Clinical spectrum of hyperglucagonemia associated with malignant neuroendocrine tumors

Robert A. Wermers, Vahab Fatourechi, Larry K. Kvols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


• Objective: To review the clinical features associated with hyperglucagonemia in malignant neuroendocrine tumors. • Material and Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of patients with hyperglucagonemia encountered at our institution from Oct. 17,1988, through February 1993 who had a fasting serum glucagon level of at least 120 pg/mL (twice the normal value). The 71 study patients also had no evidence of a secondary cause of hyperglucagonemia and had pathologic confirmation of a neuroendocrine tumor. • Results: The study group consisted of 46 men and 25 women with a median age of 57 years. Two patients had multiple endocrine neoplasia. Forty-nine patients had biochemically polyfunctional tumors, and 22 had hyperglucagonemia only. The most common initial symptoms were weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, peptic ulcer disease, diabetes, and necrolytic migratory erythema (NME). Diabetes eventually developed in 25 patients and was associated with NME in 11. The highest median serum glucagon values occurred in patients with the glucagonoma syndrome or insulinomas, and the lowest median values were in those with carcinoid syndrome, ZollingerEllison syndrome, or diabetes without NME. Fasting glucagon and glucose measurements were not correlated. The most common hormonal syndromes were the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and the glucagonoma syndrome. All the neuroendocrine tumors were malignant. Several methods of treatment, including surgical debulking, chemotherapy, somatostatin, and hepatic artery embolization, were used. Death occurred in 29 patients at a median of 2.79 years after diagnosis; 42 patients were alive at a median of 2.86 years after diagnosis. • Conclusion: A mild degree of hyperglucagonemia can commonly be associated with multifunctional neuroendocrine tumors. The glucagonoma syndrome occurs in a few patients with malignant neuroendocrine tumors and hyperglucagonemia and is associated with very high serum glucagon levels. The correlation between serum glucagon levels and the development of diabetes is limited, and other factors such as insulin may be more important than hyperglucagonemia in the development of diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1030-1038
Number of pages9
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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