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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

Isabella Lupi, Alessandro Brancatella, Mirco Cosottini, Nicola Viola, Giulia Lanzolla, Daniele Sgrò, Giulia Di Dalmazi, Francesco Latrofa, Patrizio Caturegli and Claudio Marcocci

Summary

Programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4/B7 (CTLA-4/B7) pathways are key regulators in T-cell activation and tolerance. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab (PD-1 inhibitors), atezolizumab (PD-L1 inhibitor) and ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) are monoclonal antibodies approved for treatment of several advanced cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)-related hypophysitis is described more frequently in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4; however, recent studies reported an increasing prevalence of anti-PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis which also exhibits slightly different clinical features. We report our experience on hypophysitis induced by anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 treatment. We present four cases, diagnosed in the past 12 months, of hypophysitis occurring in two patients receiving anti-PD-1, in one patient receiving anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combined therapy and in one patient receiving anti-PD-L1. In this case series, timing, clinical presentation and association with other immune-related adverse events appeared to be extremely variable; central hypoadrenalism and hyponatremia were constantly detected although sellar magnetic resonance imaging did not reveal specific signs of pituitary inflammation. These differences highlight the complexity of ICI-related hypophysitis and the existence of different mechanisms of action leading to heterogeneity of clinical presentation in patients receiving immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • PD-1/PD-L1 blockade can induce hypophysitis with a different clinical presentation when compared to CTLA-4 blockade.

  • Diagnosis of PD-1/PD-L1 induced hypophysitis is mainly made on clinical grounds and sellar MRI does not show radiological abnormalities.

  • Hyponatremia due to acute secondary adrenal insufficiency is often the principal sign of PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis and can be masked by other symptoms due to oncologic disease.

  • PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis can present as an isolated manifestation of irAEs or be in association with other autoimmune diseases

Open access

Misaki Aoshima, Koji Nagayama, Kei Takeshita, Hiroshi Ajima, Sakurako Orikasa, Ayana Iwazaki, Hiroaki Takatori and Yutaka Oki

Summary

Patients treated with immunosuppressive drugs, especially methotrexate (MTX), rarely develop lymphoproliferative disorders (LPDs), known as MTX-related LPD (MTX–LPD). The primary site of MTX–LPD is often extranodal. This is the first reported case of MTX–LPD in the pituitary. A 65-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital with symptoms of oculomotor nerve palsy and multiple subcutaneous nodules. She had been treated with MTX for 11 years for rheumatoid arthritis. Computed tomography showed multiple masses in the orbit, sinuses, lung fields, anterior mediastinum, kidney, and subcutaneous tissue. Brain magnetic resonance imaging revealed a sellar mass. She was diagnosed with hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus based on endocrine examination. Although pituitary biopsy could not be performed, we concluded that the pituitary lesion was from MTX–LPD, similar to the lesions in the sinuses, anterior mediastinum, and subcutaneous tissue, which showed polymorphic LPD on biopsy. MTX was discontinued, and methylprednisolone was administered to improve the neurologic symptoms. After several weeks, there was marked improvement of all lesions, including the pituitary lesion, but the pituitary function did not improve. When pituitary lesions are caused by MTX–LPD, the possibility of anterior hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus needs to be considered. Further studies are needed to investigate the effectiveness of early diagnosis and treatment of MTX–LPD in restoring pituitary dysfunction.

Learning points

  • Pituitary lesions from MTX–LPD may cause hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus.

  • Pituitary metastasis of malignant lymphoma and primary pituitary lymphoma, which have the same tissue types with MTX–LPD, have poor prognosis, but the lesions of MTX–LPD can regress only after MTX discontinuation.

  • In cases of pituitary lesions alone, a diagnosis of MTX–LPD may be difficult, unless pituitary biopsy is performed. This possibility should be considered in patients treated with immunosuppressive drugs.

  • Pituitary hypofunction and diabetes insipidus may persist, even after regression of the lesions on imaging due to MTX discontinuation.

Open access

Elke Thijs, Katrien Wierckx, Stefaan Vandecasteele and Annick Van den Bruel

Summary

A 42-year-old man with complaints of muscle soreness and an increased pigmentation of the skin was referred because of a suspicion of adrenal insufficiency. His adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels indicated a primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) and treatment with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone was initiated. An etiological workup, including an assessment for anti-adrenal antibodies, very long-chain fatty acids, 17-OH progesterone levels and catecholamine secretion, showed no abnormalities. 18Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/CT showed bilateral enlargement of the adrenal glands and bilateral presence of an adrenal nodule, with 18fluorodeoxyglucose accumulation. A positive tuberculin test and positive family history of tuberculosis were found, and tuberculostatic drugs were initiated. During the treatment with the tuberculostatic drugs the patient again developed complaints of adrenal insufficiency, due to insufficient dosage of hydrocortisone because of increased metabolism of hydrocortisone.

Learning points:

  • Shrinkage of the adrenal nodules following tuberculostatic treatment supports adrenal tuberculosis being the common aetiology.

  • The tuberculostatic drug rifampicin is a CYP3A4 inducer, increasing the metabolism of hydrocortisone. Increase the hydrocortisone dosage upon initiation of rifampicin in case of (adrenal) tuberculosis.

  • A notification on the Addison’s emergency pass could be considered to heighten physician’s and patients awareness of hydrocortisone drug interactions.

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

Charlotte Delcourt, Halil Yildiz, Alessandra Camboni, Eric Van den Neste, Véronique Roelants, Alexandra Kozyreff, Jean Paul Thissen, Dominique Maiter and Raluca Maria Furnica

Summary

A 26-year-old woman presented with persistent headache and tiredness. Biological investigations disclosed a moderate inflammatory syndrome, low PTH-hypercalcemia and complete anterior hypopituitarism. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary gland was performed and revealed a symmetric enlargement with a heterogeneous signal. Ophthalmological examination showed an asymptomatic bilateral anterior and posterior uveitis, and a diagnosis of pituitary sarcoidosis was suspected. As the localization of lymphadenopathies on the fused whole-body FDG-PET/computerized tomography (CT) was not evoking a sarcoidosis in first instance, an excisional biopsy of a left supraclavicular adenopathy was performed showing classic nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL). A diagnostic transsphenoidal biopsy of the pituitary gland was proposed for accurate staging of the HL and surprisingly revealed typical granulomatous inflammation secondary to sarcoidosis, leading to the diagnosis of a sarcoidosis–lymphoma syndrome. The co-existence of these diseases constitutes a diagnostic challenge and we emphasize the necessity of exact staging of disease in order to prescribe adequate treatment.

Learning points:

  • The possibility of a sarcoidosis–lymphoma syndrome, although rare, should be kept in mind during evaluation for lymphadenopathies.

  • In the case of such association, lymphoma usually occurs after sarcoidosis. However, sarcoidosis and lymphoma can be detected simultaneously and development of sarcoidosis in a patient with previous lymphoma has also been reported.

  • An accurate diagnosis of the disease and the respective organ involvements, including biopsy, is necessary in order to prescribe adequate treatment.

Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.

  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.

  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.

  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.

Open access

Stephanie Wei Ping Wong, Yew Wen Yap, Ram Prakash Narayanan, Mohammad Al-Jubouri, Ashley Grossman, Christina Daousi and Yahya Mahgoub

Summary

We report our experience on managing a case of florid Cushing’s disease with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) sepsis using intravenous etomidate in the intensive care unit of a UK district general hospital.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is associated with high morbidity and mortality.

  • Etomidate is a safe and effective medical therapy to rapidly lower cortisol levels even in the context of severe sepsis and immunosuppression.

  • Etomidate should ideally be administered in an intensive care unit but is still feasible in a district general hospital.

  • During treatment with etomidate, accumulation of serum 11β-deoxycortisol (11DOC) levels can cross-react with laboratory cortisol measurement leading to falsely elevated serum cortisol levels. For this reason, serum cortisol measurement using a mass spectrometry assay should ideally be used to guide etomidate prescription.

Open access

Punith Kempegowda, Lauren Quinn, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Briony Johnson, Alex Lawson and Andrew Bates

Summary

A 62-year-old Asian British female presented with increasing tiredness. She had multiple co-morbidities and was prescribed steroid inhalers for asthma. She had also received short courses of oral prednisolone for acute asthma exacerbations in the last 2 years. Unfortunately, the frequency and dose of steroids for asthma was unclear from history. Her type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) control had deteriorated over a short period of time (HbA1c: 48–85 mmol/mol). Blood tests revealed undetectable cortisol and ACTH (<28 mmol/L, <5.0 ng/L). Renin, electrolytes and thyroid function were within normal limits. A diagnosis of secondary adrenal insufficiency, likely due to long-term steroid inhaler and recurrent short courses of oral steroids for asthma exacerbations was made. Patient was commenced on hydrocortisone 10 mg, 5 mg and 5 mg regimen. Steroid inhaler was discontinued following consultation with respiratory physicians. Despite discontinuation of inhaled steroids, patient continued not to mount a response to Synacthen®. Upon further detailed history, patient admitted taking a ‘herbal’ preparation for chronic osteoarthritic knee pain. Toxicology analysis showed presence of dexamethasone, ciprofloxacin, paracetamol, diclofenac, ibuprofen and cimetidine in the herbal medication. Patient was advised to discontinue her herbal preparation. We believe the cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency in our patient was the herbal remedy containing dexamethasone, explaining persistent adrenal suppression despite discontinuation of all prescribed steroids, further possibly contributing to obesity, hypertension and suboptimal control of DM. In conclusion, a comprehensive drug history including herbal and over-the-counter preparations should be elucidated. Investigation for the presence of steroids in these preparations should be considered when patients persist to have secondary adrenal insufficiency despite discontinuation of prescribed steroid medications.

Learning points:

  • The likelihood of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) in medication-induced secondary adrenal insufficiency should be considered in any patient presenting with potential symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.

  • If the contents of CAM preparation cannot be ascertained, toxicology screening should be considered.

  • Patients should be advised to stop taking CAM preparation when it contains steroids and hydrocortisone replacement therapy commenced, with periodic reassessment of adrenal function, and then if indicated weaned accordingly.

  • Patients should be informed about the contents of CAM therapies, so they can make a truly informed choice regarding the risks and benefits.

  • This case also highlights a need to increase regulatory processes over CAM therapies, given their propensity to contain a number of undisclosed medications and potent steroids.

Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.

  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.

  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.

  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.

  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.