Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal gland. This tumor is typically benign (not
cancerous) and can be cured by surgical removal. However, pheochromocytomas produce
neurohormones called cateholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine). High levels of
catecholamines can result in high blood pressure, headaches, sweating, heart palpitations,
nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. These tumors are considered dangerous because of
their unpredictable behavior. Patients with pheochromocytoma may experience blood pressures
high enough to cause a stroke or heart attack in patients.
This study is designed to take patients suspected of having pheochromocytoma and confirm the
diagnosis. This will be done using a variety of laboratory tests including a clonidine
suppression test and glucagon stimulation test. These tests use drugs that can stimulate or
reduce the activity of the tumor if it is present in the body.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, patients participating in this study will undergo standard
procedures to find the exact location of the tumor and receive standard therapy for the
Patients suspected of having a pheochromocytoma will be studied via a series of tests in an
attempt to ascertain biochemically whether or not they really have such a tumor. These
procedures will include a standard clonidine suppression test and a standard glucagon
stimulation test. Once the diagnosis has been made on the basis of biochemistry, then
localization and therapy will be done via standard procedures. Measurement of plasma
metanephrines on mailed samples is available for physicians who seek further evidence for
the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma.
Patients of any age and either sex who are suspected of having a pheochromocytoma on the
basis of one or more of the following: 1. hypertensive episodes in a normotensive subject,
2. abnormal levels of blood and/or urinary catecholamines or their metabolites, or 3. an
otherwise unexplained abdominal mass.
Patients without any evidence of pheochromocytoma are excluded.