The spectrum of carcinoid tumours and carcinoid syndromes

Cornelis J M Lips, Eef G W M Lentjes, Jo W M Höppener

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Carcinoids are neuroendocrine tumours of the gut which may also be found in the bronchus, pancreatic islets and retroperitoneum. They probably arise from gastrointestinal or bronchopulmonary pluripotential stem cells. Carcinoid tumours derived from these cells are potentially malignant; the strength of the tendency for aggressive growth correlates with the site of origin, depth of local penetration and the size of the tumour. Carcinoids occur sporadically or result from specific hereditary tumour syndromes. Mutations and/or aberrant expression of specific genes induce and promote tumour growth. Clinical features include local symptoms due to angulation or obstruction and hepatomegaly due to liver metastases. The carcinoid syndrome commonly involves flushing, diarrhoea, bronchospasm and hypotension. Other distinct syndromes may be caused by tumour release of products that may also be used as biochemical markers in diagnosis and follow-up. Scanning using radiolabelled octreotide, an analogue of somatostatin, sensitively identifies occult primary and metastatic deposits. Localized carcinoid tumours should be resected. Some patients benefit from hepatic resection. Palliation of symptoms is best achieved with octreotide. Hepatic artery chemoembolization may produce long-acting palliation. Further genetic characterization of the different types and stages of carcinoid development as well as assessment of gene expression profiles may improve differential diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-27
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Clinical Biochemistry
Issue numberPt 6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Carcinoid Tumor/complications
  • Humans
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome/complications


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