Corticotropin production by tumors of the autonomic nervous system

Academic Article


  • Cushing's syndrome in association with a tumor of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has been reported occasionally. We studied a patient who had an intra-adrenal paraganglioma (pheochromocytoma), and whose plasma corticotropin level was elevated prior to surgery but dropped to a low value following removal of the tumor. Catecholamine levels were elevated preoperatively and catecholamines were extracted from the tumor tissue. Corticotropin was identified in the tumor by immunoperoxidase staining. We also compared the endocrine data of 16 previously reported cases of Cushing's syndrome secondary to the release of ectopic corticotropin from ANS tumors. We concluded that in these patients, the plasma corticotropin level is only modestly elevated but indexes of steroid production frequently are markedly elevated. Also, discrepant responses to dexamethasone suppression tests occur, perhaps via sporadic release of corticotropin. These factors complicate evaluation of the cause of Cushing's syndrome in these patients.
  • Author List

  • Grizzle WE; Tolbert L; Pittman CS; Siegel AL; Aldrete JS
  • Start Page

  • 545
  • End Page

  • 550
  • Volume

  • 108
  • Issue

  • 7