Urge FDA to approve new treatment for Carcinoid Tumors
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Hi. My name is Kerry and I’m a zebra. Now, before you think I'm crazy, I hope you'll please let me have a minute of your time to explain.
In medical school, doctors-to-be are often taught the adage “If you hear hoof beats, think horse”. In other words, the most obvious answer is usually the right answer. But sometimes the hoof beats come from something rarer: a zebra perhaps.
For nearly 5 years, doctors heard hoof beats as they looked at scans of my liver and saw some small “things” taking up residence. And, for nearly 5 years, they thought horse. They did blood tests, colonoscopies, upper endoscopies; all of the tests you would do looking for the “normal” cancers such as colon cancer, but the tests were negative. So they concluded that my liver had some benign growths on it. Nothing to worry about.
In January of 2016 a biopsy of my liver resolved the mystery. I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Carcinoid or Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET). The disease is so rare it is referred to as the zebra of cancers and represents only about 2% of cancers treated each year. In honor of its rarity, the zebra has been adopted as the official mascot of those who suffer from it and we, the patients, are called zebras.
In my desperate quest for solutions to my problem, I read about a treatment called Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy, or PRRT for short. It has been available in Europe for more than a decade and clinical trials here in the United States have recently concluded. The results have been very promising. According to one of the doctors who participated in the phase 3 clinical trial, “The findings were, in my opinion, extraordinarily impressive, the median progression-free survival improved by nearly 80%, which is fairly unprecedented in oncologic studies. The finding is important because limited therapeutic options exist for such patients, who comprise 20% to 45% of neuroendocrine tumor cases.” (1)
As you can imagine, I have been following these trials with great interest as I am their target patient: my tumors are inoperable and are known to respond to the drug being used in the treatment.
Earlier this year, there was hope the treatment would be approved by mid-year 2016. Then it was sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016. The latest timeframe for approval is now early 2017.
I understand and appreciate the fact that the FDA has to perform their due diligence to insure that new drugs are safe and effective. None of us want unsafe drugs to be hurried to market. In the case of PRRT, it appears to have proven its worth, both in US clinical trials as well as in more than 10 years of use in Europe.
I don’t profess to know or understand what the holdup is in obtaining approval. I’m certainly not a doctor. What I do know is that every day that passes without this treatment being approved thousands of us zebras get sicker and closer to the point where treatments won’t matter any longer.
Will you please join me in urging the FDA to keep the approval of PRRT at the top of their priority list? I’m only 55 years old and I’m not ready to leave this world yet.
I and my fellow zebras thank you.
(1) Full article discussing PRRT can be found online at http://www.carcinoid.org/2016/05/03/one-step-closer-us-peptide-receptor-radionuclide-therapy-prrt-neuroendocrine-cancers/
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