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Hagen Kennecke, MD, medical director, Virginia Mason Cancer Institute, visits with his patient, Donna Raforth.
Hagen Kennecke, MD, medical director, Virginia Mason Cancer Institute, visits with his patient, Donna Raforth.

SEATTLE – (Dec. 11, 2020) – Virginia Mason, which in 2018 became the first medical center in the Pacific Northwest to offer Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT; Lutathera®) for treating neuroendocrine tumors that strike the intestines, pancreas, lungs and other parts of the body, has reached its 100th patient milestone.

“Previously, there were few effective therapies for shrinking gastrointestinal and lung neuroendocrine tumors when surgery is not an option,” said Hagen F. Kennecke, MD, MHA, FRCPC, medical oncologist and medical director of the Virginia Mason Cancer Institute.

“While this procedure does not cure cancer, it significantly extends the life of those living with the disease and improves their quality of life,” Dr. Kennecke added. “We are proud to be on the forefront of this promising, highly targeted therapy, which may be used for the treatment of other cancers in the future.”

Patients treated with PRRT at Virginia Mason have traveled to the medical center from throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska, making it one of the largest programs in the United States.

Milestone patient

One such patient is 70-year-old Donna Raforth from Yakima, Wash., who is the 100th person to receive Lutathera® at Virginia Mason. The retired, school-based speech pathologist was diagnosed with her neuroendocrine tumor 13 years ago during a routine colonoscopy. She received her first five-hour infusion at the Virginia Mason Cancer Institute in September 2020 and is now halfway through her treatments. Since the protocol is for four treatments at least eight weeks apart, Raforth plans to receive her third infusion in early February and her final treatment in April 2021.

“I feel very fortunate that my Yakima oncologist referred me to Dr. Kennecke and his topnotch team,” she said. “I am a big proponent of not hesitating when it comes to seeking second opinions from specialists at major medical centers, especially when dealing with rare cancers like neuroendocrine tumors.”

How it works

Lutathera® (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) is a prescription medication given as an intravenous (IV) infusion that can shrink neuroendocrine tumors or stop them from growing. A radioactive targeted therapy, this treatment aims at tumors without harming healthy cells and tissue.

Malignant neuroendocrine tumors typically grow slowly and can produce compounds that cause severe symptoms. About 2,000 people are diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors every year in the United States. The tumors, which require medical evaluation and treatment, cause symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling in the feet and ankles
  • Skin lesions
  • Shortness of breath

For more information about neuroendocrine tumors, visit the National Institutes of Health. To make an appointment at the Virginia Mason Cancer Institute, call (206)-223-6193 or toll-free at (888) 862-2737.

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; outpatient medical facilities and services in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Edmonds, 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; Virginia Mason Foundation; and Virginia Mason Institute, which trains health care professionals and others around the world in the Virginia Mason Production System, an innovative management method for improving quality and safety.

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

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