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A specialist regional service for patients with neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) based at University Hospital Southampton has been named a centre of excellence by the European Neuroendocrine Tumour Society (ENETS).


The service, which is backed by PLANETS Cancer Charity, is made up of clinicians at Southampton General Hospital, the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and the Dorset Cancer Centre who form the Wessex NET Group.  It brings together experts from oncology, pathology, radiology, nuclear medicine, endocrinology, surgery, gastroenterology and nursing.  Its status as a European centre of excellence has now been secured for another five years following a recent inspection by experts from across the world. The service first received the accreditation in 2015.


NETs are rare types of cancer which arise from specialised cells that are found throughout the body and form a link between the nervous system, which consists of nerve cells and fibres, and the endocrine system, a collection of glands which produce hormones.  The tumours are usually found in the pancreas, bowel or lungs but can also develop in other parts of the body.


The Wessex NET Group sees more than 150 new patients a year and have more than 1,000 patients on follow-up after treatment. The group meets every week in Southampton where decisions about patients’ treatment are made.  Patients then receive treatment in a hospital near to home to minimise the impact on work and home life without compromising care.  The group was formed in 2005 by surgeon and UHS associate medical director Neil Pearce and is now led by his colleague Tom Armstrong, a consultant hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgeon, and Emma Ramsey, neuroendocrine clinical nurse specialist.


PLANETS ( helps patients with pancreatic, liver, colorectal, abdominal and neuroendocrine cancer by funding patient support groups, innovative treatments and research.


“We are very proud of our service and feel validated by this recognition as the review team was made up of a team of renowned experts who audit major centres worldwide,” said Mr Armstrong.  “They commented that the presentation we made was excellent and the service so comprehensive that they had no suggestions to improve it.”  He added: “We work very closely with the PLANETS Cancer Charity who have been key to our success through patient involvement – which has helped inform and shape the service – and fundraising.”


PLANETS was co-founded in 2011 by Mr Pearce along with neuroendocrine cancer patient Layla Stephen and consultant radiologist Brian Stedman.  It has so far raised £1.3 million which has helped fund a NETs specialist nurse, a new ultrasound scanner, new specialist cancer treatments, pioneering intraoperative radiotherapy machine Mobetron and a pancreatic cancer research programme in Southampton.  Ms Stephen, who is now chief executive of the charity, said: “It was a privilege to be asked to present to the panel on behalf of the service from a patient and charity perspective.  “I watched all the other amazing speakers from across Portsmouth, Southampton and Dorset and I was so proud of the amazing quality of presentations and information.  “When the review team deliberated and came back to inform us they thought the service is excellent and one of the best examples they have seen, it was extremely emotional.  “I’m delighted for all involved and, of course, our fantastic PLANETS supporters who make everything we do to support the clinical team possible.”

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