Malignant Pheochromocytomas/Paragangliomas and Ectopic Hormonal Secretion: A Case Series and Review of the Literature

Cancers (Basel). 2019 May 24;11(5):724. doi: 10.3390/cancers11050724.


Malignant pheochromocytomas (PCs) and paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare neuroendocrine neoplasms defined by the presence of distant metastases. There is currently a relatively paucity of data regarding the natural history of PCs/PGLs and the optimal approach to their treatment. We retrospectively analyzed the clinical, biochemical, imaging, genetic and histopathological characteristics of fourteen patients with metastatic PCs/PGLs diagnosed over 15 years, along with their response to treatment. Patients were followed-up for a median of six years (range: 1-14 years). Six patients had synchronous metastases and the remaining developed metastases after a median of four years (range 2-10 years). Genetic analysis of seven patients revealed that three harbored succinate dehydrogenase subunit B/D gene (SDHB/D) mutations. Hormonal hypersecretion occurred in 70% of patients; normetanephrine, either alone or with other concomitant hormones, was the most frequent secretory component. Patients were administered multiple first and subsequent treatments including surgery (n = 12), chemotherapy (n = 7), radionuclide therapy (n = 2) and radiopeptides (n = 5). Seven patients had stable disease, four had progressive disease and three died. Ectopic hormonal secretion is rare and commonly encountered in benign PCs. Ectopic secretion of interleukin-6 in one of our patients, prompted a literature review of ectopic hormonal secretion, particularly from metastatic PCs/PGLs. Only four cases of metastatic PC/PGLs with confirmed ectopic secretion of hormones or peptides have been described so far.

Keywords: ectopic secretion; lL-6; metastatic OR malignant pheochromocytoma; normetanephrines; paraganglioma.

Publication types

  • Review