Pancreatic endocrine tumors have been steadily growing in incidence and prevalence during the last two decades, showing an incidence of 4-5/1,000,000 population. They represent a heterogeneous group with very varying tumor biology and prognosis. About half of the patients present clinical symptoms and syndromes related to substances released from the tumors (Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, insulinoma, glucagonoma, etc) and the other half are so-called nonfunctioning tumors mainly presenting with symptoms such as obstruction, jaundice, bleeding, and abdominal mass. Ten percent to 15% of the pancreatic endocrine tumors are part of an inherited syndrome such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN-1), von Hippel-Lindau (VHL), neurofibromatosis, or tuberousclerosis. The diagnosis is based on histopathology demonstrating neuroendocrine features such as positive staining for chromogranin A and specific hormones such as gastrin, proinsulin, and glucagon. Moreover, the biochemical diagnosis includes measurement of chromogranins A and B or specific hormones such as gastrin, insulin, glucagon, and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) in the circulation. In addition to standard localization procedures, radiology (computed tomography [CT] scan, magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], ultrasound [US]), somatostatin receptor scintigraphy, and most recently positron emission tomography with specific isotopes such as (11)C-5 hydroxytryptamin ((11)C-5-HTP), fluorodopa and (68)Ga-1,4,7,10-tetra-azacyclododecane-N,N',N″,N‴-tetra-acetic acid (DOTA)-octreotate are performed. Surgery is still one of the cornerstones in the management of pancreatic endocrine tumors, but curative surgery is rarely obtained in most cases because of metastatic disease. Debulking and other cytoreductive procedures might facilitate systemic treatment. Cytotoxic drugs, biological agents, such as somatostatin analogs, alpha interferons, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are routinely used. Tumor-targeted radioactive treatment is available in many centres in Europe and is effective in patients with tumors that express high content of somatostatin receptors type 2 and 5. In the future, treatment will be based on tumor biology and molecular genetics with the aim of so-called personalized medicine.
2010. Vol. 37, no 6, 594-618 p.