The long-acting analogues of somatostatin have an established place in the medical treatment of patients with neuroendocrine tumours. They act through binding with specific, high-affinity membrane receptors. Somatostatin analogue therapy is an effective and safe treatment for most growth hormone and thyrothropin-secreting pituitary adenomas. The potential therapeutic consequences of the presence of somatostatin receptors on clinically 'nonfunctioning' pituitary tumours are still uncertain. Somatostatin analogues are not useful in the treatment of patients with prolactinomas, or adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)-secreting adenomas. However, the somatostatin analogue octreotide suppressed pathological ACTH release in some patients with Nelson's syndrome and ACTH and cortisol secretion in several patients with Cushing's syndrome caused by ectopic ACTH secretion. Somatostatin analogues are effective in the sympatomatic treatment of most (metastatic) pancreatic islet cell tumours and most (metastatic) carcinoids. In some of these patients, they also induce tumour stabilisation or reduction. In some patients with (metastatic) medullary thyroid carcinomas, continuous treatment with very high doses of octreotide can be of temporary relief. The clinical effectiveness of somatostatin analogues in patients with small cell lung cancer is currently under investigation. Long-term therapy with somatostatin analogues of catecholamine-secreting (malignant) paragangliomas and phaeochromocytomas has not shown clinical benefits.