Research into lung NETs

Researchers are looking at improving the diagnosis and treatment of lung neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). 

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for neuroendocrine tumours in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

What clinical trials are

Clinical trials aim to find out if a new test or treatment is safe or works better than current ones.

Research into diagnosis

Doctors often use radioactive scans such as octreotide scans and PET scans to help diagnose lung NETs. They can also show whether the cancer has spread outside the lung (the stage).

You usually have an injection of a radioactive substance (a tracer) before the scan. This helps to show up the cancer. Researchers are looking at a different type of tracer to see if it can show up NET cells better. The new tracer is called 18F-FET-βAG-TOCA.

Research into treatment

Research into the treatment of lung NETs is looking at chemotherapy, targeted drugs (biological therapies) and somatostatin analogues.


Chemotherapy is the main treatment for some types of lung NETs called small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC).

Research continues into improving the timing and doses of the drugs used. Researchers also hope to find new combinations of drugs that might give better results.

Targeted drugs

Cancer cells have changes in their genes (DNA) that make them different from normal cells. These changes mean that they behave differently. Targeted drugs work by ‘targeting’ those differences that a cancer cell has.

Everolimus is a targeted drug. It stops a protein called mTOR from working properly. mTOR controls other proteins that tell cancer cells to grow. Everolimus is already used for people with lung NETs. But researchers are now looking at it in combination with other cancer treatments.

Another targeted drug that doctors are looking at is pembrolizumab. It blocks a protein called PD-1 on the surface of certain immune cells called T-cells. Blocking PD-1 triggers the immune cells to find and kill cancer cells.

Other drugs that are also being looked at in trials are:

  • nivolumab
  • atezolizumab 
  • durvalumab 
  • ipilimumab

Somatostatin analogues

Somatostatin analogues are drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones. They can reduce the symptoms of lung NETs and may slow down cancer growth.

Examples of somatostatin analogues that doctors in the UK are looking at include:

  • pasireotide
  • lanreotide

They are looking at using somatostatin analogues alone or with everolimus.

Research into the quality of life

Doctors are looking at how the treatment and illness affect people with NETs. These are called quality of life studies. 

One study is looking at how a mobile application (App) might help with recording symptoms and side effects of treatment. Researchers want to see if using this type of technology can improve quality of life for people with a NET. 

Find a clinical trial

Our clinical trials database has information about UK clinical trials for NETs including summaries of trial results.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
06 Apr 2021
Next review due: 
06 Apr 2024
  • Latest advances in management of small cell lung cancer and other neuroendocrine tumors of the lung
    H Assia and S Paddab
    Cancer Treatment and Research Communications, 2020 

  • Landscape and Future Perspectives of Immunotherapy in Neuroendocrine Neoplasia
    I Maggio and others
    Cancers, April 2020. 12(4)

  • Pasireotide in the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors: a review of the literature
    G Vitale and others
    Endocrine-Related Cancer, June 2018.

  • Efficacy and safety of pasireotide LAR or everolimus alone, or in combination in patients with advanced carcinoids (NET) of the lung/thymus: results from the randomized, phase 2 LUNA study
    P Ferolla and others
    Annals of oncology, 2016. Vol 27, supplement 6

  • Everolimus for the treatment of advances, non-functional neuroendocrine tumours of the lung or gastrointestinal tract (RADIANT-4): a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 3 study
    J C Yao and others
    Lancet, 2016. Vol 387, pages 968-977

  • Cancer Research UK clinical trials database
    Accessed April 2021