Metastases to the pituitary gland are an uncommon complication of thyroid cancer. They resemble pituitary neoplasms posing a diagnostic challenge. We present a case of an aggressive non-radioiodine avid papillary thyroid cancer with recurrent pituitary metastases and a review of the literature. A 70-year-old woman with a history of papillary thyroid cancer and bony metastases presented with symptoms of hypoadrenalism and peripheral vision loss. Magnetic resonance imaging showed a large pituitary mass impinging on the optic chiasm. She underwent transsphenoidal resection followed by 131I ablation. Post-therapy scintigraphy showed no iodine uptake in the sellar region or bony metastases. Histology of the pituitary mass confirmed metastatic papillary thyroid cancer. Fifteen months later, she had a recurrence of pituitary metastases affecting her vision. This was resected and followed with external beam radiotherapy. Over 2 years, the pituitary metastases increased in size and required two further operations. Radioactive iodine was not considered due to poor response in the past. Progressively, she developed a left-sided III and IV cranial nerve palsy and permanent bitemporal hemianopia. There was a rapid decline in the patient's health with further imaging revealing new lung and bony metastases, and she eventually died 8 months later. To our knowledge, this is the first case of pituitary metastases from a radioiodine-resistant papillary thyroid cancer. Radioiodine-resistant metastatic thyroid cancer may exhibit rapid aggressive growth and remain poorly responsive to the currently available treatment.
- Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) has an excellent prognosis with <5% of the cases presenting with distant metastases, usually to lung and bone.
- Metastasis to the pituitary is a rare complication of DTC.
- The diagnosis of pituitary insufficiency secondary to pituitary metastases from DTC may be delayed due to the non-specific systemic symptoms of underlying malignancy and TSH suppression therapy for thyroid cancer.
- The imaging characteristics of metastases to the pituitary may be similar to non-functioning pituitary adenoma.
- Radioiodine refractory metastatic thyroid cancer has significantly lower survival rates compared with radioactive iodine-avid metastases due to limited therapeutic options.