How do medications treat a carcinoid tumor?

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Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

GI carcinoid tumors can occur anywhere in the digestive tract. Frequently, these tumors do metastasize to the liver. When this occurs, the liver cannot inactivate bioactive products secreted into the portal system resulting in the release of these hormones and therefor carcinoid syndrome. The most common symptoms of this syndrome are flushing and diarrhea.
 
A medication that is frequently given with carcinoid syndrome is sandostatin analogs which can be given in the form of octreotide or lanreotide. These analogs inhibit the secretion of a range of hormones by binding to somatostatin receptors which are expressed on 80% of carcinoid tumors. By binding to these receptors, these bioactive amines are unable to be released. This medication has been shown to improve flushing and diarrhea in 80% of patients that have utilized this therapy.
 
A second treatment given to patients with Carcinoid is interferon. This medication has the ability to control the secretion of tumor products by increasing T-cell productivity, causing cell cycle arrest, and stopping angiogenesis. This has been shown to reduce the increased secretion of hormones and stabilize the tumor. Tumor reduction has been reported but is not common and this medication has been found to be myelosuppressive.
 
Other medications that are more targeted to provide symptomatic relief include loperimide and lomotil. These medications are aimed at treatment/control of diarrhea and refractory diarrhea.

Several medications are available to ease the symptoms of and diminish the complications from a carcinoid tumor. For example, octreotide can be used to lessen facial redness and diarrhea. Interferon may be used to keep the tumor from growing. Other drugs may prevent the tumor from secreting hormones.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.