Update on Pathophysiology, Treatment, and Complications of Carcinoid Syndrome

Dominique Clement, John Ramage, Raj Srirajaskanthan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Carcinoid syndrome (CS) develops in patients with hormone-producing neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) when hormones reach a significant level in the systemic circulation. The classical symptoms of carcinoid syndrome are flushing, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and wheezing. Neuroendocrine neoplasms can produce multiple hormones: 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) is the most well-known one, but histamine, catecholamines, and brady/tachykinins are also released. Serotonin overproduction can lead to symptoms and also stimulates fibrosis formation which can result in development of carcinoid syndrome-associated complications such as carcinoid heart disease (CaHD) and mesenteric fibrosis. Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) is one of the main factors in developing fibrosis, but platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2), and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF or CCN2) are also related to fibrosis development. Treatment of CS focuses on reducing serotonin levels with somatostatin analogues (SSA's). Telotristat ethyl and peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) have recently become available for patients with symptoms despite being established on SSA's. Screening for CaHD is advised, and early intervention prolongs survival. Mesenteric fibrosis is often present and associated with poorer survival, but the role for prophylactic surgery of this is unclear. Depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment are frequently present symptoms in patients with CS but not always part of their care plan. The role of antidepressants, mainly SSRIs, is debatable, but recent retrospective studies show evidence for safe use in patients with CS. Carcinoid crisis is a life-threatening complication of CS which can appear spontaneously but mostly described during surgery, anaesthesia, chemotherapy, PRRT, and radiological procedures and may be prevented by octreotide administration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8341426
JournalJournal of Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


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