Must antidepressants be avoided in patients with neuroendocrine tumors? Results of a systematic review

Palliat Support Care. 2020 Oct;18(5):602-608. doi: 10.1017/S147895152000005X.


Objective: Symptoms of depression and anxiety are common in neuroendocrine tumor (NET), yet controversy exists over whether serotonin-mediated antidepressants (SAs) are safe in this population. We sought to address this knowledge gap.

Method: Following PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic review to identify NET patients who were prescribed SA.

Results: We identified 15 articles, reporting on 161 unique patients, 72 with carcinoid syndrome (CS) and 89 without. There was substantial agreement between reviewers at the full-text stage (κ = 0.69). Three of the articles, all with low risk of bias, accounted for most of the cases (149/161; 93%). Among the 72 NET patients with CS prior to antidepressant usage, CS was exacerbated in 6 cases (8%), only 3 (4%) of whom chose to discontinue the antidepressant. The remaining 89 patients had no prior CS symptoms, and none developed CS following antidepressant usage. Overall, no instances of carcinoid crisis or death were reported.

Conclusions: We found no evidence for serious adverse outcomes related to SA usage in NET patients. Previous authors have recommended avoiding antidepressants in NET, but our findings do not support those recommendations. Oncologists should nonetheless monitor for symptom exacerbation when prescribing SA to patients with NET.

Keywords: Antidepressive agents; Carcinoid tumor; Malignant carcinoid syndrome; Neuroendocrine tumors; Psycho-Oncology; Quality of life; Serotonin uptake inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / complications
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / physiopathology*
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / etiology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / physiopathology
  • Humans


  • Antidepressive Agents