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VIPomas (vasoactive intestinal peptide tumors) are a very rare type of pancreatic endocrine tumors that secrete, and get their name from, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). The clinical syndrome resulting from these tumors is commonly known as WDHA syndrome, an acronym for the cardinal symptoms of watery diarrhea, hypokalemia, and achlorhydria.
VIPomas represent <2% of pancreatic endocrine tumors 2. There are two epidemiological peaks in the diagnosis of these tumors, one peak in middle-aged adults and another peak in children aged between 2 and 4 years 1.
MEN 1 (rare) 3
Patients present with the classic clinical triad of 1:
watery diarrhea that persists with fasting
achlorhydria or hypochlorhydria
VIP has many roles in the body, however importantly is involved in secreting fluid and electrolytes into the lumen, inhibiting gastric acid secretion, and stimulating glycogenolysis 1. Over-activity of these functions explains the classic symptoms of secretory diarrhea and electrolyte deficiencies 1.
VIPomas are usually large (~5 cm) at presentation with most patients (~70%) having metastatic disease, especially involving the liver 3.
intrapancreatic (~75%): most commonly in the pancreatic tail
extrapancreatic neurogenic (~20%): arising from the sympathetic chain
extrapancreatic non-neurogenic (~5%): arising in the esophagus, bowel, liver, and kidney 3
Treatment and prognosis
Acute management includes fluid and electrolyte replacement, as well as symptomatic management of diarrhea with agents such as octreotide which inhibit VIP secretion 4. Once stable, surgical management is necessary, for both the primary tumor (e.g. distal pancreatectomy) and metastases (e.g. hepatic resection) 5.
History and etymology
The tumor and clinical syndrome were first described by John V Verner, an American endocrinologist, and Ashton B Morrison, an American pathologist, in their 1958 seminal paper 6,7.
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- 2. Camera L, Severino R, Faggiano A et-al. Contrast enhanced multi-detector CT and MR findings of a well-differentiated pancreatic vipoma. World J Radiol. 2014;6 (10): 840-5. doi:10.4329/wjr.v6.i10.840 - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
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- 5. Smith SL, Branton SA, Avino AJ, Martin JK, Klingler PJ, Thompson GB, Grant CS, van Heerden JA. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide secreting islet cell tumors: a 15-year experience and review of the literature. (1998) Surgery. 124 (6): 1050-5. Pubmed
- 6. Verner JV, Morrison AB. Islet cell tumor and a syndrome of refractory watery diarrhea and hypokalemia. (1958) The American journal of medicine. 25 (3): 374-80. Pubmed
- 7. Demeure MJ. John V. Verner Jr. and Ashton B. Morrison. InSurgical Endocrinopathies 2015 (pp. 313-315). Springer International Publishing.