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V Häyry, K Salmenkivi, J Arola, P Heikkilä, C Haglund and H Sariola

Phaeochromocytomas are uncommon tumours of adrenal or extra-adrenal chromaffin tissue. About 2–26% of these have been reported to metastasize, but, on histological criteria, it is virtually impossible to predict malignant behaviour of the tumour. Using immunohistochemistry, we analysed the protein expression of SNAIL, a zinc-finger transcription factor, in a series of 50 phaeochromocytoma specimens from 42 patients. We found that SNAIL-expressing cells are frequent in metastatic primary tumours and their metastases, whereas in tumours without metastases, SNAIL expression is commonly absent. We conclude that the expression of SNAIL may be of use in predicting the metastatic potential of phaeochromocytoma.