The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 7, 2013
I recently was diagnosed with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with neuro-endocrine features. I am unable to find any information on the web about this type of cancer. Can you give me more definitive information?
Barbara Campling, MD, Medical Oncologist, responds:
Some kinds of lung cancer have features of neuroendocrine differentiation. This means that these tumors express substances that are ordinarily detected only in nervous tissue, such as the brain or nerves. They can sometimes also secrete certain hormones, which are normally secreted by endocrine glands. The most common neuroendocrine tumor of the lung is small cell lung cancer, a major variety of lung cancer, which behaves somewhat differently than the other types of lung cancer that are collectively termed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer with neuroendocrine features is now being made more frequently than it was in the past. The main reason for this is that pathologists are looking for features of neuroendocrine differentiation more carefully. Pathology laboratories now routinely stain lung cancer specimens with a variety of antibodies, some of which identify neuroendocrine markers. Approximately 10-20% of non-small cell lung cancers show some signs of neuroendocrine differentiation.
Is the prognosis for NSCLC/neuroendocrine any different than for the more common varieties of NSCLC? At this time, they are not thought to have different outcomes after therapy. Therefore, we generally recommend the same treatment that we would for other NSCLCs.