Diagnosis of a malignant adrenal mass: the role of urinary steroid metabolite profiling

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Adrenal masses are highly prevalent, found in 5% of the population. Differentiation of benign adrenocortical adenoma from adrenocortical carcinoma is currently hampered by the poor specificity and limited evidence base of imaging tests. This review summarizes the results of studies published to date on urine steroid metabolite profiling for distinguishing benign from malignant adrenal masses.

Recent findings

Three studies have described cohorts of at least 100 patients with adrenal tumors showing significant differences between urinary steroid metabolite excretions according to the nature of the underlying lesion, suggesting significant value of steroid metabolite profiling as a highly accurate diagnostic test.

Summary

Steroid profiling is emerging as a powerful novel diagnostic tool with a significant potential for improving the management for patients with adrenal tumors. Although the current studies use gas chromatography–mass spectrometry for proof of concept, widespread use of the method in routine clinical care will depend on transferring the approach to high-throughput tandem mass spectrometry platforms. The use of computational data analysis in conjunction with urine steroid metabolite profiling, that is, steroid metabolomics, adds accuracy and precision.

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