OBJECTIVE: To determine the prognostic role of metastatic lymph node (LN) number and the minimal number of LNs for optimal staging of patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs). BACKGROUND: Prognosis relative to number of LN metastasis (LNM), and minimal number of LNs needed to evaluate for accurate staging, have been poorly defined for pNETs. METHODS: Number of LNM and total number of LN evaluated (TNLE) were assessed relative to recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) in a multi-institutional database. External validation was performed using Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry. RESULTS: Among 854 patients who underwent resection, 233 (27.3%) had at least 1 LNM. Patients with 1, 2, or 3 LNM had a comparable worse RFS versus patients with no nodal metastasis (5-year RFS, 1 LNM 65.6%, 2 LNM 68.2%, 3 LNM 63.2% vs 0 LNM 82.6%; all P < 0.001). In contrast, patients with ≥4 LNM (proposed N2) had a worse RFS versus patients who either had 1 to 3 LNM (proposed N1) or node-negative disease (5-year RFS, ≥4 LNM 43.5% vs 1-3 LNM 66.3%, 0 LNM 82.6%; all P < 0.05) [C-statistics area under the curve (AUC) 0.650]. TNLE ≥8 had the highest discriminatory power relative to RFS (AUC 0.713) and OS (AUC 0.726) among patients who had 1 to 3 LNM, and patients who had ≥4 LNM in the multi-institutional and SEER database (n = 2764). CONCLUSIONS: Regional lymphadenectomy of at least 8 lymph nodes was necessary to stage patients accurately. The proposed nodal staging of N0, N1, and N2 optimally staged patients.
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