DNA methylation reveals distinct cells of origin for pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinomas and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors

Genome Med. 2022 Mar 1;14(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s13073-022-01018-w.


Background: Pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (PanNENs) fall into two subclasses: the well-differentiated, low- to high-grade pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs), and the poorly-differentiated, high-grade pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinomas (PanNECs). While recent studies suggest an endocrine descent of PanNETs, the origin of PanNECs remains unknown.

Methods: We performed DNA methylation analysis for 57 PanNEN samples and found that distinct methylation profiles separated PanNENs into two major groups, clearly distinguishing high-grade PanNECs from other PanNETs including high-grade NETG3. DNA alterations and immunohistochemistry of cell-type markers PDX1, ARX, and SOX9 were utilized to further characterize PanNECs and their cell of origin in the pancreas.

Results: Phylo-epigenetic and cell-type signature features derived from alpha, beta, acinar, and ductal adult cells suggest an exocrine cell of origin for PanNECs, thus separating them in cell lineage from other PanNENs of endocrine origin.

Conclusions: Our study provides a robust and clinically applicable method to clearly distinguish PanNECs from G3 PanNETs, improving patient stratification.

Keywords: Cell-of-origin; Epigenetics; Pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasm.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine* / pathology
  • DNA Methylation
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology