BACKGROUND: Preoperative factors that reliably predict lymph node (LN) metastases in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs) are unclear. The number of LNs needed to accurately stage PanNETs has not been defined.METHODS: Patients who underwent curative-intent resection of non-functional PanNETs at eight institutions from 2000 to 2016 were analyzed. Preoperative factors associated with LN metastases were identified. A procedure-specific target for LN retrieval to accurately stage patients was determined.RESULTS: Of 695 patients who underwent resection, 33% of tumors were proximal (head/uncinate) and 67% were distal (neck/body/tail). Twenty-six percent of patients (n=158) had LN-positive disease, which was associated with a worse 5-year recurrence-free survival (RFS; 60% vs. 86%; p<0.001). The increasing number of positive LNs was not associated with worse RFS. Preoperative factors associated with positive LNs included tumor size=2cm (odds ratio [OR] 6.6; p<0.001), proximal location (OR 2.5; p<0.001), moderate versus well-differentiation (OR 2.1; p=0.006), and Ki-67=3% (OR 3.1; p<0.001). LN metastases were also present in tumors without these risk factors:<2cm (9%), distal location (19%), well-differentiated (23%), and Ki-67<3% (16%). Median LN retrieval was 13 for pancreatoduodenectomy (PD), but only 9 for distal pancreatectomy (DP). Given that PD routinely includes a complete regional lymphadenectomy, a minimum number of LNs to accurately stage patients was not identified. However, for DP, removal of less than seven LNs failed to discriminate 5-year RFS between LN-positive and LN-negative patients (less than seven LNs: 72% vs. 83%, p=0.198; seven or more LNs: 67% vs. 86%; p=0.002).CONCLUSIONS: Tumor size=2cm, proximal location, moderate differentiation, and Ki-67=3% are preoperative factors that predict LN positivity in resected non-functional PanNETs. Given the 9-23% incidence of LN metastases in patients without such risk factors, routine regional lymphadenectomy should be considered. PD inherently includes sufficient LN retrieval, while DP should aim to remove seven or more LNs for accurate staging.
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