Operative and chemotherapeutic management of malignant glucagon-producing tumors

Surgery. 1981 Oct;90(4):713-9.


Glucagon-producing tumors of the pancreas are among the rarest forms of islet cell tumors. Two patients are described in whom the characteristic dermatitis, glucose intolerance, weight loss, and anemia of the glucagonoma syndrome were due to a metastasizing islet cell carcinoma. In both, removal of the primary tumor with a distal pancreatectomy brought marked relief of all clinical symptoms for 1- and 2-year periods. Because streptozocin, the usual chemotherapeutic agent for these tumors, is quite toxic and frequently unsuccessful dimethyltriazenoimidazole carboximide (DTIC) was used for recurrence after operation. The first patient began taking DTIC when his rash reappeared and his immunoreactive glucagon (IRG) level rose to 6,000 pg/ml (normal, less than 200 pg/ml). Within 3 months, his rash was gone, and IRG level was 75 pg/ml. The second patient developed a neoplastic gastrocolic fistula and was extremely emaciated. With DTIC, the fistula healed, and he gained weight and returned to work. His IRG level has decreased from 2,975 to 200 pg/ml. No side-effects were noted during chemotherapy. Temporary palliation of malignant glucagon-producing neoplasms can be achieved by cytoreductive surgery. When the life-threatening symptoms of this syndrome recur, DTIC chemotherapy seems indicated because of its safety and effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / therapy*
  • Body Weight
  • Dacarbazine / therapeutic use*
  • Dermatitis / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Glucagonoma / diagnosis
  • Glucagonoma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatectomy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Scotoma / diagnosis
  • Syndrome


  • Dacarbazine
  • Glucagon