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Open access

Benedetta Zampetti, Giorgia Simonetti, Roberto Attanasio, Antonio Silvani and Renato Cozzi

Summary

We describe the 20-year course of a 63-year-old male with a macroprolactinoma that acquired resistance to treatment and aggressive behavior after a 4-year successful treatment with cabergoline. He was submitted to multiple surgical resections by a skilled surgeon, fractionated radiotherapy and was eventually treated with temozolomide. After a first 6-month standard cycle, a relapse occurred and he was treated again successfully.

Learning points:

  • Prolactinomas are the most frequent type of pituitary adenoma.

  • They usually have a benign course.

  • In most cases dopamine-agonist drugs, mainly cabergoline, are first-line (and usually only) treatment.

  • Occasionally prolactinomas can have or acquire resistance to treatment and/or aggressive behavior.

  • Temozolomide (TMZ), an oral alkylating drug, can be effective in such aggressive tumors.

  • Multimodal treatment (surgery, radiation, cabergoline and TMZ) is warranted in aggressive pituitary tumors.

  • We describe here successful rechallenge with TMZ after relapse occurring 18 months after a first TMZ cycle.

Open access

Yew Wen Yap, Steve Ball and Zubair Qureshi

Summary

The coexistence of primary hypothyroidism and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-stimulating pituitary macroadenoma can be a rare occurrence and can make diagnosis very challenging. We describe a case of a 44-year-old female with a history of fatigue, poor concentration, weight gain and amenorrhoea together with biochemical evidence of primary autoimmune hypothyroidism. Her initial TSH levels were elevated with low normal free thyroxine (T4) levels. Levothyroxine treatment was initiated and the dose was gradually titrated to supraphysiologic doses. This led to the normalisation of her TSH levels but her free T4 and triiodothyronine (T3) levels remained persistently elevated. This prompted a serum prolactin check which returned elevated at 2495 µ/L, leading onto pituitary imaging. A MRI of the pituitary gland revealed a pituitary macroadenoma measuring 2.4 × 2 × 1.6 cm. Despite starting her on cabergoline therapy with a reduction in her prolactin levels, her TSH levels began to rise even further. Additional thyroid assays revealed that she had an abnormally elevated alpha subunit at 3.95 (age-related reference range <3.00). This corresponded to a thyroid-secreting hormone pituitary macroadenoma. She went on to have a transphenoidal hypophysectomy. Histology revealed tissues staining for TSH, confirming this to be a TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma. This case highlighted the importance of further investigations with thyroid assay interferences, heterophile antibodies, alpha subunit testing and anterior pituitary profile in cases of resistant and non-resolving primary hypothyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Levothyroxine treatment in primary hypothyroidism can potentially unmask the presence of a latent TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, which can make diagnosis very challenging.

  • A high index of suspicion should prompt clinicians to further investigate cases of primary hypothyroidism which despite increasing doses of levothyroxine treatment with normalisation of TSH, the free T4 and T3 levels remain persistently elevated.

  • Clinicians should consider investigating for adherence to levothyroxine, thyroid assay interference, heterophile antibodies, TSH dilution studies, alpha subunit and anterior pituitary profile testing to further clarity the diagnosis in these patients.

  • Although coexistent cases of TSHoma with primary hypothyroidism are rare, it should always be in the list of differential diagnoses in cases of unresolving primary hypothyroidism.

Open access

Michelle Maher, Federico Roncaroli, Nigel Mendoza, Karim Meeran, Natalie Canham, Monika Kosicka-Slawinska, Birgitta Bernhard, David Collier, Juliana Drummond, Kassiani Skordilis, Nicola Tufton, Anastasia Gontsarova, Niamh Martin, Márta Korbonits and Florian Wernig

Summary

Symptomatic pituitary adenomas occur with a prevalence of approximately 0.1% in the general population. It is estimated that 5% of pituitary adenomas occur in a familial setting, either in isolated or syndromic form. Recently, loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) or MYC-associated factor X (MAX) have been found to predispose to pituitary adenomas in co-existence with paragangliomas or phaeochromocytomas. It is rare, however, for a familial SDHx mutation to manifest as an isolated pituitary adenoma. We present the case of a pituitary lactotroph adenoma in a patient with a heterozygous germline SDHB mutation, in the absence of concomitant neoplasms. Initially, the adenoma showed biochemical response but poor tumour shrinkage in response to cabergoline; therefore, transsphenoidal surgery was performed. Following initial clinical improvement, tumour recurrence was identified 15 months later. Interestingly, re-initiation of cabergoline proved successful and the lesion demonstrated both biochemical response and tumour shrinkage. Our patient’s SDHB mutation was identified when we realised that her father had a metastatic paraganglioma, prompting genetic testing. Re-inspection of the histopathological report of the prolactinoma confirmed cells with vacuolated cytoplasm. This histological feature is suggestive of an SDHx mutation and should prompt further screening for mutations by immunohistochemistry and/or genetic testing. Surprisingly, immunohistochemistry of this pituitary adenoma demonstrated normal SDHB expression, despite loss of SDHB expression in the patient’s father’s paraganglioma.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary adenomas may be the presenting and/or sole feature of SDHB mutation-related disease.

  • SDHx mutated pituitary adenomas may display clinically aggressive behaviour and demonstrate variable response to medical treatment.

  • Histological evidence of intracytoplasmic vacuoles in a pituitary adenoma might suggest an SDH-deficient tumour and should prompt further screening for SDHx mutations.

  • Immunohistochemistry may not always predict the presence of SDHx mutations.

Open access

Anne de Bray, Zaki K Hassan-Smith, Jamal Dirie, Edward Littleton, Swarupsinh Chavda, John Ayuk, Paul Sanghera and Niki Karavitaki

Summary

A 48-year-old man was diagnosed with a large macroprolactinoma in 1982 treated with surgery, adjuvant radiotherapy and bromocriptine. Normal prolactin was achieved in 2005 but in 2009 it started rising. Pituitary MRIs in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015 were reported as showing empty pituitary fossa. Prolactin continued to increase (despite increasing bromocriptine dose). Trialling cabergoline had no effect (prolactin 191,380 mU/L). In January 2016, he presented with right facial weakness and CT head was reported as showing no acute intracranial abnormality. In late 2016, he was referred to ENT with hoarse voice; left hypoglossal and recurrent laryngeal nerve palsies were found. At this point, prolactin was 534,176 mU/L. Just before further endocrine review, he had a fall and CT head showed a basal skull mass invading the left petrous temporal bone. Pituitary MRI revealed a large enhancing mass within the sella infiltrating the clivus, extending into the left petrous apex and occipital condyle with involvement of the left Meckel’s cave, internal acoustic meatus, jugular foramen and hypoglossal canal. At that time, left abducens nerve palsy was also present. CT thorax/abdomen/pelvis excluded malignancy. Review of previous images suggested that this lesion had started becoming evident below the fossa in pituitary MRI of 2015. Temozolomide was initiated. After eight cycles, there is significant tumour reduction with prolactin 1565 mU/L and cranial nerve deficits have remained stable. Prolactinomas can manifest aggressive behaviour even decades after initial treatment highlighting the unpredictable clinical course they can demonstrate and the need for careful imaging review.

Learning points:

  • Aggressive behaviour of prolactinomas can manifest even decades after first treatment highlighting the unpredictable clinical course these tumours can demonstrate.

  • Escape from control of hyperprolactinaemia in the absence of sellar adenomatous tissue requires careful and systematic search for the anatomical localisation of the lesion responsible for the prolactin excess.

  • Temozolomide is a valuable agent in the therapeutic armamentarium for aggressive/invasive prolactinomas, particularly if they are not amenable to other treatment modalities.

Open access

Ana G Ferreira, Tiago N Silva, Henrique V Luiz, Filipa D Campos, Maria C Cordeiro and Jorge R Portugal

Sellar plasmacytomas are rare and the differential diagnosis with non-functioning pituitary adenomas might be difficult because of clinical and radiological resemblance. They usually present with neurological signs and intact anterior pituitary function. Some may already have or eventually progress to multiple myeloma. We describe a case associated with extensive anterior pituitary involvement, which is a rare form of presentation. A 68-year-old man was referred to our Endocrinology outpatient clinic due to gynecomastia, reduced libido and sexual impotence. Physical examination, breast ultrasound and mammography confirmed bilateral gynecomastia. Blood tests revealed slight hyperprolactinemia, low testosterone levels, low cortisol levels and central hypothyroidism. Sellar MRI showed a heterogeneous sellar mass (56 × 60 × 61 mm), initially suspected as an invasive macroadenoma. After correcting the pituitary deficits with hydrocortisone and levothyroxine, the patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery. Histological examination revealed a plasmacytoma and multiple myeloma was ruled out. The patient was unsuccessfully treated with radiation therapy (no tumor shrinkage). Myeloma ultimately developed, with several other similar lesions in different locations. The patient was started on chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant and is now stable (progression free) on lenalidomide and dexamethasone. The presenting symptoms and panhypopituitarism persisted, requiring chronic replacement treatment with levothyroxine, hydrocortisone and testosterone.

Learning points:

  • Plasmacytomas, although rare, are a possible type of sellar masses, which have a completely different treatment approach, so it is important to make the correct diagnosis.

  • Usually, they present with neurological signs and symptoms and a well-preserved pituitary function, but our case shows that anterior pituitary function can be severely compromised.

  • Making a more extensive evaluation (clinical and biochemical) might provide some clues to this diagnosis.

Open access

Oscar D Bruno, Ricardo Fernández Pisani, Gabriel Isaac and Armando Basso

Summary

The role of mechanical forces influencing the growth of a pituitary adenoma is poorly understood. In this paper we report the case of a young man with hyperprolactinaemia and an empty sella secondary to hydrocephalia, who developed a macroprolactinoma following the relief of high intraventricular pressure.

Learning points:

  • The volume of a pituitary tumour may be influenced not only by molecular but also by local mechanical factors.

  • Intratumoural pressure, resistance of the sellar diaphragm and intracranial liquid pressure may play a role in the final size of a pituitary adenoma.

  • The presence of hydrocephalus may hide a pituitary macroadenoma.

Open access

Emilia Sbardella, George Farah, Ahmed Fathelrahman, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are a common intracranial neoplasm, usually demonstrating a benign phenotype. They can be classified according to pathological, radiological or clinical behaviour as typical, atypical or carcinomas, invasive or noninvasive, and aggressive or nonaggressive. Prolactinomas account for 40–60% of all pituitary adenomas, with dopamine agonists representing the first-line treatment and surgery/radiotherapy reserved for drug intolerance/resistance or in neuro-ophthalmological emergencies. We present the case of a 62-year-old man with an apparently indolent prolactin-secreting macroadenoma managed with partial resection and initially showing a biochemical response to cabergoline. Five years later, the tumour became resistant to cabergoline, despite a substantial increase in dosage, showing rapid growth and causing worsening of vision. The patient then underwent two further transsphenoidal operations and continued on high-dose cabergoline; despite these interventions, the tumour continued enlarging and prolactin increased to 107 269 U/L. Histology of the third surgical specimen demonstrated features of aggressive behaviour (atypical adenoma with a high cell proliferation index) not present in the tumour removed at the first operation. Subsequently, he was referred for radiotherapy aiming to control tumour growth.

Learning points:

  • The development of secondary resistance to dopamine agonists (DAs) is a serious sign as it may be associated with de-differentiation of the prolactinoma and thus of aggressive or malignant transformation.

  • Significant de-differentiation of the adenoma documented on consecutive histologies suggests a possible transition to malignancy.

  • A combination of histological ‘alarm’ features associated with persistent growth and escape from DAs treatment in recurrent adenomas should alert clinicians and demands close follow-up.

  • A multidisciplinary approach by pathologists, endocrinologists and neurosurgeons is essential.

Open access

Ekaterina Manuylova, Laura M Calvi, Catherine Hastings, G Edward Vates, Mahlon D Johnson, William T Cave Jr and Ismat Shafiq

Summary

Co-secretion of growth hormone (GH) and prolactin (PRL) from a single pituitary adenoma is common. In fact, up to 25% of patients with acromegaly may have PRL co-secretion. The prevalence of acromegaly among patients with a newly diagnosed prolactinoma is unknown. Given the possibility of mixed GH and PRL co-secretion, the current recommendation is to obtain an insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in patients with prolactinoma at the initial diagnosis. Long-term follow-up of IGF-1 is not routinely done. Here, we report two cases of well-controlled prolactinoma on dopamine agonists with the development of acromegaly 10–20 years after the initial diagnoses. In both patients, a mixed PRL/GH-cosecreting adenoma was confirmed on the pathology examination after transsphenoidal surgery (TSS). Therefore, periodic routine measurements of IGF-1 should be considered regardless of the duration and biochemical control of prolactinoma.

Learning points:

  • Acromegaly can develop in patients with well-controlled prolactinoma on dopamine agonists.

  • The interval between prolactinoma and acromegaly diagnoses can be several decades.

  • Periodic screening of patients with prolactinoma for growth hormone excess should be considered and can 
lead to an early diagnosis of acromegaly before the development of complications.

Open access

Ilse C A Bakker, Chris D Schubart and Pierre M J Zelissen

Summary

In this report, we describe a female patient with both prolactinoma and psychotic disorder who was successfully treated with aripiprazole, a partial dopamine 2 receptor agonist. During the follow-up of more than 10 years, her psychotic symptoms improved considerably, prolactin levels normalised and the size of the prolactinoma decreased. This observation may be of clinical relevance in similar patients who often are difficult to treat with the regular dopaminergic drugs.

Learning points

  • Prolactinoma coinciding with psychosis can represent a therapeutic challenge.

  • In contrast to many other antipsychotic drugs, aripiprazole is associated with a decrease in prolactin levels.

  • Aripiprazole can be a valuable pharmaceutical tool to treat both prolactinoma and psychosis.

Open access

Ahmed Iqbal, Peter Novodvorsky, Alexandra Lubina-Solomon, Fiona M Kew and Jonathan Webster

Summary

Secondary amenorrhoea and galactorrhoea represent a common endocrine presentation. We report a case of an oestrogen-producing juvenile granulosa cell tumour (JGCT) of the ovary in a 16-year-old post-pubertal woman with hyperprolactinaemia amenorrhoea and galactorrhoea which resolved following surgical resection of the tumour. This patient presented with a 9-month history of secondary amenorrhoea and a 2-month history of galactorrhoea. Elevated serum prolactin at 7081 mIU/l and suppressed gonadotropins (LH <0.1 U/l; FSH <0.1 U/l) were detected. Serum oestradiol was significantly elevated at 7442 pmol/l with undetectable β-human chorionic gonadotropin. MRI showed a bulky pituitary with no visible adenoma. MRI of the abdomen showed a 4.8 cm mass arising from the right ovary with no evidence of metastatic disease. Serum inhibin B was elevated at 2735 ng/l. A right salpingo-oophorectomy was performed, and histology confirmed the diagnosis of a JGCT, stage International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 1A. Immunohistochemical staining for prolactin was negative. Post-operatively, oestrogen and prolactin levels were normalised, and she subsequently had a successful pregnancy. In summary, we present a case of an oestrogen-secreting JGCT with hyperprolactinaemia manifesting clinically with galactorrhoea and secondary amenorrhoea. We postulate that observed hyperprolactinaemia was caused by oestrogenic stimulation of pituitary lactotroph cells, a biochemical state analogous to pregnancy. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of hyperprolactinaemia as a result of excessive oestrogen production in the context of a JGCT.

Learning points

  • Hyperprolactinaemia with bilateral galactorrhoea and secondary amenorrhoea has a wide differential diagnosis and is not always caused by a prolactin secreting pituitary adenoma.

  • Significantly elevated serum oestradiol levels in the range seen in this case, in the absence of pregnancy, are indicative of an oestrogen-secreting tumour.

  • JGCTs are rare hormonally active ovarian neoplasms mostly secreting steroid hormones.

  • Serum inhibin can be used as a granulosa cell-specific tumour marker.

  • JGCTs have an excellent prognosis in the early stages of the disease.