A treatment for neuroendocrine cancer that was previously only available abroad is now being provided at the Hadassah University Medical Center. Patients are injected with radioactive material that attaches to the malignant cell, absorbing and destroying it with minimal damage to other tissue. The new treatment is the outgrowth of three years of collaboration between Hadassah and Israel's Soreq Nuclear Research Center, an applied research and development institute affiliated with the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. The radioactive material is assembled at the Soreq Center and sent to Hadassah once a week at a set time.
Based on the fact that these endocrine tumors have an increased ability to absorb a hormone called somatostatin, the therapeutic procedure involves attaching a similar molecule to the hormone which is, in turn, attached to a radioactive atom. The atom binds to receptors on the outer membrane of the tumor and is absorbed into the malignant cell, emitting ionizing radiation which destroys it.
According to Dr. Asher Salmon, Senior Oncologist at Hadassah's Sharett Institute of Oncology, the treatment successfully prolongs life expectancy for 80 percent of patients and retards the progress of the disease for 50 percent. "This treatment, considered one of the best and most innovative available, differs from chemotherapy, providing prolonged relief for the patients with only a few side effects," he says. Following just one day in the hospital, patients are sent home; within several days, they can resume their normal lives.
Hadassah's departments of endocrinology, oncology, nuclear medicine, and radiology collaborate in providing this treatment to Hadassah's patients.