Neuroendocrine tumors, or NETs, are a rare type of tumor that can grow anywhere in the body. But the most common sites they occur are in the pancreas or other areas of the gastrointestinal system, such as the small bowel or rectum. Unfortunately, this type of cancer has limited treatment options after initial therapy fails.
However, a new and unique type of treatment may offer patients new hope. Lutathera, the first FDA-approved peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, or PRRT, allows for precision targeting of NETs cells.
Lutathera consists mainly of two parts — a radionuclide, or radioactive component, that emits beta-particles, and a tumor targeting component that can bind to specific receptors on NETs cells. NETs cells express a certain type of peptide receptor on their surface known as a somatostatin receptor, SSTR. Somatostatin receptors are present in very high numbers on neuroendocrine tumor cells, while normal cells express very few.
Lutathera is designed to specifically target somatostatin receptors, which allows for precise drug delivery. Once bound to the receptor, Lutathera is actively transported into the tumor cell. Here, Lutathera emits highly ionizing beta-particle radiation. Beta-particle emissions induce both single- and double-stranded DNA breaks within tumor cells. This causes cellular damage, ultimately leading to tumor death. In this way, Lutathera reduces tumor progression while increasing overall patient progression-free survival.