Neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas

Oncologist. 2009 May;14(5):456-67. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2008-0259. Epub 2009 May 1.


This literature review briefly summarizes the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical management, and outcomes of patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) and highlights recent advances in PNET research. PNETs are rare neoplasms, compared with carcinomas arising from pancreatic exocrine tissue. They, like other neuroendocrine tumor types, display variable malignant potential, hormone-related syndromes (functionality), localization, and genetic background. Although tumor origin and molecular pathogenesis remain poorly understood, recently established grading and staging systems facilitate patient risk stratification, and thereby directly impact clinical decision making. Although the optimal clinical management of PNETs involves a multidisciplinary approach, surgery remains the only curative treatment for early-stage disease. Surgery may also have a role in patients with advanced-stage disease, including those with hepatic metastases. Alternative therapeutic approaches applied to PNETs, including chemotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, transarterial chemoembolization, biotherapy, polypeptide radionuclide receptor therapy, antiangiogenic therapy, and selective internal radiotherapy, have failed to demonstrate a long-term survival benefit. Surgery remains the primary therapeutic option for patients with PNETs. Research on PNETs is desperately needed to improve the therapeutic options for patients with this disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrinoma / diagnosis
  • Gastrinoma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insulinoma / diagnosis
  • Insulinoma / therapy
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / diagnosis
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / etiology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / pathology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Prognosis