Intra-arterial calcium stimulation test for detection of insulinomas: detection rate, responses of pancreatic peptides, and its relationship to differentiation of tumor cells.
ABSTRACT The selective intra-arterial calcium stimulation test has greatly facilitated the precise regionalization of insulinomas smaller than 2 cm, which noninvasive techniques (ultrasound [US], computed tomography [CT], magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]) often fail to localize. This study examined not only the role of the test in the localization of insulinomas, but also the responsiveness of 3 beta-cell peptides (insulin, C peptide, and proinsulin) and their relationship to the degree of differentiation of the tumor cells, using percentage decrease of both proinsulin/insulin (P/I) and proinsulin/C peptide (P/C) ratios after stimulation as indices. Ten consecutive surgically proven insulinoma patients each received an injection of calcium into the arteries supplying the pancreas after standard selective angiography and beta-cell peptide levels were measured in samples taken from the right hepatic vein before and 30, 60, 90, 120, and 180 seconds after each injection prior to operation. After surgery, the expressions of the calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) on the resected tumors were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Intra-arterial calcium stimulation with sampling either for insulin or for C peptide correctly predicted the site of insulinoma in 8 of 9 patients or in 7 of 8 patients if the 2 big malignant insulinomas were excluded; thus, the detection rate of this test was 89% and 88%, respectively. Calcium administration stimulated a marked and prompt release of insulin and C peptide simultaneously. Both peaked within 30 to 60 seconds, then declined gradually thereafter, remaining above the baseline at 180 seconds. The magnitude of increase correlated well with the corresponding percentage decrease of P/I and P/C ratios. The response of proinsulin was much less. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated variable membraneous staining for CaSR in normal pancreatic islets and in about 9% of the total normal beta cells, whereas staining in tumor cells was only minimally detectable. We conclude that selective intra-arterial calcium stimulation with hepatic venous sampling either for insulin or for C peptide is a highly sensitive method for the preoperative localization of small insulinomas. Calcium injection stimulates a brisk response of insulin, C peptide, and proinsulin simultaneously and the magnitude of increase of both insulin and C peptide appears to be correlated well with the degree of differentiation of the tumor cells. The exact mechanism by which calcium provokes the release of beta-cell peptides is less clear and whether the CaSR is involved in the mechanism of its action requires further study.