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NET Awareness Day Q&A with Dr. Pamela Kunz

November 10, 2021

As we honor NET Cancer awareness day, what do you want patients and families to pause and remember?

We’ve had more advances in the last decade than ever before in terms of treatments and imaging, and are hopeful this will continue into the next decade as well. There is hope for more treatments, more imaging, and more research for this rare disease. There has been an explosion of research into neuroendocrine tumors recently.

How do you collaborate with The Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center to care for your patients?

Neuroendocrine tumors are a top priority and have been selected as one of the diseases to focus on and form a program for that consists of providers, physicians, and researchers. We are focused on patient education and stimulating research in the field.

What advances have made the biggest impact in the treatment of patients with NETs over the last 5 years?

The top advances are related to new imaging modalities and treatment options. Gallium Ga 68 dotatate injection is used with a PET scan for localization of somatostatin receptor positive NETs. Combined with the treatment therapy Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate), it has changed the landscape of this field since it was FDA approved in 2018. We are now looking at new ways to deliver it more safely and effectively.

Clinical trials can often be the best option for therapy, how do you explain this to patients who may be hesitant?

I am Chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Neuroendocrine Tumor Task Force. This task force sets the plan for the next decade of clinical trials and the focus is on peptide receptor radionuclide therapy and the Lu 177 dotatate. Clinical trials are the way we make progress and are definitely a reason for hope in this rare disease.

Is there a piece of advice or support you try to extend to your patients and their families? Words of hope?

My advice is to find an expert in the field and make them a part of your care team. We frequently partner with community oncologists to care for patients. With rare tumors such as these, you need an expert on your side. There has been amazing trajectory of discovery and new treatments of this disease and I am hopeful for the future as more research and funding are provided.

Submitted by Emily Montemerlo on November 10, 2021