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Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Islet Cell Tumors)

A tumor that forms in islet cells (hormone-making cells) of the pancreas. Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Islet Cell Tumors)

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors form in hormone-making cells (islet cells) of the pancreas.

The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

There are two kinds of cells in the pancreas:

Read more about Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Laparoscopic versus open pancreas resection for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BACKGROUND: Over the last decade laparoscopic pancreatic surgery (LPS) has emerged as an alternative to open pancreatic surgery (OPS) in selected patients with neuroendocrine tumours (NET) of the pancreas (PNET). Evidence on the safety and efficacy of LPS is available from non-comparative studies.

Diagnostic accuracy of endoscopic ultrasound in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors: a systematic review and meta analysis

AIM: To detect pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) has been varied. This study is undertaken to evaluate the accuracy of endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) in detecting PNETs.

No evidence from randomised clinical trial for optimal management of resectable liver spread originating from intestinal hormone cells

Liver spread from hormone‐producing cancer of intestinal hormone cells is generally treated by liver resection surgery (removing the affected parts of the liver) if it is possible to remove all the cancer deposits and is associated with good long‐term survival. However, recently, destroying the tumour using radiofrequency waves has been reported to show reasonably good survival in patients in whom it is not possible to remove the liver spread by surgery. This Cochrane review attempted to answer the question whether surgical resection of the liver tumours is better than other forms of treatment in patients with removable liver spread. We could not find any randomised clinical trials addressing the issue. Currently, there is no evidence from randomised clinical trials comparing liver resection versus other treatments in patients with resectable liver spread originating from intestinal hormone cells. Evidence from retrospective studies has shown prolonged survival after surgery for such patients. There has also been some suggestion that combining treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy or radioactive tracer treatment results in better survival than surgery alone. Therapies such as radiofrequency ablation (heat destruction of the tumours using radiofrequency waves) have been recently evaluated as curative treatment and may be useful in patients with small tumours (smaller than 5 cm in size). However, long‐term follow‐up data from radiofrequency ablation is not available. Liver resection appears to be the main stay curative treatment for neuroendocrine liver metastases based on non‐randomised studies. Further randomised clinical trials comparing liver resection alone or in combination with chemoembolisation or radionuclide therapy are needed. Further randomised clinical trials comparing liver resection and radiofrequency ablation in selected patients may also be appropriate.

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Summaries for consumers

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Islet Cell Tumors) Treatment (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (islet cell tumors).

No evidence from randomised clinical trial for optimal management of resectable liver spread originating from intestinal hormone cells

Liver spread from hormone‐producing cancer of intestinal hormone cells is generally treated by liver resection surgery (removing the affected parts of the liver) if it is possible to remove all the cancer deposits and is associated with good long‐term survival. However, recently, destroying the tumour using radiofrequency waves has been reported to show reasonably good survival in patients in whom it is not possible to remove the liver spread by surgery. This Cochrane review attempted to answer the question whether surgical resection of the liver tumours is better than other forms of treatment in patients with removable liver spread. We could not find any randomised clinical trials addressing the issue. Currently, there is no evidence from randomised clinical trials comparing liver resection versus other treatments in patients with resectable liver spread originating from intestinal hormone cells. Evidence from retrospective studies has shown prolonged survival after surgery for such patients. There has also been some suggestion that combining treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy or radioactive tracer treatment results in better survival than surgery alone. Therapies such as radiofrequency ablation (heat destruction of the tumours using radiofrequency waves) have been recently evaluated as curative treatment and may be useful in patients with small tumours (smaller than 5 cm in size). However, long‐term follow‐up data from radiofrequency ablation is not available. Liver resection appears to be the main stay curative treatment for neuroendocrine liver metastases based on non‐randomised studies. Further randomised clinical trials comparing liver resection alone or in combination with chemoembolisation or radionuclide therapy are needed. Further randomised clinical trials comparing liver resection and radiofrequency ablation in selected patients may also be appropriate.

No evidence for optimal management of patients with unresectable liver spread originating from intestinal hormone cells

Liver metastases (liver spread) from gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumours (cancer of intestinal hormone cells which originate from the embryonic nerve cells or the embryonic outer coat) are generally treated with surgery if a complete removal is deemed possible. This is associated with a long‐term survival. However, more than four‐fifths of patients with liver metastases from neuroendocrine tumours cannot undergo resection of all metastatic disease. The treatment of such patients is controversial. Palliative removal of the liver spread (ie, leaving behind a part of the cancerous liver spread) or destroying a significant portion of the cancerous liver spread using radiofrequency waves (collectively called cytoreductive surgeries) are some of the options offering symptomatic relief and possible prolongation of survival. This Cochrane review attempted to answer the question of whether palliative cytoreductive surgery is better than other palliative treatments, but no randomised clinical trials were found, addressing this issue. High‐quality randomised clinical trials may become feasible to perform if their conduct and study design is thoroughly considered in all their practical and methodological aspects. Pilot randomised clinical trials, which can guide the study design of definitive randomised clinical trials, are necessary.

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Terms to know

Endocrine Glands
A group of specialized cells that release hormones into the blood. For example, the islets in the pancreas, which secrete insulin, are endocrine glands.
Gastrinoma
A tumor that causes overproduction of gastric acid.
Hormones
A messenger molecule that helps coordinate the actions of various tissues; made in one part of the body and transported, via the bloodstream, to tissues and organs elsewhere in the body.
Insulin
A hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, insulin is taken by injection or other means.
Neoplasm (Tumor)
An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Neoplasms may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer). Also called tumor.
Neuroendocrine Cells
Cells that release hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system.
Pancreas
An organ that makes insulin and enzymes for digestion. The pancreas is located behind the lower part of the stomach and is about the size of a hand.

More about Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors

Photo of an adult

Also called: Islet cell tumours, Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, Pancreatic endocrine tumours, Tumours of the endocrine pancreas, Pancreatic endocrine tumors, Neoplasms of the islets of Langerhans, Islet cell neoplasms, Tumors of the endocrine pancreas, Islet cell carcinoma, Pancreatic endocrine cancer, Pancreatic NETs

Other terms to know: See all 7
Endocrine Glands, Gastrinoma, Hormones

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