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Nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NFPanNETs) may be sporadic or inherited because of germline mutations associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). The clinical behavior of NFPanNETs is difficult to predict, even in tumors of the same stage and grade. The authors analyzed genotype-specific patterns of transcriptional messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of NFPanNETs to understand the molecular features that determine PanNET phenotype.


Thirty-two samples were included for genome-wide mRNA gene expression analysis (9 VHL-associated, 10 MEN1-associated, and 9 sporadic NFPanNETs and 4 purified normal islet cell [NIC] samples). Validation of genes was performed by real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis and immunohistochemistry. Gene expression profiles were analyzed by tumor genotype, and pathway analysis was curated.


Consensus clustering of mRNA expression revealed separate clustering of NICs, VHL-associated NFPanNETs, and MEN1-associated NFPanNETs; whereas some sporadic tumors clustered with MEN1. Four of 5 MEN1-like sporadic PanNET subtypes had loss of heterozygosity at the MEN1 gene locus. Pathway analysis demonstrated subtype-specific pathway activation, comprising angiogenesis and immune response in VHL; neuronal development in MEN1; protein ubiquitination in the new MEN1/sporadic subtype; and cytokinesis and cilium/microtubule development in sporadic NFPanNETs. Among many genes, platelet-derived growth factor receptor β (PDGFRB), lymphoid enhancer-binding factor-1 (Lef-1), cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4), and CDK6 were upregulated in VHL or MEN1 NFPanNETs, providing potential subtype-specific treatment targets.


Distinct mRNA expression patterns were identified in sporadic-associated, VHL-associated, and MEN1-associated NFPanNETs. The current results uncover new pathways involved in NFPanNETs that are subtype-specific and provide potential new diagnostic or therapeutic targets based on tumor subtype. Cancer 2017. © 2017 American Cancer Society.


This article has been contributed to by US Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.

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