The glucagonoma syndrome: Clinical and pathologic features in 21 patients

Robert A. Wermers, Vahab Fatourechi, Alan G. Wynne, Larry K. Kvols, Ricardo V. Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


The glucagonoma syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by weight loss, necrolytic migratory erythema (NME), diabetes, stomatitis, and diarrhea. We identified 21 patients with the glucagonoma syndrome evaluated at the Mayo Clinic from 1975 to 1991. Although NME and diabetes help identify patients with glucagonomas, other manifestations of malignant disease often lead to the diagnosis. If the diagnosis is made after the tumor is metatastic, the potential for cure is limited. The most common presenting symptoms of the glucagonoma syndrome were weight loss (71%), NME (67%), diabetes mellitus (38%), cheilosis or stomatitis (29%), and diarrhea (29%). Although only 8 of the 21 patients had diabetes at presentation, diabetes eventually developed in 16 patients, 75% of whom required insulin therapy. Symptoms other than NME or diabetes mellitus led to the diagnosis of an islet cell tumor in 7 patients. The combination of NME and diabetes mellitus led to a more rapid diagnosis (7 months) than either symptom alone (4 years). Ten patients had diabetes mellitus before the onset of NME. No patients had NME clearly preceding diabetes mellitus. Increased levels of secondary hormones, such as gastrin (4 patients), vasoactive intestinal peptide (1 patient), serotonin (5 patients), insulin (6 patients, clinically significant in 1 only), human pancreatic polypeptide (2 patients), calcitonin (2 patients), and adrenocorticotropic hormone (2 patients), contributed to clinical symptoms leading to the diagnosis of an islet cell tumor before the onset of the full glucagonoma syndrome in 2 patients. All patients had metastatic disease at presentation. Surgical debulking, chemotherapy, somatostatin, and hepatic artery embolization offered palliation of NME, diabetes, weight loss, and diarrhea. Despite the malignant potential of the glucagonomas, only 9 of 21 patients had tumor-related deaths, occurring an average of 4.91 years after diagnosis. Twelve patients were still alive, with an average follow-up of 3.67 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'The glucagonoma syndrome: Clinical and pathologic features in 21 patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this