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Open access

Yoko Olmedilla, Shoaib Khan, Victoria Young, Robin Joseph, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansgorge, Ashley Grossman and Aparna Pal

Summary

A 21 year-old woman was found to have a pituitary macroadenoma following an episode of haemophilus meningitis. Biochemical TSH and GH excess was noted, although with no clear clinical correlates. She was treated with a somatostatin analogue (SSA), which restored the euthyroid state and controlled GH hypersecretion, but she re-presented with a further episode of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and recurrent meningitis. Histology following transsphenoidal adenomectomy revealed a Pit-1 lineage plurihormonal adenoma expressing GH, TSH and PRL. Such plurihormonal pituitary tumours are uncommon and even more unusual to present with spontaneous bacterial meningitis. The second episode of CSF leak and meningitis appears to have been due to SSA therapy-induced tumour shrinkage, which is not a well-described phenomenon in the literature for this type of tumour.

Learning points:

  • Pit-1 lineage GH/TSH/PRL-expressing plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are uncommon. Moreover, this case is unique as the patient first presented with bacterial meningitis.

  • Inmunohistochemical plurihormonality of pituitary adenomas does not necessarily correlate with biochemical and clinical features of hormonal hypersecretion.

  • Given that plurihormonal Pit-1 lineage adenomas may behave more aggressively than classical pituitary adenomas, accurate pathological characterization of these tumours has an increasing prognostic relevance.

  • Although unusual, a CSF leak and meningitis may be precipitated by SSA therapy of a pituitary macroadenoma via tumour shrinkage.

Open access

W K M G Amarawardena, K D Liyanarachchi, J D C Newell-Price, R J M Ross, D Iacovazzo and M Debono

Summary

The granulation pattern of somatotroph adenomas is well known to be associated with differing clinical and biochemical characteristics, and it has been shown that sparsely granulated tumours respond poorly to commonly used somatostatin receptor ligands (SRLs). We report a challenging case of acromegaly with a sparsely granulated tumour resistant to multiple modalities of treatment, ultimately achieving biochemical control with pasireotide. A 26-year-old lady presented with classical features of acromegaly, which was confirmed by an oral glucose tolerance test. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) was 1710 µg/L (103–310 µg/L) and mean growth hormone (GH) was >600 U/L. MRI scan showed a 4 cm pituitary macroadenoma with suprasellar extension and right-sided cavernous sinus invasion. She underwent trans-sphenoidal pituitary surgery. Histology displayed moderate amounts of sparsely granular eosinophilic cytoplasm, staining only for GH. Postoperative investigations showed uncontrolled disease (IGF1:1474 µg/L, mean GH:228 U/L) and residual tumour in the cavernous sinus. She received external beam fractionated radiation. Over the years, she received octreotide LAR (up to 30 mg), lanreotide (up to 120 mg) two weekly, cabergoline, pegvisomant and stereotactic radiosurgery to no avail. Only pegvisomant resulted in an element of disease control; however, this had to be stopped due to abnormal liver function tests. Fifteen years after the diagnosis, she was started on pasireotide 40 mg monthly. Within a month, her IGF1 dropped and has remained within the normal range (103–310 µg/L). Pasireotide has been well tolerated, and there has been significant clinical improvement. Somatostatin receptor subtyping revealed a positivity score of two for both sst5 and sst2a subtypes.

Learning points:

  • Age, size of the tumour, GH levels on presentation, histopathological type and the somatostatin receptor status of the tumour in acromegaly should be reviewed in patients who poorly respond to first-generation somatostatin receptor ligands.

  • Tumours that respond poorly to first-generation somatostatin receptor ligands, especially sparsely granulated somatotroph adenomas, can respond to pasireotide and treatment should be considered early in the management of resistant tumours.

  • Patients with membranous expression of sst5 are likely to be more responsive to pasireotide.

Open access

Jeremy M W Kirk, Nalin Wickramasuriya and Nicholas J Shaw

Summary

Estrogen is used to induce puberty in peripubertal girls with hypogonadism. Although both synthetic and natural forms are available, along with different routes of administration, in the UK oral ethinyl estradiol and the low-dose oral contraceptive pill are commonly used as hormone replacement therapy for practical reasons. We present five peripubertal girls (aged 12.5–14.9 years) with hypogonadism (two with primary hypogonadism due to Turner syndrome and three with central (secondary) hypogonadism as part of multiple pituitary hormone deficiency) who for a variety of reasons have received milligram doses of estradiol (E2) in error for between 6 weeks and 6 months, instead of the expected microgram doses of ethinyl estradiol. Although there are no direct comparisons in peripubertal girls between synthetic and natural estrogens, all girls had vaginal bleeding whilst receiving the milligram doses and have ended up with reduced final heights, below the 9th centile in 1 and below the 2nd centile in 4. Whilst reduction in final height may be part of the underlying condition (especially in Turner syndrome) the two girls with height predictions performed prior to receiving the estrogen overdose have not achieved their predicted height. Estrogen is one of the few drugs which is available in both milligram and microgram formulations. Clinicians need to be alert to the possibility of patients receiving the wrong formulation and dosage in error.

Learning points

  • Girls with primary and secondary gonadal failure require assistance with pubertal induction.

  • Although several different formulations and route of administration are available, for practical reasons, the majority of girls in the UK receive oral ethinyl estradiol.

  • Estrogen preparations are available in both milligram and microgram formulations, with potential for receiving the wrong dose.

  • Girls receiving milligram rather than microgram preparations all had vaginal bleeding and a short final height.

Open access

C Mumby, J R E Davis, J Trouillas and C E Higham

Summary

A 52-year-old lady was referred after a 5 cm left adrenal mass was detected on computed tomography (CT) scanning. She was asymptomatic although was noted to have acromegalic facies. Blood pressure (BP) was normal but plasma normetanephrines were raised to 2.81 mmol/l (<1.09) and urinary normetadrenaline excretion 5.3 μmol/24 h (0–4.3). Adrenal biochemistry screen was otherwise normal. Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan demonstrated uptake in the adrenal lesion. Growth hormone (GH) nadir on oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was 2.2 ng/ml with an elevated IGF1 level of 435 ng/ml (72–215), confirming acromegaly biochemically. The remainder of the pituitary screen was normal. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the pituitary revealed an enlarged pituitary gland with a microadenoma/cyst of 2–3 mm in diameter. Alpha blockade was achieved with a titrated dose of phenoxybenzamine before a successful laparoscopic hand-assisted left adrenalectomy. Postoperative biochemical testing revealed a normal plasma normetanephrine level of 0.6 nmol/l (<1.09) and a metanephrine level of 0.35 nmol/l (<0.46 nmol/l). Nadir on OGTT was normal at 0.07 ng/ml with an IGF1 level within the reference range at 111 ng/ml (75–215). Histology demonstrated a well-circumscribed and encapsulated oval mass with microscopic features typical for a phaeochromocytoma. The sections stained strongly positive for GHRH in 20% of cells on immunocytochemistry. Genetic analysis showed no pathogenic mutation. This is a report of the rare condition of a phaeochromocytoma co-secreting GHRH resulting in clinical and biochemical acromegaly. Neuroendocrine tumours can stain positive for GHRH without coexisting acromegaly, but the resolution of patient symptoms and normalisation of serum GH and IGF1 levels following surgery imply that this was functional secretion. Pituitary surgery should be avoided in such cases.

Learning points

  • Incidental findings on imaging require thorough investigation to determine the presence of serious pathology.

  • Acromegaly and phaeochromocytoma are rarely coincident in the same patient. If this occurs, co-secretion of GHRH from the phaeochromocytoma or the presence of underlying genetic abnormalities must be considered.

  • Acromegaly is due to ectopic GHRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumours in <1% of cases, most commonly pancreatic or bronchial lesions.

  • Co-secretion of GHRH from a phaeochromocytoma is extremely rare.

  • In such cases, the pituitary gland may appear enlarged but pituitary surgery should be avoided and surgical treatment of the neuroendocrine tumour attempted.

Open access

Dominic Cavlan, Shanti Vijayaraghavan, Susan Gelding and William Drake

Summary

A state of insulin resistance is common to the clinical conditions of both chronic growth hormone (GH) deficiency and GH excess (acromegaly). GH has a physiological role in glucose metabolism in the acute settings of fast and exercise and is the only anabolic hormone secreted in the fasting state. We report the case of a patient in whom knowledge of this aspect of GH physiology was vital to her care. A woman with well-controlled type 1 diabetes mellitus who developed hypopituitarism following the birth of her first child required GH replacement therapy. Hours after the first dose, she developed a rapid metabolic deterioration and awoke with hyperglycaemia and ketonuria. She adjusted her insulin dose accordingly, but the pattern was repeated with each subsequent increase in her dose. Acute GH-induced lipolysis results in an abundance of free fatty acids (FFA); these directly inhibit glucose uptake into muscle, and this can lead to hyperglycaemia. This glucose–fatty acid cycle was first described by Randle et al. in 1963; it is a nutrient-mediated fine control that allows oxidative muscle to switch between glucose and fatty acids as fuel, depending on their availability. We describe the mechanism in detail.

Learning points

  • There is a complex interplay between GH and insulin resistance: chronically, both GH excess and deficiency lead to insulin resistance, but there is also an acute mechanism that is less well appreciated by clinicians.

  • GH activates hormone-sensitive lipase to release FFA into the circulation; these may inhibit the uptake of glucose leading to hyperglycaemia and ketosis in the type 1 diabetic patient.

  • The Randle cycle, or glucose–fatty acid cycle, outlines the mechanism for this acute relationship.

  • Monitoring the adequacy of GH replacement in patients with type 1 diabetes is difficult, with IGF1 an unreliable marker.