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Open access

George Brown, Anthony Mark Monaghan, Richard Fristedt, Emma Ramsey, Ma’en Al-Mrayat, Rushda Rajak, Thomas Armstrong, and Arjun Takhar

Summary

Vasoactive intestinal peptide-secreting tumours (VIPomas) are an extremely rare form of functional pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour with an estimated annual incidence of 1 in 10 million. Associated tumour hypersecretion of other peptides, including pancreatic polypeptide (PPomas), may also be seen. These malignancies classically present with a defined triad of refractory diarrhoea, hypokalaemia and metabolic acidosis known as Verner–Morrison syndrome. Diagnosis is frequently delayed, and the majority of patients will have metastatic disease at presentation. Symptoms are usually well controlled with somatostatin analogue administration. Here we report a case of metastatic mixed VIPoma/PPoma-induced diarrhoea causing renal failure so severe that ultrafiltration was required to recover adequate renal function.

Learning points

  • Profuse, watery diarrhoea is a common presenting complaint with a multitude of aetiologies. This, combined with the rarity of these tumours, makes diagnosis difficult and frequently delayed. A functional neuroendocrine tumour should be suspected when diarrhoea is unusually extreme, prolonged and common causes have been promptly excluded.

  • These patients are likely to be profoundly unwell on presentation. They are extremely hypovolaemic with dangerous electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities. Aggressive initial rehydration and electrolyte replacement are imperative. A somatostatin analogue should be commenced as soon as the diagnosis is suspected.

  • This is an extreme example of Verner–Morrison syndrome. We are unaware of another case where renal failure secondary to diarrhoea and dehydration was so severe that renal replacement therapy was required to restore adequate renal function, further emphasising how critically unwell these patients can be.

  • Both the primary tumour and metastases showed a remarkably good and rapid response to somatostatin analogue administration. Cystic change and involution were noted on repeat imaging within days.

  • Prior to his illness, this patient was extremely high functioning with no medical history. His diagnosis was an enormous psychological shock, and the consideration and care for his psychological well-being were a crucial part of his overall management. It highlights the importance of a holistic approach to cancer care and the role of the clinical nurse specialist within the cancer multidisciplinary team.

Open access

Jenny S W Yun, Chris McCormack, Michelle Goh, and Cherie Chiang

Summary

Acanthosis nigricans (AN) is a common dermatosis associated with hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. However, AN has been rarely reported in patients with insulinoma, a state of persistent hyperinsulinemia. We present a case of metastatic insulinoma, in whom AN manifested after the first cycle of peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). A 40-year-old man was diagnosed with metastatic insulinoma after 5 months of symptomatic hypoglycemia. Within 1 month post PRRT, the patient became euglycemic but developed a pigmented, pruritic rash which was confirmed on biopsy as AN. We discuss the rare manifestation of AN in subjects with insulinoma, the role of insulin in the pathogenesis of AN, malignant AN in non-insulin-secreting malignancies and association with other insulin-resistant endocrinopathies such as acromegaly.

Learning points

  • Acanthosis nigricans (AN) is a common dermatosis which is typically asymptomatic and associated with the hyperinsulinemic state.

  • Malignant AN can rapidly spread, cause pruritus and affect mucosa and the oral cavity.

  • AN is extremely rare in patients with insulinoma despite marked hyperinsulinemia.

  • Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy might have triggered TGF-α secretion in this subject which led to malignant AN.

  • Rapid spread or unusual distribution of pruritic AN warrants further investigation to exclude underlying malignancy.

Open access

Filippo Crimì, Giulio Barbiero, Irene Tizianel, Laura Evangelista, and Filippo Ceccato

Summary

A 61-year-old man went to the Emergency Department with left upper abdominal quadrant pain and low-grade fever, as well as a loss of weight (3 kg in 6 weeks). A solid-cystic lesion in the left adrenal lodge was discovered by abdominal ultrasonography. A slight increase in the serum amylase with normal lipase was observed, but there were no signs or symptoms of pancreatitis. A contrast-enhanced CT revealed a tumor that was suspected of adrenocortical cancer. Therefore, he was referred to the endocrine unit. The hormonal evaluation revealed no signs of excessive or inadequate adrenal secretion. To characterize the mass, an MRI was performed; the lesion showed an inhomogeneous fluid collection with peripheral wall contrast-enhancement, as well as a minor 18-fluorodeoxyglucose uptake at PET/CT images. The risk of primary adrenal cancer was minimal after the multidisciplinary discussion. An acute necrotic collection after focal pancreatitis was suspected, according to the characteristics of imaging. Both CT-guided drainage of the necrotic accumulation and laboratory analysis of the aspirated fluid confirmed the diagnosis.

Learning points

  • Different types of expansive processes can mimic adrenal incidentalomas.

  • Necrotic collection after acute focal pancreatitis could be misdiagnosed as an adrenal mass, since its CT characteristics could be equivocal.

  • MRI has stronger capacities than CT in differentiating complex lesions of the adrenal lodge.

  • A multidisciplinary approach is fundamental in the management of patients with a newly discovered adrenal incidentaloma and equivocal/suspicious imaging features (low lipid content and size >4 cm).

Open access

Pranav Gupta, Karen Loechner, Briana C Patterson, and Eric Felner

Summary

Insulinomas are a rare cause of persistent hypoglycemia in a previously healthy child. In addition to symptoms of hypoglycemia, individuals with insulinomas usually present with a history of incessant caloric intake and weight gain due to a constant need to counter hypoglycemia. In addition to an extensive review of the literature, we report the first case of an insulinoma coexisting with reduced appetite secondary to anorexia nervosa in an adolescent female.

Learning points

  • Eliciting a detailed family history is important in hypoglycemia cases.

  • Obtaining a thorough dietary intake, weight history, and menstrual cycles (in females) and considering a psychiatric consultation for an eating disorder when indicated.

  • Although rare in the pediatric population, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome should be considered in the evaluation of children and adolescents with hypoglycemia who also have a family history of pituitary, pancreatic, and/or parathyroid endocrinopathies.

Open access

Nikitas S Skarakis, Irene Papadimitriou, Labrini Papanastasiou, Sofia Pappa, Anastasia Dimitriadi, Ioannis Glykas, Konstantinos Ntoumas, Penelope Lampropoulou, and Theodora Kounadi

Summary

Juxtaglomerular cell tumour (JGCT) is an unusually encountered clinical entity. A 33-year-old man with severe long-standing hypertension and hypokalaemia is described. The patient also suffered from polyuria, polydipsia, nocturia and severe headaches. On admission, laboratory investigation revealed hypokalaemia, kaliuresis, high aldosterone and renin levels, and the abdomen CT identified a mass of 4 cm at the right kidney. Kidney function was normal. Following nephrectomy, the histological investigation revealed the presence of a JGCT. Immunostaining was positive for CD34 as well as for smooth muscle actin and vimentin. Following surgery, a marked control of his hypertension with calcium channel blockers and normalization of the serum potassium, renin or aldosterone levels were reached. According to our findings, JGCT could be included in the differential diagnosis of secondary hypertension as it consists of a curable cause. The association of JGCT with hypertension and hypokalaemia focusing on the clinical presentation, diagnostic evaluation and management is herein discussed and a brief review of the existing literature is provided.

Learning points

  • Juxtaglomerular cell tumours (JGCT), despite their rarity, should be included in the differential diagnosis of secondary hypertension as they consist of a curable cause of hypertension.

  • JGCT could be presented with resistant hypertension along with hypokalaemia, kaliuresis and metabolic alkalosis. Early recognition and management can help to prevent cardiovascular complications.

  • Imaging (enhanced CT scans) may be considered as the primary diagnostic tool for the detection of renal or JGCT.

  • For the confirmation of the diagnosis, a histopathologic examination is needed.

Open access

Said Darawshi, Mahmoud Darawshi, and Deeb Daoud Naccache

Severe hypocalcaemia in breast cancer with bone metastasis is a rare finding usually associated with an advanced stage of the disease. We report a case of a 45-year-old woman with a history of local ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast, who presented with muscle tremors and general weakness. Hypocalcaemia was evident, with a positive Chvostek sign and a serum calcium level of 5.9 mg/dL (1.47 mmol/L), phosphorus 5.9 mg/dL (normal range: 2.3–4.7 mg/dL) with normal levels of albumin, magnesium and parathyroid hormone. High oral doses of alpha calcitriol and calcium with i.v. infusion of high calcium doses were instituted, altogether sufficient to maintain only mild hypocalcaemia. A whole-body CT revealed bone lesions along the axial skeleton. A biopsy from a bone lesion revealed a metastasis of breast carcinoma. With this pathological finding, leuprolide (GNRH analogue) and chlorambucil (alkylating agent) were initiated, followed by prompt tapering of infused calcium down to full discontinuation. Serum calcium was kept stable close to the low normal range by high doses of oral alpha calcitriol and calcium. This course raises suspicion that breast metastases to the skeleton caused tumour-induced hypocalcaemia by a unique mechanism. We assume that hypocalcaemia in this case was promoted by a combination of hypoparathyroidism and bone metastasis.

Learning points

  • Severe hypocalcaemia can a presenting symptom for breast cancer relapse.

Open access

Nynne Emilie Hummelshøj, Gitte Dam, Lars Henning Pedersen, Astrid Hjelholt, and Gerda Elisabeth Villadsen

Summary

This rare case describes the course of a pregnancy in a patient with a disseminated small intestinal neuroendocrine tumor. The patient received treatment with first-generation somatostatin ligand receptor (SLR) every 4 weeks and had stable disease for several years before her pregnancy. First-generation SLR treatment was initially paused after detection of the pregnancy. During pregnancy, the patient experienced moderate gastro-intestinal discomfort and fatigue, which was considered predominantly pregnancy related. However, since symptoms could be linked to the patient’s cancer, treatment was resumed after the first trimester. Chromogranin-A measurements remained stable throughout pregnancy and was paralleled by the absence of diarrhea and only minor flushing. She gave birth by elective caesarean section in week 37 to a healthy baby. Subsequent follow up imaging immediately after and 10 months postpartum showed no disease progression. The safety profile of SLR treatment during pregnancy in the context of disseminated neuroendocrine tumors (NET) is discussed.

Learning points

  • Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NEN) are rare cancers often occurring in the gastro-intestinal tract or lungs.

  • Many patients with NEN live for several years with disseminated disease.

  • SLR treatment has been given to pregnant patients before; often patients with acromegaly. Pregnancies are reported uneventful.

  • This patient completed an uneventful pregnancy while receiving SLR treatment for disseminated neuroendocrine disease and gave birth to a healthy baby.

  • More research regarding long term effects and safety signals of SLR treatment during pregnancy are much needed.

Open access

Vinaya Srirangam Nadhamuni, Donato Iacovazzo, Jane Evanson, Anju Sahdev, Jacqueline Trouillas, Lorraine McAndrew, Tom R Kurzawinski, David Bryant, Khalid Hussain, Satya Bhattacharya, and Márta Korbonits

Summary

A male patient with a germline mutation in MEN1 presented at the age of 18 with classical features of gigantism. Previously, he had undergone resection of an insulin-secreting pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (pNET) at the age of 10 years and had subtotal parathyroidectomy due to primary hyperparathyroidism at the age of 15 years. He was found to have significantly elevated serum IGF-1, GH, GHRH and calcitonin levels. Pituitary MRI showed an overall bulky gland with a 3 mm hypoechoic area. Abdominal MRI showed a 27 mm mass in the head of the pancreas and a 6 mm lesion in the tail. Lanreotide-Autogel 120 mg/month reduced GHRH by 45% and IGF-1 by 20%. Following pancreaticoduodenectomy, four NETs were identified with positive GHRH and calcitonin staining and Ki-67 index of 2% in the largest lesion. The pancreas tail lesion was not removed. Post-operatively, GHRH and calcitonin levels were undetectable, IGF-1 levels normalised and GH suppressed normally on glucose challenge. Post-operative fasting glucose and HbA1c levels have remained normal at the last check-up. While adolescent-onset cases of GHRH-secreting pNETs have been described, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of ectopic GHRH in a paediatric setting leading to gigantism in a patient with MEN1. Our case highlights the importance of distinguishing between pituitary and ectopic causes of gigantism, especially in the setting of MEN1, where paediatric somatotroph adenomas causing gigantism are extremely rare.

Learning points

  • It is important to diagnose gigantism and its underlying cause (pituitary vs ectopic) early in order to prevent further growth and avoid unnecessary pituitary surgery. The most common primary tumour sites in ectopic acromegaly include the lung (53%) and the pancreas (34%) (): 76% of patients with a pNET secreting GHRH showed a MEN1 mutation ().

  • Plasma GHRH testing is readily available in international laboratories and can be a useful diagnostic tool in distinguishing between pituitary acromegaly mediated by GH and ectopic acromegaly mediated by GHRH. Positive GHRH immunostaining in the NET tissue confirms the diagnosis.

  • Distinguishing between pituitary (somatotroph) hyperplasia secondary to ectopic GHRH and pituitary adenoma is difficult and requires specialist neuroradiology input and consideration, especially in the MEN1 setting. It is important to note that the vast majority of GHRH-secreting tumours (lung, pancreas, phaeochromocytoma) are expected to be visible on cross-sectional imaging (median diameter 55 mm) (). Therefore, we suggest that a chest X-ray and an abdominal ultrasound checking the adrenal glands and the pancreas should be included in the routine work-up of newly diagnosed acromegaly patients.

Open access

Ziadoon Faisal and Miguel Debono

Summary

In this case report, we describe the management of a patient who was admitted with an ectopic ACTH syndrome during the COVID pandemic with new-onset type 2 diabetes, neutrophilia and unexplained hypokalaemia. These three findings when combined should alert physicians to the potential presence of Cushing’s syndrome (CS). On admission, a quick diagnosis of CS was made based on clinical and biochemical features and the patient was treated urgently using high dose oral metyrapone thus allowing delays in surgery and rapidly improving the patient’s clinical condition. This resulted in the treatment of hyperglycaemia, hypokalaemia and hypertension reducing cardiovascular risk and likely risk for infection. Observing COVID-19 pandemic international guidelines to treat patients with CS has shown to be effective and offers endocrinologists an option to manage these patients adequately in difficult times.

Learning points

  • This case report highlights the importance of having a low threshold for suspicion and investigation for Cushing’s syndrome in a patient with neutrophilia and hypokalaemia, recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes especially in someone with catabolic features of the disease irrespective of losing weight.

  • It also supports the use of alternative methods of approaching the diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s syndrome during a pandemic as indicated by international protocols designed specifically for managing this condition during Covid-19.

Open access

Matthew Seymour, Thomas Robertson, Jason Papacostas, Kirk Morris, Jennifer Gillespie, Debra Norris, and Emma L Duncan

Summary

A 34-year-old woman presented 18 months post-partum with blurred vision, polyuria, amenorrhoea, headache and general malaise. Comprehensive clinical examination showed left superior temporal visual loss only. Initial investigations revealed panhypopituitarism and MRI demonstrated a sellar mass involving the infundibulum and hypothalamus. Lymphocytic hypophysitis was suspected and high dose glucocorticoids were commenced along with desmopressin and thyroxine. However, her vision rapidly deteriorated. At surgical biopsy, an irresectable grey amorphous mass involving the optic chiasm was identified. Histopathology was initially reported as granulomatous hypophysitis. Despite the ongoing treatment with glucocorticoids, her vision worsened to light detection only. Histopathological review revised the diagnosis to partially treated lymphoma. A PET scan demonstrated avid uptake in the pituitary gland in addition to splenic involvement, lymphadenopathy above and below the diaphragm, and a bone lesion. Excisional node biopsy of an impalpable infraclavicular lymph node confirmed nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Hyper-CVAD chemotherapy was commenced, along with rituximab; fluid-balance management during chemotherapy (with its requisite large fluid volumes) was extremely complex given her diabetes insipidus. The patient is now in clinical remission. Panhypopituitarism persists; however, her vision has recovered sufficiently for reading large print and driving. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of Hodgkin lymphoma presenting initially as hypopituitarism.

Learning points

  • Lymphoma involving the pituitary is exceedingly rare and, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma presenting as hypopituitarism.

  • There are myriad causes of a sellar mass and this case highlights the importance of reconsidering the diagnosis when patients fail to respond as expected to appropriate therapeutic intervention.

  • This case highlights the difficulties associated with managing panhypopituitary patients receiving chemotherapy, particularly when this involves large volumes of i.v. hydration fluid.