Other Drug Treatments for Lung Carcinoid Tumors
For people with metastatic lung carcinoid tumors, several medicines can help control symptoms and may help keep the tumor from growing for a time.
These drugs are related to somatostatin, a natural hormone that seems to help slow the growth of neuroendocrine cells. They are especially useful in people who have carcinoid syndrome (facial flushing, diarrhea, wheezing, rapid heart rate) and in people whose tumors show up on a somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS) scan.
Octreotide: This drug is very helpful in treating the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Sometimes octreotide can temporarily shrink carcinoid tumors, but it does not cure them. Side effects can include pain or burning at the injection site, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
The original version of octreotide (Sandostatin®) is injected under the skin (subcutaneously) at least twice daily. Some people learn to give this injection themselves at home. A newer, long-acting version of the drug (Sandostatin LAR®) is injected into a muscle once a month by your doctor or nurse. When first starting treatment, most people are given injections every day. Once the doctor finds the correct dose, the longer-acting monthly injection may be used.
Lanreotide: Lanreotide (Somatuline®) is a drug similar to octreotide. It is injected under the skin once a month. It may be given by your doctor or nurse, or you may learn how to give the injection at home. Side effects are similar to those of octreotide, although pain at the injection site is less common.
These drugs are natural substances in the body that normally help activate the immune system. They also suppress the growth of some tumors. Interferon alfa can sometimes help shrink or slow the growth of metastatic carcinoid tumors and improve symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. But its flu-like side effects, which can be severe, limit its usefulness. It can also cause depression. Interferon alfa is injected, either daily or several times a week.
In recent years, anti-cancer drugs that work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs have been developed for some types of cancer. These drugs target specific parts of cancer cells. They are sometimes helpful when chemotherapy is not, and they often have less severe side effects.
Two targeted drugs, sunitinib (Sutent®) and everolimus (Afinitor®), have been shown to help treat neuroendocrine tumors that start in the pancreas. These drugs may also be helpful against carcinoid tumors, which are a type of neuroendocrine tumor. Studies are now trying to prove this, but some doctors already use these drugs for carcinoid tumors.
Other medicines can be used to help control specific symptoms. It is important to describe your symptoms to your doctor so that they can be treated effectively.
Last Medical Review: February 5, 2015 Last Revised: February 24, 2016