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Keywords:

  • carcinoid;
  • DNA;
  • genetics;
  • gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumor;
  • methylation;
  • neuroendocrine;
  • pancreatic endocrine tumor;
  • comparative genomic hybridization

Abstract

The pathobiology of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is hampered by the lack of scientific tools that define their mechanisms of secretion, proliferation, and metastasis; and, currently, there are no accurate means to assess tumor behavior and disease prognosis. Molecular biologic techniques and genetic analysis may facilitate the delineation of the molecular pathology of NETs and provide novel insights into their cellular mechanisms. The current status and recent advances in assessment of the molecular basis of tumorigenesis of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs) were reviewed (1981–2004). The objectives of this retrospective study were to provide a cohesive overview of the current state of knowledge and to develop a molecular understanding of these rare tumor entities to facilitate the establishment of therapeutic targets and rational management strategies. Multiple differences in chromosomal aberration patterns were noted between gastrointestinal (GI) neuroendocrine and pancreatic endocrine tumors (PETs). Divergence in gene expression patterns in the development of GI carcinoids and PETs was identified, whereas examination of the PET and GI carcinoid data demonstrated only few areas of overlap in the accumulation of genetic aberrations. These data suggest that the recent World Health Organization classification of GEP-NETs may require updating. In addition, previous assumptions of tumor similarity (pancreatic vs. GI) may be unfounded when they are examined at a molecular level. On the basis of the evolution of genetic information, enteric neuroendocrine lesions (carcinoids) and PETs may need to be classified as two distinct entities rather than grouped together as the single entity “GEP-NETs.” Cancer 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.