Pancreatic Pathology Online

Pathology of Islet Cell Tumours of the Pancreas

Islet cell tumours of the Pancreas are rare, indolent, Neuroendocrine Tumours

Dr Sampurna Roy MD        July 2016


Islet cell tumours are rare pancreatic or peripancreatic neoplasms that produce and secrete hormones to a variable degree.

These neuroendocrine tumours arise from the endocrine pancreas.

Islet cell tumours range from benign to malignant.

The tumours are best divided on clinical grounds into those that produce a recognizable, clinically evident endocrine syndrome (ie, functioning) and those that exhibit no clinical evidence of hormone production (ie, clinically silent or nonfunctioning).

Clinically, silent tumours produce symptoms due to mass effect because of their large size. They are often partially cystic or necrotic.

Nonfunctioning tumours contain various peptides on immunohistochemical stain but do not secrete these substances sufficiently to cause clinical symptoms.

Nonetheless, they have the same malignancy and metastatic rate as most of the functional tumours.

Because these tumours have a better overall prognosis, total or subtotal resection should be carried out, since the long-term survival is increased by tumour bulk reduction or curative resection when possible.

Functioning islet cell tumors usually manifest earlier in the course of the disease because of the distinctive signs and symptoms of the associated endocrine syndrome.


Microscopic image of 'islet cell tumour' of the Pancreas

Alpha Cell Tumours (Glucagonomas);

Beta Cell Tumours (Insulinomas);



Pancreatic Polypeptide-Secreting Tumours;

Enterochromaffin Cell (Carcinoid) Tumours;

Pancreatic Gastrinoma;

Corticotropinoma (Ectopic ACTH syndrome);


Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) Syndrome;

Larger tumors are associated with calcification, cystic degeneration and necrosis, and a more aggressive behavior (local and vascular invasion as well as distant metastases).

Treatment and prognosis of these lesions depend on the hormone produced, their size, and their behavior.


Further reading:

Islet cell tumors.

Islet cell tumors of the pancreas: clinical, radiologic, and pathologic correlation in diagnosis and localization.

[A case of nonfunctioning islet cell tumor with extensive calcification].

Nonfunctioning islet cell tumors of the pancreas: a difficult diagnosis but one worth the effort.

Islet cell tumors of the pancreas: pathologic-imaging correlation among size, necrosis and cysts, calcification, malignant behavior, and functional status.

Non-islet origin of pancreatic islet cell tumors.

Clear cell islet cell tumor.

Functioning oncocytic islet-cell carcinoma. Report of a case with electron-microscopic and immunohistochemical confirmation.

Functional pancreatic islet cell tumors with liver metastasis: the role of cytoreductive surgery and transcatheter arterial chemoembolization: a report of five cases.

Islet cell tumors of the pancreas: the medical oncologist's perspective

Surgical experience with functioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors

Surgical experience with nonfunctioning neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas.

Neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas.

Imaging and localization of islet-cell tumours of the pancreas on CT and MRI.

Watery diarrhea syndrome caused by multihormonal malignant pancreatic islet cell tumor secreting somatostatin, vasoactive intestinal peptide, serotonin, and prostaglandin E--a clinicopathological, biochemical, immunohistochemical, and ultrastructural study.



Dr Sampurna Roy  MD

Consultant  Histopathologist (Kolkata - India)






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