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Q J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2006 Dec;50(4):272-87.

Peptide receptors in neuroendocrine tumors of the lung as potential tools for radionuclide diagnosis and therapy.

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  • 1Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, European Institute of Oncology, University of Milan School of Medicine, Milan, Italy.


Neuroendocrine tumors of the lung are carcinomas characterized by different impact on the patients' prognosis, ranging from relatively indolent, low- to intermediate-grade neoplasms with longer life expectation (i.e., typical and atypical carcinoids) to very aggressive and poorly differentiated neoplasms with dismal prognosis (i.e., large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma and small cell lung cancer). The standard treatment of typical or atypical carcinoids is the complete surgical resection, whereas the role of radio-chemotherapy in a multimodality treatment or for palliation remains controversial. Conversely, high-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas are in primis treated by aggressive combination chemotherapy, deserving surgical resection for uncommon low-stage tumors. Since evidence has been accumulated that neuroendocrine tumors of the lung are supplied with a wide array of peptide receptors detectable on cell membranes by immunohistochemical methods, innovative strategies for diagnosis and radiometabolic therapy have been devised to target these molecules for the correct clinical management of the patients. In this paper, the structural and functional aspects and the clinical applications of the detection of several peptide receptors in pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors will be reviewed, including somatostatin receptors, vasoactive intestinal peptide/pituitary adenylate cyclase activating peptide family receptors, cholecystokinin /gastrin receptors, bombesin/gastrin releasing peptide receptors, neurotensin receptors, substance P receptors, neuroepeptide Y receptors, calcitonin/calcitonin gene-related peptide receptors, atrial natriuretic peptide receptors, glucagon-like-peptide-1 receptors, oxytocin receptors and endothelin receptors. Only a detailed knowledge of the peptide receptor distribution in these tumor types, especially in uncommon neoplasms such as atypical carcinoids and large cell neuroendocrine carcinomas, is pivotal for planning the most adequate interventions for the patients' diagnosis and therapy.

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