PRRT: "She probably wouldn't be alive" - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

PRRT: "She probably wouldn't be alive"

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Sunday evening as part of our special series The New Frontier, we introduced you to Eileen Torgerson, a woman living in Great Falls, whose body is literally full of cancerous tumors.

But she's beat the odds, and is now the poster child for a new treatment that seems to be working. The only catch? It's not FDA approved, and she has to travel to Texas to receive it.

Backing up for a moment: in the summer of 2017, reporter Taylor Chase sat down with Eileen, who described her new treatment.

"You have to stay away from people you're radioactive for a while.” “Really? That's like something out of science fiction.” “It is! It's new, it's definitely new."

“Science fiction” is just one way to describe Eileen's treatment, or Peptide Receptor Radiotherapy, also known as PRRT.

One of Eileen's doctors, nuclear physician Luke Bolek, tried to break it down, and in very, very simplified terms, here’s how it works:

Eileen's body is injected with radioactive isotopes, which then target her cancer, hone in on the cancerous cells, and break apart the DNA.

What makes this treatment so appealing is that it specifically targets the cancerous cells, not healthy tissue. So patients experience very few side effects.

PRRT is not FDA approved, which may seem questionable to some. But Dr. Bolek says people shouldn't pass up treatment just based on the status.

"And to be honest with you, all things that are FDA approved at one point were not FDA approved… It took time to get the most conventional medicines approved also," says Bolek.

But how is it that patients can even use a non-FDA approved treatment? That's thanks to a law called “Right to Try.” Montana has a similar law in place, passed in 2015, but Eileen travels to another Right to Try State—Texas-- which has more resources.

"We're fairly confident that this will be FDA approved by January or early 2018," says Bolek.

And in the case of Eileen, FDA approved or not, it was worth the risk.

"To put it bluntly, without it she probably wouldn't be alive,” Bolek told us.

And with every rare patient like Eileen, Dr. Bolek says they are getting closer and closer to changing how we treat cancers across the board.

"It can only get better… It can only get better."?

And better it will be... Dr. Bolek says Eileen is responding very well to the treatments, and her tumors are now considered to be in “stable” condition. On average, folks listed as stable will live an additional three and a half years without their tumors spreading.

For more information about PRRT, visit the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging website. For more information about Right to Try Laws in Montana, read the full legislation here

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