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Open access

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.

  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.

  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.

Open access

Sharmin Jahan, M A Hasanat, Tahseen Mahmood, Shahed Morshed, Raziul Haq and Md Fariduddin

Summary

Silent corticotroph adenoma (SCA) is an unusual type of nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma (NFA) that is silent both clinically and biochemically and can only be recognized by positive immunostaining for ACTH. Under rare circumstances, it can transform into hormonally active disease presenting with severe Cushing syndrome. It might often produce diagnostic dilemma with difficult management issue if not thoroughly investigated and subtyped accordingly following surgery. Here, we present a 21-year-old male who initially underwent pituitary adenomectomy for presumed NFA with compressive symptoms. However, he developed recurrent and invasive macroadenoma with severe clinical as well as biochemical hypercortisolism during post-surgical follow-up. Repeat pituitary surgery was carried out urgently as there was significant optic chiasmal compression. Immunohistochemical analysis of the tumor tissue obtained on repeat surgery proved it to be an aggressive corticotroph adenoma. Though not cured, he showed marked clinical and biochemical improvement in the immediate postoperative period. Anticipating recurrence from the residual tumor, we referred him for cyber knife radio surgery.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary NFA commonly present with compressive symptoms such as headache and blurred vision.

  • Post-surgical development of Cushing syndrome in such a case could be either drug induced or endogenous.

  • In the presence of recurrent pituitary tumor, ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome indicates CD.

  • Rarely a SCA presenting initially as NFA can transform into an active corticotroph adenoma.

  • Immunohistochemical marker for ACTH in the resected tumor confirms the diagnosis.

Open access

Mara Ventura, Leonor Gomes, Joana Rosmaninho-Salgado, Luísa Barros, Isabel Paiva, Miguel Melo, Diana Oliveira and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Intracranial germinomas are rare tumors affecting mostly patients at young age. Therefore, molecular data on its etiopathogenesis are scarce. We present a clinical case of a male patient of 25 years with an intracranial germinoma and a 16p11.2 microdeletion. His initial complaints were related to obesity, loss of facial hair and polydipsia. He also had a history of social-interaction difficulties during childhood. His blood tests were consistent with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and secondary adrenal insufficiency, and he had been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism. He also presented with polyuria and polydipsia and the water deprivation test confirmed the diagnosis of diabetes insipidus. His sellar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed two lesions: one located in the pineal gland and other in the suprasellar region, both with characteristics suggestive of germinoma. Chromosomal microarray analysis was performed due to the association of obesity with social disability, and the result identified a 604 kb 16p11.2 microdeletion. The surgical biopsy confirmed the histological diagnosis of a germinoma. Pharmacological treatment with testosterone, hydrocortisone and desmopressin was started, and the patient underwent radiotherapy (40 Gy divided in 25 fractions). Three months after radiotherapy, a significant decrease in suprasellar and pineal lesions without improvement in pituitary hormonal deficiencies was observed. The patient is currently under follow-up. To the best of our knowledge, we describe the first germinoma in a patient with a 16p11.2 deletion syndrome, raising the question about the impact of this genetic alteration on tumorigenesis and highlighting the need of molecular analysis of germ cell tumors as only little is known about their genetic background.

Learning points:

  • Central nervous system germ cell tumors (CNSGTs) are rare intracranial tumors that affect mainly young male patients. They are typically located in the pineal and suprasellar regions and patients frequently present with symptoms of hypopituitarism.

  • The molecular pathology of CNSGTs is unknown, but it has been associated with gain of function of the KIT gene, isochromosome 12p amplification and a low DNA methylation.

  • Germinoma is a radiosensitive tumor whose diagnosis depends on imaging, tumor marker detection, surgical biopsy and cerebrospinal fluid cytology.

  • 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome is phenotypically characterized by developmental delay, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.

  • Seminoma, cholesteatoma, desmoid tumor, leiomyoma and Wilms tumor have been described in a few patients with 16p11.2 deletion.

  • Bifocal germinoma was identified in this patient with a 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome, which represents a putative new association not previously reported in the literature.

Open access

Daniela Regazzo, Marina Paola Gardiman, Marily Theodoropoulou, Carla Scaroni, Gianluca Occhi and Filippo Ceccato

Summary

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem hereditary cutaneous condition, characterized by multiple hamartomas. In rare cases, pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNETs) have been described in patients with TSC, but the causal relationship between these two diseases is still under debate. TSC is mostly caused by mutations of two tumor suppressor genes, encoding for hamartin (TSC1) and tuberin (TSC2), controlling cell growth and proliferation. Here, we present the case of a 62-year-old Caucasian woman with TSC and a silent gonadotroph PitNET with suprasellar extension, treated with transsphenoidal endoscopic neurosurgery with complete resection. Therapeutic approaches based on mTOR signaling (i.e. everolimus) have been successfully used in patients with TSC and tested in non-functioning PitNET cellular models with promising results. Here, we observed a reduction of cell viability after an in vitro treatment of PitNET’s derived primary cells with everolimus. TSC analysis retrieved no disease-associated variants with the exception of the heterozygous intronic variant c.4006-71C>T found in TSC2: the computational tools predicted a gain of a new splice site with consequent intron retention, not confirmed by an in vitro analysis of patient’s lymphocyte-derived RNA. Further analyses are therefore needed to provide insights on the possible mechanisms involving the hamartin-tuberin complex in the pathogenesis of pituitary adenomas. However, our data further support previous observations of an antiproliferative effect of everolimus on PitNET.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNET) in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) are rare: only few cases have been reported in literature.

  • Therapeutic approach related to mTOR signaling, such as everolimus, may be used in some patients with PitNETs as well as those with TSC.

  • We reported a woman with both non-secreting PitNET and TSC; PitNET was surgically removed and classified as a silent gonadotroph tumor.

  • Everolimus treatment in PitNET’s-derived primary cells revealed a significant decrease in cell viability.

  • Considering our case and available evidence, it is still unclear whether a PitNET is a part of TSC or just a coincidental tumor.

Open access

Alireza Arefzadeh, Pooyan Khalighinejad, Bahar Ataeinia and Pegah Parvar

Summary

Deletion of chromosome 2q37 results in a rare congenital syndrome known as brachydactyly mental retardation (BDMR) syndrome; a syndrome which has phenotypes similar to Albright hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO) syndrome. In this report, we describe a patient with AHO due to microdeletion in long arm of chromosome 2 [del(2)(q37.3)] who had growth hormone (GH) deficiency, which is a unique feature among reported BDMR cases. This case was presented with shortening of the fourth and fifth metacarpals which along with AHO phenotype, brings pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (PPHP) and pseudohypoparathyroidism type Ia (PHP-Ia) to mind; however, a genetic study revealed del(2)(q37.3). We recommend clinicians to take BDMR in consideration when they are faced with the features of AHO; although this syndrome is a rare disease, it should be ruled out while diagnosing PPHP or PHP-Ia. Moreover, we recommend evaluation of IGF 1 level and GH stimulation test in patients with BDMR whose height is below the 3rd percentile.

Learning points:

  • Clinicians must have brachydactyly mental retardation (BDMR) syndrome in consideration when they are faced with the features of Albright hereditary osteodystrophy.

  • Although BDMR syndrome is a rare disease, it should be ruled out while diagnosing PPHP or PHP-Ia.

  • Evaluation of IGF1 level in patients diagnosed with BDMR whose height is below the 3rd percentile is important.

Open access

B Cangiano, C Cacciatore, L Persani and M Bonomi

We describe a case of severe erythrocytosis caused by testosterone replacement therapy in a 66-year-old man affected with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH) determining osteoporosis, resolved by switching to restoration therapy with clomiphene citrate. The patient complained fatigue, loss of libido and defective erections and a spontaneous vertebral fracture despite bisphosphonate therapy and vitamin D supplementation. The examinations proved isolated HH and he was therefore treated with testosterone gel with regression of specific manifestations but elevated hemoglobin and hematocrit values. Therefore, it was decided to switch to a restoration therapy with clomiphene citrate 25 mg/die, which resulted in the resolution of symptoms without evident side effects. In a couple of months, the patient showed normalization of testosterone levels and increment of testicular volume. Since secondary hypogonadism is the consequence of an insufficient stimulation of the gonads by hypothalamic–pituitary axis, therapeutic approaches aimed to restore endogenous testosterone production should be considered in alternative to testosterone replacement, particularly if side effects intervene. Among these strategies, clomiphene citrate seems to have a high efficacy and safety profile also in the elderly with isolated HH and no evident pituitary lesion.

Learning points:

  • Hypogonadism should always be assessed in patients with severe loss in BMD and undergo appropriate medical treatment.

  • In hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, more approaches are available other than testosterone replacement therapy alone.

  • In patients with severe late-onset central hypogonadism presenting with erythrocytosis even at low doses of replacement therapy, restoration therapy with clomiphene could prove to be an effective solution, particularly in patients with a reversible disruption of GNRH/gonadotropin functions.

  • Clomiphene citrate increases gonadotropin levels and testicular volume and should therefore be considered in hypogonadal men who wish to remain fertile.

Open access

Regina Streuli, Ina Krull, Michael Brändle, Walter Kolb, Günter Stalla, Marily Theodoropoulou, Annette Enzler-Tschudy and Stefan Bilz

Summary

Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome and only a few cases have been reported in the literature. Differentiating between Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome may be particularly difficult if predominant ectopic CRH secretion leads to pituitary corticotroph hyperplasia that may mimic Cushing’s disease during dynamic testing with both dexamethasone and CRH as well as bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS). We present the case of a 24-year-old man diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome caused by an ACTH/CRH co-secreting midgut NET. Both high-dose dexamethasone testing and BIPSS suggested Cushing’s disease. However, the clinical presentation with a rather rapid onset of cushingoid features, hyperpigmentation and hypokalemia led to the consideration of ectopic ACTH/CRH-secretion and prompted a further workup. Computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen revealed a cecal mass which was identified as a predominantly CRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumor. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of an ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumor of the cecum presenting with biochemical features suggestive of Cushing’s disease.

Learning points:

  • The discrimination between a Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome is challenging and has many caveats.

  • Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are very rare.

  • Dynamic tests as well as BIPSS may be compatible with Cushing’s disease in ectopic CRH-secretion.

  • High levels of CRH may induce hyperplasia of the corticotroph cells in the pituitary. This could be the cause of a preserved pituitary response to dexamethasone and CRH.

  • Clinical features of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with rapid development of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperpigmentation, high circulating levels of cortisol with associated hypokalemia, peripheral edema and proximal myopathy should be a warning flag of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome and lead to further investigations.

Open access

Murray B Gordon and Kellie L Spiller

Summary

Long-acting pasireotide is an effective treatment option for acromegaly, but it is associated with hyperglycemia, which could impact its use in patients with diabetes. We present a case of a 53-year-old man with acromegaly and type 2 diabetes mellitus (glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c): 7.5%), who refused surgery to remove a pituitary macroadenoma and enrolled in a Phase 3 clinical trial comparing long-acting pasireotide and long-acting octreotide in acromegalic patients. The patient initially received octreotide, but insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels remained elevated after 12 months (383.9 ng/mL; 193.0 ng/mL; reference range: 86.5–223.8 ng/mL), indicating uncontrolled acromegaly. He switched to pasireotide 40 mg and subsequently increased to 60 mg. Within 6 months, IGF-1 levels normalized (193.0 ng/mL), and they were mostly normal for the next 62 months of treatment with pasireotide (median IGF-1: 190.7 ng/mL). Additionally, HbA1c levels remained similar to or lower than baseline levels (range, 6.7% to 7.8%) during treatment with pasireotide despite major changes to the patient’s antidiabetic regimen, which included insulin and metformin. Uncontrolled acromegaly can result in hyperglycemia due to an increase in insulin resistance. Despite having insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes, the patient presented here did not experience a long-term increase in HbA1c levels upon initiating pasireotide, likely because long-term control of acromegaly resulted in increased insulin sensitivity. This case highlights the utility of long-acting pasireotide to treat acromegaly in patients whose levels were uncontrolled after long-acting octreotide and who manage diabetes with insulin.

Learning points

  • Long-acting pasireotide provided adequate, long-term biochemical control of acromegaly in a patient with insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes mellitus who was unresponsive to long-acting octreotide.

  • Glycemic levels initially increased after starting treatment with pasireotide but quickly stabilized as acromegaly became controlled.

  • Long-acting pasireotide, along with an appropriate antidiabetic regimen, may be a suitable therapy for patients with acromegaly who also have insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Open access

Philip C Johnston, Amir H Hamrahian, Richard A Prayson, Laurence Kennedy and Robert J Weil

Summary

A 54-year-old woman presented with bi-temporal hemianopia, palpitations, and diaphoresis. An invasive pituitary macroadenoma was discovered. The patient had biochemical evidence of secondary hyperthyroidism and GH excess; however, she did not appear to be acromegalic. Surgical removal of the pituitary mass revealed a plurihormonal TSH/GH co-secreting pituitary adenoma. TSH-secreting adenomas can co-secrete other hormones including GH, prolactin, and gonadotropins; conversely, co-secretion of TSH from a pituitary adenoma in acromegaly is infrequent.

Learning points

  • This case highlights an unusual patient with a rare TSH/GH co-secreting pituitary adenoma with absence of the clinical features of acromegaly.

  • Plurihormonality does not always translate into the clinical features of hormonal excess.

  • There appears to be a clinical and immunohistochemical spectrum present in plurihormonal tumors.