Neuroendocrine breast carcinoma: a rare but challenging entity

Med Oncol. 2020 Jul 25;37(8):70. doi: 10.1007/s12032-020-01396-4.


Breast carcinoma with neuroendocrine differentiation, also known as neuroendocrine breast carcinoma (NEBC), includes a heterogeneous group of rare tumors, which account for 2-5% of all invasive breast carcinomas. Because of their low incidence, most of the current limited knowledge of these tumors derives from anecdotal case reports or small retrospective series. The diagnosis of NEBC is based on the presence of morphological features similar to gastrointestinal and lung NETs and neuroendocrine markers. NEBCs are usually hormone receptors positive and HER2 negative, but despite this luminal phenotype, most recent studies suggested that NEBC could be associated with worse prognosis compared to invasive breast cancer without neuroendocrine differentiation. Due to its rarity and lack of randomized data, there is little evidence to guide the choice of treatment, so NEBC is currently treated as any invasive breast carcinoma not-otherwise specified. Recently, attempts to molecularly characterize NEBC have been made, in order to provide new targets for a more personalized treatment of this uncommon entity.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Neuroendocrine breast carcinoma; Neuroendocrine differentiation; Neuroendocrine tumor; Small cell breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Rare Diseases / genetics
  • Rare Diseases / metabolism
  • Rare Diseases / pathology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism


  • Receptors, Estrogen