Lutathera for Digestive Tract Cancers

SingleCare Logo for author page By | March 28, 2018

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) announced in January 2018 that it approved Lutathera for medical use. The decision comes after the FDA examined evidence from two studies presented by Novartis (pharmaceuticals and oncology company). One of the studies showed that 16% of patients with Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (GEP-NETs) who took Lutathera experienced complete or partial tumor shrinkage.

The other study was performed in combination with a drug called octreotide, which can also be used to treat gastroenteropancreatic tumors (tumors of the digestive tract and pancreas). This study supported the claim that Lutathera could be used to treat GEP-NETs. The studies were analyzed as part of the FDA’s Priority Review program, which is structured to provide funding and quick review to drugs that are designed for the treatment of rare or underfunded diseases.

What is Lutathera?

Lutathera is a drug to treat a type of digestive tract cancer called gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs). GEP-NETs are diagnosed in one in every 27,000 people per year. While most common in the pancreas, these tumors can appear throughout the digestive tract, including the stomach, intestines, and rectum.

It is important to note that Lutathera does not work with all GEP-NETs. It works against tumors that have a type of receptor that attracts a hormone called somatostatin. The drug itself is a radioactive drug (known as a radiopharmaceutical). It is taken intravenously (through the veins) and travels through the bloodstream until it encounters a tumor cell. It attaches itself to the cell and subjects it to radioactivity, which causes damage to the cell and prevents it from metastasizing (multiplying and spreading).

bottle of lutathera medication

Common Side Effects

There may be serious side effects for patients who take Lutathera. Due to the radioactive nature of the drug, it can subject otherwise healthy cells to harmful radiation, causing radiation sickness. Side effects include (but are not limited to) the development of cancers in the bone marrow, low white blood cell count, nausea/vomiting, liver and kidney damage, and interaction with levels of hormones throughout the body, which can lead to high blood sugar or low levels of potassium.

Safety Protocols

It can also cause infertility in both men and women. Lutathera can cause harm to a fetus – as such, any women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should consult with their doctor before deciding to take a course of Lutathera. Due to the nature of radioactive drugs, any person living with a patient taking Lutathera should observe radioactive safety protocols that limit their exposure to the harmful materials. Patients are advised to consult with medical professionals on the best course of action.

Interactions with other drugs

Due to this drug’s ingredients, it can react with other medications. Any patients taking lanreotide, octreotide or pasireotide should tell their doctor about the medications they are taking.

Asking your doctor about Lutathera

Lutathera is FDA-approved and available for doctors to prescribe to patients with GEP-NETs. It is most commonly administered every 8 weeks, with a total of four injections.