Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) provides a prime example of how a rare disease can advance our understanding of basic cell biology, neoplasia and common endocrine tumors. MEN1 is expressed mainly as parathyroid, enteropancreatic neuroendocrine, anterior pituitary and foregut carcinoid tumors. It is an autosomal dominant disease caused by mutation of the MEN1 gene. Since its identification, the MEN1 gene has been implicated in many common endocrine and non-endocrine tumors. This is a brief overview of recent scientific advances relating to MEN1, including newly recognized clinical features that are now better characterized by genetic analysis, insights into the function of the MEN1-encoded protein menin, and refined recommendations for mutation testing and tumor screening, which highlight our increasing understanding of this complex syndrome.