A study to learn more about heart disease in people with carcinoid tumours

Cancer type:

Neuroendocrine tumour (NET)





This study looked at body fluid samples and heart ultrasound scans (echocardiograms) to learn more about heart disease caused by carcinoid tumours.

More about this trial

Carcinoid tumours are rare, and mostly slow growing cancers. They are one type of tumour of the neuroendocrine system Open a glossary item. They can grow anywhere, but most start in the digestive system Open a glossary item.

Carcinoid tumours release hormones that cause particular symptoms, for example flushing of the face, and diarrhoea. Doctors call this collection of symptoms carcinoid syndrome.

The same hormones that cause these symptoms can also cause damage to the valves on the right side of the heart. This is called carcinoid heart disease. Carcinoid heart disease doesn’t always need treatment. But if it does surgery can be done to replace the valves.

Doctors didn’t know:

  • who was most likely to develop carcinoid heart disease
  • when it was likely to develop
  • how to test for it

In this study researchers looked at chemicals in blood samples from people with carcinoid tumours. They wanted to see if there is a link between these samples and the results of the heart ultrasound scans (echocardiograms).

The aims of this study were to find new chemical markers that might predict how severe carcinoid heart disease is. 

Summary of results

The team found that substances (biomarkers Open a glossary item) in the blood are linked to how severe carcinoid heart disease is.

137 people took part. 26 people already had carcinoid heart disease.

Once a year everyone had an ultrasound heart scan and blood samples taken.

The team looked at the 1st and 2nd scans and placed people into 1 of 3 groups. This was done according to the difference in their carcinoid heart disease between the scans.

13 people were in the group called progressors. These were people who had carcinoid heart disease that got worse (progressed) between the 2 scans. This group also included those who developed carcinoid heart disease in the time period between the scans.

95 people were classified as non progressors. These were people whose scans showed they hadn’t developed carcinoid heart disease in the time period between the two scans. And those whose carcinoid heart disease hadn’t got any worse.

The 3rd group were the 29 people who died between their 1st and 2nd scan.  

The researchers looked at 2 substances in the blood:

  • 5-HIAA
  • NT-proBNP

They compared how much of these were in the samples of each group.

They found people who had a high level of 5-HIAA at the start of the study were more likely:

  • to have a worsening of their carcinoid heart disease
  • to develop carcinoid heart  disease

The highest levels of NT-proBNP were found in the 29 people who had died.

The highest levels of 5-HIAA were found in the progressor group.

The number of people in the progressor group whose level of NT-proBNP or 5-HIAA increased was significantly higher than the non progressor group. 

The study team found that rising levels of NT-proBNP and especially 5-HIAA in the blood are linked to carcinoid heart disease getting worse. 

The team also found that how severe the carcinoid heart disease looked on the heart scan was linked to the levels of NT-proBNP and 5-HIAA.

They think that 5-HIAA and NT-proBNP could be used to show how severe carcinoid heart disease might be.

We have based this summary on information from the research team. 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 research 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

Dr Dan Cuthbertson

Supported by

Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


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

Over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials in the UK last year.

Last reviewed:

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