A study looking at a possible new way of finding and monitoring neuroendocrine tumours

Cancer type:

Neuroendocrine tumour (NET)





This study looked for cancer cells in the bloodstreams of people with neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). Neuroendocrine tumours are a rare group of tumours. Some NETs can produce hormones Open a glossary item which help doctors diagnose the disease, and some produce a large number of chemicals called markers. Tumour markers help show the doctor whether the tumour is growing and whether treatment is working. They may also help doctors to work out how long people are likely to live.

Doctors wanted to find more sensitive and specific markers. For example, markers sensitive enough to show up very tiny NETs, when the tumour was growing and more closely monitor how well treatment was working. This may mean patients could have fewer scans.

This study looked at cancer cells that had broken away from the original tumour. Doctors call these circulating tumour cells (or CTCs). They think CTCs could be a possible new marker for neuroendocrine tumours.

We know from research that circulating tumour cells can give information about disease outcome (prognosis) in breast and prostate cancer that has spread. In this study researchers looked at blood samples from healthy volunteers, and from people with a NET.

The aims of this study included seeing if it was possible to find circulating tumour cells in people with a NET. If it was, the team were planning to look at a number of questions to find out how useful the cells were as a new marker in NETs.

Summary of results

The researchers found that cells that had broken away from the tumour (circulating tumour cells or CTCs) may give information about the outcome (prognosis Open a glossary item) of neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). 

This study recruited 176 people with NETs that had spread to another part of the body.

Everyone in the trial gave a blood sample before they started treatment and some people did again 3 to 5 weeks after starting treatment. Before and during treatment, they had scans Open a glossary item to see how they responded to treatment.

The researchers followed up these people for an average of just under 10 months. They found that the tumour had started to grow again sooner in those people who had CTCs in their blood before treatment than in those who didn’t. They also found that overall they didn’t live as long.

When they looked at the changes in the number of CTCs during treatment, they found that it could show how well people might respond to treatment.  

The researchers concluded that it was possible to find circulating tumour cells in people with a NET. And that they may be useful as a new marker for NETs and as a way of monitoring treatment.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) but may not have been published in a medical journal.  The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Prof Tim Meyer

Supported by

Bottoms Up Bowel Cancer Charity
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Quiet Cancer Appeal
Royal Free Hospital European Centre of Excellence for Neuroendocrine Tumours
University College Hospital

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Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

oracle 5800

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

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