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Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1991 Apr;124(4):381-5.

Steroid profile in serum: increased levels of sulphated pregnenolone and pregn-5-ene-3 beta,20 alpha-diol in patients with adrenocortical carcinoma.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


A serum steroid profile was determined in 11 patients with adrenocortical carcinoma, 5 with adrenocortical adenoma and 10 healthy controls. Seven of the patients with carcinoma had different forms of endocrine symptoms, and of those with adenoma 3 had Cushing's syndrome and 2 primary hyperaldosteronism. Sulphated steroids dominated in serum from both patients and controls, whereas the levels of free and glucuronated steroids were low. All patients with adrenocortical carcinoma had increased levels of sulphated pregn-5-ene-3 beta-ol-20-one (pregnenolone) and pregn-5-ene-3 beta,20 alpha-diol compared with healthy controls and patients with adrenocortical adenoma. Serum levels of 11-deoxycortisol and/or its glucuronated metabolite tetrahydro-11-deoxycortisol were clearly elevated in 8 of the patients with carcinoma. The results are in agreement with those previously found for conjugated urinary steroids in patients with adrenocortical carcinoma. Thus, an impaired function or deficiency of 3 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/delta isomerase and in some cases also of 11 beta-hydroxylase could explain the findings. The serum levels of sulphated pregnenolone and/or pregn-5-ene-3 beta,20 alpha-diol, possibly together with free 11-deoxycortisol seem to be useful for preoperative discrimination between malignant and benign adrenocortical tumours.

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