What are the medical treatment options for insulinoma?

Updated: May 31, 2020
  • Author: Zonera Ashraf Ali, MBBS; Chief Editor: Neetu Radhakrishnan, MD  more...
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Medical therapy is indicated in patients with malignant insulinomas and in those who will not or cannot undergo surgery. These measures are designed to prevent hypoglycemia and, in patients with malignant tumors, to reduce the tumor burden. In malignant insulinomas, dietary therapy with frequent oral feedings or enteral feedings may control mild symptoms of hypoglycemia. A trial of glucagon may be attempted to control hypoglycemia.

Diazoxide is related to the thiazide diuretics and reduces insulin secretion. Adverse effects include sodium retention, a tendency to congestive cardiac failure, and hirsutism. Prescribe hydrochlorothiazide to counteract the edema and hyperkalemia secondary to diazoxide and to potentiate its hyperglycemic effect.

Of patients with insulinoma, 50% may benefit from the somatostatin analog octreotide to prevent hypoglycemia. [41] The effect of the therapy depends on the presence of somatostatin receptor subtype 2 on insulinoma tumor cells. Use of the somatostatin analogs lanreotide and pasireotide have also been reported. [2, 42]

As studies have shown, an OctreoScan is not a prerequisite before starting octreotide treatment. In patients with insulinoma and a negative scan finding, somatostatin decreased insulin levels significantly and lowered the incidence of hypoglycemic events. [43]  

Indications for chemotherapy include progressive disease with an increase of greater than 25% of the main tumor masses in a follow-up period of 12 months, or tumor symptoms not treatable with other methods. Combination regimens have achieved better results than single agents.

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