Systemic therapeutic options for carcinoid.
"Carcinoids" are mostly slow-growing neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) with low proliferative activity. A wide range of therapeutic options with variable efficacy exist, including locoregional ablative strategies. Thereafter, some patients may not require medical therapy for years depending on the rate of progression or recurrence. However, the majority of patients require systemic treatment and therein lies the dilemma, since no antiproliferative agent is currently approved for carcinoids. Somatostatin analogs (SSAs), and to a lesser extent interferon-alpha, are standard therapy for carcinoids associated with the carcinoid syndrome. These drugs have some antiproliferative efficacy. SSAs rarely lead to tumor remission but may modestly prolong time to tumor progression. Chemotherapy is of limited value in carcinoids with low proliferation indices but may be useful in higher grade tumors. Peptide receptor-targeted radionuclide therapy may be of benefit and is mostly used after medical therapies fail. However, it is considered an investigational modality. More recently, targeted drugs such as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors and anti-angiogenics have been investigated. Objective remissions are rare. Their value remains to be rigorously elucidated. Increased efficacy requires a better understanding of the underlying tumor biology and identification of molecular pathological criteria to allow appropriate preselection of candidates for targeted therapies.
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