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Ann Oncol. 2001;12 Suppl 2:S131-4.

Neuroendocrine tumors in the brain.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin, Italy.


Somatostatin and other neuropeptides are expressed in tumors originating from neuronal precursors and paraganglia, namely medulloblastoma, central Primitive Neuro-Ectodermal Tumors (cPNETs), neurocytoma, gangliocytoma. olfactory neuroblastoma, paraganglioma. In medulloblastoma, the most common malignant tumor in childhood, there is an extensive expression of somatostatin in addition to somatostatin receptors (SSTR) type 2. Although density of SSTR-2 and intensity of expression of somatostatin genes have no prognostic significance in medulloblastoma. their presence may bring along important information on oncogenesis and relate medulloblastoma to cPNETs. Radio-labeled octreotide scintigraphy may be useful in the follow-up of these patients. allowing differentiation between scar and tumoral tissue. Moreover, on the basis of octreotide-induced inhibition of cell proliferation in medulloblastoma, a trial with octreotide in patients with recurrent or high-risk tumor is warranted. Meningiomas and low-grade astrocytic gliomas, even if not displaying a clear neuroendocrine phenotype, have high levels of SSTR-2. In meningiomas, SSTRs-scintigraphy is not part of the routine pre-operative assessment; moreover, a therapeutic trial with somatostatin-analogues in patients with recurrent or inoperable meningiomas should be carried-out with great caution, because somatostatin and octreotide slightly increase cell proliferation in cultured meningiomatous cells. Low-grade gliomas (WHO grade 2), and a smaller fraction of anaplastic astrocytomas, express SSTR-2, while glioblastomas usually do not. Unfortunately, radiolabeled-octreotide scintigraphy is not useful in the differential diagnosis of gliomas, because the results are altered by the disruption of the blood brain barrier (BBB); in addition, radionuclide-labeled somatostatin analogues are not useful in the therapy of low-grade gliomas, because the intact BBB prevents them from reaching the target SSTR-2. Recently, a pilot study in gliomas, has proposed the use of a radio-labeled somatostostatin analogue with a loco-regional approach in order to overcome the intact BBB.

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