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A rare type of cancer

About 1,000 new cases of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET) are diagnosed in the United States each year. SUTENT is approved to treat the portion of patients whose cancer is advanced and cannot be treated with surgery.

How pancreatic NET starts and spreads

Cancer cells are abnormal versions of healthy cells. So, they grow in a way similar to healthy cells. Here is how these cells grow and spread:

  • A single pancreatic NET cell grows and divides to form 2 cells. These 2 cells divide to form 4 cells. This process repeats, again and again
  • Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells do not respond to your body’s cues telling them to stop growing
  • tumor can be detected once enough cancer cells are made
  • Some cancer cells may enter the bloodstream, spreading from the pancreas to other parts of the body
  • New tumors may arise in other organs. If this happens, the cancer is known as metastatic. But no matter where the cancer spreads, it will still be called pancreatic NET because it started in the neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas

There are 2 types of pancreatic NET:

  • Functional tumors release much higher than average levels of hormones into the bloodstream
  • Nonfunctional tumors do not release hormones into the bloodstream

Stages of pancreatic NET

There are several stages of pancreatic NET. To determine the cancer’s stage, doctors will measure the tumor size. If you don’t know the size or stage of your tumor, ask your doctor.

Stage
Definition
Stage IA Tumor is found only in the pancreas and is 2 centimeters or smaller.
Stage IB Tumor is larger than 2 centimeters and has not spread beyond the pancreas.
Stage IIA Tumor has spread beyond the pancreas, but it has not invaded nearby major blood vessels, lymph nodes, or other parts of the body.
Stage IIB Tumor of any size has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but has not invaded nearby major blood vessels or other parts of the body.
Stage III Tumor has invaded nearby major blood vessels. It may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes, and has not spread to other parts of the body.
Stage IV Any tumor that has spread to other parts of the body.
Image is not actual size

The image below is an example of tumor size.

Marble (2 cm)

Some potential treatments to consider

Depending on the stage of the cancer, several treatments may be available.

Surgery
If the tumor is small, it can be removed through surgery. The surgery may also involve removing part of the small intestine, lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues.

Radiation therapy
Uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation is typically used to ease the pain and symptoms of pancreatic NET.

Chemotherapy
Uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. There are some chemotherapy medicines available to patients with pancreatic NET, but not many, and these are not a standard treatment for this type of cancer. Because other cells in the body also divide very quickly (bone marrow cells and hair follicles, for example), these cells are also often affected by chemotherapy. This can lead to certain side effects. Therefore, it is rarely used to treat pancreatic NET. More often, a therapy that acts on specific or unique features of cancer cells is more often used in combination with surgery.

Hormone therapy
Somatostatin analogs (SSAs) may be prescribed if the tumor is a functional pancreatic NET. SSAs help to control the symptoms caused by a functional tumor’s ability to release excess hormones into the body.

Other drugs that inhibit a specific or unique feature of cancer cells
Drug therapy that treats pancreatic NET in a few different ways. SUTENT is one of those therapies; it blocks an enzyme and keeps tumors from making their own blood vessels, which are needed to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to help them survive and grow. In so doing, SUTENT can slow cancer growth and prevent the spread of cancer cells. SUTENT is not a cure, and not all patients will experience the same results.

SUTENT results

SUTENT has been proven effective in the treatment of advanced pancreatic NET in certain patients

A clinical trial proved that SUTENT is an effective treatment for advanced pancreatic NET.

Nearly twice the time without progression

Patients treated with SUTENT lived nearly twice the number of months without progression compared with those on placebo.

The data represent an average. SUTENT is not a cure and not all patients will experience the same results.