The status of neuroendocrine tumor imaging: from darkness to light?

Neuroendocrinology. 2015;101(1):1-17. doi: 10.1159/000367850. Epub 2014 Sep 10.


Diagnostic imaging plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis, staging, treatment selection and follow-up for neuroendocrine tumors. The available diagnostic strategies are morphologic imaging, including computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound techniques, and molecular imaging, including scintigraphy with (111)In-pentetreotide and positron emission tomography with (68)Ga-DOTA-peptides, (18)F-DOPA and (11)C-5-HTP. A combination of anatomic and functional techniques is routinely performed to optimize sensitivity and specificity. The introduction of diffusion-weighted MRI and dynamic contrast-enhanced techniques represents a promising advance in radiologic imaging, whereas new receptor-binding peptides, including somatostatin agonists and antagonists, represent the recent most favorable innovation in molecular imaging. Future development includes the short-term validation of these techniques, but in extension also a more comprehensive multilevel integration of biologic information pertaining to a specific tumor and patient, possibly encompassing genomic considerations, currently evolving as a new entity denoted 'precision medicine'. The ideal is a diagnostic sequence that captures the global status of an individual's tumor and encompasses a multidimensional characterization of tumor location, metabolic performance and target identification. To date, advances in imagery have focused on increasing resolution, discrimination and functional characterization. In the future, the fusion of imagery with the parallel analysis of biological and genomic information has the potential to considerably amplify diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity