Due to the increased costs of medical care, a cost-benefit analysis is needed when trying for the 'ultimate' biochemical diagnosis of gastro-enteropancreatic (GEP) tumours. The glycoprotein chromogranin family has proved useful in screening for neuroendocrine tumours. In patients with midgut carcinoid tumours, chromogranin A is more sensitive than urinary 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid but by combining these two biochemical markers most GEP tumours can be diagnosed. Chromogranin A is also a prognostic marker for survival in patients with midgut carcinoid tumours. Pancreastatin constitutes a part of the chromogranin A molecule and is a less sensitive general screening marker for neuroendocrine gut and pancreatic tumours, but levels, in combination with chromogranin A, might give some insight into tumour biology. Specific markers such as gastrin, glucagon, vasoactive intestinal peptide, insulin, neuropeptide K and substance P should be used to further characterise hormone production in neuroendocrine tumours. However, in some patients, confirmation of diagnosis requires provocation tests, such as the secretin or meal provocation tests. Staging information can be obtained by new investigations such as intra-operative or endoscopic ultrasound, octreoscan, and positron emission tomography. We combine the biochemical characterisation of neuroendocrine tumours with studies of growth factors/receptors, adhesion molecules, proliferation markers, somatostatin receptor content, induction of the enzymes p68 kinase and 2'5'-A-synthetase, and apoptosis, to establish a sound rationale for therapeutic decisions, enabling every patient to receive individualised treatment.