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Open access

Teresa M Canteros, Valeria De Miguel and Patricia Fainstein-Day

Summary

Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.

  • Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.

  • Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.

Open access

Athanasios Fountas, Shu Teng Chai, John Ayuk, Neil Gittoes, Swarupsinh Chavda and Niki Karavitaki

Summary

Co-existence of craniopharyngioma and acromegaly has been very rarely reported. A 65-year-old man presented with visual deterioration, fatigue and frontal headaches. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a suprasellar heterogeneous, mainly cystic, 1.9 × 2 × 1.9 cm mass compressing the optic chiasm and expanding to the third ventricle; the findings were consistent with a craniopharyngioma. Pituitary hormone profile showed hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, mildly elevated prolactin, increased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and normal thyroid function and cortisol reserve. The patient had transsphenoidal surgery and pathology of the specimen was diagnostic of adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma. Post-operatively, he had diabetes insipidus, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and adrenocorticotropic hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone deficiency. Despite the hypopituitarism, his IGF-1 levels remained elevated and subsequent oral glucose tolerance test did not show complete growth hormone (GH) suppression. Further review of the pre-operative imaging revealed a 12 × 4 mm pituitary adenoma close to the right carotid artery and no signs of pituitary hyperplasia. At that time, he was also diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the left upper lung lobe finally managed with radical radiotherapy. Treatment with long-acting somatostatin analogue was initiated leading to biochemical control of the acromegaly. Latest imaging has shown no evidence of craniopharyngioma regrowth and stable adenoma. This is a unique case report of co-existence of craniopharyngioma, acromegaly and squamous lung cell carcinoma that highlights diagnostic and management challenges. Potential effects of the GH hypersecretion on the co-existent tumours of this patient are also briefly discussed.

Learning points:

  • Although an extremely rare clinical scenario, craniopharyngioma and acromegaly can co-exist; aetiopathogenic link between these two conditions is unlikely.

  • Meticulous review of unexpected biochemical findings is vital for correct diagnosis of dual pituitary pathology.

  • The potential adverse impact of GH excess due to acromegaly in a patient with craniopharyngioma (and other neoplasm) mandates adequate biochemical control of the GH hypersecretion.

Open access

Nikolaos Kyriakakis, Jacqueline Trouillas, Mary N Dang, Julie Lynch, Paul Belchetz, Márta Korbonits and Robert D Murray

Summary

A male patient presented at the age of 30 with classic clinical features of acromegaly and was found to have elevated growth hormone levels, not suppressing during an oral glucose tolerance test. His acromegaly was originally considered to be of pituitary origin, based on a CT scan, which was interpreted as showing a pituitary macroadenoma. Despite two trans-sphenoidal surgeries, cranial radiotherapy and periods of treatment with bromocriptine and octreotide, his acromegaly remained active clinically and biochemically. A lung mass was discovered incidentally on a chest X-ray performed as part of a routine pre-assessment for spinal surgery 5 years following the initial presentation. This was confirmed to be a bronchial carcinoid tumour, which was strongly positive for growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin receptor type 2 by immunohistochemistry. The re-examination of the pituitary specimens asserted the diagnosis of pituitary GH hyperplasia. Complete resolution of the patient’s acromegaly was achieved following right lower and middle lobectomy. Seventeen years following the successful resection of the bronchial carcinoid tumour the patient remains under annual endocrine follow-up for monitoring of the hypopituitarism he developed after the original interventions to his pituitary gland, while there has been no evidence of active acromegaly or recurrence of the carcinoid tumour. Ectopic acromegaly is extremely rare, accounting for <1% of all cases of acromegaly. Our case highlights the diagnostic challenges differentiating between ectopic acromegaly and acromegaly of pituitary origin and emphasises the importance of avoiding unnecessary pituitary surgery and radiotherapy. The role of laboratory investigations, imaging and histology as diagnostic tools is discussed.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic acromegaly is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all cases of acromegaly.

  • Ectopic acromegaly is almost always due to extra-pituitary GHRH secretion, mainly from neuroendocrine tumours of pancreatic or bronchial origin.

  • Differentiating between acromegaly of pituitary origin and ectopic acromegaly can cause diagnostic challenges due to similarities in clinical presentation and biochemistry.

  • Serum GHRH can be a useful diagnostic tool to diagnose ectopic acromegaly.

  • Pituitary imaging is crucial to differentiate between a pituitary adenoma and pituitary hyperplasia, which is a common finding in ectopic acromegaly.

  • Diagnosing ectopic acromegaly is pivotal to avoid unnecessary interventions to the pituitary and preserve normal pituitary function.

Open access

Pia T Dinesen, Jakob Dal, Plamena Gabrovska, Mette Gaustadnes, Claus H Gravholt, Karen Stals, Judit Denes, Sylvia L Asa, Márta Korbonits and Jens O L Jørgensen

Summary

A patient of Cushing's disease (CD) characterized by a large tumor and only subtle symptoms of hormonal hypersecretion was examined. The patient had a germline variant in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein (AIP) gene. A 50-year-old male presenting with headache was diagnosed with a large pituitary tumor by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). His visual fields were intact and he exhibited no features of CD. Owing to an exuberant response to synacthen, an overnight dexamethasone suppression test was performed revealing inadequate suppression of plasma cortisol (419 nmol/l). Owing to tumor growth and visual field impairment, he underwent transsphenoidal surgery and developed hypocortisolemia. The pathology specimen revealed a sparsely granulated corticotrope adenoma. Postoperative MRI showed a large tumor remnant. The patient developed skin hyperpigmentation and a synacthen test demonstrated high basal and stimulated cortisol levels; an overnight dexamethasone suppression test showed no suppression (791 nmol/l) and elevated plasma ACTH levels (135 ng/l). A transcranial operation was performed followed by radiotherapy. Two months after radiotherapy, he developed secondary adrenocortical failure. Genetic testing revealed an AIP variant of unknown significance (p.R16H) without loss of the normal AIP allele in the tumor. A literature review showed ten CD patients with AIP gene variants, of whom five (including our case) were p.R16H. CD is occasionally dominated by pituitary tumor growth rather than symptoms of hypersecretion. The particular AIP gene variant identified in our patient is shared by four other reported cases of CD. Future studies are needed to assess whether the reported AIP gene variant is more than just coincidental.

Learning points

  • CD is occasionally dominated by pituitary tumor growth rather than symptoms of hypersecretion.

  • Resolution of both tumor remnant and hormonal hypersecretion may occur within 2 months after postoperative radiotherapy.

  • The particular AIP gene variant identified in our patient is shared by four other reported cases of CD.