UT Health East Texas introduces new program to help slow growth of tumors in certain cancer patients

Cancer Treatment

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - UT Health East Texas is now offering a treatment that could help slow down the growth of certain types of tumors in cancer patients.

“I treat a very rare malignancy called neuroendocrine tumors,” said Dr. Alexandira Phan, the cancer center director at UT Health East Texas North Campus.

The program, which is new to the East Texas area, is Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy, also known as PRRT.

“It’s like targeted radiation therapy to only neuroendocrine tumors,” said Phan. “It causes tumor-shrinking and prolonged survival, so this ultimately changes the platform of how the patient can live.”

WEBXTRA: UT Health introduces new program to help slow growth of tumors in certain cancer patients

The first East Texas patient was treated with the new therapy at the hospital on Wednesday.

“I’m very excited because patients here used to have to be referred to Dallas or Houston,” said Phan. “Houston is four hours away and it’s very hard to go back and forth for treatment and Dallas has a wait time of a year to get therapy.”

Phan said it’s important for everyone to have access to good care where they live.

“Care shouldn’t be where someone has to go someplace to get therapy, it should occur in their neighborhood,” said Phan. “The best care, best practice, innovative care should happen in their neighborhood, without having to travel someplace.”

She’s hoping this form of treatment can eventually help even more people.

“Neuroendocrine tumors are rare enough that it occurs in ten per hundred thousand, per year, so it’s not a lot, but it’s increasing higher, faster than any other malignancy,” said Phan. “There’s also the potential to grow this treatment for other cancers. Targeted radiotherapy can be given for prostate cancer and for other things, rather than just this disease.”

Phan said having the new treatment in East Texas will benefit students at the future medical school.

“I’m excited to have this very innovative program and bringing it here keeps our medical students —who will become physicians — excited to stay here,” said Phan. “Through that, their innovative and creative thought will allow them to create solutions unique to East Texas.”

Released by UT Health North Campus Tyler:

UT Health North Campus Tyler is now offering Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy, also known as PRRT. This is a relatively new program and the only one in East Texas.

This treatment plan is for patients who have neuroendocrine tumors. The radiation targets and specifically treats the tumor cells with hormone receptor somatostatin. As a result, radiation exposure to healthy tissue is limited, and the side effects are milder compared to chemotherapy drugs. For patients in East Texas who need this treatment, the closest location is Dallas, where the wait time can be up to 12 months.

Alexandria Phan, MD, FACP, is a medical oncologist and hematologist at UT Health North Campus Tyler, who is responsible for bringing this program to East Texas. “UT Health North Campus Tyler will be the first, and for now the only location, in East Texas that can treat neuroendocrine tumors with this targeted therapy,” Phan said. “Having this treatment modality here in East Texas will be much needed for our patients with neuroendocrine tumors, and it will greatly reduce the wait time to life-saving innovative therapy to patients who have these tumors.”

Dr. Phan has 20 plus years of experience specializing in the management of neuroendocrine tumors and gastrointestinal cancers. She was at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for 13 years as a GI medical oncologist, where she taught, did clinical research and treated patients with neuroendocrine and GI cancers.

For more information on the treatment, please call 903-877-7831.

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