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The clinical use of somatostatin analogues in the treatment of cancer.


Somatostatin is a regulatory hormone or tissue factor which plays an inhibitory role in the normal regulation of several organ systems, including the central nervous system, hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the gastrointestinal tract and the exocrine and endocrine pancreas. Sandostatin is an analogue of somatostatin which has characteristics which makes it a better compound for clinical use than native somatostatin: it inhibits GH preferentially over insulin. It has a long half-life in the circulation, causing a prolonged inhibitory effect in somatostatin-responsive target organs. It is active after subcutaneous administration and rebound hypersecretion does not occur. Sandostatin is very well tolerated by most patients. Somatostatin receptors remain present on a variety of tumours which arise in tissues that contain these receptors normally. High numbers of somatostatin receptors have been found on GH-secreting pituitary tumours and on most metastatic endocrine pancreatic tumours and carcinoids. Sandostatin treatment ameliorates clinical symptoms in most acromegalic patients while GH hypersecretion and elevated concentrations of circulating IGF-I are well controlled. In most patients hormonal hypersecretion from endocrine pancreatic tumours and carcinoids is also suppressed during Sandostatin therapy. This results in an instant improvement in the quality of life. There is preliminary evidence of control of tumour growth. The presence of high numbers of somatostatin receptors on tumours enables in vivo receptor-imaging, with 123iodine coupled to a somatostatin analogue. This newly developed technique provides for the first time the possibility of localization of the primary tumours and their metastases and a prediction of which patients may respond to treatment with Sandostatin. Theoretically this somatostatin-receptor imaging technique represents a new approach which may be extended to other receptor-containing tumours. Therefore it may provide a new, powerful alternative to tumour localization performed with monoclonal antibody technology. Another potential development is the use of beta-emitting isotopes coupled to somatostatin analogues for therapeutic irradiation. Somatostatin analogues exert potent inhibitory effects on the growth of a variety of experimental tumour models in animals. Several mechanisms of action have been proposed including the direct antiproliferative effects of somatostatin and its analogues in a variety of tumour cell cultures. Most well-differentiated human brain tumours like meningiomas and low-grade astrocytomas contain somatostatin receptors, while undifferentiated brain tumours mainly contain EGF receptors. Fifteen percent of human breast carcinomas contain somatostatin receptors; those which do have a better prognosis. It can be concluded that somatostatin is an endogenous, naturally occurring inhibitory growth factor.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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