The incidence and prevalence of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs) have increased in the past 20 years. GEP-NETs are heterogeneous tumors, in terms of clinical and biological features, that originate from the pancreas or the intestinal tract. Some GEP-NETs grow very slowly, some grow rapidly and do not cause symptoms, and others cause hormone hypersecretion and associated symptoms. Most GEP-NETs overexpress receptors for somatostatins. Somatostatins inhibit the release of many hormones and other secretory proteins; their effects are mediated by G protein-coupled receptors that are expressed in a tissue-specific manner. Most GEP-NETs overexpress the somatostatin receptor SSTR2; somatostatin analogues are the best therapeutic option for functional neuroendocrine tumors because they reduce hormone-related symptoms and also have antitumor effects. Long-acting formulations of somatostatin analogues stabilize tumor growth over long periods. The development of radioactive analogues for imaging and peptide receptor radiotherapy has improved the management of GEP-NETs. Peptide receptor radiotherapy has significant antitumor effects, increasing overall survival times of patients with tumors that express a high density of SSTRs, particularly SSTR2 and SSTR5. The multi-receptor somatostatin analogue SOM230 (pasireotide) and chimeric molecules that bind SSTR2 and the dopamine receptor D2 are also being developed to treat patients with GEP-NETs. Combinations of radioactive labeled and unlabeled somatostatin analogues and therapeutics that inhibit other signaling pathways, such as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and vascular endothelial growth factor, might be the most effective therapeutics for GEP-NETs.
Copyright © 2010 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.