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Open access

Maria P Yavropoulou, Efstathios Chronopoulos, George Trovas, Emmanouil Avramidis, Francesca Marta Elli, Giovanna Mantovani, Pantelis Zebekakis and John G Yovos

Summary

Pseudohypoparathyroidism (PHP) is a heterogeneous group of rare endocrine disorders characterised by normal renal function and renal resistance to the action of the parathyroid hormone. Type 1A (PHP1A), which is the most common variant, also include developmental and skeletal defects named as Albright hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO). We present two cases, a 54- and a 33-year-old male diagnosed with PHP who were referred to us for persistently high levels of serum calcitonin. AHO and multinodular goitre were present in the 54-year-old male, while the second patient was free of skeletal deformities and his thyroid gland was of normal size and without nodular appearance. We performed GNAS molecular analysis (methylation status and copy number analysis by MS-MLPA) in genomic DNA samples for both patients. The analysis revealed a novel missense variant c.131T>G p.(Leu44Pro) affecting GNAS exon 1, in the patient with the clinical diagnosis of PHP1A. This amino acid change appears to be in accordance with the clinical diagnosis of the patient. The genomic DNA analysis of the second patient revealed the presence of the recurrent 3-kb deletion affecting the imprinting control region localised in the STX16 region associated with the loss of methylation (LOM) at the GNAS A/B differentially methylated region and consistent with the diagnosis of an autosomal dominant form of PHP type 1B (PHP1B). In conclusion, hypercalcitoninaemia may be encountered in PHP1A and PHP1B even in the absence of thyroid pathology.

Learning points:

  • We describe a novel missense variant c.131T>G p.(Leu44Pro) affecting GNAS exon 1 as the cause of PHP1A.

  • Hypercalcitoninaemia in PHP1A is considered an associated resistance to calcitonin, as suggested by the generalised impairment of Gsα-mediated hormone signalling.

  • GNAS methylation defects, as in type PHP1B, without thyroid pathology can also present with hypercalcitoninaemia.

Open access

Carine Ghassan Richa, Khadija Jamal Saad, Ali Khaled Chaaban and Mohamad Souheil El Rawas

Summary

The objective of the study is to report a case of acute pancreatitis secondary to hypercalcemia induced by primary hyperparathyroidism in a pregnant woman at the end of the first trimester. The case included a 32-year-old woman who was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and severe hypercalcemia refractory to many regimens of medical therapy in the first trimester of pregnancy. She was successfully treated with parathyroidectomy in the early second trimester with complete resolution of hypercalcemia and pancreatitis. Neonatal course was unremarkable. To our best knowledge, this is a rare case when primary hyperparathyroidism and its complications are diagnosed in the first trimester of pregnancy. In conclusion, primary hyperparathyroidism is a rare life-threatening condition to the fetus and mother especially when associated with complications such as pancreatitis. Early therapeutic intervention is important to reduce the morbidity and mortality. Parathyroidectomy performed in the second trimester can be the only solution.

Learning points:

  • Learning how to make diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism in a woman during the first trimester of pregnancy.

  • Understanding the complications of hypercalcemia and be aware of the high mortality and sequelae in both fetus and mother.

  • Providing the adequate treatment in such complicated cases with coordinated care between endocrinologists and obstetricians to ensure optimal outcomes.

Open access

Nikolaos Asonitis, Eva Kassi, Michalis Kokkinos, Ilias Giovanopoulos, Foteini Petychaki and Helen Gogas

Summary

Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients. It is associated with a poor prognosis, since it reflects an advanced cancer stage. Among all cancer in females, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, and it has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia. Approximately 70% of patients with breast cancer have bone metastases and 10% of them will have hypercalcemia as a complication at some point in the disease. Herein, we report a 69-year-old female patient with metastatic breast cancer, who developed severe hypercalcemia in the course of her disease and was diagnosed with humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM). Intense hydration along with corticoisteroids and antiresorptive medication (calcitonin, bisphosphonates and denosumab) were administered to the patient. Despite the above treatment, serum calcium levels remain elevated and calcimimetic cinacalcet was added. Upon discontinuation of cinacalcet, calcium levels were raised and returned back to the normal levels following re-initiation of the calcimimetic. Her calcium level restored to normal, and she was discharged with the following medical treatment: denosumab monthly, and cinacalcet at a titrated dose of 90 mg per day. The patient is followed as an outpatient and 11 months later, her calcium level remained within the normal range.

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients.

  • Breast cancer has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia.

  • The cornerstone of therapy remains the intense hydration and intravenous bisphosphonates (preferably zoledronic acid).

  • In case of persistent hypercalcemia of malignancy, the administration of calcimimetic cinacalcet could be an additional effective therapeutic option.

Open access

Kursad Unluhizarci, Hulya Akgun, Bahadır Oz, Zuleyha Karaca, Fatih Tanriverdi and Fahrettin Kelestimur

Summary

Among various substances produced by C-cells, the most important one is calcitonin (CT) that is used for detection, post-operative follow-up and evaluation of individuals at risk of developing medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). However, the role of serum CT measurement in the evaluation of thyroid nodules has been widely discussed, and there is still no consensus about the role of CT in the initial evaluation of all thyroid nodules. Two patients with thyroid nodules whose fine-needle aspiration results were compatible with benign cytology besides having mildly elevated basal serum calcitonin levels were reported. Calcitonin responses (peak levels were 313 and 229 pg/mL, respectively) to calcium stimulation test were compatible with the possible diagnosis of MTC. However, the final diagnosis was papillary thyroid carcinoma of the thyroid gland. There are limited numbers of case reports showing such an increased serum calcitonin responses to calcium stimulation test associated with papillary or follicular thyroid carcinoma of the thyroid. We suggest to measure serum CT level once and in case of normal levels, no further CT measurement is necessary. Physicians should keep in mind that thyroid carcinomas other than MTCs may also be associated with high serum CT levels.

Learning points:

  • Although serum calcitonin is a valuable tumor marker for MTC, it is well known that mild elevations may be seen in some other diseases such as Hashimoto thyroiditis, neuroendocrine tumors or due to medications such as proton pump inhibitors, calcium salts, beta blockers and glucocorticoids.

  • Those two cases indicate that high calcitonin responses to calcium stimulation test, mimicking MTC, may also be seen in patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma although the mechanism is not clear.

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.

Open access

Taiba Zornitzki, Hadara Rubinfeld, Lyudmila Lysyy, Tal Schiller, Véronique Raverot, Ilan Shimon and Hilla Knobler

Summary

Acromegaly due to ectopic GHRH secretion from a neuroendocrine tumor (NET) is rare and comprises <1% of all acromegaly cases. Herein we present a 57-year-old woman with clinical and biochemical features of acromegaly and a 6 cm pancreatic NET (pNET), secreting GHRH and calcitonin. Following surgical resection of the pancreatic tumor, IGF1, GH and calcitonin normalized, and the clinical features of acromegaly improved. In vitro studies confirmed that the tumor secreted large amounts of both GHRH and calcitonin, and incubation of pNET culture-derived conditioned media stimulated GH release from a cultured human pituitary adenoma. This is a unique case of pNET secreting both GHRH and calcitonin. The ability of the pNET-derived medium to stimulate in vitro GH release from a human pituitary-cell culture, combined with the clinical and hormonal remission following tumor resection, confirmed the ectopic source of acromegaly in this patient.

Learning points

  • Signs, symptoms and initial work-up of acromegaly due to ectopic GHRH secretion are similar to pituitary-dependent acromegaly. However, if no identifiable pituitary lesion is found, somatostatin receptor scan and further imaging (CT, MRI) should be performed.

  • Detection of GHRH in the blood and in the tumor-derived medium supports the diagnosis of ectopic GHRH secretion.

  • Functional bioactivity of pNET-secreted GHRH can be proved in vitro by releasing GH from human pituitary cells.

Open access

R Casey, S Prendeville, C Joyce and D O'Halloran

Summary

We present the case of a 30-year-old female who was diagnosed with hereditary phaeochromocytoma secondary to a rare gene mutation in exon 8 of the RET oncogene. This genetic mutation was picked up as part of an extended genetic screen using a method known as next generation sequencing. Detection of this genetic mutation prompted further screening for the manifestation of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). The patient subsequently underwent a thyroidectomy with histology confirming C-cell hyperplasia.

Learning points

  • Genetic analysis is an important step in the diagnostic work up of phaeochromocytoma.

  • Extended genetic analysis is important when there is a strong suspicion of hereditary phaeochromocytoma.

  • Mutations in exon 8 of the RET gene are associated with phaeochromocytoma as part of MEN2A syndrome.

Open access

I Huguet, C Lamas, R Vera, A Lomas, R P Quilez, A Grossman and F Botella

Summary

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are a heterogeneous group of neoplasms whose management can be problematic. In many cases, multiple tumours may occur in the same patient or his or her family, and some of these have now been defined genetically, although in other cases the underlying gene or genes involved remain unclear. We describe a patient, a 63-year-old female, who was diagnosed with a medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), which was confirmed pathologically after thyroidectomy, but whose circulating calcitonin levels remained elevated after thyroidectomy with no evidence of metastatic disease. Subsequently, an entirely separate and discrete duodenal NET was identified; this was 2.8 cm in diameter and was removed at partial duodenectomy. The tumour stained immunohistochemically for calcitonin, and its removal led to persistent normalisation of the circulating calcitonin levels. There was no germline mutation of the RET oncogene. This is the first identification of a duodenal NET secreting calcitonin and also the first demonstration of a second tumour secreting calcitonin in a patient with MTC. We suggest that where calcitonin levels remain high after removal of a MTC a search for other NETs should be conducted.

Learning points

  • NETs are a complex and heterogeneous group of related neoplasms, and multiple tumours may occur in the same patient.

  • Calcitonin can be produced ectopically by several tumours outside the thyroid.

  • Persistently elevated calcitonin levels after removal of a MTC may not necessarily indicate persisting or metastatic disease from the tumour.

  • The real prevalence of calcitonin-producing NETs may be underestimated, as serum determination is only recommended in the diagnosis of pancreatic NETs.