Diagnosis of Pheochromocytoma

This study is currently recruiting participants. (see Contacts and Locations)
Verified January 2016 by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) )
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier:
First received: March 2, 2000
Last updated: January 23, 2016
Last verified: January 2016

March 2, 2000
January 23, 2016
February 2000
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To investigate the use of radiopharmaceutical tracer, F(18)-FLT for PET/CT scan in evaluating cellular proliferative behavior of various genetically inherited and sporadic pheochromocytomas and paragagliomas in adult patients.
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Complete list of historical versions of study NCT00004847 on ClinicalTrials.gov Archive Site
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Diagnosis of Pheochromocytoma
Diagnosis, Pathophysiology, and Molecular Biology of Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

The goal of this study is to develop better methods of diagnosis and treatment for pheochromocytomas. These tumors, which usually arise from the adrenal glands, are often difficult to detect with current methods. Pheochromocytomas release chemicals called catecholamines, causing high blood pressure. Undetected, the tumors can lead to severe medical consequences, including stroke, heart attack and sudden death, in situations that would normally pose little or no risk, such as surgery, general anesthesia or childbirth.

Patients with pheochromocytoma may be eligible for this study. Candidates will be screened with a medical history and physical examination, electrocardiogram, and blood and urine tests. Study participants will undergo blood, urine, and imaging tests, described below, to detect pheochromocytoma. If a tumor is found, the patient will be offered surgery. If surgery is not feasible (for example, if there are multiple tumors that cannot be removed), evaluations will continue in follow-up visits. If the tumor cannot be found, the patient will be offered medical treatment and efforts to detect the tumor will continue. Diagnostic tests may include the following:

  1. Blood tests - Two blood tests glucagon stimulation and clonidine suppression are done that require insertion of intravenous (i.v.) catheters (thin flexible tubes) into arm veins. While the patient rests lying down, a drug (glucagon or clonidine) is given through the i.v. line. Blood pressure and heart rate are monitored frequently, and blood is collected from the i.v. line to measure levels of catecholamines and their breakdown products, metanephrines.
  2. Regional venous sampling - Selective vena caval sampling may be required for some patients. A catheter is placed into a large blood vessel called the inferior vena cava, through which blood circulating in the body returns to the heart. Blood samples are collected for measurement of catecholamines and metanephrines.
  3. Standard imaging tests - Non-investigational imaging tests include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), sonography, and 131I-MIBG scanning. These scans may be done before and after surgical removal of pheochromocytoma.
  4. PET imaging - Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is done using an injection of a radioactive catecholamine called fluorodopamine. The fluorodopamine enters pheochromocytoma cells, making the tumor radioactive and visible on the PET scan. The scan takes up to about 2 hours.
  5. Urine - A 24-hour urine collection is collected for analysis.
  6. Genetic testing A small blood sample is collected for DNA analysis.

PLEASE NOTE: Until further notice, we are not offering MIBG131 at this time.

Pheochromocytomas/paragangliomas are rare but clinically important chromaffin cell tumors that typically arise from the adrenal gland and constitute a surgically correctable cause of chronic hypertension. The clinical features and consequences of pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma result from the release of catecholamines (e.g., norepinephrine and epinephrine) by the tumor. If a pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma is undetected, stimuli that normally would not pose a hazard, such as surgery, childbirth, or general anesthesia, can evoke catecholamine secretion by the tumor, with clinically significant and even catastrophic outcomes. The diagnosis of pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma and its localization can be challenging, because measurements of plasma levels or urinary excretion of catecholamines and their metabolites and radio-iodinated metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scanning can yield false-negative results in patients harboring the tumor. Computed tomographic (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) lack sufficient specificity. The molecular mechanisms by which genotypic changes predispose to development of pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma remain unknown, even in patients with identified mutations. Moreover, pheochromocytomas/paragangliomas in patients with hereditary predispositions differ in terms of their growth, malignant potential, catecholamine phenotype, and responses to standard screening tests such as glucagon stimulation and clonidine suppression tests. This protocol focuses on molecular and genetic studies that may elucidate the bases for predisposition to develop pheochromocytomas/paragangliomas and for expression of different neurochemical phenotypes and malignant potentials, new imaging approaches, based on [(18)F]-6F-dopamine ([(18)F]-6F-DA), and [(18)F]-L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine ((18)F]-DOPA) positron emission tomographic (PET) scanning, [99m]Tc-methoxyisobutylisonitrile SPECT scintigraphy (99m Tc-MIBI), and new biochemical diagnostic criteria, based on measurement of plasma metanephrines. We also want to evaluate the benefits romidepsin pretreatment for uptake enhancement of [(123/131)I]-MIBG in pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma tumors.
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*   Includes publications given by the data provider as well as publications identified by ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier (NCT Number) in Medline.
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Patients are adults or children with known or suspected sporadic or familial pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma, on the basis of one or more of the following:

  • New onset of hypertension or hypertensive episodes and symptoms suggestive of pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (sweating, headaches, pallor, palpitations).
  • High levels of blood or urinary catecholamines, metanephrines, or methoxytyramine.
  • Personal or family history of pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma or genetic mutations known to predispose individuals to develop pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma.

Signed informed consent is required.

Patients must be willing to return to NIH for follow-up evaluation.

Patients with pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma will be accepted through clinician or self referrals.


Imaging studies are not done in pregnant or lactating women. A pregnancy test is performed in women of child-bearing age (up to age 55). In those with positive results, no PET scanning, MIBG scanning, contrast CT, DCE-MRI, vena cava sampling, glucagon and clonidine testing is performed.

Women who are pregnant are excluded from admission to the Clinical Center but may be studied as outpatients.

Imaging studies are not done in patients that have the following exclusion criteria:

  • Pregnant or lactating women,
  • Patients with impaired mental capacity that precludes informed consent,
  • Patients with a body weight of greater than or equal to 400 pounds due to weight limitations of the scanner or patients who are not able to enter the bore of the PET/CT scanner due to BMI,
  • Inability to lie still for the entire imaging time (e.g. cough, severe arthritis, etc.),
  • Inability to complete the needed investigational and standard-of-care imaging examinations due to other reasons (severe claustrophobia, radiation phobia, etc.),
  • Any additional medical condition, serious illness, or other extenuating circumstance that, in the opinion of the Investigator, may significantly interfere with study compliance.

Additionally DCE-MRI is not done in patients with acute or chronic renal insufficiency since gadolinium chelate injection is contraindicated in those patients. In patients where DCE-MRI is considered, a creatinine clearance measurement is performed as a clinically indicated test by the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the NIH Clinical Center. Patients with impaired kidney function will not undergo DCE-MRI. DCE-MRI is also not done in patients with severe claustrophobia or the presence of iron or metal in the MRI scan site, in patients with pacemakers or defibrillators, and in patients with an allergy to gadolinium.

Exclusion criteria for research PET imaging in children

Children of less than 10 years of age,

Children with impaired mental capacity that precludes informed assent,

Pregnant or lactating female adolescents,

Inability to lie still for the entire imaging time (e.g. cough, turbulent children, severe claustrophobia, etc.).

7 Years and older
Contact: Karen T Adams, C.R.N.P. (301) 402-7785 adamskt@mail.nih.gov
Contact: Karel Pacak, M.D. (301) 402-4594 karel@mail.nih.gov
United States
000093, 00-CH-0093
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National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) )
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
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Principal Investigator: Karel Pacak, M.D. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
January 2016

ICMJE     Data element required by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and the World Health Organization ICTRP