Despite developments in diagnosis and treatment, lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer death in Europe and North America. Due to increasing cigarette consumption, the incidence of the disease and resultant mortality is rising dramatically in women. Novel approaches to the management of lung cancer are urgently required. Somatostatin is a tetradecapeptide first identified in the pituitary and subsequently throughout the body particularly in neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system. The peptide has numerous functions including inhibition of hormone release, immunomodulation and neurotransmission and is an endogenous inhibitor of cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Somatostatin and its analogs, including octreotide (SMS 201–995), somatuline (BIM 23014) and vapreotide (RC-160), act by binding to specific somatostatin receptors (SSTR) of which there are 5 principal subtypes, SSTR-1–5. Although elevated plasma somatostatin levels may be detected in 14–15% of patients, tumor cell expression appears rare. SSTR may be expressed by lung tumors, particularly small cell lung cancer and bronchial carcinoid disease. [111In]pentetreotide scintigraphy may have a role to play in the localization and staging of lung cancers both before and following treatment, and in detecting relapsed disease. The potential role of radiolabelled somatostatin analogs as radiotherapeutic agents in the management of lung cancer is currently being explored. Somatostatin analog therapy results in significant growth inhibition of both SSTR-positive and SSTR-negative lung tumors in vivo. Recent work indicates that these agents may enhance the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of solid tumors including lung cancer.

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