Semiquantitative 123I-Metaiodobenzylguanidine Scintigraphy to Distinguish Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma from Physiologic Adrenal Uptake and Its Correlation with Genotype-Dependent Expression of Catecholamine Transporters

Anouk van Berkel, Jyotsna U Rao, Jacques W M Lenders, Natalia S Pellegata, Benno Kusters, Ianthe Piscaer, Ad R M M Hermus, Theo S Plantinga, Johan F Langenhuijsen, Dennis Vriens, Marcel J R Janssen, Martin Gotthardt, Henri J L M Timmers
Journal of Nuclear Medicine: Official Publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine 2015, 56 (6): 839-46

UNLABELLED: (123)I-metaiodobenzylguanidine ((123)I-MIBG) scintigraphy plays an important role in the diagnostic evaluation of patients with pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma (PPGL). (123)I-MIBG targets cell membrane and vesicular catecholamine transporters of chromaffin cells and facilitates localization of the primary tumor and metastatic lesions. Its specificity for the diagnosis of adrenomedullary chromaffin cell tumors can be jeopardized by physiologic uptake by the normal adrenal medulla. The aim of this study was to distinguish between PPGLs and normal adrenal glands by evaluating semiquantitative (123)I-MIBG uptake and to examine genotype-specific differences in correlation with expression of catecholamine transporter systems.

METHODS: Sixty-two PPGLs collected from 57 patients with hereditary mutations in SDHA (n = 1), SDHB (n = 2), and SDHD (n = 4) (SDH is succinate dehydrogenase); von Hippel-Lindau (VHL; n = 2); RET (n = 12); neurofibromin 1 (NF1; n = 2); and MYC-associated factor X (MAX; n = 1), and with sporadic PPGLs (n = 33) were investigated. Preoperative planar and SPECT images were semiquantitatively analyzed using uptake measurements. Tumor-to-liver and normal adrenal-to-liver ratios were calculated and correlated with clinical characteristics including genotype, tumor size, and plasma metanephrines concentrations. The expression of norepinephrine transporter (NET) and vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT-1) was evaluated immunohistochemically in paraffin-embedded tumor tissues.

RESULTS: Mean tumor-to-liver ratios of PPGL lesions were significantly higher than normal adrenal-to-liver ratios (P < 0.001). Cutoff values to distinguish between physiologic and pathologic adrenal uptake were established at 0.7 (100% sensitivity, 10.3% specificity) and 4.3 (100% specificity, 66.1% sensitivity). No statistically significant differences in (123)I-MIBG uptake were found across PPGLs of different genotypes. Mean NET expression in hereditary cluster 2 (RET, NF1, MAX) and apparently sporadic tumors was significantly higher than for hereditary cluster 1 (SDHx, VHL) PPGLs (P = 0.011 and 0.006, respectively). Mean VMAT-1 expression in hereditary cluster 1 PPGLs was significantly higher than for cluster 2 tumors (P = 0.010). (123)I-MIBG uptake significantly correlated with maximum tumor diameter (P = 0.002). (123)I-MIBG uptake, however, did not correlate with either NET or VMAT-1 expression.

CONCLUSION: Liver-normalized semiquantitative (123)I-MIBG uptake may be helpful to distinguish between pheochromocytoma and physiologic adrenal uptake. Genotype-specific differences in the expression of NET and VMAT-1 do not translate into differences in (123)I-MIBG uptake.

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