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Open access

C Greco, G Brigante, E Taliani, S Corrado, M Simoni and B Madeo

Summary

A 74-year-old man was referred to the Endocrinology Unit because of multinodular goiter. The dominant nodule (1.7 × 1.9 × 2.4 cm), at the medium-superior third of the left lobe, was inhomogeneously hypoechoic, with irregular margins, macrocalcifications and intranodular vascularization. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) was performed. The cytological diagnosis was TIR 2, benign, according to the 2013 Italian thyroid cytology classification system. Moderately high serum calcitonin (s-Ct) (61.5 pg/mL, n.r. 0–7.5) and normal CEA were detected. The Ct level in FNAB wash-out fluid (Ct-FNAB) was 1450 pg/mL. Based on s-Ct and Ct-FNAB levels, patient underwent total thyroidectomy. Macroscopically, a dominant circumscribed nodule of 2 ecm was described; the histological and immunohistochemical features identified medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) with paraganglioma (PG)-like pattern positive for Ct, CEA and chromogranin and negative for S-100 sustentacular cells (SC). Moreover, papillary carcinoma of 3 mm in the right lobe was also associated. No areas of hyperaccumulation of the tracer were documented at Ga68 PET/CT. No RET-proto-oncogene mutations were found. Post-surgery s-Ct levels were within normal range (4 pg/mL). Two years after thyroidectomy, the patient is still disease-free. We reported a case of sporadic and rare variant of MTC: this is the ninth described case of PG-like MTC. In this case, cytologically benign, the clinical suspicion arose from high Ct values at FNAB wash-out fluid. Even if clinical behavior of this variant seems indolent, additional studies are necessary to understand prognoses and predictive factors.

Learning points:

  • Several unusual histological variants of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) have been described such as spindle cell, giant cell, clear cell, melanotic, squamous, angiosarcoma-like variants; even rarer is the paraganglioma (PG)-like pattern.
  • We here describe a case of medullary PG-like thyroid carcinoma in a 74-year-old man. This is a rare histological variant of MTC hardly diagnosed by cytology, since immunohistochemical investigations are necessary.
  • Measurement of calcitonin both in serum and in wash-out fluid from fine-needle aspiration could be an additional tool for an early and non-invasive identification of these variants.
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:

  • There are neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid that do not produce calcitonin or calcitonin gene-related peptide.
  • This category of calcitonin-negative neuroendocrine carcinomas is heterogeneous, consisting of low- and high-grade tumors.
  • The high-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid are rare and generally have a poor prognosis. They are divided into small cell and non-small cell or large cell types.
Open access

Ayanthi A Wijewardene, Sarah J Glastras, Diana L Learoyd, Bruce G Robinson and Venessa H M Tsang

Summary

Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a rare neuroendocrine tumour that originates from the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland. The most common presentation of MTC is with a single nodule; however, by the time of diagnosis, most have spread to the surrounding cervical lymph nodes. Cushing’s syndrome is a rare complication of MTC and is due to ectopic adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) secretion by tumour cells. Cushing’s syndrome presents a challenging diagnostic and management issue in patients with MTC. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) previously used for the management of metastatic MTC have become an important therapeutic option for the management of ectopic ACTH in metastatic MTC. The article describes three cases of ectopic ACTH secretion in MTC and addresses the significant diagnostic and management challenges related to Cushing’s syndrome in metastatic MTC.

Learning points:

  • Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a rare neuroendocrine tumour.
  • Cushing’s syndrome is a rare complication of MTC that has a significant impact on patients’ morbidity and mortality.
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) provide an important therapeutic option for the management of ectopic ACTH in metastatic MTC.
Open access

Rowena Speak, Jackie Cook, Barney Harrison and John Newell-Price

Mutations of the rearranged during transfection (RET) proto-oncogene, located on chromosome 10q11.2, cause multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). Patients with mutations at the codon 609 usually exhibit a high penetrance of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), but a sufficiently low penetrance of phaeochromocytoma that screening for this latter complication has been called to question. Patients with other RET mutations are at higher risk of younger age onset phaeochromocytoma if they also possess other RET polymorphisms (L769L, S836S, G691S and S904S), but there are no similar data for patients with 609 mutations. We investigated the unusual phenotypic presentation in a family with MEN2A due to a C609Y mutation in RET. Sanger sequencing of the entire RET-coding region and exon–intron boundaries was performed. Five family members were C609Y mutation positive: 3/5 initially presented with phaeochromocytoma, but only 1/5 had MTC. The index case aged 73 years had no evidence of MTC, but presented with phaeochromocytoma. Family members also possessed the G691S and S904S RET polymorphisms. We illustrate a high penetrance of phaeochromocytoma and low penetrance of MTC in patients with a RET C609Y mutation and polymorphisms G691S and S904S. These data highlight the need for life-long screening for the complications of MEN2A in these patients and support the role for the screening of RET polymorphisms for the purposes of risk stratification.

Learning points:

  • C609Y RET mutations may be associated with a life-long risk of phaeochromocytoma indicating the importance of life-long screening for this condition in patients with MEN2A.
  • C609Y RET mutations may be associated with a lower risk of MTC than often quoted, questioning the need for early prophylactic thyroid surgery discussion at the age of 5 years.
  • There may be a role for the routine screening of RET polymorphisms, and this is greatly facilitated by the increasing ease of access to next-generation sequencing.
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.