Islet cell carcinomas of the pancreas: a twenty-year experience

Surgery. 1988 Dec;104(6):1011-7.


Unlike its lethal exocrine counterpart, islet cell carcinoma of the pancreas is an indolent neuroendocrine neoplasm. The majority of these tumors are hormonally active. When functioning, a number of clinical syndromes (for example, hyperinsulinism, Zollinger-Ellison and Cushing's syndromes) may be evident. Fifty-eight patients surgically treated between 1965 and 1984 were retrospectively analyzed. The purpose of this study was to determine the distribution of functioning versus nonfunctioning tumors and the response to type of therapy. Mean postoperative follow-up was 7.4 years. Survival and prognostic indices were calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method and compared with log-rank tests. Of the group, 54% had functioning and 46% nonfunctioning tumors. Gastrinomas were the most common functioning tumors encountered (19%). Of interest was the finding that nonfunctioning tumors increased steadily during the last 15 years of the study (25% to 65%). Curative resections were performed in 15 (26%) and noncurative procedures in 43 patients (74%), with an overall operative mortality rate of 3%. Symptomatic improvement was achieved in 90% (curative) and 51% (noncurative). Survival at 3 years was 87% and 66% for the curative and noncurative groups, respectively (p less than 0.1), with an overall 5-year survival of 42%. The absence of hepatic metastases was a major predictor of survival at 3 years (82% vs 56%, p less than 0.05). Survival was statistically better at 3 years in those patients with gastrinomas compared with patients with nonfunctioning tumors (91% vs 58%, p less than 0.05). Although surgical cure is rare, significant long-term palliation may be achieved in a large percentage of patients with an aggressive surgical approach, occasional total gastrectomy, combination chemotherapy, H2 blockade, when indicated, and, most recently, with the new long-acting analogue of somatostatin.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / diagnosis
  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / mortality
  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / surgery*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / complications
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality