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Research and clinical trials

Researchers are looking at the biology of neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). And are trying to improve the diagnosis and treatment of stomach NETs.

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 the immune system and NETs

Researchers are looking into how the immune system responds to neuroendocrine tumours. By understanding more about this, it might help them to develop new treatments.

They also want to investigate how treatment with chemotherapy and the targeted cancer drugs everolimus and sunitinib can affect the immune cells inside these tumours. 

Immunotherapy uses our immune system to fight cancer.

Gene changes and treatment

Doctors would like to improve treatment and outcome for NETs. To do this, they need to understand more about how these tumours develop, and how their growth is controlled. But this has been difficult so far because NETs are rare and it has not always been possible to collect fresh samples of these tumours to study.

Doctors have collected blood, urine and fresh tissue samples from people with a NET. They are studying genes and gene changes, as well as possible gene faults passed down in families. They hope to find features that might help in the future with diagnosing and treating NETs.

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 treatment

Targeted cancer 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.

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)

PRRT is a type of internal radiotherapy. This means giving radiotherapy to target cancer from inside the body. PRRT uses a radioactive substance which you have by a drip into a vein. Researchers want to see how well PRRT works for some types of stomach NET.

Researchers are looking into PRRT using the radioactive substances 177Lu-edotreotide and 177Lu-OPSC001.

Somatostatin analogues

Doctors are looking at new drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones. The researchers think that this will slow down neuroendocrine tumour growth. These drugs are called somatostatin analogues. They are being looked at for some types of stomach NET.

Research into treatment of carcinoid syndrome

Researchers are looking at a new drug called telotristat etiprate (also known as LX1606) for people who have symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Carcinoid syndrome is less common with stomach NETs than other types of neuroendocrine tumours.

The symptoms of carcinoid syndrome include:

  • flushing of the skin
  • diarrhoea
  • wheezing
  • a fast heart beat
  • dizziness due to sudden low blood pressure

Doctors might treat carcinoid syndrome with somatostatin analogues. These drugs can help, but after a while, they may stop working. Researchers are looking at the long term effects of telotristat etiprate when people have it to treat carcinoid syndrome. The drug works by lowering the amount of serotonin produced by the body.

Find a clinical trial

Our clinical trials database has information about UK clinical trials for NETs. It has summaries of trial results and what scientists have learned from these studies.

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: 
30 Jul 2018
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Accessed March 2018

  • ClinicalTrials.gov
    Accessed March 2018

  • Guidelines for the management of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine (including carcinoid) tumours (NETs)
    JK Ramage and others
    Gut, 2012. Vol 61

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