Surgical decision-making affected by clinical and genetic screening of a novel kindred with von Hippel-Lindau disease and pancreatic islet cell tumors.


We report a unique, previously undescribed multigeneration kindred with von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease in whom clinical or genetic screening led to the detection of surgically resectable neoplastic disease in several family members.

Patients with VHL disease have a propensity to develop neoplasms of several different organ sites. Retinal angiomas, cerebellar and spinal hemangioblastomas, solid organ cysts, and renal carcinoma are common lesions; pheochromocytomas and pancreatic islet cell tumors occur less frequently but are important causes of morbidity and mortality.

A detailed pedigree was constructed based on clinical screening and family history that describes the development of pancreatic islet cell tumors in four of five female siblings. VHL mutation analysis was performed in an attempt to determine if genotype-phenotype correlations could be made in this interesting family.

The age of onset of VHL-associated neoplasms for three affected siblings was in the third decade of life and in the fourth decade for the fourth sibling. The mother of the four siblings affected with pancreatic tumors developed bilateral pheochromocytomas in the seventh decade of life; she has no pancreatic or kidney tumors. We identified maternal transmission of a missense mutation in codon 238 in exon 3 of the VHL gene in the four affected siblings with pancreatic islet cell tumors. Mutation screening on unaffected family members showed no abnormalities in the VHL gene. Interestingly, one of the four affected siblings had no evidence of VHL on her initial clinical screening evaluation; however, she was followed closely because of her mutated VHL gene. Four years after initial screening, she developed two pancreatic islet cell tumors and a premalignant renal cyst.

Clinical and genetic screening for VHL in this family had a significant impact on surgical management by detecting early-stage islet cell tumors or pheochromocytomas. Furthermore, we conclude that the preponderance of pancreatic islet cell tumors in this family cannot be explained by a strict genotype-phenotype correlation. This suggests that additional genetic abnormalities, possibly on chromosome 3p where the VHL gene is located, may be responsible for the variety of VHL-associated neoplasms.

  • Curley SA
  • Frazier ML
  • Killary AM
  • Lott ST
  • Luca JW
PubMed ID
Appears In
Ann Surg, 1998, 227 (2)