Shedding light on pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors

Understanding neuroendocrine tumors. Neuroendocrine cells are found throughout the body, particularly in the small bowel, pancreas, stomach, adrenal glands, lungs, and thyroid. When these cells received messages from the nervous system, they release hormones. Neuroendocrine tumors, or NETs, are tumors that form in neuroendocrine cells.

NETs are rare and complex. Because their behavior can be difficult to predict, it is important for patients to be seen by an experienced team of doctors for diagnosis and treatment. The NETs care team at University of Chicago Medicine includes experts across many specialties.

They work together to accurately diagnose neuroendocrine tumors, and to determine the most effective treatment for each patient. At UChicago Medicine, treatment for NETs often includes surgery, even for tumors that have spread to other organs.

Our surgeons are some of the most experienced in the country at treating NETs, and to use unique state of the art techniques to destroy and remove tumors. In addition, we were one of the first centers in the country to offer a promising treatment called Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy, or PRRT.

PRRT combines a targeting molecule that binds to specific receptors on tumor cells and a radioactive particle that destroys cancer cells. PRRT is given to patients through an IV infusion, and has fewer side effects than other chemotherapies. A course of treatment typically includes four doses given eight weeks apart.

At UChicago Medicine, our researchers are working to find the underlying cause of these tumors, and to bring new treatments, including innovative clinical trials, for the most challenging cases. Want to learn more about treatment and the newest clinical trials for neuroendocrine tumors? UChicago Medicine is here to help. Visit
Pancreatic cancer has been in the national spotlight lately with “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek revealing his diagnosis. For the majority of all pancreatic cancer cases, the cancer begins in the ducts of the pancreas. This is known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and is the deadliest form of the disease. The other 5%-10% fall under the category of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs). While rare form, pNETS are still potentially deadly. Two prominent people who succumbed to pNETs include Aretha Franklin and Steve Jobs.

To learn more about pNETs and how they differ from other types of pancreatic cancer, we spoke with Xavier Keutgen, MD, the director of University of Chicago Neuroendocrine Tumor Program and one of the few surgeons in the country with advanced expertise in extensive removal of neuroendocrine tumors. Keutgen is also a lead investigator on several clinical trials focusing on new diagnostic and therapeutic methods for endocrine and neuroendocrine tumors.
Xavier M. Keutgen, MD, FACS

Xavier M. Keutgen, MD, FACS

Xavier M. Keutgen, MD, is a surgical oncologist with particular expertise in treating neuroendocrine, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal tumors. Dr. Keutgen is the director of the UChicago Medicine Neuroendocrine Tumor Center and works closely with multidisciplinary team that specializes in NETs.

Read Dr. Keutgen's physician profile.