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Ann Oncol. 2002 Apr;13(4):614-21.

Efficacy of a chemotherapy combination for the treatment of metastatic neuroendocrine tumours.

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Medical Oncology Unit B, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori di Milano, Italy.



Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are heterogeneous neoplasms for which there is no standard treatment. We have previously proposed an effective polychemotherapy (5-fluorouracil, dacarbazine and epirubicin), which only produced objective responses of brief duration. The present study aimed to assess in a multidisciplinary manner the efficacy of the same regimen at intensified doses in patients with advanced NETs.


Eighty-two consecutive patients entered the study, of whom 21 had inoperable, locally advanced disease and 61 had metastatic disease. Seventy-two patients were evaluated for objective, biochemical and subjective responses. Response rate, time to progression (TTP) and overall survival (OS) were evaluated based on histotype.


An objective response was observed in 20 patients (intention-to-treat and standard analysis 24.4% and 27.8%, respectively). Complete biochemical and subjective responses were obtained in 25.1% and 38.9% of the cases. The median duration of treatment was 4 months and the objective responses had a median duration of 38 months. After a 60-month follow-up the median TTP and OS were 21 and 38 months, respectively.


Our polychemotherapy regimen is effective, with long duration, and is well tolerated both for gastroenteropancreatic and lung NETs, as well as for tumours with a more aggressive clinical behaviour. The new WHO endocrine tumour histotyping, examining also the tumour biology, may give additional information for selecting patients to chemotherapy.

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