BACKGROUND: Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) are a heterogeneous group of cancers that had a significant increase in annual incidence in the last decade. They can be divided into well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs). Poorly differentiated NECs are aggressive forms of cancers with limited therapeutic options. The first line treatment of metastatic poorly differentiated NECs is similar to small cell lung cancer, with cytotoxic chemotherapy (etoposide plus platinum). Patients who progress have limited therapeutic options and poor overall survival, calling for other novel agents to combat this deadly disease. Therefore, in this article, we summarized the effects of a novel component, Thymoquinone (TQ, C10H12O2), which is the main bioactive component of the black seed (Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae family), plus immunotherapy in case series of patients with refractory metastatic extra-pulmonary NEC (EP-NEC) and one case of mixed neuroendocrine-non-neuroendocrine neoplasm (MiNEN). METHODS: We report the effect of TQ plus dual immune checkpoint inhibitors (nivolumab plus ipilimumab) in four patients with poorly differentiated gastrointestinal Ep-NEC and MiNEN who progressed on cytotoxic chemotherapy. RESULTS: This is the first case series to report the clinical activity of TQ plus dual immune checkpoint inhibitors (nivolumab plus ipilimumab) in patients with refractory metastatic EP-NEC. The four patients showed benefits with the combined regimen TQ plus dual ICPIs with durable response and exceeded the two years of progression-free survival. None of the four patients experienced significant toxicity, and all of them showed improvement in quality of life. CONCLUSION: The reported clinical courses suggest that combined TQ plus ICPIs is a potential promising regimen for refractory EP-NEC and MiNEN that deserves further prospective investigation.
- combination therapy
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