Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are abnormal growths that can occur anywhere in the body.
NETs have historically been considered rare, but recent studies show that the incidence of NETs has steadily increased over the last several decades. These slow growing tumors may cause vague symptoms for many years that can be mistaken for other diseases and conditions. As a result, many patients may undergo evaluation by multiple physicians and centers before reaching the final diagnosis of NETs.
Currently, the only curative treatment option for patients with NETs is surgery. However, few surgeons and institutions have acquired the experience necessary to adequately assess and treat patients with advanced NETs.
When surgeons observe extensive disease on imaging or during exploratory surgery, many are hesitant to undertake such complex operations and these patients may be told that they are “unresectable.” When a patient is given an “unresectable” designation, their treatment options are limited. Although these treatments can slow tumor growth, the disease can continue to progress and ultimately lead to death. Therefore, the importance of a surgeon’s familiarity and experience with NETs must not be undervalued.
The NOLANETS Approach
The New Orleans Louisiana Neuroendocrine Tumor Specialists (NOLANETS) is a collaboration between Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana.
The NOLANETS multidisciplinary team specializes in the treatment and management of NETs and has pioneered the aggressive surgical approach in treating NETs.
In our experience in over 3,000 NET patients to date, we have found that combining aggressive surgical cytoreduction – the reduction of as much of the bulk of a tumor as possible – with a variety of other therapies improves survival in patients with NETs.
Our approach is supported by a recent study that looked at the medical records of 800 patients who underwent 1,001 surgical cytoreductions and subsequent management by the NOLANETS. The 5-, 10-, and 20-year survival rates for our patients were 82%, 65%, and 37%, respectively, with the median overall survival from the date of diagnosis being 166 months (13.8 years).
We believe that surgical cytoreduction should play a major role in the care of patients with NETs. Our experience shows that surgical cytoreduction in NET patients can be performed with low complication rates and results in prolonged survival.
For more information about NOLANETS and our approach to treating NETs, click here.