Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (pNENs)

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

It is possible that the main title of the report Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (pNENs) is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • islet cell tumors
  • pancreatic endocrine tumors
  • pancreatic islet cell tumors
  • pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
  • pNET
  • islet cell carcinoma

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

The pancreas is a gland located between the stomach, spleen, duodenum and colon transversum. It contains specialized exocrine cells that secrete enzymes that travel to the intestines and aid in digestion as well as endocrine cells, so called islet cells. Pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (pTENs) are an increasingly common group of malignancies that arise within the endocrine tissue of the pancreas. Endocrine tissue is specialized tissue that contains hormone-secreting cells (e.g. a-cells, ß-cells). These cells secrete several different hormones into the blood (endocrine) or to local cells (paracrine, autocrine). These hormones have a variety of functions within the body (e.g. glucose-metabolism). Neoplasms that arise from endocrine tissue may also secrete hormones, resulting in excessive levels of these hormones in the body and potentially a wide variety of symptoms. There are several different subtypes of functioning pNENs distinguished by the specific type of hormone that they secrete. Insulinomas and gastrinomas are the most common types of pNENs.
Although there is no difference in diagnosis and therapy, pNENs can be differentiated as functioning or nonfunctioning. Functioning pNENs secrete hormones into the bloodstream, which cause special symptoms; nonfunctioning neoplasms may produce hormones, but no systemic symptoms. Nonfunctioning neuroendocrine neoplasms can still cause symptoms relating to tumor size and location such as obstruction or internal bleeding. They have some different differentiation (G1-3), but all of them have the potential for malignant transformation. Most pNENs occur sporadically, but in some cases, pNENs may occur as part of a larger genetic syndrome such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) or von Hippel Lindau (VHL) syndrome.

Pancreatic cancer as a general term usually refers to pancreatic adenocarcinoma, an aggressive malignant cancer with a poor prognosis. Approximately 95 percent of pancreatic malignancies are adenocarcinomas, for which the prognoses are in general worse than the prognosis of G1- and G2 pNENs. G3 neuroendocrine carcinomas have the same poor prognosis as pancreatic adenocarinomas.


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Last Updated:  1/28/2014
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