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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2017 Sep;24(9):R315-R334. doi: 10.1530/ERC-17-0012. Epub 2017 Jul 14.

Genetic and epigenetic drivers of neuroendocrine tumours (NET).

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Institute of PathologyUniversity of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Institute of PathologyUniversity of Bern, Bern, Switzerland


Neuroendocrine tumours (NET) of the gastrointestinal tract and the lung are a rare and heterogeneous group of tumours. The molecular characterization and the clinical classification of these tumours have been evolving slowly and show differences according to organs of origin. Novel technologies such as next-generation sequencing revealed new molecular aspects of NET over the last years. Notably, whole-exome/genome sequencing (WES/WGS) approaches underlined the very low mutation rate of well-differentiated NET of all organs compared to other malignancies, while the engagement of epigenetic changes in driving NET evolution is emerging. Indeed, mutations in genes encoding for proteins directly involved in chromatin remodelling, such as DAXX and ATRX are a frequent event in NET. Epigenetic changes are reversible and targetable; therefore, an attractive target for treatment. The discovery of the mechanisms underlying the epigenetic changes and the implication on gene and miRNA expression in the different subgroups of NET may represent a crucial change in the diagnosis of this disease, reveal new therapy targets and identify predictive markers. Molecular profiles derived from omics data including DNA mutation, methylation, gene and miRNA expression have already shown promising results in distinguishing clinically and molecularly different subtypes of NET. In this review, we recapitulate the major genetic and epigenetic characteristics of pancreatic, lung and small intestinal NET and the affected pathways. We also discuss potential epigenetic mechanisms leading to NET development.


DNA methylation; chromatin; epigenetic; genetic; genomic; histone modification; lung NET and small intestinal NET; pancreatic NET

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