Background: Tumor grade is an important predictor of survival in gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), as determined by Ki-67 expression and mitotic rate. NETs generally grow indolently, but some cells may acquire traits facilitating metastasis. It is unclear how frequently metastases differ in grade from their primary tumors, and whether increasing grade in metastases affects prognosis.
Methods: Ki-67 immunohistochemistry was performed on resected GEPNET specimens and cases with results for both primary tumors and concurrent metastases were identified. Grade was determined using a modified World Health Organization classification (Ki-67: G1 = 0-2%; G2 > 2-20%; G3 > 20%).
Results: Ki-67 was performed on both the primary tumor and metastases in 103 patients. Tumor grade was higher in metastases from 25 (24%) patients, 24 increased from G1 to G2, and 1 increased from G2 to G3; 68 (66%) patients had no change in grade (42 G1 and 26 G2), and 10 (10%) decreased from G2 to G1. No clinicopathologic factors were predictive of higher grade in metastases. The 5-year progression-free survival (PFS) was 55% for patients with stable grade versus 8% of patients with increased grade, while 5-year overall survival (OS) was 92 and 54%, respectively. The 5-year OS of patients who had stable grade with G1 and G2 primaries was 92 and 64%, respectively.
Conclusions: Nearly one-third of patients had metastases with a different grade than their primary, and, when grade increased, both PFS and OS significantly decreased. Determining the grade in both the primary tumor and a metastasis is important for estimating prognosis and to help inform decisions regarding additional therapies.