Imaging pheochromocytoma in small animals: preclinical models to improve diagnosis and treatment

Hermine Mohr, Alessia Foscarini, Katja Steiger, Simone Ballke, Christoph Rischpler, Franz Schilling, Natalia S. Pellegata

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) and paragangliomas (PGLs), together referred to as PPGLs, are rare chromaffin cell-derived tumors. They require timely diagnosis as this is the only way to achieve a cure through surgery and because of the potentially serious cardiovascular complications and sometimes life-threatening comorbidities that can occur if left untreated. The biochemical diagnosis of PPGLs has improved over the last decades, and the knowledge of the underlying genetics has dramatically increased. In addition to conventional anatomical imaging by CT and MRI for PPGL detection, new functional imaging modalities have emerged as very useful for patient surveillance and stratification for therapy. The availability of validated and predictive animal models of cancer is essential for translating molecular, imaging and therapy response findings from the bench to the bedside. This is especially true for rare tumors, such as PPGLs, for which access to large cohorts of patients is limited. There are few animal models of PPGLs that have been instrumental in refining imaging modalities for early tumor detection, as well as in identifying and evaluating novel imaging tracers holding promise for the detection and/or treatment of human PPGLs. The in vivo PPGL models mainly include xenografts/allografts generated by engrafting rat or mouse cell lines, as no representative human cell line is available. In addition, there is a model of endogenous PCCs (i.e., MENX rats) that was characterized in our laboratory. In this review, we will summarize the contribution that various representative models of PPGL have given to the visualization of these tumors in vivo and we present an example of a tracer first evaluated in MENX rats, and then translated to the detection of these tumors in human patients. In addition, we will illustrate briefly the potential of ex vivo biological imaging of intact adrenal glands in MENX rats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
JournalEJNMMI Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • F-LMI1195
  • MENX-affected rats
  • MSOT
  • Norepinephrine transporter
  • Paraganglioma
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Xenograft


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