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 Hagen Kennecke, MD
Hagen Kennecke, MD

SEATTLE – (Dec. 18, 2017) —

Virginia Mason has become the first health system in Washington state to begin a new therapy that targets neuroendocrine tumors, an uncommon cancer that affects the intestines, pancreas, lungs and other parts of the body.

On Dec. 15, Hagen Kennecke, MD, medical oncologist and medical director, Virginia Mason Cancer Institute, and radiologist Marie Lee, MD, began treating a patient using peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).

In PRRT, a cell-targeting protein (peptide) named octreotide is combined with a small amount of radioactive material (radionuclide), creating a special type of intravenous radiation treatment called a radiopeptide. When injected into the patient’s bloodstream, this radiopeptide travels to and binds only with neuroendocrine tumor cells, delivering a high dose of targeted radiation to the cancer while preserving healthy tissue.

This nonsurgical approach has been the focus of clinical trials in the United States and is awaiting final approval by the Food and Drug Administration. In late January 2018, the federal agency is expected to announce its decision regarding Lutathera, the brand name of the radiologic used in PRRT and produced by Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA).

PRRT has been shown to significantly delay progression of tumors in patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors who are not candidates for surgery and whose symptoms do not respond to other medical treatments. The therapy is already available in Australia and parts of Europe.

Virginia Mason is among a handful of medical centers in the United States to be selected for the AAA-sponsored early access program and to begin the new therapy.

“Until now, there has been no effective therapy to shrink small bowel and lung neuroendocrine tumors when surgery is not an option,” Dr. Kennecke said. “While this procedure does not cure cancer, it significantly extends the life of those living with the disease and improves their quality of life. We are proud to be on the forefront of this promising, highly targeted therapy which can be used for the treatment of other cancers in the future.”

Malignant neuroendocrine tumors typically grow slowly and can produce amino acids that cause severe symptoms and possible harm to the liver. About 2,000 people are diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors every year in the United States.

About Virginia Mason Health System
Virginia Mason, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system based in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. In the Puget Sound region, the system includes 336-bed Virginia Mason Hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 500 physicians; regional medical centers in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kirkland, Issaquah and Lynnwood; Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the United States designed specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS; Benaroya Research Institute, which is internationally recognized for autoimmune disease research; and Virginia Mason Institute, which trains health care professionals and others from around the world in the Virginia Mason Production System, an innovative management methodology for continually improving quality, safety and efficiency.

Virginia Mason Health System also includes Virginia Mason Memorial, a 226-bed hospital serving the Yakima Valley in central Washington since 1950.

Media Contact:
Gale Robinette
Media Relations Manager
Virginia Mason Health System
(206) 341-1509


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