Medical therapy

Drug treatment for neuroendocrine tumours

There are a range of drug treatments available to control symptoms and delay progression of the cancer. These are offered to patients whose tumours cannot be completely removed by surgery. There are three principle forms of drug treatment:

Somatostatin analogues

These drugs can stop abnormal hormone production and tumour growth and are effective for stopping diarrhea and flushing caused by carcinoid syndrome. They're delivered in the form of a monthly injection and, in most patients, have few side effects and can be used for long periods without difficulty. The two options are:

  • Lanreotide
  • Sandostatin LAR

Conventional chemotherapy

This form of treatment is not effective in many neuroendocrine tumours, especially those that are growing very slowly. However, it would be appropriate in selected cases - usually those with tumours that are growing faster. The aim of the treatment is to shrink the tumours which in turn will improve symptoms. Side effects may include sickness, diarrhoea, hair loss and the increased risk of infection. Commonly used drugs are:

  • Carboplatin
  • Etoposide
  • Streptozcin
  • Capecitabine

Targeted treatments

These treatments have been developed more recently in the form of a daily tablet. It's unusual for these treatments to shrink tumours but are effective in stabilising tumour growth in certain groups of patients. They are usually continued with until there is evidence of tumour growth or unacceptable side effects which can include, fatigue, mouth ulcers, diarrhea, high blood pressure and skin rash. However most side effects are manageable with dose adjustments and sometimes breaks in treatment.

  • Sunitinib
  • Everolimus

Our team will select the most appropriate treatment for you, balancing the risk of side effects with the potential benefit to your care. You may receive more than one of the listed treatments during your treatment - the objective is always to optimise quality and length of life by controlling the tumour. At present there are no drugs that can cure neuroendocrine tumours.