The glucagonoma syndrome: a review of its features and discussion of new perspectives

Am J Med Sci. 2001 May;321(5):306-20. doi: 10.1097/00000441-200105000-00003.


Glucagonoma syndrome is a paraneoplastic phenomenon characterized by an islet alpha-cell pancreatic tumor, necrolytic migratory erythema, diabetes mellitus, weight loss, anemia, stomatitis, thromboembolism, and gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric disturbances. These clinical findings in association with hyperglucagonemia and demonstrable pancreatic tumor establish the diagnosis. Glucagon itself is responsible for most of the observed signs and symptoms, and its induction of hypoaminoacidemia is thought to lead to necrolytic migratory erythema. Liver disease and fatty acid and zinc deficiency states may also contribute to the pathogenesis of the eruption in some cases. Most patients are diagnosed too late in the clinical course for cure, but successful palliation of symptomatology can usually be achieved with surgical and medical intervention. This paper reviews the glucagonoma syndrome, paying particular attention to its cutaneous features, and provides new perspectives in our current understanding of this phenomenon.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Glucagonoma / diagnosis*
  • Glucagonoma / etiology*
  • Glucagonoma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / complications
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Octreotide / therapeutic use
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Zinc / deficiency


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glucagon
  • Zinc
  • Octreotide