Purpose: To determine the clinical course and outcome of patients undergoing pulmonary resection for metastatic endocrine tumors.
Methods: Retrospective review of 47 patients with known endocrine tumors and pulmonary metastases who were evaluated for surgical resection between 1975 and 1996.
Results: Tumors evaluated included the following: carcinoid (16), thyroid (12), pancreatic adenocarcinoma (10), adrenocortical carcinoma (6), pheochromocytoma (2), and parathyroid (1). Thirty-three patients were asymptomatic. Hormone secretion was noted in five patients. Twenty-five patients, who had isolated lung metastases, good control of the primary tumor, and no medical contraindication had surgical resection. The number of pulmonary nodules was not a limiting factor as long as all disease could be resected with adequate residual pulmonary function. CT was successful in directing resection in all patients. Twenty-six operations were performed in 25 patients and 22 patients were treated medically. Wedge resection was performed for lesions <2 cm (15), and lobectomy for larger or multiple nodules (10). Four patients had bilateral nodules resected. There was no operative mortality and no major complications. Actuarial 5-year survival was 61% for surgically treated patients. Independent predictors of poor survival included positive mediastinal lymph nodes at time of surgery (p=0.004) and shorter disease-free interval (p=0.01). At a median of 6.7±1.2 years, six patients have developed radiographic appearance of a recurrence. A single patient with recurrent Hürthle cell cancer has had a successful reresection. The remaining patients have received chemotherapy. No patient with pancreatic carcinoma or adrenocortical carcinoma was a candidate for resection. All medically treated patients died within 6 months.
Conclusion: Patients with endocrine tumors and pulmonary metastases are usually asymptomatic, their conditions are diagnosed accurately with CT, and they can achieve long-term survival comparable to other tumors (sarcoma) after pulmonary metastasectomy.
Clinical implications: Patients with carcinoid, thyroid, pheochromocytoma, and parathyroid tumors with pulmonary metastases should undergo surgical resection if there is the following: (1) no evidence of extrathoracic disease; (2) good control of the primary tumor; (3) no medical contraindications for surgery; and (4) pulmonary function that can tolerate resection of all documented disease. The role of adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with positive lymph nodes needs further study.