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Sally K Abell, Jessie Teng, Anthony Dowling, Michael S Hofman, Richard J MacIsaac and Nirupa Sachithanandan

Summary

This paper details the case of a 77-year-old male with refractory hypoglycaemia due to inoperable metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (pNET) co-secreting insulin and gastrin. Multiple medical therapies were trialled with limited success, and we describe the complications experienced by our patient. Somatostatin analogues can ameliorate hypoglycaemia and may have tumour-stabilising effects; however, in our case resulted in paradoxical worsening of hypoglycaemia. This rendered our patient hospital dependent for glycaemic support including continuous dextrose infusion. Although this is a reported adverse effect with initiation of therapy, we describe successful initiation of short-acting octreotide as an inpatient followed by commencement of long-acting octreotide. Hypoglycaemic collapse occurred only after dose titration of long-acting octreotide. We outline the pitfalls of somatostatin analogue therapy and the mechanisms that may contribute to worsening hypoglycaemia. This rare side effect cannot be reliably predicted, necessitating close supervision and glucose monitoring during therapy. Our patient achieved disease stabilisation and gradual resolution of hypoglycaemia with peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT), an emerging therapeutic option for metastatic neuroendocrine tumours with high efficacy and low toxicity. We present a brief but comprehensive discussion of currently available and novel therapies for insulin secreting pNETs.

Learning points

  • Hypoglycaemia due to malignant insulin secreting pNET is frequently severe and may be life-threatening despite supportive therapies.
  • Octreotide can ameliorate hypoglycaemia, and may have anti-proliferative and tumour-stabilising effects in malignant pNETs that are surgically unresectable.
  • Paradoxical worsening of hypoglycaemia may occur with octreotide initiation and dose titration, necessitating close supervision and glucose monitoring.
  • PRRT is emerging as a therapeutic option with high efficacy and low toxicity.