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      Recent Advances in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pheochromocytoma

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          Pheochromocytoma (PHEO) is considered to be a rare cause of hypertension. However, if left untreated, PHEOs may lead to fatal hypertensive crises during anesthesia and other stresses. The diagnosis of PHEO is therefore extremely important. A 24-hour blood pressure (BP) pattern per se might be of some diagnostic value due to frequently observed higher BP variability as well as an attenuated night-time BP decrease. So far, germline mutations in five genes have been identified to be responsible for familial PHEOs: the von Hippel-Lindau gene, which causes von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, the RET gene leading to multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, the neurofibromatosis type 1 gene, which is associated with von Recklinghausen’s disease and the genes encoding the B and D subunits of mitochondrial succinate dehydrogenase (SDHB, SDHD), which are associated with familial paragangliomas and PHEOs. Genetic analysis should be offered to those patients with confirmed PHEO who are 50 years old or younger. Plasma-free metanephrines or urinary fractionated metanephrines seem to have higher diagnostic values compared to plasma or urinary catecholamines for the biochemical diagnosis of PHEO. Imaging with <sup>123</sup>I-metaiodobenzylguanidine or <sup>18</sup>F-fluorodopamine PET, if available, are in addition to CT/MRI useful for the detection of multifocal/extra-adrenal forms. Appropriate pharmacologic treatment with subsequent laparoscopic extirpation of PHEO is usually successful in benign forms. There is, however, no convincingly effective mode of treatment in malignant PHEOs.

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          Phaeochromocytomas are rare neuroendocrine tumours with a highly variable clinical presentation but most commonly presenting with episodes of headaches, sweating, palpitations, and hypertension. The serious and potentially lethal cardiovascular complications of these tumours are due to the potent effects of secreted catecholamines. Biochemical testing for phaeochromocytoma is indicated not only in symptomatic patients, but also in patients with adrenal incidentalomas or identified genetic predispositions (eg, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, and mutations of the succinate dehydrogenase genes). Imaging techniques such as CT or MRI and functional ligands such as (123)I-MIBG are used to localise biochemically proven tumours. After the use of appropriate preoperative treatment to block the effects of secreted catecholamines, laparoscopic tumour removal is the preferred procedure. If removal of phaeochromocytoma is timely, prognosis is excellent. However, prognosis is poor in patients with metastases, which especially occur in patients with large, extra-adrenal tumours.
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            Germ-line mutations in nonsyndromic pheochromocytoma.

            The group of susceptibility genes for pheochromocytoma that included the proto-oncogene RET (associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 [MEN-2]) and the tumor-suppressor gene VHL (associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease) now also encompasses the newly identified genes for succinate dehydrogenase subunit D (SDHD) and succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB), which predispose carriers to pheochromocytomas and glomus tumors. We used molecular tools to classify a large cohort of patients with pheochromocytoma with respect to the presence or absence of mutations of one of these four genes and to investigate the relevance of genetic analyses to clinical practice. Peripheral blood from unrelated, consenting registry patients with pheochromocytoma was tested for mutations of RET, VHL, SDHD, and SDHB. Clinical data at first presentation and follow-up were evaluated. Among 271 patients who presented with nonsyndromic pheochromocytoma and without a family history of the disease, 66 (24 percent) were found to have mutations (mean age, 25 years; 32 men and 34 women). Of these 66, 30 had mutations of VHL, 13 of RET, 11 of SDHD, and 12 of SDHB. Younger age, multifocal tumors, and extraadrenal tumors were significantly associated with the presence of a mutation. However, among the 66 patients who were positive for mutations, only 21 had multifocal pheochromocytoma. Twenty-three (35 percent) presented after the age of 30 years, and 17 (8 percent) after the age of 40. Sixty-one (92 percent) of the patients with mutations were identified solely by molecular testing of VHL, RET, SDHD, and SDHB; these patients had no associated signs and symptoms at presentation. Almost one fourth of patients with apparently sporadic pheochromocytoma may be carriers of mutations; routine analysis for mutations of RET, VHL, SDHD, and SDHB is indicated to identify pheochromocytoma-associated syndromes that would otherwise be missed.
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              Genetic testing in pheochromocytoma or functional paraganglioma.

              To assess the yield and the clinical value of systematic screening of susceptibility genes for patients with pheochromocytoma (pheo) or functional paraganglioma (pgl). We studied 314 patients with a pheo or a functional pgl, including 56 patients having a family history and/or a syndromic presentation and 258 patients having an apparently sporadic presentation. Clinical data and blood samples were collected, and all five major pheo-pgl susceptibility genes (RET, VHL, SDHB, SDHD, and SDHC) were screened. Neurofibromatosis type 1 was diagnosed from phenotypic criteria. We have identified 86 patients (27.4%) with a hereditary tumor. Among the 56 patients with a family/syndromic presentation, 13 have had neurofibromatosis type 1, and germline mutations on the VHL, RET, SDHD, and SDHB genes were present in 16, 15, nine, and three patients, respectively. Among the 258 patients with an apparently sporadic presentation, 30 (11.6%) had a germline mutation (18 patients on SDHB, nine patients on VHL, two patients on SDHD, and one patient on RET). Mutation carriers were younger and more frequently had bilateral or extra-adrenal tumors. In patients with an SDHB mutation, the tumors were larger, more frequently extra-adrenal, and malignant. Genetic testing oriented by family/sporadic presentation should be proposed to all patients with pheo or functional pgl. We suggest an algorithm that would allow the confirmation of suspected inherited disease as well as the diagnosis of unexpected inherited disease.

                Author and article information

                Kidney Blood Press Res
                Kidney and Blood Pressure Research
                S. Karger AG
                December 2006
                22 December 2006
                : 29
                : 5
                : 321-326
                Center for Hypertension, Charles University, Third Internal Department, Prague, Czech Republic
                97262 Kidney Blood Press Res 2006;29:321–326
                © 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Figures: 1, Tables: 2, References: 26, Pages: 6
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