Dr Heloisa Soares on the Importance of Multidisciplinary Care, Patient Engagement in NETs

Heloisa Soares, MD, assistant professor, University of New Mexico Cancer Center-Albuquerque, discusses the importance of treating neuroendocrine tumors with a multidisciplinary team, as well as the importance of engaging patients and their families in their care.

Heloisa Soares, MD, assistant professor, University of New Mexico Cancer Center-Albuquerque, discusses the importance of treating neuroendocrine tumors with a multidisciplinary team, as well as the importance of engaging patients and their families in their care.

TranscriptWhy is it important to treat neuroendocrine tumors with a multidisciplinary team?

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a multidisciplinary team for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). You have to have a NET-focused pathologist to review the slides of the patient, because often, the diagnosis can change slightly. When we have a pathologist reviewing that that specializes in NETs, then you have to have a good radiologist helping to read the films.

Then, you have to have your surgeon or surgical oncologist looking and evaluating the patient with you, because even in the setting of stage 4 disease or metastatic disease, we can still offer surgery to these patients in many occasions. They surgeries can even be a curative intent in putting the patients in remission for a very long time, or it could be offered to improve the quality of life, because some of these patients are so symptomatic that the bulking of the disease can make wonders for the quality of life.

We also have to have a nuclear medicine physician with us because now with the upcoming use of peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, you know, our colleagues from nuclear medicine are extremely essential for the treatment of NETs. We have to have the help our endocrinologist to help with some of the issues that come with having a NET patient. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that we need the help of the gastroenterologist to diagnosis the disease, because sometimes we have to do 2 endoscopy procedures, but also with helping managing some of the most challenging issues of these patients, including diarrhea, for example.

So, these are just a few examples of how a patient with NETs should be taken care of by a multidisciplinary team.

How important is it to engage patients and their families in their care so that they understand their treatment and their diagnosis?

So, it’s very important to educate patients and their families in terms of the new diagnosis of NETs. When patients come to the clinic to me, I typically explain what a NET is. I try to make the comparison, to some extent, I compare the Steve Jobs pancreatic cancer versus the Patrick Swayze pancreatic cancer. That gives a sort of visual understanding of the difference between both diseases.

I try to explain the natural history of the disease as much as the capability of the patient to understand the differences. And then I also redirect patients to reliable sources of information that we have on the internet, from the different NET organization that we have with the Carcinoid Foundation, we have the Healing NET Foundation. The NET Research Foundation also has some information for patients. I think all of these are very important. There’s also amazing supportive group organizations out there. They are extremely reliable and supportive to patients, so I tend to direct my patients to these type of organizations as well.