Pulmonary Neuroendocrine Tumors: Our Approach & Expertise

Pictured: Manjit Bains and Robert Downey Memorial's pulmonologists, endocrinologists, medical oncologists, and surgeons such as Manjit Bains (left) and Robert Downey treat hundreds of pulmonary endocrine tumor patients annually.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, our doctors are working to improve the understanding and treatment of pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors. Our neuroendocrine tumor experts include pulmonologists, thoracic cancer surgeons, endocrinologists, medical oncologists, and other specialists who evaluate and treat hundreds of patients with these uncommon tumors each year.

Advanced Imaging Technology

Pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are often difficult to diagnose. Many of these tumors do not cause noticeable symptoms and are discovered only through imaging studies performed for an unrelated health issue. Others may cause symptoms that are not specific to neuroendocrine tumors, which can delay diagnosis.

Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering use advanced CT scans, MRI, and nuclear imaging techniques to identify neuroendocrine tumors. These imaging studies, combined with a number of sophisticated laboratory tests, help our doctors distinguish between tumors that are localized and those that have spread — or have the potential to spread — to another area of the body.

Our Treatment Approach

Our doctors consider a variety of factors — such as the size and location of the tumor, the appearance of the cells under the microscope, whether it has spread (metastasized), and the patient's overall health — in developing an individualized treatment plan for patients diagnosed with a pulmonary neuroendocrine tumor.

Surgery is the primary treatment for many neuroendocrine tumors, and offers the best chance for a cure. The surgical approach depends on the type of tumor, its location, size, and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs. Surgery may be recommended even when the tumor has spread to other organs, such as the liver.

However, for some types of neuroendocrine tumors, surgery may not be the most effective treatment. Our doctors are experienced in identifying patients who are candidates for other treatments, such as chemotherapy, liver tumor embolization, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy. For information about each of these treatments, please visit the Treatment section of this overview.

Our Pathology Expertise

Our pathologists are specially trained to identify subtle clues that indicate whether a tumor contains slow-growing or rapidly dividing cells. Understanding these differences can have an important influence on the type of treatment selected for neuroendocrine tumors.

Understanding Risk Factors

Little is known about what causes neuroendocrine tumors. Improving our understanding of the risk factors for developing a neuroendocrine tumor could lead to more treatment options. Memorial Sloan Kettering has one of the largest databases for the study of pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors. The database collects surgical, pathology, and clinical data on patients with pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors.

Our researchers use sophisticated techniques such as microarrays, which analyze thousands of DNA sequences at once, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which generates millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence, to identify genes and certain proteins involved in the progression of neuroendocrine tumors. Results from this research also may be used to identify new therapeutic approaches.

Focus on the Patient

Communication with patients and caregivers is an important priority at Memorial Sloan Kettering. We believe that treating the whole person, not just the disease, is best for patients and family members. Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a broad range of emotional support programs designed to help patients and family members cope with the range of issues related to life during and after cancer treatment. For more information about the services we offer, please visit the Follow-Up Care and Support section.