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Northside Hospital offers new technology to screen for rare cancer

Doctors within the tallest building in Forsyth County have reached higher heights in diagnosing and treating a rare form of cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a product called NETSPOT, which is used in the preparation of Gallium-68 (Ga-68) dotatate for positron emission tomography – computer tomography (PET/CT) imaging that helps doctors find neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) easier and earlier, and the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is one of only a handful in the Southeast to offer it.

NETSPOT is available at Northside imaging centers in Cumming, Atlanta, Decatur, Fayetteville and Lawrenceville.

Most NETs are not harmful – more than 12,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with NETs each year, according to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation. They develop in the hormone-producing cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system and often form in the intestine, pancreas or lungs.

Sometimes, however, they trigger a rare form of cancer than can be difficult with current imaging techniques.

Until now.

“NETSPOT provides a more sensitive and specific imaging tool to determine location of disease, for staging and restaging of patients with well-differentiated and moderately differentiated NETs,” said William C. Lavely, a nuclear medicine specialist at Northside Radiology Associates.

Ga-68 dotatate is a radioactive diagnostic agent that is specifically designed to detect somatostatin receptors, including those in NETs. When injected into a patient, the agent binds to the receptors.

“Somatostatin is a hormone that regulates the endocrine system and is expressed by neuroendocrine cells,” Lavely said. “This provides a unique target for neuroendocrine tumor imaging.”

Combined with PET/CT imaging, which offers higher resolution, 3D and more rapid imaging than other technologies, NETSPOT gives doctors a better picture of the disease and what they have to treat.

“Patients who are diagnosed with NETs early,” Lavely said, “have a better chance of beating or managing the disease.”