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Buffett Cancer Center uses new treatment to better target certain tumors

Posted at 1:39 PM, Jul 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 18:20:14-04

74-year-old Marilyn Cody of Griswold, Iowa was diagnosed with cancer about four years ago. 

She has form of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs). It's stage 4. "Mostly they just said it was a slow-growing one, and they didn't give me any time or anything so I just kept living it," Cody said with her contagious smile.

She's undergone chemo to fight it but says chemo made her feel terribly sick and tired. 

She was the first at Nebraska Medicine's Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center to try a newly FDA-approved radioactive drug called Lutathera. It is not yet produced in the United States and it only has a seven day half-life so the Buffett Cancer Center has to receive a shipment from Italy before giving the treatment. Plans are underway for it to be produced in the U.S. 

Dr. Martin Goodenberger is a radiologist at Nebraska Medicine. He described how it works, "it goes around in the body, goes to the area where the tumor is and it releases its radioactivity, and it just does tissue damage within that two millimeter area. So it's a pretty precise treatment." He says that limits the side effects.

It only takes about a half hour to receive the medicine via IV, however, the process takes about six hours because other treatments are given. "This medication can cause side effects with the kidneys so actually we give a protective solution when we're giving the medication so that actually causes a lot of the nausea," Dr. Goodenberger said. 

"Chemo was hard--really hard--but this was a lot better," Cody said. 

Patients receive four rounds of the medicine every two months. Dr. Goodenberger says patients are told to act as if they have the flu for a few days following treatment because of the radiation. 

It's not known yet it it's been effective for Cody, but she still recommends it to others. "I would tell them go for it, go for it, it can't do any worse than what's going to happen, so why not?"