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Genetics of Endocrine and Neuroendocrine Neoplasias (PDQ®): Genetics - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2

Table 3. Percentage of Patients with Clinical Features of MEN2 by Subtype continued...

Pheochromocytoma

Pheochromocytomas (OMIM) arise from the catecholamine-producing chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla. They are a relatively rare tumor and are suspected among patients with refractory hypertension or when biochemical screening reveals elevated excretion of catecholamines and catecholamine metabolites (i.e., norepinephrine, epinephrine, metanephrine, and vanillylmandelic acid) in 24-hour urine collections or plasma. In the past, measurement of urinary catecholamines was considered the preferred biochemical screening method. However, given that catecholamines are only released intermittently and are metabolized in the adrenal medulla into metanephrine and normetanephrine, the measurement of urine or plasma fractionated metanephrines has become the gold standard.[36,37,38,39,40,41] When biochemical screening in an individual who has or is at risk of MEN2 suggests pheochromocytoma, localization studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography, can be performed.[42] Confirmation of the diagnosis can be made using I131 -metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy or positron emission tomography imaging.[13,42,43,44]

A diagnosis of MEN2 is often considered in individuals with bilateral pheochromocytoma, those with an early age of onset (age <35 years), and those with a personal and/or family history of MTC or hyperparathyroidism. However, MEN2 is not the only genetic disorder that includes a predisposition to pheochromocytoma. Other disorders include neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL),[45] and the hereditary paraganglioma syndromes.[46] A large European consortium that included 271 patients from Germany,[47] 314 patients from France,[48] and 57 patients from Italy (total = 642) with apparently sporadic pheochromocytoma analyzed the known pheochromocytoma/functional paraganglioma susceptibility genes (NF1, RET, VHL, SDHB, and SDHD).[49] The diagnosis of NF1 in this series was made clinically, while all other conditions were diagnosed based on the presence of a germline mutation in the causative gene. The disease was associated with a positive family history in 166 (25.9%) patients; germline mutations were detected in RET (n = 31), VHL (n = 56), NF1 (n = 14), SDHB (n = 34), or SDHD (n = 31). Rigorous clinical evaluation and pedigree analysis either before or after testing revealed that of those with a positive family history and/or a syndromic presentation, 58.4% carried a mutation, compared with 12.7% who were nonsyndromic and/or had no family history. Of the 31 individuals with a germline RET mutation, 28 (90.3%) had a positive family history and/or syndromic presentation, suggesting that most individuals with RET mutations and pheochromocytoma will have a positive family history or other manifestations of the disease.

These data indicate that a significant proportion of individuals presenting with apparently sporadic pheochromocytoma are carriers of germline genetic mutations. Studies have identified additional susceptibility genes that predispose to pheochromocytoma, including TMEM127, MAX, and SDHAF2.[50,51,52,53] Mutations in these genes are thought to account for a small proportion of all hereditary pheochromocytoma. Since testing for mutations in multiple genes in every patient may not be feasible or cost-effective, clinical and genetic screening algorithms have been proposed to assist clinicians in deciding which genes to test and in which order.[42,48,49,54,55,56]

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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