Background: Studies to identify preoperative prognostic variables for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET) have been inconclusive. Specifically, the prevalence and prognostic significance of radiographic calcifications in these tumors remains unclear.
Methods: From 1998 to 2009, a total of 110 patients with well-differentiated PNET underwent surgical resection at our institution. Synchronous liver metastases present in 31 patients (28%) were addressed surgically with curative intent. Patients with high-grade PNET were excluded. The presence of calcifications in the primary tumor on preoperative computed tomography was recorded and correlated with clinicopathologic variables and overall survival.
Results: Calcifications were present in 16% of patients and were more common in gastrinomas and glucagonomas (50%), but never encountered in insulinomas. Calcified tumors were larger (median size 4.5 vs. 2.3 cm, P=0.04) and more commonly associated with lymph node metastasis (75 vs. 35%, P=0.01), synchronous liver metastasis (62 vs. 21%, P<0.01), and intermediate tumor grade (80 vs. 31%, P<0.01). On multivariate analysis of factors available preoperatively, calcifications (P=0.01) and size (P<0.01) remained independent predictors of lymph node metastasis. Overall survival after resection was significantly worse in the presence of synchronous liver metastasis (5-year, 64 vs. 86%, P=0.04), but not in the presence of radiographic calcifications.
Conclusions: Calcifications on preoperative computed tomography correlate with intermediate grade and lymph node metastasis in well-differentiated PNET. This information is available preoperatively and supports the routine dissection of regional lymph nodes through formal pancreatectomy rather than enucleation in calcified PNET.