Endocrine Tumor: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of tumor and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu.

Doctors are working to learn more about endocrine tumors, ways to prevent them, how to best treat them, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new treatment options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options that are best for you. Also, be sure to read the Latest Research section of the specific endocrine tumor type that has been diagnosed.

  • Combination chemotherapy and surgery.  The combination of the drugs oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) and irinotecan (Camptosar) along with surgery is being studied to treat endocrine tumors. Other agents that have some effect in treating some endocrine tumor subtypes are fluoropyrimidines, doxorubicin (Doxil, Adriamycin), and streptozocin (Zanosar).

  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is being studied as a treatment option for several types of endocrine tumors, including neuroendocrine tumors and thyroid cancer. The goal of targeted therapy is to stop the growth and spread of a tumor in several different ways. Some of the drugs being studied for endocrine tumors include:

    • Vatalanib may block some of the enzymes needed for cell growth and sustained blood flow to the tumor. Vatalanib is given with the drug octreotide (Sandostatin), which helps control symptoms, such as diarrhea, caused by some endocrine tumors.

    • Several drugs are being studied in the treatment of advanced thyroid cancer that does not respond to surgery and/or I-131 radiation treatment. These include axitinib (Inlyta), sorafenib (Nexavar), pazopanib (Votrient), and motesanib diphosphate. Learn more about research on thyroid cancer.

    • Pazopanib and motesanib diphosphate are also being studied in the treatment of advanced islet cell tumors. In addition, sunitinib and bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with chemotherapy, octreotide, and everolimus are being studied for patients with advanced islet cell tumors. Learn more about research on islet cell tumors.

    • Bevacizumab is being researched for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors. Learn more about research on neuroendocrine tumors

    • Sunitinib and everolimus have shown some effect in treating pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (islet cell carcinoma).

  • Peptide receptor radiotherapy (PRRT). This treatment method is not approved for use in the United States but is performed at select centers in the European Union and in U.S. clinical trials. In PRRT, a small amount of radioactive material is attached to a protein called octreotide. The receptors in tumor cells attract the octreotide and expose the cells to the attached radioactive material, destroying them.

  • Genetic and molecular testing. The genetic testing and the refinement of RET oncogenes (see Risk Factors) is an active area of research that will improve which treatments are chosen and give more precise prognosis. Researchers are also looking at using the molecular biology of the tumor to help diagnose endocrine tumors and predict how well treatment will work. Molecular biology is the study of the structure and function of cells at the molecular level.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of treatment designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the tumor. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. It is not entirely clear how immunotherapy works. Doctors are looking at checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapy, or cancer vaccines that might be used to treat endocrine tumors.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current endocrine tumor treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that a tumor and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.