Lutetium Lu 177 dotatate (Lutathera®) – PRRT

prrt update

Short PRRT Primer

What is Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT)?

For those who are still not sure what it’s all about.  This is a non-surgical treatment which is normally administered intravenously.  It’s based on the use of somatostatin receptors to attract a ‘radiopeptide’.  The radiopeptide is a combination of a somatostatin analogue and a radioactive material. As we already know, somatostatin analogues (i.e. Lanreotide/Octreotide) are a NET cell targeting drug, so when combined radioactivity, it binds with the NET cells and delivers a high dose of targeted radiation to the cancer while preserving healthy tissue.  In general, patients tend to receive up to 4 sessions spaced apart by at least 2 months. 

PRRT will not work on all NETs and not everyone will suited to this treatment. In general, for this treatment to be more successful, you must have somatostatin receptors in your tumors. Success rates are not 100% – it should not be considered a cure or ‘magic bullet’. However, the results are said to be pretty good.  The NETTER-1 trial data which has led to formal approval in Europe, USA and other areas, can be found here.

LATEST ON EXPANDED NETTER-1 TRIAL DATA.  “Novartis has announced presentation of a new analysis of Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) NETTER-1 data at the 2018 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress examining the impact of Lutathera treatment on patients with low, medium or high liver tumor burden. The data show that Lutathera treatment results in significant improvement in progression free survival (PFS) regardless of the extent of baseline liver tumor burden (LTB), elevated alkaline phosphatase (ALP) liver enzyme or presence of large (>30mm diameter) lesion in patients with progressive midgut neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) compared to octreotide LAR alone.”

THERANOSTICS

Understanding the terminology is half the battle in understanding the latest developments. I’ve included Ga-68 PET scans within this section (or in more general terms Somatostatin Receptor PET (SSTR PET)) as the term ‘Theranostics‘ is becoming a commonly used theme.  Theranostics is a joining of the words diagnostics and therapy.

LUTATHERA is the radionuclide ‘mix’ for use in Peptide Radio Therapy Treatment (PRRT).  You may also see this drug called ‘Lutetium’ or ‘Lu-177 dotatate’, or just ‘Lu-177’ on its own. Yttrium 90 (Y-90) is a  radionuclide also used in PRRT. 

NETSPOT (USA) or SOMAKIT TOC (Europe) is not PRRT but it is the commercial names for the radiopeptide used in Gallium 68 (Ga-68) PET diagnostic scans.

Together they form a ‘theranostic pair’. Theranostics is apt as together (NETSPOT / SOMAKIT TOC and Lutathera), both target NETs expressing the same somatostatin receptor, with Lutathera intended to kill tumor cells by emitting a different kind of low-energy, short-range radiation than that of the diagnostic version.

Moreover, thanks to the theranostic approach that nuclear medicine allows, Novartis/AAA’s NETSPOT/SomaKit TOC products will be able to determine when Lutathera is the appropriate treatment.

Read more about Theranostics by clicking here.

Hasn’t the therapy has been in use for some time?

Of course, this therapy has been in use in Europe and some other places for some time but to be honest, they have been on a limited scale and never formally approved by national drug agencies.  Despite its extensive use, the EU approval in 2017 was actually the very first approval of PRRT anywhere in the world. For example, in UK, it was used for some time for those in need but was removed from routine availability through a ‘slush fund’ formally known as the Cancer Drugs Fund – to cut a long story short, the funding source was cut off, although there are still ways of obtaining the treatment pending formal acceptance by the NHS (certain criteria apply).

In the meantime, I constantly see stories of patients travelling to Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain and others; mostly at their own cost.   However, it does indicate one thing, there is a huge unmet need in that many patients do not have access to the best treatments in their own country. I see this daily through many private messages.

What about Grade 3 (High Grade) Neoplasms?  

The main treatment for Grade 3 is chemotherapy, particularly poorly differentiated.  PRRT tends to work better with efficient somatostatin receptors (i.e. somatostatin receptor-positive tumors).  The European approval wording only covers Grades 1 and 2. The US FDA approval indicates “somatostatin receptor-positive tumors”.  It’s also worth noting that with Grade 3, are more likely to exist in Grade 3 well differentiated NETs, particularly in the lower Ki-67 readings. However, there’s an interesting study from Australia which might be useful to read – check out the abstract here (note the full version is not available free).

What about Pheochromoctyoma/Paraganglioma?

There’s actually still a trial for Pheochromocytoma/Paraganglioma (Pheo/Para).  It is known that Pheo/Para can have somatostatin receptor tumors so a useful trial. The aim of the trial is to assess the safety and tolerability.  You can read about the trial here.

Where can I get PRRT?

 

global icon
Where can I get PRRT?

Regional Updates

The aim of this section is to update on a regional basis in order to inform an international community of followers and readers.

Background

I wanted a place to review what is happening globally given my following.  In many countries, however, I’m dependent on feedback from patients in those countries. Please note this is not intended to be a 100% complete breakdown on everything about PRRT or PRRT centres – it’s a summary.  It should be clear from below but please bear that in mind when reading.

This section of this article will cover each region, indicating where PRRT can be obtained (as far as I know). It is not designed to indicate whether this is through public or private facilities (this will depend to too many factors beyond the reach of this article). Please note this is not intended to be a 100% complete breakdown on everything single PRRT centre – it’s a summary.  It should be clear from below but please bear that in mind when reading.

UNITED KINGDOM

On 29 August 2018. National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) England has formally published that Lutetium (177Lu) oxodotreotide, within its marketing authorisation, is an option for treating unresectable or metastatic, progressive, well-differentiated (grade 1 or grade 2), somatostatin receptor-positive gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) in adults.  CLICK HERE to read the approval.  Currently available in London and Liverpool.  The Christie Mancheter is advertising it on their website and there is anecdotal talk of Newcastle and Leicester going live soon. I await the rollout of PRRT – watch this space for a table listing. 

On 9 July 2018. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (NICE equivalent) has approved lutetium 177Lu (Lutathera) for patients in NHS Scotland. Good news for Scotland once their hospitals have the capability to deliver. Scottish patients would then not need to travel to England for the NHS Scotland funded treatment. Read more here.

It is funded in Wales and Northern Ireland but is currently administered in England with inter NHS budget transfers.

USA

PRRT was approved in USA on 26 Jan 2018. The approval is for the treatment of somatostatin receptor positive gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs), including foregut, midgut, and hindgut neuroendocrine tumors in adults. CLICK HERE.

The extended access program (trial) is no longer offered but these locations should be ahead of the game in terms of provision, notwithstanding insurance and provision of sufficient nuclear material.

In the meantime, known USA sites offering routine “live site” insurance based PRRT treatment are as follows – please note information has been gleaned from US patients due to no other consolidated source of this information being readily available. It’s possible some patients got mixed up between trial locations and live locations so let me know of any omissions or additions/corrections – thanks in advance.

DRAFT – NOT YET COMPLETE – (as at 20 Sep 2018)

STATE LOCATION Due in Service? CONTACT DETAILS
Arizona Banner Now Dr Boris Naraev
California UCSF Medical Center Mission Bay San Francisco Now tbc
California – Antioch Kaiser Permanente Antioch Medical Center Now tbc
California Cedars Sinai Medical Center LA now tbc
California Stanford Medical Center Now tbc
California Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center Now tbc
California Hoag Hospital Newport Beach Now tbc
California UCLA Health Now tbc
California Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center Now tbc
California City of Hope LA Now tbc
California San Diego Now tbc
Connecticut Yale New Haven Medical Center Now tbc
Colorado Rocky Mountain Cancer Center Denver Now Dr Eric Liu
Colorado University of Colorado UC Health Denver Now tbc
Florida Moffat Tampa Now Dr Strosberg
Florida University of Miami Now tbc
Florida Mayo Jacksonville Now tbc
Florida Winter Park, Florida Radiation Oncology Orlando Now tbc
Florida Orlando Health Now tbc
Georgia CCTA Newnan, Atlanta Now Dr. Phan
Hawaii Queen’s Medical Center Now Dr. Marc Coel
Illinois Rush University Chicago Now Xavier M. Keutgen, MD
Illinois Northwestern Chicago now tbc
Illinois The University of Chicago Medicine now Dr. Wei
Illinois Loyola University Medical Center Maywood now tbc
Indiana Indiana University Health now tbc
Iowa University of Iowa now Dr T O’Dorisio
Kansas University of Kansas Medical Center Fairway now tbc
Kentucky University of Kentucky, Markey Cancer Center now tbc
Louisiana Ochsner now tbc
Maryland John Hopkins Baltimore now tbc
Massachusetts Dana Farber Boston Now tbc
Massachusetts Massachusetts General Hospital Now tbc
Michigan Ann Arbor Now tbc
Michigan Detroit – Karmanos Cancer Center Now tbc
Minnesota Mayo Rochester 26 Apr 2018 Dr. Thor Halfdanarson
Minnesota University of Minnesota Health Now tbc
Missouri Sara Canon Cancer Center Kansas City Now tbc
Missouri Siteman Cancer Center St. Louis Now tbc
Missouri Barnes Jewish Hospital St. Louis Now tbc
Nebraska CHI Bergan Now Dr Samuel Mehr
Nebraska Nebraska Cancer Specialists Omaha Now Dr Samuel Mehr
New York Lenox Hill NYC Now tbc
New York Sloan Kettering Now tbc
New York Roswell Park Buffalo Now Dr Iyer
New York Mount Sinai Now tbc
New York NYU Langone Now tbc
North Carolina Dukes Durham Now tbc
Ohio The James, Columbus Now Dr Shah
Oregon Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Now tbc
Pennsylvania UPMC Pittsburgh Now tbc
Pennsylvania Fox Chase Philadelphia Now Dr Paul Engstrom
Rhode Island Rhode Island Hospital Providence Now Dr Paul Engstrom
Tennessee Vanderbilt Nashville Apr 2018 tbc
Texas MD Anderson Houston Summer 2018 tbc
Texas Excel Diagnostics Houston Now tbc
Texas CHI St Lukes Houston Now tbc
Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City 10 May tbc
Virginia Carilion Clinic Roanoke now tbc
Washington (State) Virginia Mason Seattle Now Dr. Hagen Kennecke
Washington (DC) VMedStar Georgetown University Hospital Now tbc
West Virginia VMU Cancer Institute Morgantown Now Shalu Pahuja, M.D
Wisconsin UW Health Madison, Carbone Cancer Center Now Noelle K. LoConte, MD Specialty: Medical Oncology Primary Location: UW Carbone Cancer Center (608) 265-1700 (800) 323-8942
 Wisconsin  Froedtert Milwaukee  Now  Dr Thomas

Canada

PRRT is only available at a few cancer centres in Canada. It can only be used with special approval from Health Canada or by taking part in a clinical trial.  Click here to see one Canadian PRRT trial.

Europe (EU affiliated countries)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) “market authorisation” received a positive indication on 20th July followed by EC approval on 29 Sep 2017.   The positive indication reads “Lutathera is indicated for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic, progressive, well differentiated (G1 and G2), somatostatin receptor positive gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP NETs) in adults”. Of Course, the decision to fund the drug will be with national approval organisations.  Whilst I’m sure there are many more, these well-known centres have been making PRRT available for some years (but please note there are others):

Netherlands – Rotterdam Treatment Centre – click here

Netherlands – the combined NET centres of the UMCU Utrecht and AVL Amsterdam have an ENET certification and they both do PRRT.

UMCU – Utrecht
https://www.umcutrecht.nl/nl/Ziekenhuis/Ziekte/PRRT-behandeling-bij-NET-kanker
(only available in dutch)

AVL – Amsterdam
https://www.avl.nl/behandelingen/peptide-receptor-radionuclide-therapie-prrt/
(only available in dutch)

Sweden – Department of Endocrine Oncology Uppsala University Hospital – click here

Switzerland – University Hospital Basel, Radiology & Nuclear Medicine Clinicclick here

Germany – Zentralklinik Bade Berkaclick here

Denmark – ‘Rigshospitalet’ since 2009. They have treated around 250 patients- and given 800 treatments.

I’d be interested to hear from countries in Europe with their full list of centres or a link to it.

Australia

Australia seems to be ahead of the game or that is what I sense when I read output from there.  There’s a good section on the Australian effort – click here.

New Zealand

These guys have had to fight to get some progress on the provision of PRRT.  Currently New Zealanders have to go to Melbourne Australia for treatment – almost 50 New Zealanders with NETs are currently raising tens of thousands of dollars to pay for treatment in Australia because the life-prolonging treatment isn’t available locally. But this could change in 2018.  Unicorn Foundation New Zealand announced that Pharmac, the New Zealand government agency that decides which pharmaceuticals, have said that PRRT will be funded for patients with medium priority for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic, well-differentiated NETs (irrespective of primary site) that express somatostatin receptors.

Africa

South Africa:

Middle East, Asia and the Far East

Turkey – Istanbul, Dr.Levent Kabasakal.

IsraelHadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem – click to read

Lebanon – The American Hospital of Beirut – Dr Ali Shamseddine “We have started using Lu-177 here in Lebanon. So far, we have treated 3 patients, with good response. The operational cost is much less than in Europe”.  

Ali Shamseddine, MD, CHB Professor and Head of Division as04@aub.edu.lb

India – Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital, Visakhapatnam. Recently started radionuclide therapy. Although only currently available privately, some patients have been sponsored by the companies that they work for. Point of contact is Dr. K. Raghava Kashyap. I’ve been assured by CNETS India that many locations have PRRT capability – contact them direct please.

Malaysia

Sunway medical Centre

Beacon hospital

Pakistan – check out this article – click here

Singapore – Singapore General Hospital and National University Hospital.  

Philippines – St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila.

South America

Chile – Instituto Oncológico Fundación Arturo López Pérez, Santiago

——————————————–

What’s next for NETs PRRT?

See this great summary from NET Research Foundtion of what might be next plus basic facts about PRRT – click here

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Neuroendocrine Cancer: Somatostatin Receptors

ct compare to g68 pet
CT and G68 PET fused showing somatostatin receptor pick up

Don’t understand Somatostatin Receptors?  Join the club!  I got my head around the term ‘Somatostatin’ and ‘Somatostatin Analogues’ some time ago but the term ‘Somatostatin Receptor’ (SSTR) is still a bit of a mystery and it’s come to the top of my list of things to study.  SSTRs do come up in conversation quite often and I’m fed up of nodding sagely hoping it will eventually become clear! On analysis it looks like a technical subject – and therefore a challenge 🙂

I’ve taken a logical approach working from ‘Somatostatin’ to ‘Somatostatin Analogue’ before commencing on the ‘receptor’ bit.  It is intentionally brief and (hopefully) simplistic!

Somatostatin

It’s important to understand this hormone and then why your ‘butt dart’ is generically called a ‘Somatostatin Analogue’.

Some Neuroendocrine Tumours secrete hormones and peptides that cause distinct clinical syndromes, including amongst others, carcinoid syndrome.  Somatostatin is a naturally occurring hormone and a known inhibitor of some of these NET related hormones and peptides that can be over secreted and cause syndromes. For example, somatostatin from the hypothalamus inhibits the pituitary gland’s secretion of growth hormone (GH) and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). In addition, somatostatin is produced in the pancreas and inhibits the secretion of other pancreatic hormones such as insulin and glucagon.  However, the naturally produced Somatostatin does not have the lifespan to have any effect on Neuroendocrine Tumours which are over secreting these hormones and peptides. ……. cue manufactured versions that can!

Somatostatin Analogue (SSA)

These are manufactured versions of Somatostatin known as Somatostatin Analogues.  These are designed to have a lasting effect to inhibit for much longer and therefore reduce the symptoms caused by the over secretion (i.e. the syndrome).  Examples of Somatostatin Analogue include Octreotide (Sandostatin), Lanreotide (Somatuline) and Pasireotide (Signifor).

So how do Somatostatin Analogues actually work? 

For the inhibition to work effectively, there needs to be a route into the over secreting tumours, normally via short or long acting injections or even intravenously. On the tumour cells, there are currently 5 known sub-types of ‘Somatostatin Receptors’  (SSTR) which are ‘expressed’ by most NETs.   These are known as SSTR1 through to SSTR5.  The naturally occurring hormone Somatostatin attempts to bind with all 5 but as above, it lacks the lifespan to make any impact to inhibit sufficiently in cases of overecretion. However, SSAs can overcome this with the longer lifespan.  They can successfully in most cases bind with these receptors to inhibit the hormones and peptides causing the problems, particularly SSTR2 with modest affinity to SSTR5. Clearly it’s therefore advantageous to target SSTR2.

Somatostatin Receptors

The subtypes expressed by NETs are variable and the efficiency of different SSAs in binding to each SSTR subtype also varies. For example the table below lists the variability of Somatostatin Receptor efficiency in different types of NET.  Interesting to note that non-functional NETs might not have efficient SSTRs but SSAs will still try to bind to them albeit it might not work or have a lesser effect.

Somatostatin receptors are found in high numbers on the surface of NET’s. Most receptors are in the inactive state (based on something called the phosphorylation status). Traditionally, agents such as dotatate have only bound to activated receptors on the surface.  Scientists are looking at ways to bind to inactive receptors to increase therapy success (for example see clinical trial OPS 201)

Table 1 – Somatostatin receptor subtypes in neuroendocrine tumours (mRNA) (See Copyright)

Tumour SSTR1 (%) SSTR2 (%) SSTR3 (%) SSTR4 (%) SSTR5 (%)
Gastrinoma 79a 93 36 61 93
Insulinoma 76 81 38 58 57
Non-functioning pancreatic tumour 58 88 42 48 50
Gastro-intestinal NET 76 80 43 68 77

This table above clearly shows the variability of SSTRs when binding with different types of NETs.  It follows that manufacturers of SSAs will be using this data in the formulation of their drugs.  If you now look at the table below, you can see how efficiently the 3 well-known SSAs inhibit NETs on each SSTR.

Compound SSTR1 SSTR2 SSTR3 SSTR4 SSTR5
RECEPTOR SUBTYPE AFFINITY (IC50, nM)
Octreotide 1140 0.56 34 7030 7
Lanreotide 2330 0.75 107 2100 5.2
Pasireotide 9.3 1 1.5 >100 0.16

View it in a separate window

You can see from the data why Octreotide and Lanreotide target SSTR2 and to a lesser extent SSTR5 but Pasireotide (Signifor or SOM-230) is interesting as it appears to have affinity for SSTRs 1-3 and 5, probably why it has been approved for Cushing’s Disease (ATCH producing).  However, to date, there has not been enough evidence showing that Pasireotide has a progression-free survival benefit over the other 2 therapies. It is also associated with hyperglycemia. You may find this video interesting as the doctor is suggesting it could be used by NET patients in certain scenarios.

What about SSA labelled diagnostics?

The same principles apply.  For example, an Octreotide Scan (actually known as ‘Somatostatin Receptor’ Scintigraphy (SRS)) works by taking pictures using a gamma camera which is designed to see radiation from a ‘tracer’.  The tracer in question is a radio labelled with an Octreotide variant (such as pentetreotide) which will bind to somatostatin receptors on the surface of the tumour cells  In the simplest of terms, this shows up where NETs are.  The same principles apply to Ga 68 PET scans which are more advanced and more sensitive than SRS.

What about SSA labelled therapies?

With (say) Peptide Receptor Radiotherapy (PRRT), there is a similar binding mechanism going on.  In PRRT, Octreotide or a variant, is combined with a therapeutic dose of the radionuclides, e.g. Yttrium 90 (Y-90) and Lutetium 177 (Lu-177).  It binds with the SSTRs on the tumour cells and the therapeutic dose attacks the tumour having been brought there by the binding effect.  Simple isn’t it?

Do Somatostatin Receptors work for everyone?

Unfortunately not.  Some people have more sensitive receptors than others and the figure of 80% appears to be the most common statistic indicating one-fifth of all NET patients may not be able to respond correctly to SSA treatment or get the right results from Octreoscans/Ga 68 PET and/or PRRT.  However, that needs to be taken into context and probably applies to midgut NETs measured against SSTR2 – the tables above tend to confirm this figure.  During my research, I did read that higher than normal doses of SSAs may have some effect on those with less sensitive SSTRs.  Also, SSAs seem to work much better with well-differentiated tumours.

How do I know if my Somatostatin Receptors work?

When I was completing my NET checks after diagnosis, my Oncologist declared I was “Octreotide avid” shortly after my Octreoscan was compared with my CT.  I’m guessing that is a simple and crude test and how most people find out they have working receptors.  I also suspect that if your syndrome symptoms are abated somewhat by SSA injections, then you there is a good chance your SSTRs are working normally.  I also suspect those who show clear signs of tumour on CT but not on Octreoscan or Ga 68 PET, could have a receptor issue.

The advent of modern PET scanning (e.g. Ga68) has meant more accurate methods of working out if someone has the right receptors for PRRT through analysis of something known as standardized uptake values (SUV).

A more modern approach is to use a ‘Theranostic Pair” where the same radiolabelled tracer is used with the advantage that the diagnostic element can predict suitability for the therapy component  – read more here

lutathera owl - Copy


Somatostatin Receptor Research – Interest Point

I was please to see a piece of research ongoing to look at the issues with lack of somatostatin receptors.  The research is looking at novel imaging agents for NETs which do not have working receptors.  Read more here.

Summary

I hope this gives you a very basic outline of why Somatostatin Receptors are important to support the diagnosis and treatment of NETs.

My article “If you can see it, you can detect it” is almost 100% accurate but having working receptors really helps with nuclear scans.

Preclinical and clinical studies have indicated that somatostatin receptor (SSTR)expressing tumors demonstrate higher uptake of radiolabeled SSTR antagonists than of the currently approved SSTR agonist versions. See clinical trial OPS 201 for an example of the next generation of somatostatin receptor based theranostics where the use of a somatostatin antagonists.

thanks for reading

PRRT and the NHS England Cancer Drugs Fund

cost cutting vs life cutting?
cost cutting vs life cutting?

As of 4 Nov 15, PRRT was delisted from the NHS England Cancer Drugs Fund. Appeals were made but were rejected, despite the glowing results from the NETTER-1 trial.  Although a replacement system is now in place, PRRT remains barred from routine NHS use.

Please see the following post for the very latest on PRRT worldwide – CLICK HERE

I was extremely disappointed to learn of the decision to remove PRRT (Lutetium or Yttrium) from the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) as reported by the NET Patient Foundation. You can read the detail of the decision here: CDF Statement.  PRRT has regularly been described by NET specialists and patients as the “magic bullet” due to its potential to shrink or kill tumours.

This is the second Neuroendocrine Cancer treatment to be withdrawn this year, after the earlier decision on Everolimus (Afinitor) in April . In fact, the recent cuts to the CDF were described in the media as a “massacre” as the list was reduced by two-thirds.  You can see the current CDF list by clicking here.

The timing of these cuts is extraordinary and when you look at the output from recent trial reports presented at the Europetwo-thirdsCongress (ECC) for both Neuroendocrine Cancer related drugs recently cut:

Everolimus

The RADIANT-4 trial said that Everolimus had a significant effect in non-functional NETs which are very difficult to treat.  This is particularly important for Lung NETs as no treatment currently exists.  The RADIANT-2 trial had already proven the efficacy of the drug for advanced carcinoid (in conjunction with Octreotide) and the RADIANT-3 trial proved good data for treatment with advanced functional pNETs.  Read the report here.

PRRT – 177Lu-DOTATATE

The ECC also reported a significant finding from the NETTER-1 trial.  Treatment with the novel peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) Lutathera significantly increased progression-free survival (PFS) over Octreotide LAR (Sandostatin) in patients with advanced midgut NETs.  It shows a PFS that has never been shown before in this type of cancer adding that this was significant because these patients have a real unmet medical need.

Lutathera is a 177Lu-DOTATATE PRRT that targets somatostatin receptors, which are overexpressed in about 80% of NETs, to deliver cytotoxic radiation directly to the tumor – See more by clicking here.

To fully understand the background to the problem, you need to understand both PRRT and the Cancer Drugs Fund and a quick primer on both follows.

What is PRRT?

For those who are not entirely sure what PRRT is, here’s a quick primer from The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging:

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) is a molecular therapy (also called radioisotope therapy) used to treat a specific type of cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoma or NETs (neuroendocrine tumors). PRRT is also currently being investigated as a treatment for prostate and pancreatic tumors.

In PRRT, a cell-targeting protein (or peptide) called octreotide is combined with a small amount of radioactive material, or radionuclide, creating a special type of radiopharmaceutical called a radiopeptide. When injected into the patient’s bloodstream, this radiopeptide travels to and binds to neuroendocrine tumor cells, delivering a high dose of radiation to the cancer.

The cells in most neuroendocrine tumors have an abundance (called an overexpression) of a specific type of surface receptor—a protein that extends from the cell’s surface—that binds to a hormone in the body called somatostatin. Octreotide is a laboratory-made version of this hormone that binds to somatostatin receptors on neuroendocrine tumors. In PRRT, octreotide is combined with a therapeutic dose of the radionuclides. Yttrium 90 (Y-90) and Lutetium 177 (Lu-177) are the most commonly used radionuclides.  

What conditions are treated with PRRT?

PRRT may be used to treat NETs, including carcinoids, islet cell carcinoma of the pancreas, small cell carcinoma of the lung, pheochromocytoma (a rare tumor that forms in the adrenal glands), gastro-enteropancreatic (stomach, intestines and pancreas) neuroendocrine tumors, and rare thyroid cancers that are unresponsive to treatment with radioiodine.

PRRT is an option for patients:
• who have advanced and/or progressive neuroendocrine tumours
• who are not candidates for surgery
• whose symptoms do not respond to other medical therapies.

The main goals of PRRT are to provide symptom relief, to stop or slow tumor progression and to improve overall survival.

These video’s on Nuclear Medicine are by Professor Val Lewington – the UK’s most experienced person on PRRT.  I was at this presentation and she is absolutely amazing. It’s slightly dated but still very current.  This presentation also covers Octreotide and Gallium 68 scans under the heading of Nuclear Medicine – if you are still unsure about PRRT or Nuclear Medicine in general, these videos are definitely worth a watch.

The Role of Nuclear Medicine in NETs

Q&A Sessions

This is also a great source of information maintained by NET Patients in the USA.  Click here

What was the Cancer Drugs Fund?

The Cancer Drugs Fund was money the UK Government has set aside to pay for cancer drugs that haven’t been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and aren’t available within the NHS in England. This may be because the drugs haven’t been looked at yet. Or it may be because NICE have said that they don’t work well enough or are not cost-effective. This was introduced as a ‘political statement’ by the then Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010/11.  The aim of the fund is to make it easier for people to get as much treatment as possible.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was for people who live in England. The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland decide on how they spend money on health and so far haven’t decided to have a similar programme.

Worth noting that on 1 April 2013, NHS England took on responsibility for the operational management of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). The NHS spends approximately £1.3 billion annually on the provision of cancer drugs within routine commissioning. The CDF was established as an additional funding source to this.

There was a national list of drugs available through the fund – you may have heard this called the priority list. If you met the conditions for a drug that was on the list, you should have been able to have it on the NHS if you live in England. The Fund would also have considered applications on behalf of individual patients for other drugs that are not on the list.  However, under the new system, Individual funding requests (IFRs) relating to cancer drugs will no longer be considered via the CDF process.  All IFRs relating to cancer drugs will now be considered using NHS England’s single, national IFR system, which was updated in January 2016.

The new system came info force on 29 July 2016 and you can read more if you click this link

Summary

Although the decision is shocking to most, it was not totally unexpected as the Government and NHS have been hinting for sometime that the costs of the fund need to be reined in.  In any case if was only ever a temporary arrangement until a another model could be put into place.  There is a political element as the fund was set up by David Cameron with healthcare experts suggesting that it made no sense as a response to rising drug prices.  Moreover, by topping up the fund, the same experts claimed this was making the manufacturers the real beneficiaries of the fund as they have been able to sell their drugs to the NHS at prices that are unaffordable (and therefore unsustainable) for the NHS.

UK NET patients who have advanced and/or progressive neuroendocrine tumours which cannot be removed by surgery and whose symptoms do not respond to other medical therapies, still need help.

Ironically, the UK seems to be intent on cutting provision of the treatment (at least for NHS patients) as the US is trying very hard to formally introduce it.  This is a disgraceful situation and advanced Neuroendocrine Cancer patients and those who may need this treatment in the future are being terribly let down.

I will keep this blog ‘live’ in order to add information as things progress.

Thanks for reading

Ronny
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My Diagnosis and Treatment History