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Risk of cancer-specific death for patients diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors: a population-based analysis

Hallet J, Law C, Singh S, Mahar A, Myrehaug S, Zuk V, Zhao H, Chan W, Assal A, Coburn N. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2021; 19(8):935-44. Epub 2021 Jun 4. DOI: https://doi.org/10.6004/jnccn.2020.7666


Background — Although patients with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are known to have prolonged overall survival, the contribution of cancer-specific and noncancer deaths is undefined. This study examined cancer-specific and noncancer death after NET diagnosis.

Methods — We conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study of adult patients with NETs from 2001 through 2015. Using competing risks methods, we estimated the cumulative incidence of cancer-specific and noncancer death and stratified by primary NET site and metastatic status. Subdistribution hazard models examined prognostic factors.

Results — Among 8,607 included patients, median follow-up was 42 months (interquartile range, 17-82). Risk of cancer-specific death was higher than that of noncancer death, at 27.3% (95% CI, 26.3%-28.4%) and 5.6% (95% CI, 5.1%-6.1%), respectively, at 5 years. Cancer-specific deaths largely exceeded noncancer deaths in synchronous and metachronous metastatic NETs. Patterns varied by primary tumor site, with highest risks of cancer-specific death in bronchopulmonary and pancreatic NETs. For nonmetastatic gastric, small intestine, colonic, and rectal NETs, the risk of noncancer death exceeded that of cancer-specific deaths. Advancing age, higher material deprivation, and metastases were independently associated with higher hazards, and female sex and high comorbidity burden with lower hazards of cancer-specific death.

Conclusions — Among all NETs, the risk of dying of cancer was higher than that of dying of other causes. Heterogeneity exists by primary NET site. Some patients with nonmetastatic NETs are more likely to die of noncancer causes than of cancer causes. This information is important for counseling, decision-making, and design of future trials. Cancer-specific mortality should be included in outcomes when assessing treatment strategies.

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