Diagnosing and tracking tumors in patients with neuroendocrine cancer is quite challenging. However, a new pharmaceutical drug was approved for use with positron emission tomography (PET) to make rare tumors visible on medical imaging.
Known as Gallium-68, or NETSpot, or Gallium Dotatate, the drug is used in PET-CT imaging of neuroendocrine tumors. PET scanning helps to highlight the tumors, while CT imaging shows a detailed view of the patient’s body. The computer will merge the two sets of images into one to help doctors understand the metabolic activity of the tumors.
During the procedure, the patient is injected with Gallium-68, which is slightly radioactive. The radioactive tracer is absorbed quickly by the neuroendocrine tumors to help the PET-CT scanner detect the location of the tumors. The tumors will appear on the images as bright patches.
The PET-CT scanner uses x-rays to produce 3D images of the body. Physicians will use the images to find out if the tumor is located in the lung, bone, or any other body organ.
The scan identifies and highlights tumors much faster and is performed as a single outpatient procedure. It is an excellent tool for scanning low and intermediate-grade neuroendocrine tumors and help doctors make appropriate treatment decisions for the small lesions detected.
Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are rare tumors but are becoming more common as years go by. The only treatment for these tumors is surgery. However, most of them are identified at an advanced stage when surgery is no longer an option.
Researchers are working to look for better ways of detecting NETs early when they can be removed surgically. The new Gallium-68 PET-CT scan has been very effective in detecting small lesions.
Gallium-68 can detect unknown primary and metastatic neuroendocrine tumors in the pancreas and gastrointestinal system.
This new scan, however, cannot be applied in every situation. It can replace octreotide-based full body scan but cannot be used in place of conventional CT and MRI imaging for monitoring cancer and for those patients who are not receptor-positive.