Tachykinins in carcinoid tumors: their use as a tumor marker and possible role in the carcinoid flush

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1986 Sep;63(3):605-12. doi: 10.1210/jcem-63-3-605.


The plasma concentrations of various tachykinins were measured before and during flushing episodes in 16 patients with metastatic carcinoid tumors. The flushing attacks were induced by iv injection of pentagastrin or ingestion of food or alcohol. Tachykinins, such as neurokinin A (NKA) and neuropeptide K (NPK), increased 2-fold during flushing episodes in 12 patients, and the plasma concentrations of substance P increased to a varying extent in 3 patients. Chromatographic analysis of plasma samples taken before and during flushing episodes in 2 patients indicated the presence of individual spectra of tachykinins. In addition, the plasma concentration of tachykinin [TKLI(K12)], using an assay that detects NKA, NPK, kassinin, eledoisin, and NKB, but not substance P and physalaemin, and the urinary excretion of 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA) were measured in 20 patients with midgut carcinoid tumors before and during treatment with human leucocyte interferon. The overall changes in the 2 tumor markers were concordant in 18 of the 20 patients. Thus, the Spearman correlation coefficient between the percent changes in urinary 5-hydroxyindole acid excretion and plasma TKLI(K12) was 0.54 (P less than 0.001). The patients who had a decrease in the tumor markers also had a decrease in flushing episodes and diarrhea. Plasma TKLI(K12) is a convenient tumor marker for the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with carcinoid tumors of midgut origin. The combined use of both tumor markers strengthens the diagnosis and may improve the evaluation of response during treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Eating
  • Ethanol
  • Female
  • Flushing / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / urine
  • Male
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome / blood*
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / blood*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • Pentagastrin
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Substance P / blood
  • Tachykinins


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Tachykinins
  • Substance P
  • Ethanol
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Pentagastrin