Primitive neuroectodermal tumor

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Gertrude Djouka, M.D.[2], Maria Fernanda Villarreal, M.D. [3]

Synonyms and Keywords: Primitive neuroectodermal tumors; PNET; CNS PNET; Askin tumor; Peripheral neuroepithelioma; Ependymoblastoma


Primitive neuroectodermal tumor (also known as "PNET") is a rare type of malignant tumor originating from neuroectoderm. Neuroectoderm is normally involved in the development of the nervous system. Apart from central nervous system (CNS), PNETs can involve other tissues originating from the neuroectoderm such as muscles and bones. PNET was first discovered by James Ewing, an American pathologist, in 1921. However, the term PNETs is more commonly was described in 1973 by Hart and Earle. In fact, PNETs are members of the Ewing tumor family. Primitive neuroectodermal tumor are classified into 3 subtypes.

Historical Perspective



  • The pathogenesis of peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor is characterized by the chromosomal translocation t(11;22)(q24q12).[6][7]
  • This translocation fuses the EWS gene on chromosome 22 with the FLI1 gene on chromosome 11.
  • The EWS-FLI1 gene has been associated with the development of PNET involving the synthesis of adrenal pathway.
  • On gross pathology, white, hemorrhagic and necrotic mass are characteristic of PNET.[8]
  • On microscopy histopathological analysis, small round blue cells, fine chromatin, eosinophilic cytoplasm,homer-Wright rosettes, and high mitotic figures.[9][10]
Courtesy of image Wikipedia

Differentiating Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor from Other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

  • The annual incidence of PNETs from birth to 20 years of age is 0.29 per 100,000.[13]
  • The prevalence of primitive neuroectodermal tumors remains unknown.
  • PNETs are more common among children.
  • PNETs have a slight tendency toward affecting men compared to women. [14]
  • PNETs usually affect Hispanic and white individuals.

Risk Factors

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis


History and Symptoms

Physical Examination

Laboratory Findings


  • There are no ECG findings associated with primitive neuroectodermal tumors.


  • There are no x-ray findings associated with primitive neuroectodermal tumors.

Echocardiography or Ultrasound



  • MRI is the imaging modality of choice for primitive neuroectodermal tumors.[22]
  • On MRI, findings of the primitive neuroectodermal tumor may include highly variable and can be hypo-intense to isointense, but usually, hypo-intense on T1-weighted images and high signal solid components on T2-weighted images.

Other Imaging Findings

  • There are no other imaging findings associated with primitive neuroectodermal tumors.

Other Diagnostic Studies

  • There are no other diagnostic studies associated with primitive neuroectodermal tumors.


Medical Therapy

  • There is no consensus in the treatment of PNET.[11]
  • Chemotherapy is controversial in the treatment of PNET.
  • For the management of peripheral form of PNET, systemic chemotherapy has been associated with a better prognosis and is generally recommended.


  • Based on the site of the tumor, maximum resection must be performed.

Primary Prevention

Secondary Prevention


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