Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

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At UCLA, we understand how frightening a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can be. Our integrated clinic helps patients get pancreatic disease treatment faster, shortening the time to surgery for eligible patients.

As a major research institution, UCLA offers pancreatic cancer treatment options and clinical trial opportunities not available at most facilities. Our surgeons operate on more than 100 patients each year, making our team one of the most experienced in southern California.

We also have a dedicated neuroendocrine tumor program with a tumor board that meets regularly.  More information to this program can be found at

Neuroendocrine Tumors are a type of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a disease where normal pancreas cells grow uncontrollably. This growth can interfere with the function of the pancreas and surrounding organs like the bile duct, liver and gallbladder.

There are two main types of pancreatic cancer: pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic NETs, which occur in the hormone-producing, or endocrine, cells of the pancreas, make up less than 5 percent of pancreatic cancers.

There are several types of NETs. They can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Pancreatic NETs are often slow-growing. Even when tumors cannot be removed, patients can live a long time with few symptoms.

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor Diagnosis at UCLA

Our doctors diagnose pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors with imaging tests and by analyzing biopsy samples in the lab. People with a family history of other cancers may also be at risk for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. Because of this connection, we also provide genetic counseling to help patients get diagnosed earlier.

UCLA offers some of the most advanced imaging and diagnosis available for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, including:

  • Minimally invasive interventional endoscopy: Interventional endoscopists can provide high-precision diagnosis and even pain relief during a simple outpatient procedure. Our center has the largest interventional endoscopy team in Los Angeles.
  • DOTA-TATE Gallium-68 PET scans: This is the most sensitive and accurate test available for pancreatic NETs. UCLA is one of just a few hospitals in the country offering this innovative test.
  • Specialized CT (computerized tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): We use advanced CT and MRI procedures that provide clearer images than standard CT and MRI imaging available at other facilities. We have specialized procedures for imaging both the pancreas and bile duct.

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor Treatments at UCLA

While a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can be scary, patients should know there are many 5-year survivors, even for those with advanced stages of the disease. New treatments and drugs offer a better chance for long-term survival, and there is hope for a cure.

Pancreatic cancer treatment typically involves some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation:

  • Surgery: UCLA’s Center for Pancreatic Disease sees more surgery patients than most other hospitals in Southern California. Our pancreatic cancer survival rates are among the best nationwide. Learn more about pancreatic cancer surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Lab analysis of tumor samples lets us tailor drug combinations specifically to your tumor. We also offer an extensive clinical trials program for promising new drugs. Learn more about chemotherapy and clinical trials at UCLA.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Read about UCLA’s radiation oncology
  • Radioligand therapy (Peptide receptor radionucleotide therapy – PRRT): This is a state-of-the-art therapy that is targeted specifically to tumor cells. Radioactive nucleotides are linked to peptides and antibodies that bind to tumor cells and cause their destruction.  UCLA is one of the only centers in the country to offer this treatment, including clinical trials for patients with all stages of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. More details can be found at

Learn more about pancreatic disease treatment at UCLA.