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Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


In one prospective trial, 80 RFA sessions were performed in 63 patients with neuroendocrine hepatic metastases (including 36 carcinoids), and 92% of the patients reported at least partial symptom relief. In the same 63 patients, 70% had significant or complete relief at 1 week postoperatively, with a perioperative morbidity of 5%; duration of symptom control was 11 ± 2.3 months, and median survival time was 3.9 years after the first RFA.[26] There are few trials of cryoablation of hepatic metastases, and the results of liver transplantation for metastatic disease are disappointing, reflecting the typically advanced disease states of transplant recipients.[1]

Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.


The four radionuclide conjugates most commonly used in the treatment of carcinoid disease are 131I-MIBG (iodine-131-meta-iodobenzylguanidine), indium-111, yttrium-90, and lutetium-177, with the latter three bound to a variety of somatostatin analogues. However, the median tumor response rate for the patients treated with 131I-MIBG is less than 5%, although the modality appears somewhat more effective in achieving biochemical stability (~50%) or tumor stability (~70%).[1] Although 111In-labeled somatostatin analogues are the most commonly studied radiopeptides to date, largely reflecting their availability, and with therapeutic benefits similar to 131I-MIBG, the most promising advance in radiopeptide therapeutics has been the development of 177Lu-octreotate, which emits both beta and gamma radiation.[1] In the largest patient series treated to date with lutetium-labeled somatostatin analogues (n = 131; 65 with GI carcinoids), remission rates were correlated positively with high pretherapy octreotide scintigraphy uptake and limited hepatic tumor load.[27] In patients with extensive liver involvement, median time to progression was shorter (26 months) compared to patients who had either stable disease or tumor regression (>36 months).

Management of Carcinoid-Related Fibrosis

Bowel obstruction secondary to peritoneal fibrosis is the most common presenting symptom of small intestinal carcinoids. Heart failure secondary to right-sided valvular fibrosis represents a serious extraintestinal manifestation of carcinoid fibrosis and occurs in 20% to 70% of patients with metastatic disease; it accounts for as much as 50% of carcinoid mortality.[28,29] Currently, there is no effective pharmacologic therapy for either clinical problem. In the instance of bowel obstruction, surgical lysis of the adhesions often is technically demanding because of the cocoon-like effects of extensive fibrosis stimulated by the various tumor-derived growth factors.[30] Valvular replacement usually is required to manage carcinoid heart disease.[1]

Symptomatic Therapy

In addition to the use of long-acting depot formulations of somatostatin analogues as the principal agents in the amelioration of carcinoid symptoms, the nonspecific supportive care of patients includes:

  • Advising them to avoid factors that induce flushing or bronchospastic episodes including the following:
  • Diarrhea may be treated with conventional antidiarrheal agents such as loperamide or diphenoxylate; more pronounced diarrhea may be treated with the 5-HT receptor subtype 2 antagonist cyproheptadine, which is effective in as many as 50% of patients and may also help alleviate anorexia or cachexia in patients with a malignant carcinoid syndrome.[1]
  • Histamine 1 receptor blockade with fexofenadine, loratadine, terfenadine, or diphenhydramine may be of benefit in treating skin rashes, particularly in histamine-secreting gastric carcinoid tumors.
  • Bronchospasm can be managed with theophylline or beta-2 adrenergic receptor agonists such as albuterol.[1]

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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