Islet Cell Tumor: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2014

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 on the side of your screen.

Doctors are working to learn more about islet cell 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 options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

Targeted therapy. As discussed in the Treatment Options section, anti-angiogenesis therapies are a type of targeted therapy used to treat advanced islet cell tumors. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a monoclonal antibody given through an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle. It is already approved for the treatment of colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancers. A number of new anti-angiogenesis therapies from the same family of drugs as sunitinib, which are given as a pill or capsule that is swallowed (orally), are also being tested in clinical trials for islet cell tumors.

In addition to anti-angiogenesis therapies, new drugs that block the mTOR pathway (see the Treatment Options section), as well as other signaling pathways important in the survival, growth, and spread of islet cell tumors, are also being studied.

All of the drugs listed above are being investigated in clinical trials, either by themselves, called monotherapy, or in combination with other drugs, including chemotherapies such as capecitabine (Xeloda) and temozolomide (Methazolastone, Temodar).

Hormone therapy. Lanreotide (Somatuline) and pasireotide (Signifor) are somatostatin analogues like octreotide (see the Treatment Options section). These synthetic hormones are similar in chemical structure and function to ones that the body produces naturally. These hormonal agents have been, and are still being, tested in clinical trials.

One other technique that has been actively explored, and is used most notably in Europe, involves attaching radioactive substances to somatostatin analogues. This is similar in principle to octreotide scanning used for the diagnosis of an islet cell tumor, except in this case the radioactive substances being used, such as Yttrium-90, have the ability to destroy islet cell tumor cells. This approach is known as peptide receptor radionuclide therapy.

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current islet cell tumor treatments in order 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 addresses how to cope with the symptoms of the disease or the side effects of its treatment. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Coping with Side Effects, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.