The identification of false positive responses to the pentagastrin stimulation test in RET mutation negative members of MEN 2A families

Debbie J. Marsh, Deborah McDowall, Valentine J. Hyland, Scott D. Andrew, Margaret Schnitzler, Elizabeth L. Gaskin, David F. Nevell, Terrence Diamond, Leigh Delbridge, Phillip Clifton-Bligh, Bruce G. Robinson

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93 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. The pentagastrin stimulation test is the traditional test used for the Identification of asymptomatic individuals in multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN 2A) and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC). The identification of mutations in the RET proto-oncogene segregating with the disease phenotype in MEN 2A and FMTC families has made it possible to re-examine the validity of using this test for the identification of affected family members. Design. Sequential and single pentagastrin stimulation test data were collected following the identification of RET mutation positive and RET mutation negative members of families with MEN 2A or FMTC. Patients. RET mutations were identified in 16 Australian and New Zealand MEN 2A or FMTC families. An analysis of 39 individuals from these families was included in this study. Thirty-two individuals (14 males, 18 females) had previously been determined as RET mutation negative. Seven individuals (6 males, 1 female) had previously been determined as RET mutation positive. Two RET mutation negative males had thyroidectomy based on prior pentagastrin test results. Measurements. Serum calcitonin levels in response to stimulation with pentagastrin were measured at 0, 1, 2, 5 and 10 minutes post injection. Mutation analysis of the RET proto-oncogene was performed in all individuals. In two RET mutation negative individuals from two MEN 2A families, thyroidectomy was performed and C-cells were quantitated in order to determine the diagnosis of C-cell hyperplasia. Results. There was a statistically significant difference (P < 0.013) between RET mutation negative male and female mean peak calcitonin responses of 282 ± 236 and 96 ± 62 (mean ± SD) ng/l respectively. False positive responses to pentagastrin stimulation were identified in seven individuals who were RET mutation negative in two of the 16 families. Histologic examination of the thyroid glands in the two RET mutation negative individuals who had thyroidectomy demonstrated C-cell hyperplasia in one but not in the other. Conclusions. There is considerable overlap between pentagastrin test results in individuals who are RET mutation positive and those who are RET mutation negative. These results indicate a need for routine performance of RET proto-oncogene analysis on all individuals at risk of developing MEN 2A or FMTC and a coupling of pentagastrin test results and RET protooncogene analysis in the decision to proceed with thyroidectomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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