’m no longer a boring stable patient

The Ga68 PET Scan confirmed:

Bone Metastases. Report indicates “intense focal uptake“. It always amazes me that people can be thankful for having an extra tumour.  I’m thankful I only have a single bone metastasis (right rib number 11). I had read so many stories of those who got their first Ga68 PET and came back with multiple bone metastases. I’ll accept one and add to my NET CV. I have no symptoms of this bone metastasis and it will now be monitored going forward. I’m annoyed I don’t know how long it’s been there though!

Confirmation and better understanding of the following:

  1. Thyroid lesion There is some uptake showing. A 2014 Biopsy of this lesion was inconclusive and actual 2018 Ga68 PET report infers physiological uptake. I’m already diagnosed hypothyroidism, possibly connected.  (Edit – on ultrasound in Jan 2019, looks slightly smaller than previous check).
  2. Left Supraclavicular Fossa (SCF) Nodes lighting up “intense uptake“.  I’ve had an exploratory biopsy of the SCF nodes, 5 nodes removed negative. Nothing is ‘pathologically enlarged’ in this area. Monitored every 6 months on CT, annually on ultrasound.  I had 9 nodes removed from the left axillary in 2012, 5 tested positive for NETs and this area did not light up. This whole area on the left above the diaphragm continues to be controversial. My surgeon once said I had an unusual disposition of tumours.  (Edit: Nothing sinister or worryingly enlarged showing on Jan 2019 ultrasound – measuring 6mm).
  3. Report also highlights left subpectoral lymph nodes which is new.  The subpectoral area is very interesting as from my quick research, they are closer to the left axillary (armpit) nodes than they are to the SCF nodes. I’m hoping to get an ultrasound of these in January at my annual thyroid clinic (Edit: nothing sinister showing on ultrasound in Jan 2019).
  4. My known liver metastases lit up (remnant from liver surgery 2011) – not marked as intense though. The figure of 3 seems to figure highly throughout my surveillance scans although the PET report said “multiple” and predominately right-sided which fits.
  5. Retroperitoneal area. This has been a problem area for me since diagnosis and some lymph nodes are identified (intense word not used). This area has been highlighted on my 3 octreotide scans to date and was first highlighted in my diagnosis trigger scan due to fibrosis (desmoplasia) which was surrounding the aorta and inferior venous cava, some pretty important blood vessels. I wrote an article on the issue very recently – you can read by clicking here. So this scan confirms there are potentially active lymph nodes in this area, perhaps contributing to further growth of the fibrosis threatening important vessels – read below.

Retroperitoneal Fibrosis (Desmoplasia)

I have learned so much about desmoplasia since this issue arose that I now fully understand why I had to have radical surgery back in 2010 to try to remove as much of the fibrosis as possible from the aortic area. You can read more about this in my article.  Desmoplasia via fibrosis is still very much of an unknown and mystery condition in NETs.

I now know that my fibrosis is classed as clinically significant and according to the Uppsala study of over 800 patients inside my article, I’m in 5% of those affected in this way (2% if you calculate it using just the retroperitoneal area).

It appears this problem has come back with new fibrosis or growth of existing fibrosis threatening to impinge on blood vessels related to the kidneys and also my ureters (kidney to bladder urine flow). The Ga68 PET doesn’t make fibrosis light up (it’s not cancerous) but there are some hotspots in the area of the aorta close to the fibrosis.

I didn’t expect this particular problem to return – it was a bit of a shock. My hormone markers have been normal since 2011 and this just emphasises the importance of scans in surveillance. 

Conventional Imaging is still important though

There’s still quite a lot of hype surrounding the Ga68 PET scan and I get this.  However, it does not replace conventional imaging (CI) such as CT and MRI scans which still have their place in routine surveillance and also in diagnostics where they are normally at least the trigger for ‘something is wrong’. For the vast majority, a CT/MRI scan will find tumours and be able to measure reductions and progress in regular surveillance regimes. In fact, the retroperitoneal fibrosis has appeared on every CT scan since diagnosis but the changes were highlighted on my most recent standalone CT and it triggered the Ga68 PET (although my new Oncologist did say I was due a revised nuclear scan).  It’s not a ‘functional’ issue (although it is caused by functional tumours). In fact the fibrosis is not mentioned on the Ga68 PET because it is not lighting up – but the lymph nodes surrounding it are mentioned and they are under suspicion of being active.

Appropriate Use Criteria for Somatostatin Receptor PET Imaging in Neuroendocrine Tumors

There are actually recommended usages for the Ga68 PET scan here.  For example, it is not recommended for routine surveillance in place of CI.

Scans – ‘horses for courses’

Read a summary of all conventional scans and nuclear scans by clicking here.

Next Steps

I had a meeting with my Oncologist and Surgeon and a surgical plan is possible in the event of a problem. My surgeon explained it all in his wonderfully articulate and brilliant surgical mind. Fortunately it’s not really urgent but pre-emptive treatment may be required at some point as the consequences of kidney/bladder function malfunction are quite severe. Following some further checks, the anticipated surgery is on hold for now as my kidney function is fine following a renal MAG3 scan which reported no blockages.  I continue to have monthly renal blood tests and it was hinted another renal MAG3 could be done at the end of the year.

Summary

My game has changed, that’s for sure. I’m now entering a new phase and I’m waiting on details of my revised surveillance regime. However, at least my medical team and I now know what WE are dealing with and the risks vs benefits are currently being assessed. I’m heavily involved in that.

If you can see it, you can detect it. If you can detect it, you can monitor or treat it.

 

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Fibrosis – an unsolved mystery?


Background

It has long been observed that certain Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) are often associated with their ability to secrete hormones and these substances are thought to be responsible for the collection of symptoms which include (but not limited to) diarrhea, flushing and wheezing.  One of the lesser known aspects of this disease is the development of fibrosis, both local and distant. These fibrotic complications may lead to considerable morbidity. They can also result in incidental diagnoses of NETs after causing abdominal obstructions.

The most well known form of fibrosis is ‘Hedinger Syndrome’ (so-called Carcinoid Heart Disease) tightly associated with midgut NETs and will not be covered further. However, mesenteric fibrosis is actually more common and also associated with midgut NETs.  There are other less common locations involved including retroperitoneal fibrosis, pleural and pulmonary fibrosis and skin fibrosis.

According to a paper (abstract linked below) by Professor Martyn Caplin (et al) regarding mesenteric fibrosis, “it often has a characteristic appearance of a mesenteric mass with linear soft tissue opacities radiating outward in a “wheel spoke” pattern associated with distortion of the surrounding tissues” (see graphic below).

The mesentery and retroperitoneum areas

The mesentery and retroperitoneum are complex to describe but think of the mesentery as something holding the small intestine together with all its folds and the retroperitoneum describes the part of the abdomen that is generally closer to your backbone than to your belly button, i.e. behind the intestines.

Often labelled ‘Desmoplasia’, it is easily spotted on CT and MRI scans and is one of the unusual features of NETs vs other types of cancer.  Some examples are below:

Desmoplastic-reaction-The-characteristic-desmoplastic-reaction-comprises-a-mesenteric
Desmoplastic reaction. The characteristic desmoplastic reaction comprises a mesenteric mass (black asterisks) with linear soft tissue opacities radiating outwards in a ‘spoke-wheel’ or stellate pattern (black arrows) and associated indrawing of the surrounding tissues . Distortion and retraction of the adjacent soft tissues results in kinking of the small bowel and can cause partial or complete bowel obstruction. The mesenteric mass is often associated with coarse calcification (black arrowhead).  
Metastatic-carcinoid-tumor-to-the-root-of-the-mesentery-arrow-causing-typical
Metastatic Neuroendocrine Tumor to the root of the mesentery (arrow) causing typical circumferential desmoplastic

Axial CT image of a patient with a metastatic neuroendocrine tumor that demonstrates retroperitoneal thickening and fibrosis (arrow).

Small intestinal neuroendocrine tumor with characteristic serosal fibrosis causing kinking of the bowel wall (hematoxylin-eosin, original magnification 3 1; scanned slide) Grin, Andrea & Streutker, Cathy. (2015). Neuroendocrine Tumors of the Luminal Gastrointestinal Tract. Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine. 139. 750-756. 10.5858/arpa.2014-0130-RA.

What causes it, what problems does it cause and how can it be treated?

As with Hedinger Syndrome, which mostly causes right-sided fibrosis in the heart, mesenteric and retroperitoneal fibrosis (and others) is thought to be caused by the excess secretion of serotonin (5-HT) from NETs. I say ‘thought’ but no-one really knows for sure.  There’s a few quite recent studies on the subject which I’ll provide abstracts here.

Uppsala Hospital Sweden. In one study entitled “Clinical signs of fibrosis in small intestinal neuroendocrine tumours” first published in November 2016 by Uppsala Hospital Sweden, it said that it was caused by serotonin and other cytokines released from tumour cells and which may induce fibrosis, leading to carcinoid heart disease and abdominal fibrotic reactions. A cohort study of patients with SI NETs diagnosed between 1985 and 2015 was carried out – a total of 824 patients. Clinically significant abdominal signs and symptoms of fibrosis occurred in 36 patients. Of these, 20 had critically symptomatic central mesenteric fibrosis causing obstruction of mesenteric vessels, and 16 had retroperitoneal fibrosis causing obstructive uropathy with hydronephrosis (the swelling of a kidney due to a build-up of urine).  Extensive fibrosis causing mesenteric vessel obstruction and/or obstructive uropathy was more often associated with symptomatic and advanced disease encompassing lymph node metastases in the mesenteric root, para‐aortic lymph node metastases, as well as liver metastases and peritoneal carcinomatosis. Palliative intervention in terms of superior mesenteric vein stenting or resection of central mesenteric metastases and/or percutaneous nephrostomy and J stent treatment was beneficial in the majority of the patients. They concluded by saying that extensive abdominal fibrosis associated with clinically significant symptoms of intestinal ischaemia and/or obstructive uropathy was linked to advanced disease in patients with SI NETs. Prompt recognition and minimally invasive intervention was effective in disease palliation.

Royal Free Hospital. In another fairly recent paper entitled “Neuroendocrine tumors and fibrosis: An unsolved mystery?”, published by Professor Martyn Caplin of the Royal Free (and others), where this issue is discussed alongside the role of serotonin, growth factors, and other peptides in the development of NET related fibrotic reactions.  They also suggested serotonin as the main culprit in both CHD fibrosis and in mesenteric/retroperitoneum and expressed many of the factors above.  This study suggested that up to 50% of SI NET patients may be involved but looking at both reports together indicates that the first study above only isolated clinically significant cases whereas Royal Free looked for signs in all cases.

Another recent paper (also a paid subscription) from Royal Free (Caplin et al) indicated that the severity of mesenteric desmoplasia did not seem to demonstrate a statistically significant effect on overall survival or long-term outcome (taken from a study of 147 patients at Royal Free London). Sounds like good news but there are clearly consequences that could arise from the issue.

I do not have access to all the texts above, only the abstracts which I’ve linked above (all only available from paid subscriptions).

One older publication authored by known UK NET expert endocrinologist, covered some of the above issues but added that fibrosis in the pleural/pulmonary areas and the skin could also be associated.   For ease of reference, the following extracts are cited to Fibrosis and carcinoid syndrome: from causation to future therapy Maralyn Druce, Andrea Rockall and Ashley B. Grossman Druce M. et al. Nat. Rev. Endocrinol. 5, 276–283 (2009); doi:10.1038/nrendo.2009.51

Mesenteric fibrosis and carcinoid syndrome.  Intestinal fibrosis in a series of 37 patients with jejunoileal carcinoid tumors, 8 of 12 patients with bowel obstructions had evidence of fibrosis or kinking of the bowel.6 among 36 patients with carcinoid syndrome who were seen at Yale university, 15 either had fibrosis at the time of surgery, or developed it subsequently. In a surgical series of 121 patients with midgut carcinoid tumors, 75 required laparotomy, due to abdominal pain; of these patients, 59 were noted to have marked mesenteric fibrosis at the time of surgery. Spread of the primary tumor into the mesentery and peritoneum can result in a marked fibrotic reaction. This fibrosis can mat together multiple loops of bowel and result in kinking, ischemia, volvulus and obstruction.

Retroperitoneal fibrosis. True retroperitoneal fibrosis is a rare clinical entity, in which inflammation results in fibrosis throughout the retroperitoneum. In two-thirds of patients this condition is idiopathic. The majority of cases that are not idiopathic are associated with drugs, such as antihypertensive agents and methysergide. Although retroperitoneal fibrosis is not commonly seen in the context of carcinoid syndrome and has not been reported in any recent, major review, several cases have been reported in literature. 

Pleural and Pulmonary Fibrosis. In a review of 50 patients with carcinoid tumors who presented to a single unit over 9 years and were examined using CT, 14 patients had pleural thickening, and in 9 of these cases no other attributable cause was established. All 14 patients had developed this pleural thickening within 2 years of being diagnosed as having carcinoid syndrome, and 7 of the 9 patients also had fibrosis elsewhere, for example, in the heart valves, skin or mesentery. Carcinoid syndrome has rarely been described as a cause of alveolar fibrosis, but fibrosis elsewhere in the lung occurs more frequently. in a series of 25 patients known to have peripheral carcinoid tumors of the lung, 19 displayed hyperplasia of neuroendocrine cells elsewhere in the lung, and 8 patients (25%) had lesions of obliterative bronchiolitis, including 2 with asymptomatic obstruction of airflow. These data suggest that bronchiolar fibrosis is not uncommon, although it is usually subclinical.

Skin fibrosis. Dermal fibrosis may be primary or secondary to peripheral vasospasm, which occurs in response to vasoconstrictor substances that are secreted by the tumor. Carcinoid syndrome associated with scleroderma has been reported: in one series, its prevalence was 2 cases in 25 individuals. This complication of carcinoid syndrome is usually a late feature and may be attenuated by the use of cyproheptadine hydrochloride, parachlor phenylalanine and prednisolone, which suggests a causative role for tryptophan metabolism and 5-HT”

What happened to me?

Since I was diagnosed in 2010, I’ve always known I’ve had a fibrosis issue in the retroperitoneal area, as it was actually identified on my very first CT Scan, which triggered my diagnosis.  Here’s how the radiologist described it – “There is a rind of abnormal tissue surrounding the aorta extending distally from below the renal vessels. This measures up to 15mm in thickness”.  He went on to describe that “almost certainly malignant”.  The second and third scans would go on to describe as “retroperitoneal fibrosis” and “a plaque like substance”.  Interestingly the fibrosis itself does not appear to ‘light up’ on nuclear scans indicating it was not cancerous (see below).

I really didn’t know what to make of this issue at diagnosis, although I did know the aorta was pretty important!  Fortunately I had a surgeon who had operated on many NET patients and has seen this issue before.  After my first surgery, he described it as a “dense fibrotic retroperitoneal reaction encircling his aorta and cava (inferior vena cava (IVC))”. My surgeon was known for difficult and extreme surgery, so as part of the removal of my primary, he also spent 3 hours dissecting out the retroperitoneal fibrosis surrounding these important blood vessels and managed 270 degree clearance. The remnant still shows on CT scans. Some of the removed tissue was tested and found to be benign, showing only florid inflammation and fibrosis (thankfully).  That said, the abstract papers above has led me to believe that my retroperitoneal fibrosis is clinically significant.

Routine surveillance in 2018 has picked up that retroperitoneal fibrosis is potentially impinging on important vessels in this area, particularly the left ureter but including some blood vessels. A follow up Ga68 PET confirms active lymph nodes in the retroperitoneal area that might be contributing to continued or new fibrosis growth.

In order to further assess risk to my kidneys, I had a different nuclear can known as a Renal MAG3. This scan looks at the blood supply, function and flow of urine from the kidneys. The output will inform my MDT and surgical team looking at treatment options to counter the risk of damage and the timing of potential surgery to correct the issue. I’m happy to report that the MAG3 scan confirmed there are no blockages to my kidneys or bladder. It did confirm my right kidney is doing 60% of the work, the suspected left one is covering the remaining 40% effort.  Apparently it’s pretty normal that it isn’t exactly 50/50.  Surgery is now on the back burner (phew!).  The kidney function will be monitored closely going forward.

Summary

These issues need to be identified early on in diagnostics, preventative treatment considered and then monitored going forward.  Potential complications may include (but not be limited to) bowel and blood vessel obstructions.  Retroperitoneal fibrosis also needs to be monitored as potential complications may include (but not be limited to) obstructive uropathy.

For those worried about this issue, please note that when you look at the statistics from Uppsala, only 4.5% of cases are classed as clinically significant and with the retroperitoneal area, the figure reduces to 2%.

Neuroendocrine Cancer is normally slow growing BUT …..

Thanks for reading

177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE – Long-lasting radionuclide therapy for advanced neuroendocrine tumors proves effective

For your information only. In the News.

Since PRRT was formally approved last year in USA and Europe (and other places), it’s triggered a whole mini-industry in PRRT variants or enhancements. An interesting study from China, a country starting to become very active in the NET world. I guess they have been active for some time given that I’ve seen their NET experts presenting at the last 2 years of ENETS in Barcelona.  In this particular study, there is linkages to the Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, NIBIB/NIH, Bethesda, Maryland in USA.

This is news of a first-in-human study presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) which demonstrated the benefits and safety of a new, long-lasting type of radionuclide therapy (PRRT) for patients with advanced, metastatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) – 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE. 

How is this different from the current PRRT standard – Lutathera?

“Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE is a “three-in-one” therapeutic compound, with an octreotate peptide to find the tumor, an ‘Evans blue motif’, which uses endogenous albumin as a reversible carrier to effectively extend the half-life in the blood and substantially increase targeted accumulation and retention within the tumor, and a therapeutic radionuclide to kill the tumor cells, to finally provide effective treatment of NETs,”  …….. explains Shawn(Xiaoyuan) Chen, PhD, senior investigator, of National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health , Bethesda, Maryland.

Lutathera-177 (177Lu)-DOTATATE (trade name Lutathera), a peptide receptor radionuclide tharapy (PRRT) with radiolabeled somatostatin analogues (peptides), was recently approved by the USA FDA and the EMA for the treatment of somatostatin receptor positive NETs. It is the therapeutic part of a nuclear medicine theranostic pairing. Gallium-68 (68Ga)-DOTATATE is the diagnostic agent used in  PET/CT scans that first locates and marks the lesions for follow-up with targeted PRRT delivery directly to the tumor cells which express high levels of somatostatin receptors (SSTRs). Because the PRRT binds to receptors expressed by the tumor cells, healthy cells are unharmed. However, the peptide quickly clears from the blood through the kidneys limiting the accumulation of radioactivity within tumors and making additional treatment cycles necessary to provide the therapeutic dose.

177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE.  This first-in-human, first-in-class, Phase I trial (ID: NCT03308682) investigated the safety and dosimetry of a novel long-lasting radiolabeled somatostatin analogue that adds an albumin-binding Evans blue (EB, an azo dye) derivative to 177Lu-DOTATATE. Albumin, the most abundant plasma protein in human blood, is a natural transport protein and has a long circulatory half-life.  This is an open-label, non-controlled, non-randomized study.

For the study, conducted in collaboration with researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, 8 patients (6 men and 2 women ranging in age from 27 to 61 years old) with advanced metastatic neuroendocrine tumors were recruited from Peking Union Medical College Hospital and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, China.

Each patient underwent whole-body 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT. Five of the patients then accepted intravenous injection with a single dose of 0.35-0.70 GBq of 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE within one week, and were monitored at 2, 24, 72, 120 and 168 hours after 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE administration with serial whole-body planar and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)/CT images acquired. The other 3 patients accepted a dose of 0.28-0.41 GBq of 177Lu-DOTATATE and were monitored at 1, 3, 4, 24 and 72 hours with the same imaging procedures. Complete physical examinations, including vital signs, blood count, biochemistry, and immunology analyses were performed immediately before and 1, 3, and 7 days, as well as 3 months, after treatment.

Administration of 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE was well tolerated, with no adverse symptoms reported throughout the procedure and follow-up. The total effective dose equivalent and effective dose were 0.2048 ± 0.1605 and 0.0804 ± 0.0500 mSv/MBq for 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE and 0.1735 ± 0.0722 and 0.0693 ± 0.0317 mSv/MBq for 177Lu-DOTATATE. The liver, kidneys, bone marrow and total body received slightly higher doses (mGy/MBq) with 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE than with 177Lu-DOTATATE, while the spleen received lower doses with 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE. Blood clearance of 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE was also slower. Most importantly, 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE lasted in the tumors more than 4 times longer than 177Lu-DOTATATE.

Jingjing Zhang and Zhaohui Zhu of Peking Union Medical College Hospital point out, “By introducing an albumin binding moiety, this long-lasting radiolabeled somatostatin analogue has remarkably enhanced uptake and retention in SSTR-positive tumors, which is important to increase the therapeutic efficacy in patients. With proper selection of patients with advanced metastatic neuroendocrine tumors, 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE has great potential to be a highly effective treatment, while providing a safe dose with less frequency of administration than is possible with 177Lu-DOTATATE.”

FIGURE: SPECT/CT of a 45-year-old male patient with advanced NETs and multiple liver metastases – persistently retained in the tumors after 168 hours

Scans were done at 2, 24, 72, 120 and 168 hours after the administration of 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE. The radiopharmaceutical cleared from the blood pool over time and persistently retained in the tumors (arrows). Credit: J Zhang et al., Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing, China; X Chen et al., Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, NIBIB/NIH, Bethesda, MD

Sources:

Abstract 118: “Safety, Pharmacokinetics and Dosimetry of a Long-lasting Radiolabeled Somatostatin Analogue 177Lu-DOTA-EB-TATE in Patients with Advanced Metastatic Neuroendocrine Tumors: A Phase 1 First-in-human Study,” Jingjing Zhang, MD,PhD, Yuejuan Cheng, MD,Hao Wang, MD, Jie Zang, PhD, Fang Li, MD, Chunmei Bai, MD, and Zhaohui Zhu, MD, Peking Union Medical College Hospital; Gang Niu, MD, Orit Jacobson, PhD4, and Xiaoyuan Chen, PhD, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. SNMMI’s 65th Annual Meeting, June 23-26, Philadelphia.  Link to SNMMI Abstract

Other articles in this series:

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

Gallium 68 PET Scans – Into the Unknown

OPINION

Cancer is a growth industry …literally! More people are being diagnosed than ever before. Fortunately, more people are surviving than ever before. This is against a backdrop of better awareness, better screening in the big population cancers, and to a certain extent better diagnostic tools, all of which is leading to earlier diagnosis.

So how does this affect Neuroendocrine Cancer?

According to the latest SEER database figures for Neuroendocrine Cancer, one reason for the 7 fold increase in incidence rates since the 1970s is all of those things above including better diagnostics. This has led to a revised set of epidemiological information in many countries that have made the effort to accurately update their cancer registries and there are consistent reports of incidence rates way beyond the recognised rare thresholds. Another piece of good news is that the increase in NET incidence is also due to earlier diagnosis. To sum that up – NETs is also a growth industry.

Better diagnostics

Combined with more awareness and education (including the important pathologists), more NETs than ever are being found, and many found earlier. However, it’s not party time yet because there remains far too many misdiagnoses due to the low population of the disease and the difficulty in diagnosing it. I want to focus on scanning (thus the title of the article). Whilst there are really important factors involved in a diagnosis, such as tumor and hormone markers, and biopsies (tissue is the issue), a scan is very frequently what triggers many deeper investigations to unearth a NET, i.e. if you can see it, you can normally detect it (whatever the ‘it’ is). And I include the widespread availability and increasing advances in endoscopy/ultrasounds/cameras which have also been instrumental in picking up many Gastrointestinal NETs.

The Gallium 68 PET Scan

There’s a lot of excitement about the Gallium 68 PET Scan since it was approved by the US FDA. It’s not new though and has been in use in several countries for some time. It’s a ‘nuclear scan’ and can often form part of what is known as a ‘Theranostic Pair’ (i.e. in conjunction with a therapy – read more here).

What does it do?

It comprises two main components – a PET scanning machine, and the use of a diagnostic imaging agent which is injected into the person undergoing the scan. Most machines have an inbuilt CT which forms part of the scan. The agent is a somatostatin analogue labeled radionuclide (Gallium 68) and basically the PET will then be used to see where the peptide/radionuclide mix ‘loiters’ (i.e. where there are concentrations of somatostatin receptors (SSTR) normally indicating ‘focal intense abnormality‘ of the type that is regularly found with NETs.

Imaging Agents. There are different agent variants, namely, DOTATATE, DOTATOC and DOTANOC. In USA, you may sometimes see this referred as NETSPOT which is more of a commercial label for the agent (NETSPOT is a DOTATATE). Ga68 PET or SSTR PET are common descriptors for the entire process regardless of the compound. Clearly the scan works best for those with ‘somatostatin receptor positive’ tumours.

These newer agents have several benefits over the elderly In111-pentetreotide (Octreotide scan), including improved detection sensitivity, improved patient convenience due to the 2-3 hour length of the study (compared to 2 or 3 days with Octreoscan), decreased radiation dose, decreased biliary excretion due to earlier imaging after radiotracer administration, and the ability to quantify uptake. The quantification of the uptake can help decide whether a patient is suitable for radionuclide therapy such as PRRT. Eventually, all Octreotide scans should be replaced with SSTR PET but it will take some time (and money).

scans for nets
Octreoscan vs Ga68 PET

To confirm the advantages of SSTR PET over Octreotide scans, a study comprising 1,561 patients reported a change in tumour management occurred in over a third of patients after SSTR PET/CT even when performed after an Octreotide scan. Worth pointing out that SSTR PET is replacing the ageing Octreotide scan and not conventional imaging (CI). You can see the recommended scenarios for use of SSTR PET in this article published by the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. The slide below is interesting, although it was a small study. However, you can see the treatment changes as a result of a Ga68 PET are quite striking.

This slide from a NET Research Foundation conference confirms the power of more detailed scanning

 

Appropriate Use Criteria for Somatostatin Receptor PET Imaging in Neuroendocrine Tumors

I see many people complaining because the cannot get access to a Ga68 PET which is available through their healthcare system or local hospital. Many of these issues are insurance based.  Worth pointing out that there are actually recommended usages for the Ga68 PET scan here.  For example, it is not recommended for routine surveillance in place of Conventional Imaging (CI).

Any pitfalls with Ga68 PET Scan?

When you look at the study data above, it looks like an excellent addition to the diagnostic and surveillance toolkit for NETs. However, one of the challenges with modern scanning equipment and techniques is the ability to correctly interpret the results – in my opinion, this is almost as important as the efficiency of the machines and radionuclides. This requirement has been acknowledged in many articles and I particularly like this technical paper from a very experienced nuclear medicine physician Professor Michael Hofman from the Centre for Cancer Imaging at the Peter MacCallum Cancer in Melbourne. I had a chat with Professor Hofman who added that this is a very sensitive scan, so often picks up “new” disease, which isn’t really new, just never identifiable on standard imaging. However, there’s an excellent section on pitfalls in interpretation and I’m quoting an abstract below.

“Although GaTate PET/CT is a highly sensitive and specific technique for NETs, the attending physician or radiologist must be aware of various physiologic and other pathologic processes in which cellular expression of SSTR can result in interpretative error. Most of these processes demonstrate low-intensity and/or nonfocal uptake, in contrast with the focal intense abnormality encountered in NETs. Causes of interpretative pitfalls include prominent pancreatic uncinate process activity, inflammation, osteoblastic activity (degenerative bone disease, fracture, vertebral hemangioma), splenunculi or splenosis, and benign meningioma.”

“The highest-intensity physiologic uptake of GaTate is seen in the spleen, followed by the adrenal glands, kidneys, and pituitary gland”

It follows that failure to interpret nuclear scans alongside the patient’s clinical history can sometimes result in two big issues for patients:

1. Unnecessary worry when ‘something’ shows up which is actually a false positive.

2. Something which leads to irreversible treatment when it is was not required.

Just imagine something which is 40 times better than current PET scan technology? That’s what the scientists are working on now. Here’s an example called “EXPLORER“. You can update yourself here. The issue of interpretation will be even more difficult when the new generation of scans appear. There’s an excellent article from Cancer Research UK talking about the modern phenomenon called ‘overdiagnosis’ – read here

Lanreotide and Octreotide and timing the scan?

From the same technical document referred above, here’s an extract (updated to include Lanreotide). “Uptake at physiologic and pathologic sites may change in patients who undergo concomitant short- or long-acting somatostatin analog therapy, which competes with the radiotracer for bioavailability. We generally discontinue short-acting octreotide for 12–24 hours and perform imaging in the week before the next dose of long-acting Octreotide/*Lanreotide, which is typically administered monthly“.  It’s actually the same text as found in the manufacturer’s drug leaflet (click here). More evidence behind the reason for this restriction is found here (please refer to the comments on Ga68 PET – the article also covers the issue of PRRT which is very interesting as a separate subject to the scan timings).

*added by the author for completeness.

Having my first Ga68 PET Scan after 8 years of  living with NETs? 

When I was offered my very first Ga68 PET/CT at my recent 6 monthly surveillance meeting, I was both excited and apprehensive. I was diagnosed in 2010 and my staging was confirmed via an Octreotide Scan pointing out two further deposits (one of which has since been dealt with). I’ve had two further Octreotide Scans in 2011 and 2013 following 3 surgeries. The third scan in 2013 highlighted my thyroid lesion – still under a watch and wait regime. So far, my 6 monthly CT scans seemed to be adequate surveillance cover and my markers remain normal.

I’m apprehensive because of the ‘unknown’ factor with cancer – what is there lurking in my body that no-one knows about and which might never harm me.

I’m excited because it might just confirm that there is nothing new to worry about.

However, I’m both excited (morbidly) and apprehensive because the scan might find something potentially dangerous. As we know, NETs are mostly slow growing but always sneaky. That said, at least I will know and my medical team will know and be able to assess the risk and decide on a course of action.

Doing the Scan

On 5th June 2018, I attended a very experienced Ga68 PET establishment called Guys Cancer Centre in London.  I arrived and was immediately taken under the wing of the nuclear medicine guys who asked me fairly in depth questions about my clinical background.  They then inserted a cannula ready for the injection of the radiolabelled tracer.  I was then installed in the ‘hot room’ where they injected the radionuclide tracer through the cannula and then I had to remain in the hot room for 1 hour to let the tracer circulate.  After 1 hour, I was taken to the PET scanner and it took around 30-35 minutes. Following that I was allowed to leave for home.  It was an extremely easy experience and a significant improvement on doing the 3 day Octreotide scan.

20180605_141229

Door to the ‘hot room’

The Results of the Ga68 PET Scan – CLICK HERE

Sapanisertib – a drug on trial for Neuroendocrine Tumors (NET) with a pancreatic primary


Researchers are testing the drug Sapanisertib to see if it can halt the progression of pancreatic NETs (pNETs) which cannot be surgically removed, have not responded to other treatment, and have spread to other parts of the body.

What is Sapanisertib?

Sapanisertib is one of a group of targeted therapy drugs that interferes with tumor progression by inhibiting an enzyme known as mTOR which a tumor cell needs for growth.  In fact this is the same technique used in Afinitor (Everolimus), already approved for NETs.

It is also being tested in a number of different advanced cancers, including bladder, kidney, breast, liver, and certain types of lung cancers, among others.

The Clinical Trial

The primary goal of the phase II study is to evaluate how well pNET tumors respond to Sapanisertib. To qualify for this trial patients must have advanced pNET that cannot be surgically removed, and which have not responded to previous treatment with similar drugs. All participants will receive Sapanisertib, and will be checked periodically to see if their tumors are responding to the drug.

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided at this link which provides more details about the Sapanisertib pNET trial – click here and check the inclusion and exclusion criteria; and other data.  There are 354 study locations across the USA.

Please also note this drug development was part funded by the NET Research Fundation – read more here.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Read my Cure Magazine contributions

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter March 2018

Headline for the period of March 2018 is reaching a milestone of half a million blog views.  Yay …… Read more here. Amazing that I clicked over the 500,000 mark in a taxi going from Barcelona airport to my hotel for ENETS 2018 where I’d been sponsored by INCA.  Fortunately I had prepared the post earlier and was able to spread the news in a few clicks.  I picked up some great information at this conference which I’m feeding into my articles so you get the best and latest thinking.  Here’s a couple of pictures of me with famous NET specialists. 

Dr James Yao
Dr Jonathan Strosberg

I caught this news in my social media NET

  1. A website I helped design with a couple of other patients has won an award.  The site, owned by Ipsen (of Lanreotide fame), on the 2018 Eye for Pharma most valuable patient initiative.  Read more here.
  2. For patients in UK (England in particular), the long wait for routine access to PRRT could hopefully be coming to an end, despite it being approved in Europe (EU countries) since last year.  Dates are now in the diary for discussion and subsequent ‘announce by’ dates. Fingers crossed for some news in April or May.  Read more by clicking here.
  3. ITM announced that 11 trial sites are now open for recruitment to an expansion of PRRT using 177Lu-Edotreotide (Solucin®) – COMPETE Trial.  – Read about it by clicking hereI met the trials team in Barcelona on 8 Mar, they are struggling to get sufficient numbers which is a great shame.
  4. A survey by NET Patient Foundation and Royal Free Hospital London suggests there certain side effects of Lanreotide are more prevalent than the trial data.  Read more here.

Blog Site Activity  

Due to the vagaries of Facebook inner workings, some of these articles created or majorly updated in Mar 2018 may not have even shown on your timeline.  So, ICYMI …….here’s a summary with links, includes updated blogs. You can actually sign up to receive my blog articles direct to your inbox when published – subscribe here  March 2018 was a record-breaking month with the biggest number of views in one month ever.  ​

   Irrfan Khan, star of Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi, is diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer – read more here
My blog breaks through half a million views – read more here
 PERT article updated to include output from Tara Whyand online chat – read more here
   A patient website I helped design has won a major pharma award. Read more here
  RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter February 2018 – in case you missed it.
  Major restructure and update to Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

 

Despite a lack of posts due to external activities and illness, March 2018 is now a record-breaking month with just under 30,000 views.  Here are the top 10 most read articles which contributed to March’s figures:

Shame on you! More stats 1,935
Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – Home Page More stats 1,334
Can NETs be cured? More stats 881
Background to my Diagnosis and Treatment More stats 861
Namaste Irrfan Khan More stats 849
Lanreotide vs Octreotide More stats 795
Neuroendocrine Cancer – Incurable vs. Terminal More stats 762
“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy” More stats 645
Steve Jobs – the most famous Neuroendocrine Cancer Ambassador we NEVER had More stats 628
Neuroendocrine Tumours – benign vs malignant More stats 601
Neuroendocrine Cancer – no treats, just tricks More stats 587
Serotonin – the NET effect More stats 581
RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter February 2018 More stats 542
Neuroendocrine Cancer – not average, just mean More stats 536

Other Activity

I’m constantly looking for opportunities to spread awareness and advance the cause of Neuroendocrine Cancer patients.  Thank you all so much for the support in helping me do this.

  • Please join my 2018 awareness campaign event here (select ‘Going’)

  • I continue to receive a steady flow of private contacts, mainly from patients seeking information.  I don’t have an issue with private contact but please note my disclaimer
  • Please also note that due to sheer numbers of requests, I cannot accept telephone or video calls on a one to one basis. Please just message me and I will respond – see “Send Message” button when you CLICK HERE. (also please ‘Like’ this page if you have not already done so). On a personal note, please do not send me friend requests on my personal Facebook page, I get so many and want to keep this little area of ‘sanity’ free of NET stuff.  I have so many other sites you can contact me on – all inside the newsletter.
  • The number of non-patients contacting me for other reasons (mainly to help with something) continues to grow and this is producing some great publicity and awareness.
  • As the number of people contacting me has increased so much, I’ve set up a chat room here (I’m not the only one who can answer questions!).  This is not a forum, it’s a place to make people feel safe and to discuss.  I welcome all types of NET, people from any country and I also welcome carers/caregivers and medical people. It’s also a place where I will bring in expertise to chat about various issues.  The first online chat was held on 28 Feb about the problems NET patients can have with being unable to produce sufficient digestive enzymes and the treatment to correct this issue PERT (Creon etc)  Join the chat group by clicking here (please answer the simple questions so I can process quicker). As at 1 Apr 2018, there were 608 people in the group.

New Audiences for NET Cancer

From Day 1, I said it was my aim to find new audiences for NETs rather than just share stuff within our own community. I’m doing this although it may not always be apparent.

  • Facebook has been in the news regarding the security of user’s data.  I am pretty well up to date with security although determined hackers are always a risk.  I take this threat seriously and my personal account is as protected as it can be.  Any signs of suspicious activity on my blog, Facebook pages and group, or indeed any of my social media sites, is dealt with robustly in order to protect you and me.  I managed to get a quote in the WEGO Health article about the issue.  Check it out here.
  • For example. my story was once again featured on World Cancer Day – click here.  Please join my World Cancer Day calendar event to be reminded each year – click here and select ‘Going’.
  • In Feb, my blog site was recommended to health professionals by Dr Jane Maher who is the Chief Medical Officer for Macmillan Cancer Support, one of the biggest Cancer Support organisations in the world.  This was out of the blue but gratefully accepted!  
  • Article features.
    • Cure Magazine.  I’ve been accepted as a ‘Cure Today’ contributor which means my articles will get a wider distribution than they do now.  Cure Magazine has a readership of 1 million.  Click here to read more. In October, I was featured in Cure Magazine twice.  I have been so busy in 2017 but I have plans to increase my presence there in 2018:
“Cancer isn’t all about me”
“Poker Face or Cancer Card”
  • Twitter. I’m ‘extremely’ active on twitter and I find a lot of research stuff there, in addition to new audiences. I also use it to support other conditions and it’s mostly returned (i.e. others help with NET awareness and are made aware of NETs in the process).  There are people regularly retweeting my stuff who do not have a personal interest in NETs and I am now regularly copied in on many tweets by those wishing to use my account as a vehicle for dissemination. In the last month, I tweeted 134 times on my personal account which led to over 111,000 views.  I was mentioned 113 times by other tweeters, 3154 people looked at my profile and I gained 35 new followers.  My tweet “Ignore this post” remains the most tweeted article about NETs ever posted on twitter.  Check it out – click here.
  • Daily Newsletter from my twitter feed (Nuzzel).  There is so much on twitter that I could swamp the community Facebook site so I started a twitter newsletter via an app called Nuzzel which seeks out stuff I normally like. This has been a huge success from my point of view resulting in an increase in blog hits and to a wider population than just NETs. Click this link and sign up if you think this is something you’d be interested in receiving – you don’t need to have a twitter account to read, just sign up with an email.
  • WEGO. I continue to be featured by ‘external’ organisations such as WEGO and my PODCAST is reaching new audiences – click here.  In March, I managed to get into a very well contested short list for an article about the use of Facebook for health communities in light of the recent bad press for the service. The recent awards will continue to showcase my work which has the effect of spreading Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness to NEW audiences in addition to enriching my experience as a Patient Leader.  WEGO is a fantastic organisation!

WEGO Awards

Engagements and Invites

  • Attended a meeting coordinated by NET Patient Foundation about a patient app.  Apparently I’m on the project team and happy to help if I can.  I always react positively to requests for help from INCA’s national NET affiliates, providing I have the bandwidth available to support.
  • I have been invited to join a medical conference in Berlin as a patient advocate.  This is not a NET conference so is very exciting.  I’ve been asked to contribute to doctor-patient communications and the fear factor of living with cancer (in addition to a patient story of course).
  • I’m getting ready to present a patient experience story in May to a newly established NET Dietitians group in UK – coordinated by the wonderful Tara Whyand.  Very excited about this, a wonderful initiative to tackle an unmet need for patients.

Social Media and Stats

Blog Milestone.  At the end of March, I accelerated past 525,000 blog views! Thank you all so much Keep sharing!  On track for one million by the end of 2019.

Facebook Milestone.  I have my eyes set on 6000 followers by the end of April, could be sooner with your direct involvement!  The Facebook page is now my biggest outlet for awareness and education so please please please recommend this page to anyone you think would be interested. There are buttons to share the page and invite others to ‘Like’ it.

Also check out my sister Facebook sites here (go to these pages and click on ‘Like’)

These are fallback  sites to counter the Facebook algorithm whereby you may not see all my posts on the main site (click on the links to see the pages)

Ronny Allan’s Community

Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness and Networking

Instagram

I’m expanding into Instagram to see how that goes. I’ve amassed over 250 followers to date. Initially, I’ll just be posting pictures of things that inspire me, mostly scenic photos of places I’ve been or want to go!  I really enjoy these pictures, I hope you do too. You can follow me here:  Click here to go to my Instagram page

Community Statistics (the measurement of my efforts on your behalf)

Figures

Summary

An amazing amount of awareness and hopefully, support for others.  However, I cannot do this without you guys liking, commenting and sharing!  The likes give me motivation, the comments and private messages give me inspiration or at least a chance to explain further – and they also keep me humble.  The sharing gives me a bigger platform.  A bigger platform generates more awareness.

Thanks for your great support in March.  Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter February 2018

Another great start to the year in both NETs in the news and my social media activity. It’s been really cold where I am though!

I’m so busy with personal contacts, I decided to set up a chat room so that other people can help me answer some really difficult questions!  This ‘chat rom’ is not designed to run like a traditional Facebook forum, it’s a place to make people feel safe and to discuss without the usual distractions and dramas that people often encounter. And …. it’s about learning.  I welcome all types of NET, people from any country and I also welcome carers/caregivers and medical people (I already have a few of the latter). It’s also a place where I will bring in expertise to chat about various issues.  The first online chat was held on 28 Feb hosted by a world-renowned NET specialist dietitian – subject was the problems NET patients can have with being unable to produce sufficient digestive enzymes and the treatment to correct this issue PERT (Creon etc).

Join the chat group by clicking here or just search for this group in Facebook – “Neuroendocrine Cancer – Ronny Allan’s Group“. I’m not intending it to be a large group so I’ll be capping it around 1000 to take a few months ‘breather’ before deciding what to do. Please answer the simple questions so I can process quicker.

I caught this news in my social media NET

  1. Whether to cut or not to cut (or watch and wait then cut if necessary) and the sequencing of treatments is a really difficult issue for NET specialists.  I quite liked two video clips that came out last week and they cover this issue quite nicely including some interesting abdominal challenges in surgery:
    a.  Risk Stratification and Management of NETs – click here
    b.  Surgical Considerations for NETs – click here
  2. For patients in UK (England in particular), the long wait for routine access to PRRT could hopefully be coming to an end (despite it being approved in Europe (EU countries) since last year).  Dates are now in the diary for discussion and subsequent ‘announce by’ dates. Fingers crossed.  Read more by clicking here.
  3. ITM announced that 11 trial sites are now open for recruitment to an expansion of PRRT using 177Lu-Edotreotide (Solucin®) – COMPETE Trial.  – Read about it by clicking here.

Blog Site Activity  

Due to the vagaries of Facebook inner workings, some of these articles created or majorly updated in Feb 2018 may not have even shown on your timeline.  So, ICYMI …….here’s a summary with links, includes updated blogs. You can actually sign up to receive my blog articles direct to your inbox when published – subscribe here

The Oncolytic Virus AdVince is removed from the freezer ready for the Neuroendocrine Cancer Trial
 Update – Oncolytic Virus Trials for Neuroendocrine Cancer – it’s gone quite on this trial so this is an update.
 Things to do … sometimes it’s OK to do nothing!
Underactive Thyroids – did you know that Somatostatin Analogues can play a part?
   Enterade Trial – interesting development in the battle against diarrhea
  RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter January 2018 – in case you missed it.
  Major restructure and update to Neuroendocrine Hormones

 

February 2018 topped 21,000 views (short month).  Here are the top 10 most read articles which contributed to Feb’s figures:

Neuroendocrine Cancer Syndromes – Early Signs of a Late Diagnosis More stats 974
Update – Oncolytic Virus Trials for Neuroendocrine Cancer More stats 755
Neuroendocrine Cancer – Hormones More stats 723
Advanced Oncology Formula enterade® – a breakthrough for NET Patients? More stats 689
Background to my Diagnosis and Treatment More stats 629
Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 2 – Gastrointestinal Malabsorption More stats 578
Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor More stats 530
RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter January 2018 More stats 476
I now take food with my medicine! More stats 464
Things to do today More stats 441

 

Other Activity

I’m constantly looking for opportunities to spread awareness and advance the cause of Neuroendocrine Cancer patients.  Thank you all so much for the support in helping me do this.

  • Please join my 2018 awareness campaign event here (select ‘Going’)

  • I continue to receive a steady flow of private contacts, mainly from patients seeking information.  I don’t have an issue with private contact but please note my disclaimer
  • Please also note that due to sheer numbers of requests, I cannot accept telephone or video calls on a one to one basis. Please just message me and I will respond – see “Send Message” button when you CLICK HERE. (also please ‘Like’ this page if you have not already done so). On a personal note, please do not send me friend requests on my personal Facebook page, I get so many and want to keep this little area of ‘sanity’ free of NET stuff.  I have so many other sites you can contact me on – all inside the newsletter.
  • The number of non-patients contacting me for other reasons (mainly to help with something) continues to grow and this is producing some great publicity and awareness.
  • As the number of people contacting me has increased so much, I’ve set up a chat room here (I’m not the only one who can answer questions!).  This is not a forum, it’s a place to make people feel safe and to discuss.  I welcome all types of NET, people from any country and I also welcome carers/caregivers and medical people. It’s also a place where I will bring in expertise to chat about various issues.  The first online chat was held on 28 Feb about the problems NET patients can have with being unable to produce sufficient digestive enzymes and the treatment to correct this issue PERT (Creon etc)  Join the chat group by clicking here (please answer the simple questions so I can process quicker)

New Audiences for NET Cancer

From Day 1, I said it was my aim to find new audiences for NETs rather than just share stuff within our own community. I’m doing this although it may not always be apparent.

  • For example. my story was once again featured on World Cancer Day – click here.  Please join my World Cancer Day calendar event to be reminded each year – click here and select ‘Going’.
  • In Feb, my blog site was recommended to health professionals by Dr Jane Maher who is the Chief Medical Officer for Macmillan Cancer Support, one of the biggest Cancer Support organisations in the world.  This was out of the blue but gratefully accepted!  
  • Article features.
    • Cure Magazine.  I’ve been accepted as a ‘Cure Today’ contributor which means my articles will get a wider distribution than they do now.  Cure Magazine has a readership of 1 million.  Click here to read more. In October, I was featured in Cure Magazine twice.  I have been so busy in 2017 but I have plans to increase my presence there in 2018:
“Cancer isn’t all about me”
“Poker Face or Cancer Card”
  • Twitter. I’m ‘extremely’ active on twitter and I find a lot of research stuff there, in addition to new audiences. I also use it to support other conditions and it’s mostly returned (i.e. others help with NET awareness and are made aware of NETs in the process).  There are people regularly retweeting my stuff who do not have a personal interest in NETs. In the last month, I tweeted 148 times on my personal account which led to over 113,000 views.  I was mentioned 74 times by other tweeters, 2500 people looked at my profile and I gained 32 new followers.  My tweet “Ignore this post” remains the most tweeted article about NETs ever posted on twitter.  Check it out – click here.
  • Daily Newsletter from my twitter feed (Nuzzel).  There is so much on twitter that I could swamp the community Facebook site so I started a twitter newsletter via an app called Nuzzel which seeks out stuff I normally like. This has been a huge success from my point of view resulting in an increase in blog hits and to a wider population than just NETs. Click this link and sign up if you think this is something you’d be interested in receiving – you don’t need to have a twitter account to read, just sign up with an email.
  • WEGO. I continue to be featured by ‘external’ organisations such as WEGO and my PODCAST is reaching new audiences – click here.  The recent awards will continue to showcase my work which has the effect of spreading Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness to NEW audiences in addition to enriching my experience as a Patient Leader.  WEGO is a fantastic organisation!

WEGO Awards

Engagements and Invites

  • Attended a meeting coordinated by NET Patient Foundation about a patient app.  Apparently I’m on the project team – happy to help.
  • I have been invited to join a medical conference in Berlin as a patient advocate.  This is not a NET conference so is very exciting.  I’ve been asked to contribute to doctor-patient communications and the fear factor of living with cancer (in addition to a patient story of course).
  • I’m attending ENETS 2018 in Barcelona.  I’ll be bringing you the latest and relevant news on NETs

Social Media and Stats

Blog Milestone.  At the end of February, I accelerated past 495,000 blog views! Thank you all so much Keep sharing!  On track for half a million by March 9th.

Facebook Milestone.  I have my eyes set on 6000 followers by the end of March, could be sooner with your direct involvement!  The Facebook page is now my biggest outlet for awareness and education so please please please recommend this page to anyone you think would be interested. There are buttons to share the page and invite others to ‘Like’ it.

Also check out my sister Facebook sites here (go to these pages and click on ‘Like’)

These are fallback  sites to counter the Facebook algorithm whereby you may not see all my posts on the main site (click on the links to see the pages)

Ronny Allan’s Community

Neuroendocrine Cancer Awareness and Networking

Instagram

I’m expanding into Instagram to see how that goes. I’ve amassed over 250 followers to date. Initially, I’ll just be posting pictures of things that inspire me, mostly scenic photos of places I’ve been or want to go!  I really enjoy these pictures, I hope you do too. You can follow me here:  Click here to go to my Instagram page

Community Statistics (the measurement of my efforts on your behalf)

Figures

Shame on you! More stats 2,064
Neuroendocrine Cancer – no treats, just tricks More stats 1,488
Lutetium Lu 177 dotatate (Lutathera®) – PRRT More stats 1,226
PRRT – The Sequel? – Targeted Alpha-emitter Therapy (TAT) More stats 1,101
Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – Home Page More stats 1,053
Neuroendocrine Cancer and Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT) –
the Digested Version (Nutrition Series Article 5)
More stats 899
Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – Grade and Stage (incorporating WHO 2017 changes) More stats 855
“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy” More stats 819
Background to my Diagnosis and Treatment More stats 594
Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor More stats 36

Other Activity

An amazing amount of awareness and hopefully, support for others.  However, I cannot do this without you guys liking, commenting and sharing!  The likes give me motivation, the comments and private messages give me inspiration or at least a chance to explain further – and they also keep me humble.  The sharing gives me a bigger platform.  A bigger platform generates more awareness.

Thanks for your great support in February.  Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

Update – Oncolytic Virus Trials for Neuroendocrine Cancer

I’ve posted extensively about Oncolytic virus trials, focused on the ongoing Neuroendocrine Cancer trial in Uppsala Sweden. I wanted to incorporate this information into a single article ready for future news, whilst at the same time updating you on further developments in the field of Oncolytic Viruses for Neuroendocrine Cancer.  The excitement of the Uppsala work has dampened in recent years, not helped by the fact that one of the first patients unfortunately died. In the absence of any news, I suspect there has been no real progress and/or the funding has run out.

What exactly are Oncolytic Viruses?

Oncolytic Viruses infects and breaks down cancer cells but not normal cells. Oncolytic viruses can occur naturally or can be made in the laboratory by changing other viruses. Certain oncolytic viruses are being studied in the treatment of cancer. Some scientists say they are another type of immunotherapy whilst others say it’s too early to classify as such. The good news is that Neuroendocrine Cancer seems to figure in this work with two of these viruses apparently working on mice to date. Listed below are two active projects involving NETs, one directly and one indirectly.

The Uppsala Trial – AdVince

15871660_793548617450098_750736690369970047_n
The Oncolytic Virus AdVince is removed from the freezer ready for the Neuroendocrine Cancer Trial

 

Read here for an update released 7th June 2019.

I’ll briefly describe what’s happening and then you can link to my Facebook article if you need more background.

The trial is called AdVince after Vince Hamilton who funded it. Unfortunately he died before he saw any output but his forward thinking and benevolence lives on and might hopefully help NET patients in the longer term. It’s quite a small trial and is being conducted in Uppsala University Sweden, a famous European NET Centre of Excellence and where many people from across the world attend to take advantage of PRRT availability and experience and is home to famous NET specialist Kjell Öberg, MD, PhD, a professor of endocrine oncology.

A Swedish man (Jan-Erik Jannsson) was the first to get the virus to their cancer (NETs) using a genetically modified virus.

Unfortunately, I was given the news from a source close to the trial that Jan died last year of pneumonia.  I have no evidence to suggest his death is in anyway connected to the trial but I’m told he was an ill man prior to the trial commencing.  I have therefore dedicated this post to him.  RIP Jan.

Jan

The initial data presented by the trial indicated that AdVince can be safely evaluated in a phase I/IIa clinical trial for patients with liver-dominant NET.  The last I heard from the trial is that they are trying to recruit a further 12 patients to Phase IIa (the trial document allows for up to 36). 

Read more background on my Facebook post here: Click here

The trial document on Clinical Trials Website: Click here

Then read this status update from the trial sponsors released in March 2018

Pexa-Vec Oncolytic Virus Trials

This is an oncolytic viral therapy currently in phase III and phase Ib/II clinical trials for use against primary liver (Hepatocellular Carcinoma) and Colorectal cancers, respectively. Pexa-Vec is a weakened (or attenuated) virus that is based on a vaccine used in the eradication of smallpox. The modified virus is injected directly into the cancer tumour, to grow inside these rapidly growing cancer cells and hopefully kill them.

According to the Colorectal Clinical Trial, the aim of the study is to evaluate whether the anti-tumor immunity induced by Pexa-Vec oncolytic viral therapy can be enhanced by immune checkpoint inhibition i.e. they are testing it in conjunction with Immunotherapy drugs (in the case of Colorectal, Durvalumab, and a combination of Durvalumab and Tremelimumab).

The Hepatocellular Carcinoma trial (Phocus) is at Phase III where the sponsors are evaluating Pexa-Vec to determine if it can slow the progression of advanced liver cancer and improve quality of life. I can other trials appearing such as this one for Colorectal Cancer and this one for any solid tumour type.

The work is a collaboration forged between University of California San Francisco (UCSF) vascular researcher Donald McDonald, MD, PhD, and researchers at San Francisco-based biotech SillaJen Biotherapeutics Inc. (formerly Jennerex Biotherapeutics, Inc.), a subsidiary of SillaJen, Inc., headquartered in Korea.

Check out this page:  click here

A tumor with green patches of vaccinia virus infection surrounded by red blood vessels. Image by Donald McDonald Lab

So what’s the Neuroendocrine Connection with Pexa-Vec?

As part of the research, McDonald’s lab injected it intravenously into mice genetically modified to develop pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. They found that the virus failed to infect healthy organs or make the animals ill, but succeeded in infecting blood vessels within tumors. These initial infections caused the vessels to leak and expose the tumor cells to the virus. In these experiments, the virus managed to infect and destroy only a small proportion of tumor cells directly, the researchers found, but within five days of the initial infection, the rest of the tumor began to be killed by a powerful immune reaction.  Live human trials have commenced in 2018 and the “patient 1” is a pancreatic NET patient.  Read more here.   Interestingly they added Keytruda (an immunotherapy) to the mix.  It’s only been four months since ‘Patient 1’ (Tamara) began the trial, but a mid-treatment CT scan was said to be “promising”.  I will keep this article live and bring you updates as I receive them.

Summary

Clearly it’s still early days in the Oncolytic Virus field with minimum breakthrough in terms of success on humans. In terms of the Neuroendocrine connection, it is exciting that two programmes are showing results (albeit in mice). We wait to hear from Uppsala on how the human test of AdVince is coming along. My agents are scanning the internet every day looking for any comment.

If you want to learn more about Oncolytic Viruses in general – there’s a great summary here.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

patients included
This is a Patients Included Site

PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST – YOU MAY SAVE SOMEONE’S LIFE

 

Neuroendocrine Cancer Clinical Trial: Advanced Oncology Formula enterade®

Mechanism-of-Action-enterade-video-copy

Diarrhea is a huge subject for NET patients, whether it’s caused by the tumor itself (i.e. a syndrome), due to treatment, knock on effects of treatment, or some other reason, it can dramatically limit qualify of life.  Working out the root cause can be problematic even for medical teams. I wrote about these issues before in my article Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw. So when I saw the data from a trial of something called enterade®, I was immediately drawn to investigate.  I don’t normally write articles on over the counter commercial products but this one is an exception given that it has been classed as a medical food since 2012 and is also used to rehydrate patients undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy for cancer (so not just for NETs).

What is enterade® ?

It’s a drink currently produced in 8oz bottles.  It’s a first-in-class, glucose-free medical food i.e. it is intended to be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider.  The solution comprises five critical amino acids – Valine, Aspartic Acid, Serine, Threonine, Tyrosine and electrolytes – potassium and sodium.

What does it do?

It’s designed to help manage debilitating gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. With no sugar to exacerbate the GI tract, enterade® supports the small bowel’s ability to absorb fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes and leads to improved digestive function. By helping to restore normal GI function, enterade® reduces diarrhea and dehydration, leading to a significant improvement in the patient’s overall quality of life and a healthier GI tract.

Is there evidence that it works?

Since May 2017, it’s been trialled by University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center (MCC) for potential use by NET patients – trial coordinators include the well-known NET specialist Dr Lowell Anthony.  The results so far are very interesting.  The recent  conference reported revised data as follows:

  • 33 of 41 patients (80%) reported subjective improvement in diarrheal symptoms.
  • 51% (21/41) reported more than 50% reduction in diarrhea frequency.
  • click here or on the poster below to see the trial poster data output.
asco poster enterade as a graphic
click to read full screen

As you will see from the poster, there were a wide range of patient types including (but not limited to) small intestinal NETs, bronchial NETs, NETs of unknown primary, gastric NETS, pancreatic NETs and one high grade neuroendocrine carcinoma of the prostate.

A follow on Phase 2 trial is now recruiting  with the following detail available:

1. Up to 30 patients will be recruited.

2. The trial is coordinated by Markey Cancer Centre, Kentucky.

3.  There will be two cohorts, those with carcinoid syndrome and those without.

4.  The trial will run from December 2018 to August 2020.

  • Click here to see the trial information – important to note the inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  • Read the trial start announcement by clicking here.
  • Please also note there’s a plan for a follow on trial covering more locations.  I will update further when known.

Can I buy Enterade now?  

The product is available in North America on Amazon.com,  www.enterade.com and 1-855-enterade.  However, the parent company (Entrinsic Health) recently announced a partnership with global company  Nestlé Health Science to provides worldwide commercial license and supply agreement for enterade®. The announcement is linked here:

NORWOOD, Mass., November 15, 2018 – Entrinsic Health Solutions (EHS), an innovative health sciences company, today announced that they have entered into a partnership with Nestlé Health Science (NHSc), a global innovative leader pioneering premium-quality, science-based nutritional health solutions. The partnership gives NHSc the exclusive rights to market EHS’s enterade® product.

Disclaimer

Please note this is not a recommendation to go out and buy the product.  It is actually described as a ‘medical food’ and is formulated to be consumed or administered under the supervision of a physician.

Further reading:

1. Enterade FAQ – click here

2. A breakthrough for NET Patients. click here.

3. Recent output from ASCO 2018 – click here. (contact data update for 2018)

4. If you are interested in more information about how enterade® works, check out this short video

Disclaimer

Please note this is not a recommendation to go out and buy the product.  It is actually described as a ‘medical food’ and is formulated to be consumed or administered under the supervision of a physician.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. Help me build up my new site here – click here and ‘Like’

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Check out my Podcast Interview (click and press play)

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!


wego-blog-2018-winner

patients included

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST

 

RonnyAllan.NET – Community Newsletter January 2018

A great start to the year in both NETs in the news and my social media activity.  Of course the headline is the US FDA approval of Lutathera (Lu-177) – i.e. PRRT

I caught this news in my social media NET

  1. FDA finally approves PRRT in USA. Long awaited and has caused much excitement on all forms of social media. I’m very pleased for my USA friends but we mustn’t forget it’s also required in so many other places.  Help me populate locations in my live article on  PRRT click here.
  2. NET Epidemiology continues to be discussed and (yet) another well known NET expert confirms my 2 year old article saying that the  disease can no longer be considered rare. I suspect more dominoes will follow. Click here for the evidence.
  3. MIDATECH Pharma announced intention to carry out human trials of Q-Octreotide – check out my article covering this potential new drug.  Click here

Blog Site Activity  

Due to the vagaries of Facebook inner workings, some of these articles created or majorly updated in Jan 2018 may not have even shown on your timeline.  So, ICYMI …….here’s a summary with links, includes updated blogs. You can actually sign up to receive my blog articles direct to your inbox when published – subscribe here.

  I now take food with my medicine!  A light-hearted discussion about taking pills/capsules as a NET patient
  Shame on you! An invisible illness article based on a true story.  Some people can be cruel.
  PERT (Creon etc).  Who needs it and why.
PRRT – The Sequel? – Targeted Alpha-emitter Therapy (TAT)  The future of PRRT type treatment?
  My December 2017 Newsletter in case you missed it.

January 2018 was a record breaking month since blog inception.  Here are the top 10 most read articles which contributed to Jan’s figures:

Shame on you! More stats 2,064
Neuroendocrine Cancer – no treats, just tricks More stats 1,488
Lutetium Lu 177 dotatate (Lutathera®) – PRRT More stats 1,226
PRRT – The Sequel? – Targeted Alpha-emitter Therapy (TAT) More stats 1,101
Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – Home Page More stats 1,053
Neuroendocrine Cancer and Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT) –
the Digested Version (Nutrition Series Article 5)
More stats 899
Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – Grade and Stage (incorporating WHO 2017 changes) More stats 855
“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy” More stats 819
Background to my Diagnosis and Treatment More stats 594
Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor More stats 36

Other Activity

I’m constantly looking for opportunities to spread awareness and advance the cause of Neuroendocrine Cancer patients.  Thank you all so much for the support in helping me do this.

  • Please join my 2018 awareness campaign event here (select ‘Going’)

  • I continue to receive a steady flow of private contacts, mainly from patients seeking information.  I don’t have an issue with private contact but please note my disclaimer
  • Please also note that due to sheer numbers of requests, I cannot accept telephone or video calls on a one to one basis. Please just message me and I will respond – see “Send Message” button when you CLICK HERE. (also please ‘Like’ this page if you have not already done so).
  • The number of non-patients contacting me for other reasons (mainly to help with something) continues to grow and this is producing some great publicity and awareness.
  • As the number of people contacting me has increased so much, I’ve set up a chat room here (I’m not the only one who can answer questions!).  This is not a forum, it’s a place to make people feel safe and to discuss.  I welcome all types of NET, people from any country and I also welcome carers/caregivers and medical people. It’s also a place where I will bring in expertise to chat about various issues.  The first online chat will be about PERT (Creon etc) – date to be confirmed by probably around end of Feb).  Join by clicking here (please answer the 3 simple questions)

New Audiences for NET Cancer

From Day 1, I said it was my aim to find new audiences for NETs rather than just share stuff within our own community. I’m doing this although it may not always be apparent.  For example. my story is featured on World Cancer Day – click here.  Please join my World Cancer Day calendar event to be reminded each year – click here and select ‘Going’.

  • Article features.
    • Cure Magazine.  I’ve been accepted as a ‘Cure Today’ contributor which means my articles will get a wider distribution than they do now.  Cure Magazine has a readership of 1 million.  Click here to read more. In October, I was featured in Cure Magazine twice.  I have been so busy in 2017 but I have plans to increase my presence there in 2018: