Ghrelin is a novel gastrointestinal hormone involved in several metabolic functions. Although the expression of ghrelin has been demonstrated in most gastrointestinal carcinoids and pancreatic tumors, the circulating levels of this peptide have been marginally assessed in patients with these disorders. We measured plasma ghrelin levels in 16 patients with gastrointestinal carcinoid (10 with midgut and 6 with gastric carcinoid), 24 patients with pancreatic tumor (8 with gastrinoma, 2 with insulinoma, 2 with vipoma, 1 with glucagonoma, and 11 with nonfunctioning tumor), and 35 healthy controls. Plasma ghrelin levels recorded in patients with gastroenteropancreatic tumors were similar to controls (mean ± SE, 182.7 ± 66.5 pM in patients vs. 329 ± 32 pM in controls, P = not significant), and no significant difference between gastrointestinal and pancreatic, functioning and nonfunctioning, and metastatic and nonmetastatic tumors was observed. One patient with metastatic nonfunctioning pancreatic tumor had circulating ghrelin levels of 12,000 pM that were slightly reduced during chemotherapy and interferon therapy. Immunohistochemistry performed on peritoneal lesions showed an intense, focal cytoplasmic positivity for ghrelin. Despite the 50-fold increase in ghrelin concentrations, the patient had normal serum GH and IGF-I levels. In conclusion, the study showed that carcinoids and pancreatic tumors rarely cause ghrelin hypersecretion. However, in this series, I pancreatic ghrelinoma not associated with clinical features of acromegaly was identified.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism