Present and future of immunotherapy in Neuroendocrine Tumors

Manuela Albertelli, Andrea Dotto, Federica Nista, Alessandro Veresani, Luca Patti, Stefano Gay, Stefania Sciallero, Mara Boschetti, Diego Ferone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Immunotherapy, so promising in many neoplasms, still does not have a precise role in the treatment of neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs). In this article, we provide an overview on the current knowledge about immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) applied to NENs, evaluating future perspectives in this setting of tumors. Evidence so far available for ICIs in gastroenteropancreatic (GEP)-NENs is definitively not as robust as for other tumors such as Small Cell Lung Cancer or Merkel Cell Carcinoma. In fact, with regard to the well-differentiated forms of NENs (NETs), the results obtained nowadays have been disappointing. However, the near future, might reserve interesting results for ICIs in GEP-NEN from a total of nine different ICI drugs, used throughout 19 randomised controlled trials. Such numbers highlight the growing attention gathering around NENs and ICIs, in response to the need of stronger evidences supporting such therapy. For the future, the most important aspect will be to study strategies that can make NETs more susceptible to response to ICI and, thus, enhance the effectiveness of these treatments. Therefore, the combination of conventional therapy, target therapy and immunotherapy deserve attention and warrant to be explored. A sequential chemotherapy, possibly inducing an increase in tumor mutational burden and tested before immunotherapy, could be a hypothesis deserving more consideration. A radiation treatment that increases tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, could be another approach to explore before ICIs in NENs. Equally essential will be the identification of biomarkers useful for selecting patients potentially responsive to this type of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-636
JournalReviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Immunotherapy
  • Merkel Cell Carcinoma
  • Neuroendocrine neoplasia
  • Neuroendocrine tumors
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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