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Karin Frank-Raue, Thomas Kratt, Wolfgang Höppner, Heinz Buhr, Reinhard Ziegler and Friedhelm Raue

Frank-Raue K, Kratt T, Höppner W, Buhr H, Ziegler R, Raue F. Diagnosis and management of pheochromocytomas in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2—relevance of specific mutations in the RET proto-oncogene. Eur J Endocrinol 1996;135:222–5. ISSN 0804–4643

It has been suggested that specific mutations in the RET proto-oncogene correlate with clinical manifestation of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) syndrome. We retrospectively analyzed 61 patients with MEN 2, 28 with associated pheochromocytoma, regarding the relevance of specific mutations in the RET proto-oncogene and the diagnostic sensitivity of catecholamine screening and localization procedures. The present study shows that the position of the RET mutation is related to disease phenotype; codon 634 mutations are predictive of families predisposed to pheochromocytoma. In 18% of our patients, the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma preceded detection of medullary thyroid carcinoma. Therefore, mutation analysis of the RET gene should be performed in apparently "sporadic" cases of pheochromocytoma to confirm or exclude MEN 2. The most sensitive biochemical marker for pheochromocytoma in MEN 2 is 24-h urinary epinephrine excretion. Computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and MIBG scintigraphy are all highly sensitive methods to localize pheochromocytoma. We conclude that, in all families with MEN 2, mutational analysis of the RET proto-oncogene should be performed, both to identify gene carriers for MEN 2 and to identify specific mutations that are more strongly associated with pheochromocytoma.

Karin Frank-Raue, Department of Internal Medicine, Endocrinology & Metabolism, Bergheimer Straße 58, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany

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Andreas Machens, Kerstin Lorenz, Carsten Sekulla, Wolfgang Höppner, Karin Frank-Raue, Friedhelm Raue and Henning Dralle


Twenty years ago, the groundbreaking discovery that rearranged during transfection (RET) mutations underlie multiple endocrine neoplasia 2 (MEN2) and familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC) ushered in the era of personalized medicine. MEN2-associated signs, taking time to manifest, can be subtle. This study sought to clarify to what extent conventional estimates of 1:200 000–500 000 underestimate the incidence of RET mutations in the population.


Included in this retrospective investigation were 333 RET carriers born between 1951 and 2000 and operated on at the largest German surgical referral center (286 carriers) or elsewhere (47 carriers).


To estimate the incidence of RET mutations, the number of RET carriers born in Germany in five decades (1951–1960, 1961–1970, 1971–1980, 1981–1990, and 1991–2000) was divided by the corresponding number of German live births.


Owing to improved diagnosis and capture of FMTC and MEN2 patients, minimum incidence estimates increased over time: overall from 5.0 (1951–1960) to 9.9 (1991–2000) per million live births and year (P=0.008), and by American Thyroid Association/ATA class from 1.7 to 3.7 for ATA class C (P=0.008); from 1.8 to 2.7 for ATA class A (P=0.017); from 1.5 to 2.2 for ATA class B (P=0.20); and from 0 to 1.4 for ATA class D mutations per million live births and year (P=0.008). Based on 1991–2000 incidence estimates the prevalence in Germany is ∼1:80 000 inhabitants.


The molecular minimum incidence estimate of ≈1:100 000 was two- to fivefold greater than conventional estimates of 1:200 000–500 000.