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Ann Oncol. 2007 Jan;18(1):13-9. Epub 2006 Jun 23.

Interferon-alpha and somatostatin analog in patients with gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma: single agent or combination?

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  • 1Department of Medicine, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.


In most cases gastro-enteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors grow slowly. Interferon-alpha and somatostatin analogs have shown symptomatic, biochemical, and, in a minority of cases, antiproliferative activity. Generally, they are proposed as single-agent therapy. However, based on in vitro and in vivo evidence, the combined use of these drugs was proposed in several non-randomized trials, indicating that there is an additive effect of the combination. Nevertheless, the three randomized trials published so far did not show a statistically significant survival benefit for the combination compared to the same agents alone, even though an advantage for the combination came out in all three studies. On the other hand, data from non-randomized trials would justify the sequential use of the two drugs or the combination after progression on single agent therapy. Therefore, at present the up-front combined use of interferon-alpha and somatostatin analog is not justified, whereas it could be indicated after progression to single-agent therapy. Further larger, international, prospective, randomized, multicentric clinical trials studying homogeneous populations would be necessary to give a final answer, but the rarity and heterogeneity of this malignancy does not assure that it will be possible.

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