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J Clin Oncol. 2011 Nov 1;29(31):4137-42. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2011.34.6353. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Metastatic pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma related to primary tumor development in childhood or adolescence: significant link to SDHB mutations.

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1109, USA.



To present data on the high rate of SDHB mutations in patients with metastatic pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma whose initial tumor presentation began in childhood or adolescence.


From 2000 to 2010, 263 patients with pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma were evaluated through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD. Of the 263 patients, 125 patients were found to have metastatic disease; of these 125 patients, 32 patients presented with a tumor before 20 years of age. An additional 17 patients presented with a tumor before 20 years of age but demonstrated no development of metastatic disease. Genetic testing for mutations in the VHL, MEN, and SDHB/C/D genes was performed on patients without previously identified genetic mutations.


Of the 32 patients who presented with metastatic disease and had their primary tumor in childhood or adolescence, sequence analysis of germline DNA showed SDHB mutations in 23 patients (71.9%), SDHD mutations in three patients (9.4%), VHL mutations in two patients (6.3%), and an absence of a known mutation in four patients (12.5%). The majority of these 32 patients (78.1%) presented with primary tumors in an extra-adrenal location.


The majority of patients with metastatic pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma who presented with a primary tumor in childhood/adolescence had primary extra-adrenal tumors and harbored SDHB mutations. Except for primary tumors located in the head and neck where SDHD genetic testing is advised, we recommend that patients who present with metastatic pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma with primary tumor development in childhood or adolescence undergo SDHB genetic testing before they undergo testing for other gene mutations, unless clinical presentation or family history suggests a different mutation.

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