Christiana’s  Graham Cancer Center among the first to offer new treatment for rare form of cancer

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Christiana Care Health System’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute is one of the first sites in the country approved to offer a new treatment called peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) using the drug Lutathera.

Christiana Care photo.

The treatment is for adults withadvanced, cancerous neuroendocrine tumors that develop in the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract.

Nearly one out of 27,000 people are diagnosed with neuroendocrinecarcinoid tumors each year. African-Americans and women between ages 40 and 50 are at highest risk.

The first of 10 patients at the Graham Cancer Center has now completed PRRT with Lutathera, the only approved PRRT medicine to treat the rare cancers.

“PRRT with Lutathera is a game changer for our patients with metastasized or inoperable neuroendocrine tumors,” said Nuclear Medicine physician Hung Q. Dam, M.D. “Previously, there were limited effective options for treatment once the initial standard therapy had failed to stop the cancer from growing.”

PRRT is a form of targeted therapy, tailored to a person’s individual molecular makeup. PRRT targets tumor cells with limited radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and generally has milder side effects than chemotherapy.

Yttrium 90 and Lutetium 177 are the most commonly used radioactive drugs with PRRT.This is the first time Lutathera is approved to treatgastroenteropancreaticneuroendocrine tumors.

Rosalind McGrady, a retired registered nurse from Townsend was the first patient to complete the full PRRT regimen at Christiana Care.

“It means everything to be able to have my treatments here,” McGrady said. “It is a blessing to be close to home, and everyone on my treatment team has been so wonderful and caring.”

Since her diagnosis in 2011, McGrady has been on monthly injections ofa drug called octreotide to slow the growth of her low-grade GI tract tumors and to control hormone-related symptoms, but her disease had spread.

Her oncologist Dhaval Shah, M.D., recommended a visit with the Hepatobiliary Pancreatic multidisciplinary team at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute to explore further treatment options. Subsequent PET/CT imaging with Gallium 68 DOTATATE, revealed she would be a good candidate for PRRT.

PRRT with Lutathera is given by IV infusion every eight weeks for a total of four doses. Treatment takes place in the hospital under the direction of the Nuclear Medicine team. Each treatment lasts about five hours. In addition to anti-nausea medicines, patients receive an IV infusion of amino acids to protect their kidneys from radiation.

“We worked proactively to obtain insurance approval for Mrs. McGrady to have what is potentially a life-extending treatment for her as soon as it became available here at Christiana Care,” Shah said.

“I have lived with thiscancer for more than seven years,” McGrady said. “I have faith that this new treatment will give me even more years with my family.”

“Our ability to offer PRRT on the heels of FDA approval last year is the result of imagination, planning and teamwork among our Oncology and Nuclear Medicine teams who are committed to bringing the latest, personalized, targeted cancer therapies to our patients in their own communities,” said Nicholas Petrelli, M.D.,Bank of America endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

Clinical trial results among 229 patients showed that close to 80 percent of patients receiving Lutatherasurvived for much longer periods of time without tumor growth (compared to patients receiving the standard of care. Additionally, 13 percent of patients on Lutathera experienced complete or partial tumor shrinkage.

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