Meet Dr. Eric Liu | by Andrea Juarez

Dr. Eric Liu, Neuroendocrine Tumor Surgeon

Posted on Sat, Jan 28, 2017

Neuroendocrine Tumor Surgeon

Sometimes symptoms like reoccurring stomach aches or breathing problems are not caused by usual ailments. In these situations, patients and their doctors are shooting in the dark and they unsuccessfully try treatment after treatment. Meanwhile, patients suffer for years.

Dr. Eric Liu, an internationally-recognized neuroendocrine tumor surgeon with the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers says these ongoing problems can be symptoms of abnormal growths known as neuroendocrine tumors, also called NETs.

“Neuroendocrine tumors are a rare cancer that is frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed,” he says.

Liu came to Colorado to be part of the leadership team at the new Neuroendocrine Tumor Institute offered through the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC) and Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (PSL).

In addition to his work at RMCC, Liu serves as the Chief Medical Advisor for The Healing NET Foundation, a nonprofit providing neuroendocrine cancer education. Previously, he established a neuroendocrine center at Vanderbilt University and also worked with neuroendocrine research pioneer Dr. Kjell Oberg in Sweden.

July 22, 2015. Photo by Ellen Jaskol

(left to right) Dr. Eric Liu, Dr. Allen Cohn, Dr. Charles Nutting

What is the Neuroendocrine Tumor Institute?

Dr. Liu: People with NETs can seek state-of-the-art treatment at the Institute. Our multi-disciplinary team is led by Dr. Allen Cohn, a medical oncologist from RMCC specializing in carcinoids (a type of neuroendocrine tumor), Dr. Charles Nutting, an interventional radiology expert from Radiology Imaging Associates, and myself. We draw on our expertise to provide excellent care. Only a handful of centers across the U.S. deal with NETs to the extent we do.

What is a neuroendocrine tumor (NET)?

Dr. Liu: With the death of Steve Jobs, more people have heard of NETs. Yet, the public and, unfortunately many medical professionals, have scant knowledge about this uncommon cancer that affects the lungs, small intestine, rectum, pancreas, and other areas. NETs are abnormal growths that develop from neuroendocrine cells – these cells release hormones to help regulate most bodily functions. NETs can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). NETs tend to be aggressive because they spread, but they are mostly slow-growing.

What are symptoms of a NET?

Dr. Liu: Symptoms of NETs can sometimes include diarrhea, abdominal pain, joint pain, flushing (blushing), wheezing and asthma. Occasionally, people have no symptoms.

Dr. Eric Liu, Neuroendocrine Tumor Surgeon How are NETs diagnosed and treated?

Dr. Liu: At the Institute, we use the latest developments in technology to diagnose and provide personalized treatment plans. For example, we use Netspot, a gallium kit that uses a high-res nuclear scan to take a picture of tumors to help locate and remove them. We also offer Lutathera treatments, a new therapy widely used in Europe that uses a reactive hormone carrying radiation to bind to tumors to stop growth. Lutathera is expected to be approved by the FDA in 2017, but we offer it through clinical trials. We also provide patients with multiple treatment options including surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

How is the Institute helping patients?

Dr. Liu: Neuroendocrine cancer can be a treatable cancer. Our multi-disciplinary approach helps patients with diagnosis and treatment for a longer and productive life. Since NET treatment centers are uncommon, many patients routinely fly across the country and even to Europe for care. People in the region appreciate that the Institute is in Colorado providing comprehensive treatment.

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  1. Vicki podoll says:

    I’m living on disability n medicaid does Dr lieu take these people as patients?I live in Nebraska.

  2. Sharon Melton says:

    My son had a 10 cm [pheochromocytoma in 2012. His left adrenal gland, left kidney and pheo were removed. I am extremely interested in bringing him there to see Dr. Liu and receive a GA -68 scan. He is sdhb positive and so is my daughter. Does insurance pay for scan before you know if there is a new tumor? And without the scan how do you know???? Thank you,

  3. Penny Lane says:

    Excellent, Doc Liu! You are my hero. Please, keep up the good work.

  4. Leila Khan says:

    I started out with ductal br ca,,,, 2012 had a whipple for islet ca in pancreas,, 4years of homonal Im then I stopped it as it became painfujl, arms and legs,,then put on Ibrance 2 monthe later liver BX said islet cancer ,, one dose of somastain and ended up in ER ,, told to go home ,, days later hospice took over , feeling better, can walk now..but is there a better way of life? Amsterdam/???

  5. Robert Jackson says:

    I’m a patient of Dr. Liu and thought this technology would be of interest to him (although he’s probably
    up on the latest).

    Robert Jackson

  6. Shellie Moore says:

    Hello, my 50 y/o husband was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Carcinoma (not carcinoid), poorly differentiated. Mets to the liver three weeks post colo-rectal resection, but also responded to chemo. Now, one year post op, he has abnormal tissue that a biopsy claims as benign, but remains questionable. Does Dr. Liu treat ONLY neuroendocrine carcinoid tumors (well differentiated) or does he treat all types of NETs, including poorly differentiated?

    Thank you,


  7. […] night was quite a gathering. Dr. Liu spoke about his medical journey that led him along the path to become the foremost NETs expert in […]

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