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Open access

Joseph A Chorny, John J Orrego, and José Manuel Cameselle-Teijeiro

Summary

Most medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTCs) are low grade and produce calcitonin. There are some calcitonin-negative MTCs that produce only calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Rarely, MTCs are negative for calcitonin and CGRP peptides, but contain their corresponding mRNAs. Primary thyroid neuroendocrine neoplasms other than MTCs are extremely rare. We describe a primary high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma that was negative for CGRP and calcitonin at both the protein and mRNA levels. A 42-year-old woman presented with a rapidly enlarging thyroid mass replacing most of the left lobe and isthmus. A computed tomography-guided core-needle biopsy was performed. The tumor was composed of sheets of small-to-medium sized epithelial cells. The cells were immunoreactive for pancytokeratin, synaptophysin, CD56 and thyroid transcription factor-1, but negative for CK7, CK20, CD45, CD99, ERG, chromogranin A, thyroglobulin, calcitonin, CGRP and carcinoembryonic antigen. The Ki-67 proliferation index was ~90%. In situ hybridization was negative for calcitonin mRNA. The patient was initially diagnosed as having a small cell carcinoma. She was treated with cisplatin and etoposide (VP16), followed by radiation therapy. Given the excellent clinical course, the tumor was reviewed and reclassified as a high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma (non-small-cell type). Heretofore, only a few other similar high-grade neuroendocrine tumors with negative markers of C-cell derivation have been reported. In our case, the patient is cancer free five years after diagnosis, but in the other cases, the outcome was poor.

Learning points:

Open access

Hashem Bseiso, Naama Lev-Cohain, David J Gross, and Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg

Summary

A 55-year-old woman diagnosed with sporadic MTC underwent total thyroidectomy 20 years ago. After the first surgery, elevated calcitonin levels in parallel with local disease persistence were noted and therefore she underwent repeated neck dissections. During follow-up, multiple foci of metastatic disease were noted in the neck and mediastinal lymph nodes, lungs and bones; however, the disease had an indolent course for a number of years, in parallel with a calcitonin doubling time of more than two years and without significant symptoms. During a routine follow-up visit 2 years ago, findings suggestive of Cushing’s syndrome were observed on physical examination. The biochemical evaluation demonstrated markedly elevated serum calcitonin level, in parallel with lack of cortisol suppression after an overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test, lack of cortisol and ACTH suppression after high-dose IV dexamethasone 8 mg, elevated plasma ACTH up to 79 pg/mL (normal <46 pg/mL) and elevated 24-h urinary free cortisol up to 501 µg/24 h (normal 9–90 µg/24 h). After a negative pituitary MRI, she underwent IPSS, which was compatible with EAS. Whole-body CT demonstrated progressive disease at most of the tumor sites. Treatment with vandetanib at a dosage of 200 mg/day was commenced. The patient showed a significant, rapid and consistent clinical improvement already after two months of treatment, in parallel with biochemical improvement, whereas a decrease in tumor size was demonstrated on follow-up CT.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS) by MTC is an uncommon and a poor prognostic event, being associated with significant morbidity and mortality.
  • We demonstrate that vandetanib is effective in controlling the signs and symptoms related to the EAS in patients with advanced progressive MTC.
  • We demonstrate that vandetanib is effective in decreasing tumor size and in inducing tumor control.
Open access

R Casey, S Prendeville, C Joyce, and D O'Halloran

Summary

We present the case of a 30-year-old female who was diagnosed with hereditary phaeochromocytoma secondary to a rare gene mutation in exon 8 of the RET oncogene. This genetic mutation was picked up as part of an extended genetic screen using a method known as next generation sequencing. Detection of this genetic mutation prompted further screening for the manifestation of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). The patient subsequently underwent a thyroidectomy with histology confirming C-cell hyperplasia.

Learning points

  • Genetic analysis is an important step in the diagnostic work up of phaeochromocytoma.
  • Extended genetic analysis is important when there is a strong suspicion of hereditary phaeochromocytoma.
  • Mutations in exon 8 of the RET gene are associated with phaeochromocytoma as part of MEN2A syndrome.

Open access

I Huguet, C Lamas, R Vera, A Lomas, R P Quilez, A Grossman, and F Botella

Summary

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are a heterogeneous group of neoplasms whose management can be problematic. In many cases, multiple tumours may occur in the same patient or his or her family, and some of these have now been defined genetically, although in other cases the underlying gene or genes involved remain unclear. We describe a patient, a 63-year-old female, who was diagnosed with a medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), which was confirmed pathologically after thyroidectomy, but whose circulating calcitonin levels remained elevated after thyroidectomy with no evidence of metastatic disease. Subsequently, an entirely separate and discrete duodenal NET was identified; this was 2.8 cm in diameter and was removed at partial duodenectomy. The tumour stained immunohistochemically for calcitonin, and its removal led to persistent normalisation of the circulating calcitonin levels. There was no germline mutation of the RET oncogene. This is the first identification of a duodenal NET secreting calcitonin and also the first demonstration of a second tumour secreting calcitonin in a patient with MTC. We suggest that where calcitonin levels remain high after removal of a MTC a search for other NETs should be conducted.

Learning points

  • NETs are a complex and heterogeneous group of related neoplasms, and multiple tumours may occur in the same patient.
  • Calcitonin can be produced ectopically by several tumours outside the thyroid.
  • Persistently elevated calcitonin levels after removal of a MTC may not necessarily indicate persisting or metastatic disease from the tumour.
  • The real prevalence of calcitonin-producing NETs may be underestimated, as serum determination is only recommended in the diagnosis of pancreatic NETs.