Research and clinical trials for pancreatic NETs

Researchers around the world are looking at improving the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). They are also looking at how the immune system fights NETs and the quality of life of people with this disease.

Go to Cancer Research UK's clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for pancreatic NETs 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. 

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments must be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe

Research into diagnosis

Doctors often use radioactive scans such as octreotide scans and PET scans to help diagnose NETs. They can also show whether the tumour has spread to another part of the body.

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

Research into the immune system and NETs

Researchers are looking at how the immune system responds to NETs. And at how treatment with chemotherapy and targeted cancer drugs can affect the immune cells inside these tumours. 

Immunotherapy uses our immune system to fight cancer. Researchers aim to use the results of these studies to see whether immunotherapy can help people with NETs.

Immunotherapy drugs that are being looked at in clinical trials include:

  • pembrolizumab
  • ipilimumab
  • nivolumab

Research into treatment

Somatostatin analogues

Doctors are looking at new drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones. Researchers think that this will slow down neuroendocrine tumour growth. These drugs are called somatostatin analogues. Somatostatin analogues that doctors are currently looking at include:

  • lanreotide autogel
  • PEN-221

Targeted drugs

Doctors are looking for new ways to help people with NETs that have spread to another part of the body. Lenvatinib is a targeted cancer drug. It works by blocking certain proteins that help cells to grow blood vessels. All cancer cells need blood vessels to survive and grow. Doctors think that lenvatinib might stop the cancer from growing.

Other targeted drugs that are being looked at in clinical trials include:

  • axitinib
  • surufatinib
  • cabozantinib
  • pazopanib

Chemotherapy is a possible treatment for pancreatic NETs. Two chemotherapy drugs often used are streptozocin and fluorouracil. Doctors are looking at how well these chemotherapy drugs work before and after a targeted drug called everolimus.

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)

PRRT is a type of internal radiotherapy. This means giving radiation from inside the body. PRRT uses a radioactive substance which you have as a drip into a vein. Researchers want to see how well PRRT work for people with pancreatic NETs. 

Researchers are looking into PRRT using 2 different radioactive substances.

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. 

Before you take part

Cancer Research UK information nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
29 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
29 Jun 2024
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Assessed June 2021

  • Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    M. Pavel and others
    Annals of Oncology 2020, Vol 31, Issue 5 

  • Emerging Treatment Options for Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors 
    Mauro Cives and others
    Journal of Clinical Medicine, Nov 2020

  • ENETs consensus guidelines for the management of patients with digestive neuroendocrine neoplasms: functional pancreatic endocrine tumor syndromes
    R Jensen and others
    Neuroendocrinology, 2012. Vol 95, pages 98-119

  • Consensus Guidelines for the Management and Treatment of Neuroendocrine Tumors
    P Kunz and others
    Pancreas, 2013. Vol 42, Number 4, Pages 557-577

  • Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors: Pancreatic Endocrine Tumors
    David C Metz and Robert T Jensen 
    Gastroenterology, 2008. Vol 135, Issue 5, Pages 1469-1492

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