Epidemiology, clinical features and diagnosis of gastroenteropancreatic endocrine tumours

Ann Oncol. 2001:12 Suppl 2:S95-9. doi: 10.1093/annonc/12.suppl_2.s95.


Gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) neoplasms originate from any of the various cell types belonging to the neuroendocrine system. A general characteristic of GEP endocrine tumours is that the vast majority produce and secrete a multitude of peptide hormones and amines. Many patients with malignant metastasising tumours present clinical symptoms related to hormone hyperproduction. These include the so-called carcinoid syndrome, characterised by flushing, diarrhoea, wheezing and right heart disease, which is predominantly associated with the serotonin- and tachykinins-producing carcinoids of the midgut. Several types of syndrome associated with GEP endocrine tumors are caused by overproduction of a specific hormone. For instance, the well-known Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is gastrin-mediated. The so-called 'insulinoma syndrome' depends on excessive production of insulin and proinsulin, resulting in hypoglycemia. The 'glucagonoma syndrome' is characterised by necrolytic migratory erythema, diabetes and diarrhoea. The Verner-Morrison syndrome, which is brought about by high circulating levels of vasointestinal peptide (VIP). produces severe secretory diarrhoea. Finally the 'somatostatinoma syndrome' involves gallbladder dysfunction and gallstones, diarrhoea with or without steatorrhea, and impaired glucose tolerance. The biochemical diagnosis of endocrine digestive tumors is based on general and specific markers. The best general markers are chromogranin A (CgA) and pancreatic polypeptide (PP). Specific markers for endocrine tumors include insulin, gastrin, glucagon, vaso intestinal polypeptide (VIP), somatostatin and the primary cathabolic product of serotonin, 5-hydroxyndoleacetic acid (5-HIAA). Localisation procedures commonly applied, in the diagnosis of endocrine tumours include ultrasound (US), computed tomography (CT) and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Chromogranin A
  • Chromogranins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / diagnosis
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / epidemiology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Pancreatic Polypeptide / analysis*
  • Radionuclide Imaging / methods
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / analysis
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / physiopathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Chromogranin A
  • Chromogranins
  • Receptors, Somatostatin
  • Pancreatic Polypeptide