Neuroendocrine Cancer

Dr David Chan, Prof Dale Bailey, A/Prof Paul Roach, Prof Stephen Clarke, Dr Connie Diakos, A/Prof Nick Pavlakis

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) are uncommon, but increasing in incidence. They can occur in almost any organ of the body, most commonly in the small bowel, pancreas and lung. They are marked by a huge variation in biological aggressiveness and clinical outcomes (“heterogeneity”). Low-grade tumours can stay stable for many years, and some may never need treatment in a patient’s lifetime. On the other hand, high-grade tumours are very aggressive, and carry a poor prognosis even with aggressive treatment. Therefore, improved understanding of why some NENs behave aggressively and others do not can help clinicians recommend the best therapy for patients affected by this disease.

Our current research focuses on the role of PET scans in understanding NEN behaviour, particularly dual PET (68Ga-DOTATATE and FDG PET). We have developed a simple score (the NETPET score) to objectively describe the findings on dual PET. We have shown that this NETPET score correlates with tumour biology, and also that it can predict patient outcome. Our current research focuses on expanding the evidence base for the NETPET score, as well as investigating various novel ways to analyse PET scans for NEN patients.

This research is supported by Sydney Vital and an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship.