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Open access

Florence Gunawan, Elizabeth George and Mark Kotowicz

Summary

Denosumab is a fully human MAB that acts as a potent anti-resorptive by inhibiting activation of osteoclasts by inhibiting the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B (RANK) ligand. Hypocalcaemia has been reported as one of the serious adverse sequelae of use of denosumab. We present a case of refractory hypocalcaemia following administration of a single dose of denosumab in a patient with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer. The patient’s serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations and renal function were normal prior to denosumab administration. Serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) level was however elevated pre-morbidly consistent with known bone metastases. The patient was treated with high-dose oral and IV calcium without any appreciable response in serum calcium. During his 30-day hospital admission, he demonstrated disease progression with development of new liver metastases and bone marrow involvement. Normocalcaemia was not achieved despite 1 month of aggressive therapy. Given the patient was asymptomatic and prognosis guarded, he was eventually discharged for ongoing supportive care under the palliative care team.

Learning points:

  • Denosumab is a potent anti-resorptive therapy and hypocalcaemia is one of the known adverse effects.
  • Serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations must be replete prior to administration of denosumab to reduce the risk of hypocalcaemia.
  • Denosumab has been proven to be more effective than zoledronic acid in preventing skeletal-related adverse effects in patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.
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

Matthieu St-Jean, Jessica MacKenzie-Feder, Isabelle Bourdeau and André Lacroix

Summary

A 29-year-old G4A3 woman presented at 25 weeks of pregnancy with progressive signs of Cushing’s syndrome (CS), gestational diabetes requiring insulin and hypertension. A 3.4 × 3.3 cm right adrenal adenoma was identified during abdominal ultrasound imaging for nephrolithiasis. Investigation revealed elevated levels of plasma cortisol, 24 h urinary free cortisol (UFC) and late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC). Serum ACTH levels were not fully suppressed (4 and 5 pmol/L (N: 2–11)). One month post-partum, CS regressed, 24-h UFC had normalised while ACTH levels were now less than 2 pmol/L; however, dexamethasone failed to suppress cortisol levels. Tests performed in vivo 6 weeks post-partum to identify aberrant hormone receptors showed no cortisol stimulation by various tests (including 300 IU hLH i.v.) except after administration of 250 µg i.v. Cosyntropin 1–24. Right adrenalectomy demonstrated an adrenocortical adenoma and atrophy of adjacent cortex. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of the adenoma revealed the presence of ACTH (MC2) receptor mRNA, while LHCG receptor mRNA was almost undetectable. This case reveals that CS exacerbation in the context of pregnancy can result from the placental-derived ACTH stimulation of MC2 receptors on the adrenocortical adenoma. Possible contribution of other placental-derived factors such as oestrogens, CRH or CRH-like peptides cannot be ruled out.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy is complicated by several physiological alterations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis regulation occurring in normal pregnancy.
  • Cushing’s syndrome (CS) exacerbation during pregnancy can be associated with aberrant expression of LHCG receptor on primary adrenocortical tumour or hyperplasia in some cases, but not in this patient.
  • Placental-derived ACTH, which is not subject to glucocorticoid negative feedback, stimulated cortisol secretion from this adrenal adenoma causing transient CS exacerbation during pregnancy.
  • Following delivery and tumour removal, suppression of HPA axis can require several months to recover and requires glucocorticoid replacement therapy.
Open access

Benjamin Kwan, Bernard Champion, Steven Boyages, Craig F Munns, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, Catherine Luxford and Bronwyn Crawford

Summary

Autosomal dominant hypocalcaemia type 1 (ADH1) is a rare familial disorder characterised by low serum calcium and low or inappropriately normal serum PTH. It is caused by activating CASR mutations, which produces a left-shift in the set point for extracellular calcium. We describe an Australian family with a novel heterozygous missense mutation in CASR causing ADH1. Mild neuromuscular symptoms (paraesthesia, carpopedal spasm) were present in most affected individuals and required treatment with calcium and calcitriol. Basal ganglia calcification was present in three out of four affected family members. This case highlights the importance of correctly identifying genetic causes of hypocalcaemia to allow for proper management and screening of family members.

Learning points:

  • ADH1 is a rare cause of hypoparathyroidism due to activating CASR mutations and is the mirror image of familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia.
  • In patients with ADH1, symptoms of hypocalcaemia may be mild or absent. Basal ganglia calcification may be present in over a third of patients.
  • CASR mutation analysis is required for diagnostic confirmation and to facilitate proper management, screening and genetic counselling of affected family members.
  • Treatment with calcium and activated vitamin D analogues should be reserved for symptomatic individuals due to the risk of exacerbating hypercalciuria and its associated complications.
Open access

Alex González Bóssolo, Michelle Mangual Garcia, Paula Jeffs González, Miosotis Garcia, Guillermo Villarmarzo and Jose Hernán Martinez

Summary

Classical papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) is a variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) known to have excellent prognosis. It has a mortality of 0.3%, even in the presence of distance metastasis. The latest American Thyroid Association guidelines state that although lobectomy is acceptable, active surveillance can be considered in the appropriate setting. We present the case of a 37-year-old female with a history of PTMC who underwent surgical management consisting of a total thyroidectomy. Although she has remained disease-free, her quality of life has been greatly affected by the sequelae of this procedure. This case serves as an excellent example of how first-line surgical treatment may result more harmful than the disease itself.

Learning points:

  • Papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) has an excellent prognosis with a mortality of less than 1% even with the presence of distant metastases.
  • Active surveillance is a reasonable management approach for appropriately selected patients.
  • Patients should be thoroughly oriented about the risks and benefits of active surveillance vs immediate surgical treatment. This discussion should include the sequelae of surgery and potential impact on quality of life, especially in the younger population.
  • More studies are needed for stratification of PTMC behavior to determine if conservative management is adequate for all patients with this specific disease variant.
Open access

K Nadarasa, M Bailey, H Chahal, O Raja, R Bhat, C Gayle, A B Grossman and M R Druce

Summary

We present the case of a patient with metastatic parathyroid carcinoma whose hypercalcaemia was medically managed through two pregnancies. The diagnosis was made when the patient presented with chronic knee pain and radiological findings consistent with a brown tumour, at the age of 30. Her corrected calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels were significantly elevated. Following localisation studies, a right parathyroidectomy was performed with histology revealing parathyroid carcinoma, adherent to thyroid tissue. Aged 33, following biochemical recurrence of disease, the patient underwent a second operation. A subsequent CT and FDG–PET revealed bibasal pulmonary metastases. Aged 35, the patient was referred to our unit for treatment of persistent hypercalcaemia. The focus of treatment at this time was debulking metastatic disease using radiofrequency ablation. Despite advice to the contrary, the patient conceived twice while taking cinacalcet. Even though there are limited available data regarding the use of cinacalcet in pregnancy, both pregnancies continued to term with the delivery of healthy infants, using intensive medical management for persistent hypercalcaemia.

Learning points

  • Parathyroid carcinoma is a rare cause of primary hyperparathyroidism.
  • Hypercalcaemia during pregnancy can result in significant complications for both the mother and the foetus.
  • The use of high-dose cinacalcet in pregnancy has been shown, in this case, to aid in the management of resistant hypercalcaemia without teratogenicity.