, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 541-548
Date: 09 Dec 2009

Non-functional Neuroendocrine Carcinoma of the Pancreas: Incidence, Tumor Biology, and Outcomes in 2,158 Patients

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Pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer is a rare, indolent malignancy with no effective systemic therapy currently available. This population-based analysis evaluated the hypothesis that long-term survival benefit is greater with aggressive, rather than limited, surgical therapy.


Non-functional pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma (NF-pNEC) cases diagnosed from 1973 to 2004 were retrieved from the SEER database.


A total of 2,158 patients with NF-pNEC were identified, representing 2% of all pancreatic malignancies. The annual incidence increased from 1.4 to 3.0 per million during the study period. On average, tumors measured 59 ± 35 mm (median 50), and age at diagnosis was 59 ± 15 years; 29% of patients were younger than 50. Nodal (44%) and systemic metastases (60%) were common. Overall the 5-, 10-, and 20-year survival rates were 33%, 17%, and 10%, respectively. Removal of the primary tumor significantly prolonged survival in the entire cohort (median 1.2 vs. 8.4 years; p < 0.001) and among those with metastases (median 1.0 vs. 4.8 years; p < 0.001). No survival difference was seen between enucleation and resection of the primary tumor (median 10.2 versus 9.2 years, p = 0.456).


This study suggests that surgical therapy improves survival among patients with localized, as well as metastatic, NF-pNEC. Enucleation may be oncologically equivalent to resection.

Partial data presented at The Annual Meeting of the American Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, March 27–30, 2008, at Marriott’s Harbor Beach Resort & Spa in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Supported by the John F. Fortney Charitable Pancreatic Cancer Research Foundation.