Neuroendocrine Tumor of the Pancreas: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2017

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. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about pancreatic neuroendocrine 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 best diagnostic and treatment options 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 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. A number of new anti-angiogenesis therapies similar to sunitinib are being tested in clinical trials for pancreatic neuroendocrine 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 a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor would shrink and kept the tumor from growing or spreading for a longer time. However, people who took bevacizumab did not live longer than those who did not. Treatment with bevacizumab 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 to an octreotide scan used for diagnosis, except that the radioactive substances being used, such as Yttrium-90, can destroy pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor cells. PRRT has been used mostly in Europe and specifically for carcinoid tumors, which are similar to pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. However, PRRT is now being used by several specialized centers in the United States for carcinoid tumors and is being researched as a treatment for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.

  • Other new therapies. There is much interest in studying immunotherapy to treat many types of tumors, including pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. Certain immunotherapies, such as PD-1 and CTLA-4 antibodies (also known as immune checkpoint inhibitors) have already been approved for other types of cancer. However, they are not currently approved for routine treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.                                                                    

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current pancreatic neuroendocrine 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 pancreatic neuroendocrine 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. You may use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.