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Open access

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.

  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.

  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.

  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.

Open access

Chad Bisambar, Andrew Collier, Fraser Duthie and Carron Meney

Summary

A 40-year-old Caucasian female presented with hyperglycaemia, polyuria, polydipsia and weight loss of 6 kg over a 1-month period. There was no personal or family history of malignancy or diabetes mellitus. On examination, she was jaundiced with pale mucous membranes and capillary glucose was 23.1 mmol/L. Initial investigations showed iron deficiency anaemia and obstructive pattern of liver function tests. HbA1c was diagnostic of diabetes mellitus at 79 mmol/mol. Malignancy was suspected and CT chest, abdomen and pelvis showed significant dilatation of intra- and extra-hepatic biliary tree including pancreatic duct, with periampullary 30 mm mass lesion projecting into lumen of duodenum. Enlarged nodes were seen around the superior mesenteric artery. This was confirmed on MRI liver. Fasting gut hormones were normal except for a mildly elevated somatostatin level. Chromogranin A was elevated at 78 pmol/L with normal chromogranin B. Duodenoscopy and biopsy showed possible tubovillous adenoma with low-grade dysplasia, but subsequent endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy revealed a grade 1, well differentiated neuroendocrine tumour. The patient was started on insulin, transfused to Hb >8 g/dL and Whipple’s pancreatico-duodenectomy was undertaken. This showed a well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma arising in duodenum (Grade G1 with Ki67: 0.5%), with areas of chronic pancreatitis and preservation of pancreatic islet cells. There was complete resolution of diabetes post Whipple’s procedure and patient was able to come of insulin treatment. Her last HBA1C was 31 mmol/mol, 4 months post tumour resection.

Learning points:

  • Diabetes mellitus and malignancy can be related.

  • A high index of suspicion is needed when diabetes mellitus presents atypically.

  • Non-functional neuroendocrine tumours can present with diabetes mellitus.

Open access

Benjamin G Challis, Nicolai J Wewer Albrechtsen, Vishakha Bansiya, Keith Burling, Peter Barker, Bolette Hartmann, Fiona Gribble, Stephen O'Rahilly, Jens J Holst and Helen L Simpson

Summary

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNETs) secreting proglucagon are associated with phenotypic heterogeneity. Here, we describe two patients with pNETs and varied clinical phenotypes due to differential processing and secretion of proglucagon-derived peptides (PGDPs). Case 1, a 57-year-old woman presented with necrolytic migratory erythema, anorexia, constipation and hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia. She was found to have a grade 1 pNET, small bowel mucosal thickening and hyperglucagonaemia. Somatostatin analogue (SSA) therapy improved appetite, abolished hypoglycaemia and improved the rash. Case 2, a 48-year-old male presented with diabetes mellitus, diarrhoea, weight loss, nausea, vomiting and perineal rash due to a grade 1 metastatic pNET and hyperglucagonaemia. In both cases, plasma levels of all measured PGDPs were elevated and attenuated following SSA therapy. In case 1, there was increased production of intact glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and GLP-2, similar to that of the enteroendocrine L cell. In case 2, pancreatic glucagon was elevated due to a pancreatic α-cell-like proglucagon processing profile. In summary, we describe two patients with pNETs and heterogeneous clinical phenotypes due to differential processing and secretion of PGDPs. This is the first description of a patient with symptomatic hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia and marked gastrointestinal dysfunction due to, in part, a proglucagon-expressing pNET.

Learning points

  • PGDPs exhibit a diverse range of biological activities including critical roles in glucose and amino acid metabolism, energy homeostasis and gastrointestinal physiology.

  • The clinical manifestations of proglucagon-expressing tumours may exhibit marked phenotypic variation due to the biochemical heterogeneity of their secreted peptide repertoire.

  • Specific and precise biochemical assessment of individuals with proglucagon-expressing tumours may provide opportunities for improved diagnosis and clinical management.

Open access

S Solomou, R Khan, D Propper, D Berney and M Druce

Summary

A 33-year-old male was diagnosed with a metastatic neuroendocrine carcinoma of uncertain primary. He defaulted from follow-up without therapy and some months later developed episodic severe hypoglycaemia, which was found to be associated with inappropriately elevated insulin and C-peptide levels. It was considered likely that the neuroendocrine tumour was the source of the insulin secretion. Diazoxide and somatostatin analogue were used to control hypoglycaemia. Much later in the course of the disease, he developed metabolic derangement, increased skin pigmentation and psychological disturbance, without frankly Cushingoid physical findings. Investigations revealed highly elevated cortisol levels (the levels having previously been normal) with markedly raised ACTH levels, consistent with the co-secretion of ACTH and insulin by the tumour. Treatment with metyrapone improved his psychological state and electrolyte imbalance. Unfortunately, despite several cycles of first-, second- and third-line chemotherapy from the start of the first hormonal presentation onwards, imaging revealed widespread progressive metastatic disease and the patient eventually passed away. This case highlights the importance of keeping in mind the biochemical heterogeneity of endocrine tumours during their treatment.

Learning points

  • The clinical presentation of insulin-secreting tumours includes symptoms of neuroglycopaenia and sympathetic overstimulation.

  • Tumour-associated hypoglycaemia can be due to pancreatic insulinomas, and although ectopic hormone production occurs in a number of tumours, ectopic secretion of insulin is rare.

  • A possible switch in the type of hormone produced can occur during the growth and progression of neuroendocrine tumours and, when treating neuroendocrine tumours, it is important to keep in mind their biochemical heterogeneity.