A clinical analysis on functioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (focusing on VIPomas): a single-center experience

Endocr J. 2022 Oct 28;69(10):1201-1209. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.EJ22-0111. Epub 2022 May 27.


VIPomas are generally rare functioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs) that cause watery diarrhea, hypokalemia, and achlorhydria. Due to their extreme rarity, the clinicopathological features and outcomes of VIPomas have not been well reported. This study aimed to determine the diagnostic and therapeutic characteristics and prognosis of VIPomas and to compare them with other PanNETs at a Japanese reference hospital. Medical records of 293 patients with PanNETs were collected. Patient and tumor characteristics and outcomes were retrospectively reviewed. This cohort had only 1.4% (four patients) of patients with VIPomas, and three of these patients changed from non-functioning (NF-) PanNETs during their disease course. Recurrences of hormonal symptoms were observed in all patients despite the initial controls, and all of them died from their disease, more specifically mainly from hormonal symptoms. Compared to the other PanNETs, VIPomas were all located at the pancreatic tail, were larger, and had a higher Ki-67 index and more metastasis. The median survival time was significantly shorter for patients with VIPoma than for those with NF-PanNET (5.9 vs. 26.7 years, p < 0.0001), insulinoma (21.8 years, p < 0.0001), and gastrinoma (12.3 years, p = 0.0325). This study presents the possibility of shifting from non-symptomatic to symptomatic VIPomas as they grow or of transforming from NF-PanNETs to VIPomas. VIPomas should be considered in patients with relatively large NF-PanNETs, especially those located in the pancreatic tail, when diarrhea is continuously observed. As hormonal symptoms are an important cause of death in VIPomas, long-term symptomatic control, which is relatively difficult, is of great significance.

Keywords: Neuroendocrine tumor; VIPoma; Vasoactive intestinal peptide tumor; Verner–Morrison syndrome; Watery diarrhea-hypokalemia-achlorhydria syndrome (WDHA).

MeSH terms

  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Humans
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / complications
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / diagnosis
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / complications
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Vipoma* / diagnosis
  • Vipoma* / pathology
  • Vipoma* / therapy


  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide