Urinary excretion of methylated catecholamine metabolites in a child with neuroblastoma maturing into ganglioneuroma

Med Pediatr Oncol. 1996 Jan;26(1):57-60. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-911X(199601)26:1<57::AID-MPO8>3.0.CO;2-U.


Neuroblastomas are malignant tumors derived embryonically from the neural crest. Biological diagnosis relies on assay of urinary excretion of homovanillic acid (HVA), vanillylmandelic acid (VMA), and dopamine (DA). Spontaneous regression of these neoplasms has been reported by numerous investigators. The authors report the case of a child with neuroblastoma that illustrates the relationship between catecholamine metabolites and tumor maturation. At 1 month of age, this infant presented an adrenal neuroblastoma with multiple metastases (stage IV); the initial histological diagnosis based on examination of cutaneous metastases was neuroblastoma. At the age of 6 months, after chemotherapy, the primary tumor was resected; hepatic metastases were discovered at laparotomy. The histological diagnosis for all lesions was highly differentiated, mature ganglioneuroma-like tissue. The main biochemical abnormality at the time of diagnosis was an elevation in normetanephrine (NMN). HVA was only slightly increased but rose progressively during chemotherapy; it dropped back to normal levels after the sixth course. This case illustrates the potential benefits of separate assays of urinary methylated catecholamine metabolites for biochemical diagnosis and therapeutic management of neuroblastoma in addition to assays of HVA, VMA, and DA. Case findings suggest existence of a transformation process with maturation of the tumor involving enzymatic regulation and expression of MAO.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / congenital*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / urine
  • Catecholamines / urine*
  • Dopamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Dopamine / urine
  • Ganglioneuroma / urine*
  • Homovanillic Acid / urine
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Metanephrine / urine
  • Methylation
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / urine*
  • Neuroblastoma / congenital*
  • Neuroblastoma / secondary
  • Neuroblastoma / urine
  • Normetanephrine / urine
  • Skin Neoplasms / congenital
  • Skin Neoplasms / secondary
  • Vanilmandelic Acid / urine


  • Catecholamines
  • Normetanephrine
  • Metanephrine
  • Vanilmandelic Acid
  • 3-methoxytyramine
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic Acid