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Catherine Pittman, of Albany, is surrounded by part of her medical team at Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner. They include, from left, Tanya Lewis, Pamela Ryan, Crystal McCann Owens, Rhiney Hampton and Danielle Kister

An Albany resident was the first patient to use a new treatment for neuroendocrine tumors.

To meet the growing demand from patients across the country, Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner opened a new, dedicated infusion space to administer peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors. Ochsner's Kenner location is one of about 100 sites in the country to offer the therapy and is the only site in Louisiana, a news release said.

A neuroendocrine tumor is a rare, hormone-producing tumor that affects neuroendocrine cells, which are present throughout the nervous and endocrine systems. The tumors can originate anywhere in the body. They afflict people from all walks of life, including music legend Aretha Franklin, who died from the disease in August 2018, and Apple founder Steve Jobs, who died from the disease in 2011.

Ochsner-Kenner is home to the neuroendocrine program, which specializes in the diagnosis and management of all forms of neuroendocrine tumors, the release said.

One such advancement is the treatment option of peptide receptor radionuclide therapy, a targeted radiation that halts tumor growth. For years, Ochsner-Kenner has been administering this therapy via an internal review board-approved clinical research trial, but it was approved by the FDA in July 2018 to dispense commercially. Until last summer, patients seeking this therapy had to travel abroad. Ochsner-Kenner’s expanded infusion space has allowed the treatment to be administered to more patients, while enhancing and increasing patient survival an additional three or four years while newer innovative therapies are developed.

Those people include breast cancer survivor Catherine Pittman, 84, of Albany, who was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors in 2013. After research on treatment options, she discovered there were few places in the country that were equipped to treat her condition.

Pittman initially treated her tumors surgically and with chemotherapy but became interested in peptide receptor radionuclide therapy when it was introduced to her as an alternative. She completed her six-month treatment course in January; she was the first Ochsner patient to do so after it was approved by the FDA.

Pittman returns to the Kenner location once a month for a shot of lanreotide, an injection that helps slow the tumor growth. She also has routine scans and sees a doctor every six months to monitor her condition. Pittman spends her time managing her brother’s property, gardening and taking care of her rescue dog Sport in Albany.

“I am a very active person, and my diagnosis has not slowed me down. On my brother’s property, I cut down trees, rake leaves and do whatever needs to be done,” Pittman said. “I think there is no place like Ochsner. If not for them, I would have only lived another two or three weeks after my diagnosis.”