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Open access

Alessandra Mangone, Quratulain Yousuf, Wiebke Arlt, Alessandro Prete, Fozia Shaheen, Senthil-kumar Krishnasamy, Yasir S Elhassan, and Cristina L Ronchi

Summary

The spectrum of endocrine-related complications of COVID-19 infection is expanding; one of the most concerning of which is adrenal haemorrhage due to the risk of catastrophic adrenal crisis. In this study, we present a case that highlights the challenging management of a large, indeterminate unilateral adrenal mass during pregnancy and draws attention to a rare yet probably underestimated complication of COVID-19. During hospitalization for severe COVID-19 pneumonia, a 26-year-old woman was incidentally found to have a 12.5 cm heterogeneous left adrenal mass. Soon after the discovery, she became pregnant and upon referral, she was in the seventh week of gestation, without clinical or biochemical features of hormonal excess. The uncertainty of the diagnosis and the risks of malignancy and surgical intervention were discussed with the patient, and a period of radiological surveillance was agreed upon. An MRI scan performed 3 months later showed a size reduction of the adrenal lesion to 7.9 cm, which was against malignancy. A Doppler ultrasound showed a non-vascular, well-defined round lesion consistent with an adrenal haematoma, likely a complication of the recent COVID-19 infection. The multidisciplinary team recommended further radiological follow-up. The patient then spontaneously had miscarriage at 12 weeks gestation. Subsequent radiological surveillance showed a further size reduction of the adrenal lesion to 5.5 cm. The patient conceived again during follow-up, and the repeated Doppler ultrasound showed stable appearances of the adrenal mass, and thus, it was agreed to continue radiological monitoring after delivery. The pregnancy was uneventful, and the patient delivered a healthy baby. An MRI scan performed after delivery showed a stable but persistent lesion consistent with a likely underlying adrenal lesion.

Learning points

  • Unilateral adrenal haemorrhage can occur as a complication of COVID-19 and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of heterogeneous adrenal masses if there is a history of recent infection.

  • Management of large indeterminate adrenal masses during pregnancy poses several challenges and should be led by an experienced multidisciplinary team.

  • Underlying adrenal tumours may trigger non-traumatic haemorrhages, especially if exacerbated by stressful illness.

Open access

Iris Dirven, Bert Bravenboer, Steven Raeymaeckers, and Corina E Andreescu

Summary

The Covid-19 vaccination has been rapidly implemented among patients with cancer. We present two cases of patients with endocrine tumours who developed lymphadenopathy following a Covid-19 vaccination. In the case of a patient with multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) 1 syndrome, an 18-fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG)-PET/CT showed positive axillary lymph nodes. Further work-up with fine needle aspiration showed a reactive pattern following a Covid-19 vaccination in the ipsilateral arm shortly before the 18FDG-PET/CT. A second patient, in follow-up for thyroid cancer, developed clinical supraclavicular lymphadenopathy after a Covid-19 vaccination. Follow-up ultrasound proved the lesion to be transient. These cases demonstrate lymphadenopathy in response to a Covid-19 vaccination in two patients susceptible to endocrine tumours and metastatic disease. With growing evidence about the pattern and occurrence of lymphadenopathy after mRNA Covid-19 vaccination, recommendations for scheduling and interpretation of imaging among cancer patients should be implemented to reduce equivocal findings, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment, while maintaining a good standard of care in oncological follow-up.

Learning points

  • Reactive lymphadenopathy is very common after an mRNA vaccination against Covid-19 and should be part of the differential diagnosis in patients with endocrine tumours who recently received a Covid-19 mRNA vaccination and present with an ipsilateral lymphadenopathy.

  • A good vaccine history is essential in assessing the risk for lymphadenopathy and if possible, screening imaging in patients with endocrine tumours should be postponed at least 6 weeks after the previous vaccination.

  • For now, a multidisciplinary care approach is recommended to determine the necessary steps in the diagnostic evaluation of lymphadenopathy in the proximity of a Covid-19 vaccination.

Open access

Eugénie Van Mieghem, Valent Intan-Goey, Wendi Buffet, Martin Lammens, Pieter Van Loo, and Pascale Abrams

Summary

Pituitary carcinoma is a rare type of malignancy and only accounts for 0.1–0.2% of all pituitary tumours. Most pituitary carcinomas are hormonally active and they are mostly represented by corticotroph and lactotroph carcinomas. Corticotroph carcinoma can present as symptomatic Cushing’s disease or can evolve from silent corticotroph adenoma which is not associated with clinical or biochemical evidence of hypercortisolism. We hereby present a case of a bone-metastasized corticotroph pituitary carcinoma masquerading as an ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) syndrome in a patient with a history of a non-functioning pituitary macro-adenoma. Our patient underwent two transsphenoidal resections of the primary pituitary tumour followed by external beam radiation therapy. Under hydrocortisone substitution therapy she developed ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism without arguments for recurrence on pituitary MRI and without central-to-peripheral ACTH-gradient on inferior petrosal sinus sampling, both suggesting ectopic production. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with an ACTH-secreting vertebral metastasis originating from the primary pituitary tumour. This case report demonstrates the complex pathophysiology of pituitary carcinoma and the long diagnostic work-up. Certain features in pituitary adenoma should raise the suspicion of malignancy.

Learning points

  • The diagnosis of pituitary carcinoma can only be made based on documented metastasis, therefore, due to the often long latency period between the detection of the primary tumour and the occurrence of metastasis, the diagnostic work-up most often spans over multiple years.

  • Pituitary carcinoma including corticotroph carcinoma is very rare in contrast to pituitary adenoma and only accounts for 0.1–0.2% of all pituitary tumours.

  • Histopathology in pituitary adenoma should certainly accomplish the following goals: accurate tumour subtyping and assessment of tumoural proliferative potential.

  • Repeated recurrence of pituitary adenoma after surgical resection, a discrepancy between biochemical and radiological findings, resistance to medical and radiation therapy, and silent tumours becoming functional are all hallmarks of pituitary carcinoma.

  • Silent corticotroph adenomas are non-functioning pituitary adenomas that arise from T-PIT lineage adenohypophyseal cells and that can express adrenocorticotropic hormone on immunohistochemistry, but are not associated with biochemical or clinical evidence of hypercortisolism. Silent corticotroph adenomas exhibit a more aggressive clinical behaviour than other non-functioning adenomas.

  • Treatment options for corticotroph carcinoma include primary tumour resection, radiation therapy, medical therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes bilateral adrenalectomy is necessary to achieve sufficient control of the cortisol excess.

Open access

Clara Cunha, Eugénia Silva, Ana Cláudia Vieira, Catarina Saraiva, and Sequeira Duarte

Summary

Immunotherapy has become an important pillar for the management of advanced cancer. Immune-related adverse events including endocrinopathies have been well described with programmed cell death 1 inhibitors such as pembrolizumab. While thyroid dysfunction is the most common endocrinopathy associated with pembrolizumab, new-onset autoimmune diabetes mellitus (DM) is extremely rare. The authors report a case of pembrolizumab-induced primary hypothyroidism and type 1 diabetes mellitus presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). A 59-year-old female patient was treated with pembrolizumab for a stage 4 lung adenocarcinoma. She presented to the emergency department with hyperglycaemia-related signs and symptoms, such as polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss, vomiting, asthenia and dehydration, 3 weeks after her first dose of pembrolizumab. Laboratory evaluation revealed hyperglycaemia, hyperketonaemia and high anion gap metabolic acidaemia consistent with DKA. After prompt and adequate treatment of DKA, she transitioned to s.c. basal-bolus insulin. The diagnose of autoimmune DM was established based on the undetectable C-peptide levels and seropositivity for antiglutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies. Additional hormonal parameters revealed overt hypothyroidism and levothyroxine therapy was initiated. This case highlights the importance of blood glucose and thyroid function monitoring as an integral part of cancer treatment protocols for pembrolizumab and other immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Learning points

  • Programmed cell death 1 (PD1) inhibitors such as pembrolizumab can cause endocrine immune-related adverse events (irAE), including thyroid dysfunction and type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

  • Thyroid dysfunction is the most frequent endocrine irAE secondary to PD1 inhibitors.

  • Autoimmune diabetes and possible resultant diabetic ketoacidosis are rare, but life-threatening adverse events associated with pembrolizumab.

  • Pembrolizumab-induced T1DM often present with relatively low HbAlc levels, reflecting the fulminant onset of β-cell destruction.

  • Patients treated with pembrolizumab and other immune checkpoints inhibitors should be monitored regularly for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction.

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

Mark R Postma, Jos M A Kuijlen, Astrid G W Korsten, Henriëtte E Westerlaan, Alfons C M van den Bergh, Janine Nuver, Wilfred F A den Dunnen, and Gerrit van den Berg

Summary

In July 2017, a 35-year-old woman was referred to our care for treatment of a large pituitary mass with an unusually high growth rate. She presented with right-sided ptosis and diplopia (n. III palsy), increasing retrobulbar pain and vertigo. Although laboratory investigations were consistent with acromegaly, she exhibited no clear phenotypic traits. During transsphenoidal surgery aimed at biopsy, typical adenomatous tissue was encountered, upon which it was decided to proceed to debulking. Histopathological analysis demonstrated a poorly differentiated plurihormonal Pit-1-positive adenoma with focal growth hormone (GH) and prolactin positivity, positive SSTR2 staining and a Ki-67 of 20–30%. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination revealed a large tumour remnant within the sella invading the right cavernous sinus with total encasement of the internal carotid artery and displacement of the right temporal lobe. As a consequence, she was treated additionally with radiotherapy, and a long-acting first-generation somatostatin analogue was prescribed. Subsequently, the patient developed secondary hypocortisolism and diabetes mellitus despite adequate suppression of GH levels. In September 2019, her symptoms recurred. Laboratory evaluations indicated a notable loss of biochemical control, and MRI revealed tumour progression. Lanreotide was switched to pasireotide, and successful removal of the tumour remnant and decompression of the right optic nerve was performed. She received adjuvant treatment with temozolomide resulting in excellent biochemical and radiological response after three and six courses. Symptoms of right-sided ptosis and diplopia remained. Evidence for systemic therapy in case of tumour progression after temozolomide is currently limited, although various potential targets can be identified in tumour tissue.

Learning points

  • Poorly differentiated plurihormonal Pit-1-positive adenoma is a potentially aggressive subtype of pituitary tumours.

  • This subtype can express somatostatin receptors, allowing treatment with somatostatin analogues.

  • A multidisciplinary approach involving an endocrinologist, neurosurgeon, pituitary pathologist, neuroradiologist, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist is key for the management of patients with aggressive pituitary tumours, allowing the successful application of multimodality treatment.

  • Temozolomide is first-line chemotherapy for aggressive pituitary tumours and carcinomas.

  • Further development of novel targeted therapies, such as peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-targeted therapy, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors, is needed.

Open access

Darran Mc Donald, Eirena Goulden, Garret Cullen, John Crown, and Rachel K Crowley

Summary

Thyroid dysfunction is among the most common immune-related adverse reactions associated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. It most commonly manifests as painless thyroiditis followed by permanent hypothyroidism. This usually causes mild toxicity that does not interfere with oncological treatment. In rare instances, however, a life-threatening form of decompensated hypothyroidism called myxoedema coma may develop. We present a case of myxoedema coma in a woman in her sixties who was treated with a combination of CTLA-4 and PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors; for stage four malignant melanoma. She became hypothyroid and required thyroxine replacement after an episode of painless thyroiditis. Six months after the initial diagnosis of malignant melanoma, she presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain, profuse diarrhoea, lethargy and confusion. She was drowsy, hypotensive with a BP of 60/40 mmHg, hyponatraemic and hypoglycaemic. Thyroid function tests (TFTs) indicated profound hypothyroidism with a TSH of 19 mIU/L, and undetectable fT3 and fT4, despite the patient being compliant with thyroxine. She was diagnosed with a myxoedema coma caused by immune-related enteritis and subsequent thyroxine malabsorption. The patient was treated with i.v. triiodothyronine (T3) and methylprednisolone in the ICU. While her clinical status improved with T3 replacement, her enteritis was refractory to steroid therapy. A thyroxine absorption test confirmed persistent malabsorption. Attempts to revert to oral thyroxine were unsuccessful. Unfortunately, the patient’s malignant melanoma progressed significantly and she passed away four months later. This is the first reported case of myxoedema coma that resulted from two distinct immune-related adverse reactions, namely painless thyroiditis and enterocolitis.

Learning points

  • Myxoedema coma, a severe form of decompensated hypothyroidism is a rare immunotherapy-related endocrinopathy.

  • Myxedema coma should be treated with either i.v. triiodothyronine (T3) or i.v. thyroxine (T4).

  • Intravenous glucocorticoids should be co-administered with thyroid hormone replacement to avoid precipitating an adrenal crisis.

  • Thyroid function tests (TFTs) should be monitored closely in individuals with hypothyroidism and diarrhoea due to the risk of thyroxine malabsorption.

  • A thyroxine absorption test can be used to confirm thyroxine malabsorption in individuals with persistent hypothyroidism.

Open access

Michail Katsamakas, Eleni Tzitzili, Maria Boudina, Anastasia Kiziridou, Rosalia Valeri, Georgios Zafeiriou, and Alexandra Chrisoulidou

Summary

We present two cases of thyroid sarcoidosis that were misdiagnosed as thyroid cancer. In the first patient, fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAc) of a suspicious thyroid nodule indicated the presence of papillary thyroid cancer, and the patient underwent thyroid surgery. However, histopathology identified a sarcoid granuloma, without any sign of malignancy. The second patient had a history of papillary microcarcinoma with suspicious lymph nodes diagnosed years after the initial diagnosis and was referred for assessment of cervical lymphadenopathy. Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAc) of the suspicious lymph nodes erroneously indicated metastasis from thyroid cancer, and lateral modified lymph node dissection was performed, based on FNAc and ultrasonographic features. Histopathology excluded malignancy and identified non-caseating granulomas. Sarcoidosis of the thyroid may have a clinical presentation similar to well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma and, although rare, should be considered in the differential diagnosis, especially when other signs of the disease are already present. In these cases, FNAc provided a false diagnosis of papillary thyroid carcinoma and lymph node metastases that led to unnecessary surgery.

Learning points

  • Sarcoidosis may share clinical and ultrasonographic features with papillary thyroid carcinoma.

  • Fine needle aspiration cytology is helpful in the diagnosis of both conditions; however, the overlapping cytological characteristics may lead to erroneous diagnosis.

  • The present cases illustrate the importance of cytological identification of these difficult cases. Every piece of information provided by the clinician is essential to the cytologist.

Open access

Michela Del Prete, Fabrizio Muratori, Irene Campi, Gianleone Di Sacco, Federico Vignati, Domenico Pellegrino, and Luca Persani

Summary

Resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) is a rare hereditary syndrome with impaired sensitivity to thyroid hormones (TH) and reduced intracellular action of triiodothyronine (T3) caused by genetic variants of TH receptor beta (TRB) or alpha (TRA). RTH type beta (RTHβ) due to dominant negative variants in the TRB gene usually occurs with persistent elevation of circulating free TH, non-suppressed serum TSH levels responding to a thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) test, an absence of typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism and goiter. Here, we present a rare variant in the TRB gene reported for the first time in an Italian patient with generalized RTHβ syndrome. The patient showed elevated TH, with non-suppressed TSH levels and underwent thyroid surgery two different times for multinodular goiter. The genetic test showed a heterozygous mutation in exon 9 of the TRB gene resulting in the replacement of threonine (ACG) with methionine (ATG) at codon 310 (p.M310T). RTHβ syndrome should be considered in patients with elevated TH, non-suppressed TSH levels and goiter.

Learning points

  • Resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) is a rare autosomal dominant hereditary syndrome with impaired tissue responsiveness to thyroid hormones (TH).

  • Diagnosis of RTH is usually based on the clinical finding of discrepant thyroid function tests and confirmed by a genetic test.

  • RTH is a rare condition that must be considered for the management of patients with goiter, elevation of TH and non-suppressed serum TSH levels in order to avoid unnecessary treatments.

Open access

Joana Lima Ferreira, Bernardo Marques, C Willemien Menke-van der Houven van Oordt, Wouter W de Herder, Tessa Brabander, and Johannes Hofland

Summary

Middle ear adenomas with neuroendocrine features (ANEF) are rare, with an estimated 150 reported cases. They usually pursue an indolent clinical course. Four reported cases of middle ear ANEF with distant metastases were treated with surgery, external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and chemotherapy. To date, no successful systemic treatment for malignant behaviour of this rare tumour has been reported. Long-acting somatostatin analogues (SSAs) and peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) have been used in well-differentiated metastatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), but their use has never been described in cases of metastatic middle ear ANEF. We report two patients with grade 1 middle ear ANEF treated with surgery and EBRT. They had stable disease for several years, until clinical symptoms appeared and extensive metastases were detected on 68Ga-DOTA0-Tyr3-octreotate (DOTATATE) PET/CT. Treatment with long-acting SSA was started, with stable disease for 1 year. Afterwards, despite undergoing local treatments, both patients presented progressive disease. Due to high-uptake metastases at 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, both cases underwent four cycles of PRRT with 177Lu-DOTATATE, which secured disease control and improvement of quality of life in both. Similar to other well-differentiated NETs, SSA and PRRT could constitute efficacious therapeutic options in metastatic middle ear ANEF. Its neuroendocrine differentiation, potential to metastasize and somatostatin receptor type 2 expression prompt consideration and management of this disease as a neuroendocrine neoplasm.

Learning points

  • Our cases oppose the 2017 WHO classification of middle ear adenoma with neuroendocrine features as a benign disease.

  • This entity warrants long-term follow-up, as local recurrence or persistence of disease is reported in up to 18% of surgically treated patients.

  • PET/CT scan with 68Ga-labelled somatostatin analogues (SSA) can be used for staging of metastatic middle ear adenoma with neuroendocrine features.

  • Unlabelled SSA and peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) with radiolabelled SSA can be the first systemic therapeutic options for patients with advanced middle ear adenoma with neuroendocrine features.