Islet Cell Tumor: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2016

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 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.

  • Anti-angiogenesis therapy. As discussed in the Treatment Options section, anti-angiogenesis therapies are a type of targeted therapy used to treat advanced islet cell tumors. A number of new anti-angiogenesis therapies from the same family of drugs as sunitinib are being tested in clinical trials for islet cell tumors. These drugs are all taken orally.

    Another anti-angiogenic drug is bevacizumab (Avastin), which is a monoclonal antibody given through an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle. It is already approved to treat colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancers. A recent study showed that adding bevacizumab to everolimus plus octreotide increased the chances that an islet cell tumor would shrink and prolonged the time before a tumor grew or spread. However, people who took bevacizumab did not live longer than those who did not. Bevacizumab treatment also caused more side effects than the standard treatment.

  • Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). This technique involves attaching radioactive substances to somatostatin analogs. 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. To date, PRRT has been used most extensively in Europe and specifically for carcinoid tumors, but a number of centers in the United States are now using this technology.

  • Other new therapies. There is a lot of interest in studying immunotherapy to treat many types of tumors, including islet cell tumors. Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the tumor. Certain immunotherapies, such as PD-1 and CTLA-4 antibodies (also known as immune checkpoint inhibitors) have already been approved for use in other tumor types. However, they are still being studied for islet cell tumors.                                    

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

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding islet cell tumors, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

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.