Tumors of the Pancreas

What are tumors of the pancreas?

The pancreas is an organ responsible for helping the body digest food and regulate sugar. Tumors of the pancreas can develop from the organ’s exocrine cells, which make enzymes to aid in digestion, or endocrine cells, which produce hormones such as insulin and glucagon that control blood sugar levels.

Several different types of pancreatic tumors can develop in children, such as solid pseudopapillary tumors (SPTs), pancreatoblastomas, and neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). NETs in the pancreas, also known as islet cell tumors, include insulinomas, glucagonomas, gastrinomas, VIPomas, somatostatinomas, and nonfunctioning tumors. Although pancreatic tumors are rare in children, some kinds, such as NETs, occur more commonly in children with certain inherited or genetic conditions. SPTs are most often seen in girls and young women.

How we care for tumors of the pancreas

Children with tumors of the pancreas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Endocrine-Oncology Program. Our integrated pediatric oncology service offers — in one specialized program — the combined expertise of a leading cancer center and a premier children’s hospital. We build a team to treat your child consisting of oncologists, endocrinologists, genetic counselors, and surgeons.

Our areas of research for tumors of the pancreas?

Children who are treated through our Endocrine-Oncology Program benefit from the work of our basic and clinical researchers, who are striving to understand the scientific causes of endocrine cancers. Their work can result in the introduction of new treatment options. We are a world leader in translational research, bringing laboratory advances to the bedside and into doctors’ offices as quickly as possible.

Clinical trials for tumors of the pancreas

Clinical trials, or research studies evaluating new treatment approaches, are a major offering at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.

It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of our clinical trials. In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also offer trials available through collaborative groups such as the Children's Oncology Group (COG). If your child has a progressive or recurrent tumor, she may be eligible for a number of experimental therapies available through these groups or from one of our independent clinical investigators.