Pancreatic endocrine tumors (PETs) are primarily well-differentiated tumors composed of cells that resemble normal islet cells but that arise from pancreatic ductal cells. They are classified as functioning or nonfunctioning according to their associated clinical symptoms; insulinoma, gastrinoma, and glucagonoma are the most common functioning PETs. They also are classified according to their biologic behavior, although all PETs have malignant potential. Most are sporadic, but some are associated with familial syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, and neurofibromatosis type 1. At imaging, PETs typically appear as well-defined hypervascular masses, a finding indicative of their rich capillary network. Cystic change, calcification, and necrosis are common in large tumors, which are associated with a poorer prognosis and a higher prevalence of local and vascular invasion and metastases than are smaller tumors. Even when metastases are present, many well-differentiated PETs have an indolent course. Poorly differentiated PETs are rare and have an infiltrative appearance; patients with such tumors have a poor prognosis. Knowledge of the characteristic clinical, pathologic, and radiologic features of PETs is important in the evaluation and management of patients with a suspected clinical syndrome or a pancreatic mass.
© RSNA, 2010.