Surgical management of pancreatic neuroendocrine liver metastases

Jordan M. Cloyd, Jason T. Wiseman, Timothy M. Pawlik


Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNET) are a heterogeneous group of neoplasms that vary in their clinical presentation, behavior and prognosis. The most common site of metastasis is the liver. Surgical resection of neuroendocrine liver metastases (NELM) is thought to afford the best long-term outcomes when feasible. Initial preoperative workup should include surveillance for carcinoid syndrome, screening for evidence of liver insufficiency, and performance of imaging specific to neuroendocrine tumors such as a somatostatin receptor positron emission tomography scan. Standard surgical principles apply to hepatic surgery for NELM, namely prioritizing low central venous pressure anesthesia, minimizing blood loss, knowledge of liver anatomy, generous use of intraoperative ultrasound, as well as safe parenchymal transection techniques and practices to avoid bile leakage. Knowledge of established prognostic factors may assist with patient selection, which is important for optimizing short- and long-term outcomes of hepatic resection. Adjunct therapies such as concomitant liver ablation are used frequently and are generally safe when used appropriately. For patients with synchronous resectable NELM, resection of the primary either in a staged or combined fashion is recommended. Primary tumor resection in the setting of unresectable metastatic disease is more controversial, however generally recommended if morbidity is acceptable. For patients who are not surgical candidates, due to either patient performance status or burden of liver disease, several liver-directed therapies such as transarterial embolization, chemoembolization, and radioembolization are available to assist with locoregional control, extend progression-free survival (PFS), and improve symptoms of carcinoid syndrome. Multiple systemic therapy options exist for patients with metastatic PNET which are often prioritized for those patients with advanced or progressive disease. A systematic approach in a multi-disciplinary setting is likely to result in the best long-term outcomes for patients with pancreatic NELM. Ongoing research is needed to determine the optimal patient selection for hepatic surgery as well as the ideal treatment sequencing for those patients with NELM.

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