Synchronous or metachronous presentation of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor versus secondary lesion to pancreas in patients affected by renal cell carcinoma. Systematic review

Semin Oncol. 2022 Dec;49(6):476-481. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2023.01.007. Epub 2023 Feb 2.


The simultaneous or metachronous occurrence of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (panNET) and renal cell carcinoma (RCC) may represent a rare coincidence or a manifestation of von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL). These two malignancies share both radiological and cytopathological features, making the differential diagnosis very challenging. In this review, we collected all cases of concurrent diagnosis of localized panNET and RCC, with or without VHL, as reported in the literature to date. We aimed to provide an insight into the differential diagnosis between panNET and RCC pancreatic metastasis with a focus on the optimal therapeutic algorithm depending on the diagnosis. We performed literature research in PubMed library databases for articles about coexisting panNET and RCC published from 2001 to 2018. We selected nine articles with a total of 13 patients, including one treated at our institution. Patients' median age was 49 years and eight out of 13 patients were women. VHL was diagnosed in nine cases. Most patients underwent radical nephrectomy for RCC (9/13) and a clear cell renal carcinoma variant was identified in six cases. The diagnosis of panNET was synchronous with RCC detection in nine cases and metachronous in four cases. The diameter of the pancreatic lesion was >2 cm in six cases. In two cases the panNET was misdiagnosed as metastatic RCC by radiological tests. Somatostatin receptor scanning was performed only in our patient (Octreoscan) showing intense uptake in the pancreatic mass. Endoscopic ultrasound fine needle aspiration of the pancreatic lesion was performed in four patients: in two cases the panNET was confused with metastatic RCC by cytological analysis. Most patients underwent pancreatic surgery (10/13) without histological confirmation. Clear cell panNET was recognized in six cases, while mixed neuroendocrine non-neuroendocrine neoplasm was diagnosed in one patient. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining showed positivity to typical neuroendocrine markers (chromogranin A and synaptophysin) in all reported tested cases (8/8). Three patients underwent systemic treatment: two patients received sunitinib and one patient interleukin-2 (IL-2). Other neoplasms were observed in seven patients, of whom six were affected by VHL syndrome. When neoplastic lesions are recognized in both the kidney and pancreas, panNET and RCC pancreatic metastasis are often misdiagnosed due to similar radiological and cytopathological features. An accurate differential diagnosis is crucial and IHC plays a central role in distinguishing the two entities. The therapeutic algorithm may change depending on the diagnosis: while pancreatic RCC metastases benefit from resection, in panNETs and VHL the indication for surgery must be carefully evaluated.

Keywords: Differential diagnosis; PAX-8; Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor; Renal cell carcinoma; von Hippel-Lindau disease.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors* / pathology
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • von Hippel-Lindau Disease* / complications
  • von Hippel-Lindau Disease* / pathology
  • von Hippel-Lindau Disease* / surgery