Research and clinical trials for large bowel and rectal NETs

Researchers are looking at improving the diagnosis and treatment of bowel and rectal neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). 

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Research into diagnosis

Doctors often use radioactive scans such as octreotide scans and PET scans to help diagnose NETs. They can also show whether the tumour has spread to another part of the body.

You usually have an injection of a radioactive substance (a tracer) before the scan. This helps to show up the neuroendocrine tumour cells. Researchers are looking at different types of tracers to see if it can show up NET cells better. One new tracer is called 18F-FET-βAG-TOCA.

Research into the immune system and NETs

Researchers are looking at how the immune system responds to NETs. And at how treatment with chemotherapy and targeted cancer drugs can affect the immune cells inside these tumours. 

Immunotherapy uses our immune system to fight cancer. Researchers aim to use the results of these studies to see whether immunotherapy can help people with NETs.

Gene changes and treatment

Doctors would like to improve treatment and outcome for NETs. To do this, they need to understand more about how these tumours develop, and how their growth is controlled. But this has been difficult so far because NETs are rare and it has not always been possible to collect fresh samples of these tumours to study.

Doctors have collected blood, urine and fresh tissue samples from people with a NET. They are studying genes and gene changes, as well as possible gene faults passed down in families. They hope to find features that might help in the future with diagnosing and treating NETs.

Research into treatment

Somatostatin analogues

Doctors are looking at new drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones. Researchers think that this will slow down neuroendocrine tumour growth. These drugs are called somatostatin analogues. Somatostatin analogues that doctors are currently looking at include:

  • lanreotide autogel
  • PEN-221

Targeted drugs

Doctors are looking for new ways to help people with NETs that have spread to another part of the body. Lenvatinib is a targeted cancer drug. It works by blocking certain proteins that help cells to grow blood vessels. All cancer cells need blood vessels to survive and grow. Doctors think that lenvatinib might stop the cancer from growing.

Other targeted drugs that are being looked at in clinical trials include:

  • axitinib
  • surufatinib
  • cabozantinib
  • pazopanib

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)

PRRT is a type of internal radiotherapy. This means giving radiotherapy from inside the body. PRRT uses a radioactive substance which you have by a drip into a vein. Researchers want to see how well PRRT works for people with bowel NETs.

Researchers are looking into PRRT using the radioactive substances 177Lu-edotreotide and 177Lu-OPSC001.


Researchers are comparing 2 types of chemotherapy for people with neuroendocrine carcinoma or cancer (NEC). NEC is a faster growing tumour than a NET.

They are comparing liposomal irinotecan, 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and folinic acid with docetaxel and G-CSF. This trial is for people who have a NEC that didn’t start in the lungs, and it is fast growing (grade 3) and cannot be removed with surgery or it has spread elsewhere in the body

Research into the quality of life

Doctors are looking at how the treatment and illness affect people with NETs. These are called quality of life studies. 

One study is looking at how a mobile application (App) might help with recording symptoms and side effects of treatment. Researchers want to see if using this type of technology can improve quality of life for people with a NET. 

Find a clinical trial

Our clinical trials database has information about UK clinical trials for NETs including summaries of trial results.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
11 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
11 Jun 2024
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Accessed June 2021

  • Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    M. Pavel and others
    Annals of Oncology 2020, Vol 31, Issue 5 

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg 
    Wolters Kluwer, 2019

  • ENETS Consensus Guidelines Update for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms of the Jejunum and Ileum
    B Niederle and others
    Neuroendocrinology, 2016. Vol 103

  • Consensus Guidelines for the Management and Treatment of Neuroendocrine Tumors
    P Kunz and others
    Pancreas, 2013. Vol 42, Number 4, Pages 557-577

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