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Open access

Avital Nahmias, Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Asher Salmon and David J Gross

Summary

Approximately 35% of the pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) are functional, the most common of which is an insulinoma. Rarely can initially nonfunctioning tumor undergo biological transformation to a hormone-secreting tumor with subsequent changes in the clinical picture. We present here three unique patients with long-standing pNETs who developed life-threatening hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia along with tumor progression. In two of the patients, everolimus (Afinitor) was administered in an attempt to control both tumor growth and hypoglycemia. In two cases everolimus therapy resulted in the abolishment of hypoglycemia and induced significant tumor regression; however these beneficial responses were transient. These cases highlight the exceptional ability of pNETs to change biological behavior in parallel with disease progression. Our experience concurs with recently published studies demonstrating the utility of everolimus for the control of both hypoglycemia and tumor progression.

Learning points

  • Nonfunctional pNET can gain new features such as insulin secretion with related morbidity.

  • Gain of function in a previously nonfunctional pNET signifies tumor progression and is usually associated with poor prognosis.

  • Everolimus proved to be a viable treatment for hypoglycemia in insulinoma patients and was also proven highly effective in the patients presented here.

  • As disease progresses, the effect of everolimus on hypoglycemia wanes. We report for the first time the development of hypoglycemia during everolimus treatment.