New imaging approaches to phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

B. Havekes, K. King, E.W. Lai, J.A. Romijn, E.P. Corssmit, K. Pacak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

70 Citations (Web of Science)


Formerly used concepts for phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas have been challenged by recent discoveries that at least 24% of tumours are familial and thereby often multiple in various locations throughout the body. Furthermore, tumours are often malignant and perhaps more aggressive if associated with SDHB gene mutations. Some paragangliomas are clinically silent and may present only with dopamine hypersecretion. In the current era where CT and MRI are more commonly used, tumours are more often found as incidentalomas and MRI may be less specific for phaeochromocytoma and paraganglioma than previously thought. Because of unique tumour characteristics (e.g. the presence of cell membrane and intracellular vesicular norepinephrine transporters) these tumours were 'born' to be imaged by means of specific functional imaging approaches. Moreover, additional recent discoveries related to apoptosis, hypoxia, acidosis, anaerobic glycolysis, and angiogenesis, often disturbed in tumour cells, open new options and challenges to specifically image phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas and possibly link those results to their pathophysiology, genotypic alterations and metastatic potential. Functional imaging, especially represented by PET, offers an excellent approach by which tumour specific processes can be detected, evaluated and seen in the context of tumour-specific behavior and its genetic signature. In this review, we address the recent developments in new functional imaging modalities for phaeochromocytoma and paraganglioma and provide the reader with suggested imaging approaches in various phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas of sympathetic origin. Current imaging algorithms of head and neck parasympathetic paragangliomas are not discussed. Finally, this review outlines some future perspectives of functional imaging of these tumours.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-145
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

Cite this