Background: New insights in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive neuroendocrine tumours have prompted a renewed interest in these rare and complex diseases.
Aim: To establish how many new cases of digestive neuroendocrine tumours were diagnosed, and how they were treated, at gastroenterological centres across Italy during a two-year period (1997-1998).
Methods: The 12 centres taking part filled in a data collection form reporting type of tumour, methods of diagnosis and therapeutic strategies adopted in each case. Data were collected and analysed by the authors of the present report.
Results: Data refer to 98 patients, 22 with functioning and 76 with non-functioning digestive neuroendocrine tumours [50 carcinoids, 48 pancreatic endocrine tumour syndromes]. Primary tumours were localised in 96% (38% with metastases) of non-functioning and 81% (50% with metastases) of functioning tumours. These were surgically removed in >80% of patients in both groups. Somatostatin analogue treatment, with or without interferon, was administered in 35% of patients, while chemotherapy was used in 9% and 23% of functioning and non-functioning tumours, respectively. The imaging study always included a computed tomography scan (20% helical computed tomography). Magnetic resonance and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy were also performed, the former in 41% and 21% of the two (functioning and non-functioning tumour) groups, the latter in 45% and 30%.
Conclusions: The number of functioning digestive neuroendocrine tumours reported was lower than expected. Surgery plays a major role in the treatment of these tumours in all centres. Overall, in only a small number of patients was a multidisciplinary approach applied.