Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) consist of a diverse family of tumors which are derived from the neuroendocrine system. Most NETs are well or moderately differentiated tumors with a relatively indolent growth pattern. However, these tumors can cause significant clinical disease due to release of functional products that mediate the carcinoid syndrome and other diverse sequela. They also can grow progressively and cause symptoms from local invasion or distant metastasis. NETs are optimally treated with surgery and somatosatin analogs (SSA's) to control symptoms but are relatively insensitive to systemic chemotherapy. As a result, patients with advanced unresectable NETs have a poor prognosis. In 2011, two targeted therapies, sunitinib and everolimus were approved in the subset of progressive pancreatic NETs (pNETs). Everolimus is an oral inhibitor of the growth stimulatory mTOR pathway.
In Phase 2 trials in NETs and pNETs, everolimus was well tolerated and associated with some response and widespread disease stabilization. In follow-up, randomized Phase 3 trials, everolimus was compared to placebo. In the RADIANT-2 trial, everolimus and a somatostatin analog were used in patients with functional NETs and treatment was associated with an an improvement in progression-free survival (PFS). In the RADIANT-3 trial, patients with pNET were randomized to receive everolimus or placebo along with best supportive care. Everolimus was again associated with improvement in PFS compared to placebo and it has been approved by the FDA for patients with progressive pNET. Everolimus is associated with frequent low grade toxicity but is also notable for increased rates of infection as well as non-infectious pneumonitis. mTOR inhibition with everolimus represents a significant advance in the treatment of advanced neuroendocrine tumors.
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