Neuroendocrine Cancer is not a ‘type’ of another Cancer ….. PERIOD!


Now the dust has settled on the death and funeral of Neuroendocrine Cancer patient Aretha Franklin, the community needs to review the strategy for how we explain the nomenclature of Neuroendocrine Cancer to outsiders including the media, and including doctors.

About 95% of the articles I read about Aretha Franklin stated she had Pancreatic Cancer. Only a few quoted her physician who clumsily said “Pancreatic Cancer of the Neuroendocrine Type”. Her death certificate quoted “Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer”. Despite this, the media outlet which published her death certificate still led the article with the headline “Pancreatic Cancer”. Exactly the same thing happened with Steve Jobs and a few others. And that’s only the ones we know about – how many other pe0ple are being labelled and documented with the wrong cancer type?

I cannot read the minds of the healthcare professionals and media when they compile their press releases and articles but I’m fairly certain they simply do not understand that Neuroendocrine Cancer is a cancer within its own right and is not a type of another cancer. They simply do not understand the term ‘Neuroendocrine’ and they think the readership won’t either, and so it’s probably easer just to leave that bit out. The result is that a person has, or dies with, is labelled with the wrong cancer type, which is then published and embedded into the annals of the internet and spreads like wildfire (fake news), and Neuroendocrine Cancer is once again robbed of much needed awareness. Our community needs to start focusing more on these types of awareness issues rather than continually flaunting pictures of black and white striped animals.

I’m even starting to think that the well known term used in Neuroendocrine Cancer circles, ‘Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor’ or pNET for short, is actually working against us because of the inclusion of the organ as the first word of the term. Going forward, I will be using Neuroendocrine Cancer with a pancreatic primary, etc.

Neuroendocrine Cancer is NOT a type of another cancer PERIOD!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Neuroendocrine Cancer – let’s raise our ‘sites’

lets raise our sites

Almost every day I see something in my news feed about Neuroendocrine Cancer …. an article, a tweet, a blog post, a subscription, an alert of some kind.  Certain ones catch my eye and then something in the detail leads me to disappointment at the realisation I’d not be able to share the information because of a major flaw.  A common flaw is the failure to recognise that Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (Carcinomas and Tumors) can be found in numerous SITES in the human anatomy.  The latest article I read about Steve Jobs was a good read until I noticed it was actually about Pancreatic Cancer and inferred that a pancreatic NET was a subtype of Pancreatic Cancer.  I spend a lot of time supporting Pancreatic Cancer because they really need the support, but we do too. The latest celebrity death, Aretha Franklin, has not helped Neuroendocrine Cancer in an awareness sense.  There are huge differences between Pancreatic Cancer and Neuroendocrine Cancer with a pancreatic primary – click here to read more.

pancreatic vs neuroendocrine

Of course, there is a trend with famous NET patients being labelled with something else and I outlined this issue in my post “The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer” which already has over 25,000 hits. We need to keep clawing back some of that lost awareness. And we need to continue to emphasise that Neuroendocrine Cancer is NOT a type of another cancer PERIOD.  Click here and share please!

I once told a story in a post called Neuroendocrine – what’s that?“, about my own experience in communicating the details of my condition.  To cut a long story short, as soon as I mention my primary SITE was in the ‘intestine’, people assume I have some kind of bowel cancer. Cue – a careful explanation which doubles up as awareness.

Our situation is not helped by many ‘big hitter’ cancer organisations, who mostly tend to list cancers by anatomical SITE, nearly always in alphabetical order.  Many of them then add Neuroendocrine Tumors of the Pancreas, Lung, Appendix, to the description for Pancreatic, Lung and Appendiceal Cancer sections respectively, i.e. inferring that they are subtypes of those cancers.  I get the reason for the anatomical listing but system wide cancers also need be included, i.e. Neuroendocrine disease should be listed as an entity under N. Which bit of “Neuroendocrine tumors can occur anywhere in the body” is not understood! It is a cancer in its own right, with its own medical coding, its own classification system, its own specialists and specialist centres.  It’s not a type of another cancer!

A Neuroendocrine Tumour is NOT

The misnomer term ‘Carcinoid’ is often listed under ‘C‘ and that is part of the image and awareness problem that results when the correct nomenclature is not used, or, as is the case with many organisations, their sites are not kept up to date.

Another interesting feature of certain types of Neuroendocrine Cancer is multiple primaries.  It’s not uncommon to have multiple primary tumours but they do tend to be in the same organ or site.  However, certain uncommon types of Neuroendocrine Cancer such as Pheochromoctyomas/Paragangliomas (including hereditary versions) there can multiple primaries at different sites. Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) are a group of disorders (hereditary syndromes) that affect the endocrine system. The disease typically involves Neuroendocrine Tumors in multiple endocrine glands and may cause the glands to become overactive and overproduce hormones.

I once wrote a blog using a title inspired by a patient comment – “The little suckers get everywhere”.  This was an early attempt by me to define all the locations I had gathered in from patient comments on my Facebook site.  Did I miss any?  Please let me know!

Clearly we need to ‘raise our sites’ and shout louder!  My name is Ronny Allan and I have a Neuroendocrine Cancer with a Small Intestinal Primary. I do not have Bowel Cancer!

You may also be interested in the following posts:

The little suckers get everywhere

The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Pancreatic Cancer vs Neuroendocrine Tumours of the Pancreas

Thanks for listening

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 Tumor Drug Clinical Trial – Cabozantinib (includes news on Pheochromoctyoma and Paraganglioma)

What is Cabozantinib?

Cabozantinib is an oral drug which works by blocking the growth of new blood vessels that feed a tumour. In addition to blocking the formation of new blood cells in tumours, Cabozantinib also blocks pathways that may be responsible for allowing cancers cells to become resistant to other “anti-angiogenic” drugs. It is a type of drug called a growth blocker.  Cabozantinib has been studied or is already in research studies as a possible treatment for various types of cancer, including prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, brain cancer, thyroid cancer, lung cancer, and kidney cancer. During my research, I found that it has a connection to Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC) which is a type of Neuroendocrine Cancer, frequently associated with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN).  Cabozantinib, under the brand name of ‘Cometriq’ was approved by the FDA in 2012 for use in MTC.  Read more about Cometriq here.  It’s also been approved by the FDA for advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) (branded as Cabometyx). I also discovered that there is an exclusive licensing Agreement with the manufacturers (Elelixis) and Ipsen (of Lanreotide fame) to commercialize and develop Cabozantinib in regions outside the United States, Canada and Japan

Growth blockers are a type of biological therapy and include tyrosine kinase inhibitors, proteasome inhibitors, mTOR inhibitors, PI3K inhibitors, histone deacetylase inhibitors and hedgehog pathway blockers.  Cabozantinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).  They block chemical messengers (enzymes) called tyrosine kinases.  Tyrosine kinases help to send growth signals in cells so blocking them stop the cell growing and dividing.  Some TKIs can block more than one tyrosine kinase and these are known as multi-TKIs.

cabozantinib-picture
Example action of Cabozantinib

So Capozantinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and is therefore a biological therapy and growth blocker just like Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent) – some texts describe thelattero two as chemotherapy but this is just not accurate.

Very technical process but in the simplest of terms, Cabozantinib is designed to disrupt the actions of VEGF (a growth factor) and MET (a growth factor receptor) which promote spread of cancerous cells through the growth of new blood vessels.  Whilst we are on this subject, please note Everolimus (Afinitor) is an mTOR inhibitor and Sunitinib (Sutent) is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Many people think these drugs are a type of chemo – that is incorrect, these are targeted biological therapies.  See more on this by clicking here.

What is the current trial status of Capozantinib?

A Phase III trial is now recruiting entitled Cabozantinib S-malate in Treating Patients With Neuroendocrine Tumors Previously Treated With Everolimus That Are Locally Advanced, Metastatic, or Cannot Be Removed by Surgery”. 

The trial has 172 locations across the US (see link below). The primary study (final data) is scheduled Jan 1st 2021.

You can read the trial documentation by clicking here.

Progress report

  1. Poster submission for 2017 Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium
  2. Onc Live output from the 2017 Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium
  3. Output from NANETS 2017
  4. A funded piece of research by the NET Research Foundation – check it out herelooks like they are trying to figure out what patients might benefit from Cabozantinib using biomarker data to predict response.
  5. Dr Jennifer Chan speaking in 2018 about the drug potential.  (Apologies for the use of the out of date term ‘Carcinoid‘).
  6. Phase 3 Clinical Trial Document – click here

————————-

UPDATED 2018 – There’s also another trial looking at unresectable metastatic Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas

A Phase 2 Study to Evaluate the Effects of Cabozantinib in Patients with Unresectable Metastatic Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas 

This part is from an article collaboration between MedPage Today® and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

BOSTON — Cabozantinib (Cabometyx) may benefit patients with malignant pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas, according to results of a phase II trial presented here.

Patients receiving cabozantinib (Cometriq) treatment experienced notable tumor shrinkage in the lymph nodes, liver, and lung metastases, according to Camilo Jimenez, MD, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues.

Additionally, progression-free survival significantly increased after treated to 12.1 months (range 0.9-28) compared with just 3.2 months prior to treatment, they reported at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) annual meeting.

Cabozantinib treatment was also tied to an improvement in blood pressure and performance status, as well as remission of diabetes among these patients.

“Malignant pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas are frequently characterized by an excessive secretion of catecholamines. [Patients] have a large tumor burden and they have a decreased overall survival,” explained Jimenez. “Tumors are frequently very vascular and frequently associated with bone metastases. In fact, up to 20% of patients who have malignancy of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas may have predominant bone metastases.”

He added that “an interesting aspect of this tumor is that C-MET receptor mutation have been found in occasional patients with malignant pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.”

Cabozantinib is an anti-angiogenic tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which also targets RET, MET, and AXL. It is approved for metastatic medullary thyroid cancer, and was more recently approved for first-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma.

“MET pathway is also involved in the development of bone metastases. In fact, cabozantinib is a very effective medications for patients who have bone metastases in the context of cancer of different origins,” Jimenez said.

In order to be eligible for the trial, patients with confirmed pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma had to be ineligible for curative surgery, have ≥3 months life expectancy, no risk for perforation or fistula, and adequate organ functioning. Prior to cabozantinib initiation, patients could not receive chemotherapy or biologic agents within 6 weeks, radiation within 4 weeks, or MIBG within 6 months.

Following histological confirmation of disease progression >1 year according to RECIST 1.1, the trial included 14 patients with measurable disease and eight patients with predominant/exclusive bone metastases. Fifteen patients subsequently enrolled into the trial, six of whom had germline mutations of the SDHB gene.

All participants were all started at an initial daily dose of 60 mg of cabozantinib, which was subsequently reduced down to between 40 to 20 mg due to toxicity in 13 patients based on tolerance.

The majority of these patients with measurable disease experienced some level of disease response. Six patients reported a partial response, defined as over a 30% reduction, while three patients achieved moderate response, marked by a 15%-30% reduction. Five of the patients with predominant bone metastases reported disease stabilization, according to results of an FDG-PET scan. One patient experienced disease progression while on treatment.

Overall, cabozantinib was generally well-tolerated without any grade 4 or 5 treatment-related adverse events reported. Some of the most common adverse events reported included grade mild dysgeusia, hand and foot syndrome, mucositis, fatigue, weight loss, and hypertension, according to the authors.

  • Primary Source – American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists meeting – AACE 2018; Abstract 142. attended my Medscape writers

You can see the Pheo/Para clinical trial document by clicking here.

————————————–

Summary

I generated this blog article to add value rather than just post the outputs for your own perusal.  I hope you find it useful.

Please note that taking part in a clinical trial is a big decision and must be considered carefully in conjunction with your specialists if necessary.  This article is not suggesting this trial is right for you.  Please check the inclusion and exclusion criteria in the trials document carefully. (Pheo/Para patients see other clinical trial link above)

Intra-Operative RadioTheraphy (IORT) for Neuroendocrine Cancer – new landmark treatment launch

PLANETS IORT LAUNCH INVITATION May 2016
IORT

New treatments seem to be appearing every month and that is good news for patients.  I have a personal connection to this one though.  In 2014, Chris and I walked along Hadrian’s Wall, a 2,000-year-old World Heritage structure in Northern England.  This was part therapy for me but also part fund-raising to help pay for this new treatment which launches today in Southampton General Hospital (UK) which was recently awarded the coveted title of European NET Centre of Excellence (along with Bournemouth and Portsmouth Hospitals).  It is the first ever deployment of this type of treatment in UK and Chris and I were happy to shred the soles of our feet to support this worthy cause, particularly when the two guys behind the idea were my surgeon (Mr Neil Pearce) and my Interventional Radiologist (Dr Brian Stedman). Both of these brilliant and skilled people ‘worked on me’ for 12 months in 2010/2011 and I live to tell you this tale!  Shortly after my surgery, they decided to set up PLANETS to focus on providing additional support for Neuroendocrine Cancer and other types such as Pancreatic and Liver in which they specialised.

Mr Neil Pearce (L), Ronny Allan (C), DSr Brian Stedman (R)
Mr Neil Pearce (L), Ronny Allan (C), Dr Brian Stedman (R)

Intra-Operative Radiotherapy (IORT) provided by Mobetron is a bit of a game changer for advanced cancers which are hard to treat and remove. This development is said to be at the cutting edge of modern radiation oncology. Despite the heading, this treatment can be used for many cancers including Neuroendocrine, Pancreatic, Colorectal and Bladder.  It is a mobile version and can be moved to different operating theatres.  There are plans to eventually extend the portfolio to include Head and Neck, Oesophageal, Lung, Breast and Cervical cancers.  The technology can also be used on Brain tumours but there are currently no plans to offer this service.

The radiotherapy is applied during surgery which means the treatment can be delivered more directly without causing damage to surrounding tissue and organs.  It’s worth adding at this stage that this type of radiotherapy is not the same as PRRT.  Moreover, it is not designed to replace PRRT which remains an option for patients downstream if they still need it (in addition to other treatments such as Sirtex, liver emobolisatons).  Clearly dosage calculations would be required for cumulative radiation exposure over short timescales.  Worth noting that PRRT currently remains denied to patients in England.

The type of radiotherapy is more similar to conventional external beam systems and the key advantage is that it can be used for areas where tumours have just been removed or part removed or in locations which have a tendency to recur; and for inoperable tumours such as those surrounding vital structures.  Examples include: bulky pancreatic tumours, inoperable mesenteric root lymph node deposits, difficult pelvic tumours, metastases around the bladder, rectum or uterus and ovaries.  It follows that in addition to treating certain tumours earlier than would normally be possible, IORT may preclude the need for further treatment or at least extend the period post surgery where further treatment would be required.

Clearly there is a lot of excitement surrounding this first ever deployment of IORT which has raised the profile of Neuroendocrine Tumours in the UK national press – check out this article in the Daily Mail by clicking here. There is a useful animated video to watch by clicking here.

The official launch happened on Mon 13 Jun 2016 and Chris and I were very proud to attend.

Thanks for reading

Ronny Allan

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Innovation at Royal Free – Lung Biopsy and Radio Frequency Ablation Service

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Image with permission from Dr Sam Hare (www.lungdiagnosis.com)

A team of radiologists and respiratory consultants who introduced a new and more efficient lung biopsy method at Barnet Hospital London, has been named the winner of the NHS Innovation Challenge Prize in the ‘cancer care’ category.  Barnet Hospital is run by the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust which is well known for its Neuroendocrine Cancer Centre of Excellence.

Not happy with this, they’ve now gone on to introduce a new service combining this innovative biopsy system with Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) of tumours in the same procedure.

Combined Biopsy with Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA)

This new service has significant advantages for those who have localised tumours less than 3cm and can’t for whatever reason have surgery.  I’ve checked with Dr Hare and he confirms this includes Neuroendocrine Tumours of the Lung. There are a number of advantages for having this procedure:

1. Biopsy and RFA at same time to prevent patient having to have 2 procedures.  Those who meet this criteria with an existing biopsy can go straight to RFA.

2. It’s a low risk, minimally invasive procedure.

3. As its under mild sedation rather than General Anaesthetic (GA)  – patients go home later the same day – makes recovery time so much quicker.

4. RFAs can be repeated as many times as you want if tumour ever grows.

5. Lungs are preserved.

It’s also worth noting that RFA as a standalone treatment can be used on lung metastases. You can read more about this new service here.

Award winning ambulatory lung biopsy service

The team’s innovative ambulatory lung biopsy service enables the vast majority of patients to be discharged just 30 minutes after their biopsy. Dr Hare is a pioneer in UK lung biopsy technique and has improved patient experience using a shorter, less painful biopsy process with a higher diagnostic accuracy and less time spent in hospital. Dr Hare specialises in image-guided lung biopsy techniques having gained expertise in the procedure working in North America.  Dr Hare’s innovative use of a Heimlich Valve Chest Drain (HVCD) allows more successful biopsy of small lung nodules which can potentially lead to earlier cancer diagnosis.

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Heimlich Valve Chest Drain (HVCD) (permission from Dr Hare (www.lungdiagnosis.com)

I spoke to Dr Hare via twitter and he confirmed this novel service is for any tumour in the lung (primary or metastasis) and he indicated they were “finding more and more are coming back as Neuroendocrine Tumours”.

You can read more about Dr Hare and his work here (www.lungdiagnosis) and this video explains it in excellent detail including the difference between conventional methods and this new ‘award winning’ way!  Read more about the award on the Royal Free site here.

Congratulations to Dr Hare and the rest of the team for winning this award!

Thanks for reading

Ronny Allan

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Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

haed-with-question-marks-300x242.jpg
You have what?

I once met some fellow cancer advocates and the conversation turned to what inspired us to ‘do what we do’. When it came to my turn as the only Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, I was already prepared to regurgitate my usual ‘spiel’. As sometimes happens, a listener queried me with the words “Neuroendocrine – what’s that?“.  Another focused on ‘Neuro‘ enquiring whether my nervous system or my brain had somehow become cancerous. Deja vu – here we go again!

Two days later, I was speaking to one of my online friends who was having similar problems explaining this cancer to family and friends. Again ‘Neuro‘ was proving difficult with the assumption that it’s somehow related to the brain. Technically not far from the truth but context is really important given that most people look at cancer in anatomical terms. As we know this can often lead to incorrect headlines for famous cancer patients.

I’ve struggled since 2010 to explain this disease in layperson terms. It’s actually one of the reasons for my ‘study’ and my blog.  It’s getting easier, particularly when answering questions. However, if Neuroendocrine Cancer knowledge was an iceberg, I’d still be at the tip!  I did write a post entitled Horrible Hormones which supports an explanation. You might like to read it – perhaps helpful to aid your overall understanding of this post.

The other difficult aspect of explaining Neuroendocrine Cancer is the extent of the Anatomy and Physiology of the Neuroendocrine system which appears in numerous parts of the body. I’ve written about this before at a time when I was fed up with newspaper reports and on-line articles implying that Neuroendocrine Cancer didn’t exist – e.g. by frequently describing Neuroendocrine Tumours of the Pancreas as Pancreatic Cancer and Neuroendocrine Tumours of the Lung as Lung Cancer. During some of my own verbal discussions, mention of the small intestine was frequently met with so you have Bowel Cancer. NO I DON’T!  Good time to refresh yourself with my article The Human Anatomy of NET Cancer. This thinking needs to be challenged at every opportunity including while explaining to family and friends.

I’ve therefore decided to attempt a short, generic but still sufficiently detailed explanation of the word ‘Neuroendocrine‘ in relation to my Cancer. I suspect by the end of this article, it will not be as short as I had wished. I do like a challenge 🙂  Here goes:

The neuroendocrine system is made up of a network of cells that are distributed throughout the body. The word neuroendocrine refers to 2 qualities of these cells: they have a similar structure to nerve cells (neurons) and produce hormones like endocrine cells. Neuroendocrine cells release hormones into the bloodstream in response to chemical signals from other cells or messages from the nervous system. Basically hormones travel in the bloodstream and makes things happen in another part of the body.

These neuroendocrine cells are scattered throughout the body performing different roles based on location, e.g. Neuroendocrine cells in the digestive system regulate intestinal movements and the release of digestive enzymes

When Neuroendocrine tumours develop in these cells, they can not only then spread to other locations but they can also secrete excess amounts of hormones and substances which can cause an adverse effect on the body’s natural rhythm. A collection of these symptoms is known as a syndrome. There are several different syndromes depending on the location and type of Neuroendocrine Tumour.

The presence of the syndrome nearly always indicates the tumours are functional. Sometimes tumours are non-functional (i.e. they do not overly secrete excess hormones or cause symptoms), these non-functional types can be even more difficult to diagnose.

Most Neuroendocrine Tumours are slow-growing and therefore offer good outlook if identified as early as possible and treated. Even for metastatic patients, the outlook is relatively good with the right treatment and surveillance.  Some are more aggressive behaving like adenocarcinomas and need a different approach to treatment. 

_________________________

I found it very difficult to write a short and generic explanation of the word ‘Neuroendocrine‘ in relation to cancer – no wonder I seem to spend 10 minutes verbally explaining to people and…… no wonder they sometimes look at me with glazed eyes 🙂 However, this is my offer. This is as brief as I can make it to provide understanding. I’ve cut out more than I’ve left behind and feel like I’m short-changing you! However, it needs to be basic and it needs to be short.

Explanations which comprise lists of complex and unpronounceable words each with their own constraints and variable meanings leads to chaos and people switching off. I could have just referred to one of the excellent publications on the web but this isn’t really practical when in an impromptu conversation with wide-eyed listeners. That said, I believe the combination of this post and (if you see light-bulbs) the other 2 linked posts within, is a good way to answer the question if someone is willing to listen (and read a short reference).  You may therefore need to follow-up the ‘verbal’ with the ‘written’.

To summarise, I intentionally made this explanation as generic as possible. Trying to explain every single type of Neuroendocrine Cancer will confuse and tire the best listener. If I was using this today, I would add my own additional comment about where my tumours were found and what treatment I’ve had – this I can do without a script! However, if you think this explanation is of use when verbally explaining Neuroendocrine in relation to your cancer, please feel free to share my blog post to aid understanding.

Neuroendocrine – what’s that?  I didn’t have a clue …… until I was diagnosed with it!

p.s. Neuroendocrine Cancer is not a ‘type’ of another cancer!

p.s. the little suckers get everywhere!

p.p.s. the anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer is a key awareness message – so Lets keep raising our ‘sites’ !

 

Ronny

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patients included

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Turning a negative into a postive

Lung Cancer Breathalyser
Lung Cancer Breathalyser

Interesting piece in the news today and there’s an amazing story behind it.  The “Lung Cancer Breathalyser” is not a new technology but following the death of his wife from advanced colon cancer, inventor Billy Boyle has produced something good enough to have been accepted on a trial basis by the NHS. If successful, it has the potential to save thousands of lives. Lung Cancer is a big killer and the survival rate at Stage 4 is around 5%. Let’s hope this invention works.

When I was reading the article, I immediately recognised his wife as a blogger I was following and who died on Christmas day after fighting advanced colon cancer for 2 years.  Her final and penultimate blogs are very inspiring and worth reading. Her final post was written by her mother (excuse the swear word on the blog graphic) and the penultimate was published in the Times and went fairly viral on twitter. Her blog site is here (click)

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Ronny

The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

OPINION.  Sometimes when I’m searching for cancer information, I’m presented with a ‘pick-list’ of types which mostly tend to be anatomy based.  I do find it annoying when I cannot find my own cancer on the list …..some respectable organisations are just not as up to date as they should be!  I can now totally understand why so many Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients have become their own advocates and why they have to shout quite loud for recognition and understanding.

One of the key facets of NETs is that it is not tied to a particular part of the human anatomy. Unlike (say) lung cancer, where the primary is in the lung, or breast cancer where the primary can be found in the breast, neuroendocrine tumours arise from a cell type which can be present more or less anywhere in the body.  Ignorance of this fact can at best lead to misinformation and confusion about Neuroendocrine Cancer – at worst, misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment for something else (including a different type of cancer in the same location – see below for an example). Take my own diagnosis phase. When I look at the radiology reports produced prior to diagnosis, there were mentions of ‘peri-aortic lymphadenopathy’, ‘mass in the small bowel mesentery’, ‘multiple liver lesions’, ‘retro-peritoneal fibrosis’, ‘extensive lymphadenopathy consistent with lymphoma or metastatic adenocarcinoma’. You can see from the mostly generalised wording, there was some scope for confusion given that 3 potential cancers were mentioned in one paragraph.  However the biopsy confirmed NETs.  That is what is now documented, that is what I tell people I have and that is what I’m treated for.

The point I’m making here is that certain cancers can appear almost anywhere in the bodyNeuroendocrine Cancer is one of those. For example, a Neuroendocrine Tumour which originates in the intestines isn’t Bowel or Colon cancer. Similarly one which originates in the (say) Pancreas or Lung should not be confused with ‘core’ Pancreatic or Lung cancers. These are all histopathologically different cancers to NETs, they arise from different cells and the presentation, testing, treatment (curative or palliative) and prognosis can be very different.  At worst, the wrong treatment will shorten the patients life.  This is another key point as Neuroendocrine Cancers really need NET specialist medical teams (although there are certain types which I suspect on occasion may require external experts in conjunction with NET specialists).

A Neuroendocrine Tumour is NOT

Take the quite recent case in the news about Wilko Johnson, a well known R&B musician who was told he had Pancreatic Cancer and would die within 10 months.  But a friend (a doctor) became curious as to why he wasn’t dead after 10 months and why he wasn’t even feeling ill!  It was then discovered he had a NET, i.e. he had a Neuroendocrine rather than exocrine based cancer of the pancreas. So he went from dying to living (albeit living with the consequences of the cancer). Of course the newspapers even today continue to report he has “Pancreatic Cancer”.  Read his amazing story by clicking here.

And then there is the famous Nick Robinson BBC political reporter who is frequently reported to have “Lung Cancer” when in actual fact he has Neuroendocrine Cancer with a Lung primary.  Read his story by clicking here.

Dave Thomas the founder of Wendy’s Hamburger Chain had a Neuroendocrine Tumour but many newspaper reports said he died of liver cancer. Whilst they got the detail of the cancer correct, the ‘headline’ location is technically wrong as the liver was a metastasis (a secondary location). This robs us of vital awareness messages due to the ‘headline reading only population’.

They are not alone, the most famous NET patient is the late Steve Jobs (the founder of Apple).  To this day, it is frequently reported he had “Pancreatic Cancer” when in fact he had a Neuroendocrine Cancer with a primary in the Pancreas.  I see this error repeated weekly in my news alerts plus with many other diagnosed patients.  Read a very details Steve Jobs story by clicking here.

However, on 16th August 2018, some might say a person more famous than Jobs was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumors (pancreatic primary). Aretha Franklin was initially diagnosed in 2010, other than pancreatic primary, other details are scant as she wanted to keep her condition private.  However, the media exploded with claims she died of Pancreatic Cancer, although several outlets did mention it was the ‘Neuroendocrine type’ and many left that bit out.  Although this left a little door open for Neuroendocrine awareness, the community faces a very difficult task in regaining the high ground and it is looking like ‘Steve Jobs’ all over again as the news went viral.  That said, it appears her death certificate does confirm Neuroendocrine Cancer.  Read more by clicking here.

On 13 Jan 2017, it was announced that Siri Co-Founder Dag Kittlaus has Pancreatic Cancer. Although the detail said Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor, it is still a misleading statement and once again, the headline reading population receive only the Pancreatic Cancer message.

There are huge differences between Pancreatic Cancer and Neuroendocrine Cancer with a pancreatic primary – click here to read more. 

pancreatic vs neuroendocrine

I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve read regional and national patient stories where the headlines mentioned various parts of the anatomy only to find it was a Neuroendocrine Tumour in the detail.  Frustratingly, many of these articles are also fundraising for the wrong type of cancer in addition to the misdirected awareness messages.

The most well-known Neuroendocrine Cancer patients are so famous, thousand of articles were written about them when they died and continue to this day. These articles are ingrained in the bowels of the web and in books – many people will use them as research to reference in their own articles.  This issue will continue for many years.  

The same thing is now happening with UK celebrities Nick Robinson and Wilko Johnson to a certain extent (although Neuroendocrine is starting to creep into their vocabulary).  I have in fact had an online chat with Wilko Johnson who said he would help with Neuroendocrine publicity (not yet seen though).  Check out the conversation here:

wilko-response
Let me add that this is not an attempt to bash Aretha Franklin, Steve Jobs, Nick Robinson, Wilko Johnson, Dag Kittlaus or any patient, or any patient advocate organisation who have been recipients of cash raised for a different cancer. I believe patients mostly only say what their doctors say to them in terms of cancer type.

The power of social media will help to dilute the incorrect publishing of celebrities with the wrong cancer types, a particularly disadvantage for Neuroendocrine Cancer.  The more stories and articles like this one, the more we can do to counter the onslaught of incorrect articles which are denying our cancer the publicity we deserve. The share button is below.