Pancreas| Volume 172, ISSUE 4, P1236-1244, October 2022

Preoperative assessment of microvessel density in nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NF-PanNETs)

Published:August 08, 2022DOI:



      Hypervascularization is a typical feature of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and it frequently allows their recognition at imaging studies. However, the density of microvessels in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors changes according to their biological behavior, and a low microvessel density is associated with higher disease aggressiveness. The primary aim was to investigate the relationship between microvessel density and aggressiveness of nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. The secondary aim was to evaluate the ability of contrast-enhanced computed tomography and contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound in predicting tumor microvessel density.


      The patients who underwent surgery for nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (n = 66) with an available preoperative contrast-enhanced computed tomography (n = 39) and/or contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound (n = 37) performed at San Raffaele Hospital (2016–2020) were included. The tumor vascularization was assessed by CD-34 staining, contrast-enhanced computed tomography, and contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound. Median microvessel density (165 microvessels/mm2) was chosen as the cutoff to define low microvessel density and high microvessel density.


      The patients with a low microvessel density showed a significantly higher frequency of nodal metastases (P = .026), G2–G3 tumors (P = .022), and death domain-associated protein/α-thalassemia/mental retardation syndrome X-linked loss (P = .011) compared to patients with high microvessel density. The contrast-enhanced computed tomography tumor density in the arterial phase was significantly higher in patients with high microvessel density compared to those with low microvessel density (P = .016). The patients with a low microvessel density showed a significantly higher frequency of contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound arterial hypoenhancement (P = .042) and late washout (P = .034). Contrast-enhanced computed tomography arterial hypoenhancement (P = .007) and contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound late washout (P = .048) independently predicted a low microvessel density in the patients who underwent contrast-enhanced computed tomography and contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound, respectively.


      A low microvessel density represents a marker of aggressiveness in the patients with nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography and contrast-enhanced endoscopic ultrasound are reliable and easily available tools for preoperative assessment of microvessel density.
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