Molecular imaging in neuroendocrine tumors: molecular uptake mechanisms and clinical results

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2009 Sep;71(3):199-213. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2009.02.009. Epub 2009 Apr 9.


Neuroendocrine tumors can originate almost everywhere in the body and consist of a great variety of subtypes. This paper focuses on molecular imaging methods using nuclear medicine techniques in neuroendocrine tumors, coupling molecular uptake mechanisms of radiotracers with clinical results. A non-systematic review is presented on receptor based and metabolic imaging methods. Receptor-based imaging covers the molecular backgrounds of somatostatin, vaso-intestinal peptide (VIP), bombesin and cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors and their link with nuclear imaging. Imaging methods based on specific metabolic properties include meta-iodo-benzylguanide (MIBG) and dimercapto-sulphuric acid (DMSA-V) scintigraphy as well as more modern positron emission tomography (PET)-based methods using radio-labeled analogues of amino acids, glucose, dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), dopamine and tryptophan. Diagnostic sensitivities are presented for each imaging method and for each neuroendocrine tumor subtype. Finally, a Forest plot analysis of diagnostic performance is presented for each tumor type in order to provide a comprehensive overview for clinical use.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / physiology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Probes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnosis*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / metabolism
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Radioactive Tracers
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Molecular Probes
  • Phosphates
  • Radioactive Tracers
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Glucose