Endocrine tumors of the pancreas are rare disorders that can cause life-threatening symptoms related to the excessive hormonal secretion and the malignant nature of the neoplasm. In addition, these neoplasms can present as part of familial endocrinopathy syndromes, especially multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN-1). The initial step in evaluation of a patient with an islet cell tumor is definitive diagnosis of the hormonal syndrome that usually can be achieved biochemically. The next step is to reverse the life-threatening hormonal syndrome medically to allow radiographic localization of the islet cell neoplasm and to prepare the patient for elective surgery. In general, the goal of surgery is to accurately stage the extent of disease and to totally resect the tumor resulting in complete correction of the excessive hormonal condition and freedom from malignant progression of the tumor. Resection of the neoplasm should encompass metastatic disease in select individuals in whom complete or nearly complete resection can be achieved. Surgery must be performed with acceptable morbidity and mortality because the medical management of the excessive hormonal secretion in most patients is adequate and the progression rate of malignant islet cell carcinomas is usually slow. Patients with MEN-1 should be identified during evaluation by careful history and should be managed differently. These patients always have multiple islet cell tumors and may have malignant islet cell carcinomas. Large (3 cm) imageable pancreatic neoplasms in patients with MEN-1 should be resected because nearly 50 per cent are malignant. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome in patients with MEN-1 and primary hyperparathyroidism is best managed initially by surgery directed at the hyperparathyroidism. It may be impossible to correct the biochemical abnormalities of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome by islet cell tumor resection in patients with MEN-1. However, insulinoma or VIPoma syndromes can often be corrected by islet cell tumor resection. Portal venous sampling for hormones may be helpful in determining what hormone a specific tumor is secreting.
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View details for PubMedID 2559034