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What are somatostatin analogues?

Somatostatin analogues are drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones.

Some neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) make large amounts of hormones that cause a group of symptoms called carcinoid syndrome. Somatostatin analogues are a possible treatment for people with carcinoid syndrome. 

How somatostatin analogues work

Somatostatin is a hormone made naturally in the body. It is made by:

  • a gland in the brain called hypothalamus
  • the stomach
  • the pancreas
  • the bowel

Somatostatin does a number of things. It slows down or stops the production of a number of hormones such as insulin and gut hormones. It also controls the emptying of the stomach and bowel. 

A somatostatin analogue is a man made (synthetic) version of somatostatin. It slows down the production of hormones, especially the growth hormone and serotonin. This helps to control the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome such as diarrhoea and flushing of the skin. It may also shrink the NET. 

The most common somatostatin analogue drugs used are octreotide (also known as Sandostatin) and lanreotide (also known as Somatuline Autogel).

How you have somatostatin analogues

You usually have somatostatin analogues as an injection under the skin (subcutaneously) or into the muscle (intramuscularly). You usually have treatment every 4 weeks. 

Your nurse usually gives you the injections. If you have lanreotide, they may show you how to give the injections yourself. 

Side effects

Somatostatin analogues do not usually cause many side effects. The most common side effects are:

  • headaches and dizziness
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling or being sick
  • feeling bloated
  • stomach pain
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • pain at the injection site
  • changes to your blood sugar levels
  • changes to the way your bowel works
Having somatostatin analogues over many months can cause gallstones. Gallstones are small stones that form in the gallbladder. Your doctor may ask you to have ultrasound scans of the gallbladder every 6 to 12 months to check for this.

Coping

Treatment for neuroendocrine tumours can be difficult to cope with for some people. Your nurse will give you phone numbers to call if you have any problems at home. 

If you have any questions about treatment, you can talk to Cancer Research UK’s information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
23 May 2019
  • Physiology of somatostatin and its analogues
    Rodger A Liddle 
    UpToDate, Accessed 2018

  • ENETS Consensus Guidelines for the Standards of Care in Neuroendocrine Tumors: Pre- and Perioperative Therapy in Patients with Neuroendocrine Tumors
    G Kaltsas and others
    Neuroendocrinology, 2017. Vol 105, Number 3, Pages 245-254

  • Consensus report on the use of somatostatin analogs for the management of neuroendocrine tumors of the gastroenteropancreatic system
    K Oberg and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2004. Vol 15, Pages 966-973

  • Neuroendocrine gastro-entero-pancreatic tumors: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    K Oberg and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2012. Vol 23, Supplement 7, Pages 124-130

  • Guidelines for the Management of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine (including carcinoid) tumours (NETs)
    J K Ramage and others
    Gut, 2012. Vol 61, Pages 6-32

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