Round up of NANETS 2017 – Let’s talk about NETs #NANETS2017

NANETS (North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society) is one of the biggest NET conferences, bringing together NET Specialists from around the world to discuss state-of-the-art treatment modalities, new therapies, and ongoing controversies in the field of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (Tumors and Carcinomas). This is fairly complex stuff but much of it will be familiar to many. I’ve filtered out several outputs from the conference which I think are both relevant and topical to patients. The list is below allowing you to easily peruse and read further via linkages if you need to read more.  Remember, some of these are extracts so do not contain all the details of the research or study – although some of the linkages will take you to in-depth information if that’s your bag. Where applicable, I’ve also linked to some of my blog posts to add context and detail in patient speak. The list comprises articles which were published in medical news media and for which I received alerts.  It does not comprise the entire schedule of NANETS 2017. I may add more to the list if other relevant and interesting articles are published downstream.

Please note:
Some of the output from the conference is in ‘study form’ and has not yet been published as peer-reviewed data (important notice to readers).

NANETS to Bring All Specialties in the NETs Community Together for 10th Annual Symposium

Interview with Michael Soulen MD.  Nice introduction.

https://goo.gl/tMT6KS
Location of Neuroendocrine Tumors in the Small Bowel Does Not Affect Survival

 

https://goo.gl/zf9k9j
Diagnosing and Treating NET-Related Diarrhea

 

Incorporated into my Diarrhea article – https://goo.gl/PwsXmX
Emerging Therapies, Biologic Discoveries, and Improved QoL on Horizon for NETs

 

https://goo.gl/p4cCyd
Retrospective Database Analysis Studies Somatostatin Analog Usage in NETs

 

https://goo.gl/KWM4p7
Regional Lymph Node Involvement and Outcomes in Appendiceal Neuroendocrine Tumors: A SEER Database Analysis. https://goo.gl/vfF4DA
Personalizing Therapy With PRRT and Improving Imaging With SSTR-PET Brings Novel Options to NETs Landscape

(new term SSTR-PET generically meaning any PET scan using somatostatin receptors), e.g. Ga68 etc.

https://goo.gl/s8sked
PFS and OS After Salvage Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT) with 177-Lu[Dota⁰,Tyr³] octreotate in Patients with GastroEnteroPancreatic or Bronchial NeuroEndocrine Tumours (GEP-NETs) – The Rotterdam Cohort https://goo.gl/yZ56YZ
Molecular Classification of Neuroendocrine Tumors: Clinical Experience with the 92-gene Assay in >24,000 Cases https://goo.gl/aqgfRf
Neuroendocrine Tumors: A Patient Survey

“Regarding their biggest challenges, patients reported fatigue as their biggest challenge followed by diarrhea, sleep disturbances, and pain.”

https://goo.gl/qEeNRM
Phase III Trial Needed to Confirm Clinical Benefit of Cabozantinib in NETs

 

Incorporated into my Cabozantinib article – https://goo.gl/mR2yFT
QOL Improvements in NETTER-1 Phase III Trial in Patients with Progressive Midgut Neuroendocrine Tumors. (I think this is well-known but no harm in repeating it!) https://goo.gl/UmKsFi

 

The full link to all poster abstracts for NANETS 2017 can be found here

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’s ‘PoNETry’ © – An Ode to Invisible Illness

Ronny Allan’s ‘PoNETry’ © series can be shared with poetry credit to:

ronnyallan.com and/or NET Cancer Blog

 

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!

Neuroendocrine Tumours: a spotlight on Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas

spotlight on pheo para

I spend a lot of time talking about the most common forms of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs), but what about the less well-known types?  As part of my commitment to all types of NETs, I’d like to shine a light on two less common tumour types known as Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas – incidence rate approximately 8 per million per year. They are normally grouped together and the definitions below will confirm why.  If you think it’s difficult to diagnose a mainstream NET, this particular sub-type is a real challenge.

So, let’s get definitions out of the way:

Pheochromocytomas (Pheo for short)

Pheochromocytomas are tumours of the adrenal gland that produce excess adrenaline. They arise from the central portion of the adrenal gland, which is called the adrenal medulla (the remainder of the gland is known as the cortex which performs a different role and can be associated with a different tumour type). The adrenal medulla is responsible for the normal production of adrenaline, which our body requires to help maintain blood pressure and to help cope with stressful situations.  The adrenal glands are situated on top of the kidneys (i.e. there are two). Adrenaline is also called ‘epinephrine’ which is curiously one of the 5 E’s of Carcinoid Syndrome.

Paragangliomas (Para for short)

Paragangliomas are tumours that grow in cells of the ‘peripheral’ nervous system (i.e. the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord). Like Pheochromocytomas, they can release excess adrenaline.  There can be confusion between the two types of tumour as Paragangliomas are often described as extra-adrenal Pheochromocytomas (i.e. a Pheo external to the adrenal gland).

Going forward, I’m going to talk about both using the single term of ‘Pheochromocytoma’ in the context of an adrenaline secreting tumour but may refer to Paraganglioma where there might be a difference other than anatomical location.

Pheochromocytomas are often referred to as the “ten percent tumour” because as a rule of thumb they do many things about ten percent of the time. However, these figures are slowly changing, so this label is gradually becoming less apparent. The following is a fairly exhaustive list of these characteristics:

A few facts about Pheochromocytomas

  • As much as 1 in 3 are Malignant but most have undetermined biologic potential.  A recent document issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that “Paragangliomas should not be termed benign”.
  • Around 10% of Pheochromocytomas are Bilateral (i.e. found in both adrenal glands: 90% arise in just one of the two adrenal glands)
  • Around 10% are Extra-Adrenal (found within nervous tissue outside of the adrenal glands … i.e. 10% are Paragangliomas)
  • Around 10% are found in Children (i.e. 90% in adults)
  • Up to 30% are Familial potentially rising to 50% for metastatic cases and Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) involvement.
  • The recurrence rate is around 16%, i.e. about 1 in 6 patients have a tumor that comes back after surgery.  Tumors that come back also have the potential to be malignant. If you have pheo or para and have surgery to remove it, be sure to continue to check in with your doctor to monitor for any returning tumors.
  • Present with a stroke (10% of these tumours are found after the patient has a stroke)

Symptoms

The classic symptoms of Pheochromocytomas are those attributable to excess adrenaline production. Often these patients will have recurring episodes of sweating, headache, and a feeling of high anxiety.

  • Headaches (severe)(one of the classic triad, see below)
  • Excess sweating (generalized)(one of the classic triad, see below)
  • Racing heart (tachycardia and palpitations)(one of the classic triad, see below)
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Hypertension
  • Nervous shaking (tremors)
  • Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Weight loss
  • Heat intolerance

Diagnosing Pheochromocytomas

According to the ISI Book on NETs (Woltering, Vinik, O’Dorisio, et al), Pheochromocytomas present with a classic triad of symptoms and signs:  headache, palpitations and sweating.  This symptom complex has a high specificity and sensitivity (>90%) for the diagnosis of Pheochromocytomas.  The figure is much lower in individual symptom presentations (palpitations 50%, sweating 30%, headaches 20%). In addition to correctly diagnosing from these symptoms, Pheochromocytomas may also be found incidentally during a surgical procedure even after a diagnosis of an ‘adrenal incidentaloma’

Markers.  Like serotonin secreting tumours, adrenal secreting tumours convert the offending hormone into something which comes out in urine. In fact, this is measured by 24 hour urine test very similar to 5HIAA (with its own diet and drug restrictions).  It’s known as 24-hour urinary catacholamines and metanephrines. This test is designed to measure production of the different types of adrenaline compounds that the adrenal glands make. Since the body gets rid of these hormones in the urine, we simply collect a patient’s urine for 24 hours to determine if they are over-produced.  Like 5HIAA, there is also a plasma (blood draw) version of the test.  According to the ISI Book on NETs, there is also an additional test called ‘Vanillylmandelic Acid (VMA).  This reference also indicates the most sensitive test is plasma free total metanephrines. Also read more here.

Genetics.  The familial connection with Pheo/Para is complex. Up to 13 genes have been identified including NF1, RET, VHL, SDHA, SDHB, SDHC, SDHD, SDHAF2(SDH5), TMEM127, MAXm EPAS1, FH, MDH2.  Read more here ( recent update)The NIH also have a useful section –click here.

Scans.  Other than the usual range of scanners, ultrasound, CT/MRI, all of which may be used to find evidence of something, the other scan of note is called MIBG.  This is a nuclear scan similar in concept to the Octreotide Scan given to many NET patients (in fact some Pheo patients my get an Octreotide scan if they have somatostatin receptors).  The key differences with MIBG is the liquid radioactive material mix which is called iodine-123-meta-iodobenzylguanidine or 131-meta-iodobenzylguanidine  (this is where the acronym MIBG originates).  Together with the markers above, the results will drive treatment.  Depending on availability, the latest PET scans may also be available potentially offering greater detail and accuracy i.e. 18F-FDOPA, 18F-FDG and Ga68.  Read more on scans here.

This statement and diagram was provided by Dr Mark Lewis who is an Oncologist and MEN patient.  “The algorithm for working up a hyperadrenergic state is attached (and was developed by Dr. Young at Mayo Clinic). It outlines the most reliable testing for a pheo or Paraganglioma”

work-up-for-diagnosing-pheo

Additional Factors and Considerations

  1. This is an awareness post so I’m not covering treatment options in any detail except to say that surgery if often used to remove as much tumour as possible.   Somatostatin Analogues may also be used in certain scenarios in addition to other hormone suppression or symptom controlling drugs. That said, Pheo/Para patients may be interested in a PRRT trial exclusively for Pheo/Para – read more here (see section entitled – “What about Pheo/Para”)
  2. The adrenal cortex mentioned above is actually the site for Adrenocortical Carcinoma (ACC) – this is a totally different cancer.
  3. Pheochromocytomas are probably difficult to diagnose (you only have to look at the symptoms to see that).  The differential diagnoses (i.e. potential misdiagnoses) are: hyperthyroidism, hypoglycaemia, mastocytosis, carcinoid syndrome, menopause, heart failure, arrhythmias, migraine, epilepsy, porphyria lead poisoning, panic attacks and fictitious disorders such as the use of cocaine and benzedrine.
  4. Many Pheochromocytoma patients will also be affected by Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN), in particular MEN2 (there are some wide-ranging percentage figures online for this aspect).  There can also be an association with Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome and less commonly with Neurofibromatosis type 1.
  5. Given the nature of the hormones involved with Pheochromocytomas, there is a risk of intraoperative hypertensive crises. This is similar in some ways to Carcinoid Crisis but needs careful consideration by those involved in any invasive procedure.

Newly Approved Drug – AZEDRA

On 30th July 2018, Progenics Pharmaceuticals Announces FDA Approval for AZEDRA® (iobenguane I 131) to Treat Unresectable, Locally Advanced or Metastatic Pheochromocytoma or Paraganglioma – read more by clicking here.

Summary

Pheochromocytomas are very complex involving many of the challenges found in the more abundant and common types of NETs.  To underscore this statement, please see this case study where one patient was misdiagnosed with psychiatric problems for 13 years before being correctly diagnosed with a metastatic Pheochromocytoma.

Also  ….. take a look at this awareness video produced by the Pheo Para Alliance. I voted this as the best piece of NET awareness in 2017. click here to watch

This is an extremely basic overview offered as an awareness message about the lesser known types of NETs.  I refer you to my disclaimer.  If you wish to learn more about Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas, check out the links below.

Research References used in this post:

Know Pheo/Para from Progenics Pharma

ISI – Neuroendocrine Tumors 2016

http://pheopara.org/ (in August 2017, the Pheo Para Troopers and the Pheo Para Project Merged)

http://www.pheosupportfoundation.org/

http://www.pheochromocytoma.org/

http://endocrinediseases.org/

https://www.endocrineweb.com/

Various authoritative Neuroendocrine and Endocrine Sites.

Also ……why not take a look at these Pheo boggers:

  1. Kirsty Dalglishhttps://kirstywestwood.wordpress.com/
  2. to follow

 

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.

 

“Not the Stereotypical picture of sick”

project3x5

I’ve never really understood why people get upset or annoyed when someone tells them they look well. Maybe I just think differently than others?  I like to look for the positive things these well-meaning messages can convey.  Most people are just trying to be nice, even if it comes over clumsy. Personally, I love it when people tell me I look well, I mean who wants to look unwell?  If I’m feeling mischievous, I sometimes say “yes….. but you should see my insides“.  Most of the time, it dispels any awkwardness and they follow my laughter.

Yesterday, I listened to a few video clips of a very inspiring young lady who eloquently delivered her view of what it is like to have an invisible disease and still look the ‘perfect picture of health’.  She did it in such a way that I could never do and I guess she feels the same way about looking well on the surface.  This is a lady who has a very rare disease and struggles with enormous amounts of pain.  However, you wouldn’t think it to look at her.  I think her messages are really worth listening to.

If you can’t see an illness, is an illness really there?

 

My invisible disease allows me to look the picture of perfect health. 

 

https://twitter.com/theproject3x5/status/777971901855522818

 

What an inspiration!  Thanks Danielle.

Thanks for reading

Ronny Allan

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Cancer? it’s what other people get

Other people get Cancer but not me
Other people get Cancer but not me

I talk often about my diagnosis but not about an ‘incident’ which occurred almost immediately prior to being formally told.

I was well into the ‘diagnostic phase’, having had all sorts of tests including a liver biopsy.  I vividly remember thinking these tests were a ‘nuisance’, I was far too busy and I didn’t even feel ill.  In hindsight, I was fortunate to have had such a thorough bunch of physicians who diagnosed me with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer in about 6 weeks ‘flash to bang’.  I intentionally use a phrase associated with ‘quick’ because in the world of Neuroendocrine Cancer, 6 weeks is ‘warp speed’.

So why was I admitted to hospital during the diagnostic phase? Because I was stupid.  In fact I was double-stupid. Firstly, despite having had to undergo a liver biopsy and a referral to an Oncologist, I was in a dismissive frame of mind and was blanking out any thought that I actually had cancer.  I didn’t have time for it, I was far too busy. I’m in control!  Secondly, despite being told to take it easy after the liver biopsy, I ignored that advice because I was far too busy getting on with a normal life. After all, this is just another test hurdle and I’ll get the all clear. Other people get Cancer but not me.

On the weekend following the liver biopsy, the family came round, so I decided to do normal things like lifting one of my grandsons up (as one does) and I prepared the BBQ which involved lifting a 13.5kg cannister of gas from the garage onto the patio.  Why not? I didn’t have anything wrong with me and I didn’t even feel ill.

However, as that Saturday afternoon progressed so did the pain; and to the point that I knew I had to seek help. To cut a long story short, I was eventually admitted to hospital for what was to be diagnosed as a bleed on my liver at the biopsy site.  Oh how the mighty fall.

On the positive side, I got another bunch of tests including scans as confirmation (….a second opinion from a different hospital).  However, it was the wake-up call I needed to take it seriously. I was discharged on the Monday in time for my very first Oncology appointment with my wife Chris in attendance.  For the first time, we were officially told I had Cancer – it was much more than just a ‘scare’. For me, the denial was over, indicating that I was never actually in control of what was happening to me.

Finally some food for thought …… In hindsight, I made the serious mistake of not talking to anyone about my denial and I suspect that led to me acting stupidly.

It really is OK to talk about Cancer

p.s. I’m now slightly mellower about Cancer 🙂 You might say I’m back in control?