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Open access

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
Open access

Isabella Lupi, Alessandro Brancatella, Mirco Cosottini, Nicola Viola, Giulia Lanzolla, Daniele Sgrò, Giulia Di Dalmazi, Francesco Latrofa, Patrizio Caturegli and Claudio Marcocci

Summary

Programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4/B7 (CTLA-4/B7) pathways are key regulators in T-cell activation and tolerance. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab (PD-1 inhibitors), atezolizumab (PD-L1 inhibitor) and ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) are monoclonal antibodies approved for treatment of several advanced cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)-related hypophysitis is described more frequently in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4; however, recent studies reported an increasing prevalence of anti-PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis which also exhibits slightly different clinical features. We report our experience on hypophysitis induced by anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 treatment. We present four cases, diagnosed in the past 12 months, of hypophysitis occurring in two patients receiving anti-PD-1, in one patient receiving anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combined therapy and in one patient receiving anti-PD-L1. In this case series, timing, clinical presentation and association with other immune-related adverse events appeared to be extremely variable; central hypoadrenalism and hyponatremia were constantly detected although sellar magnetic resonance imaging did not reveal specific signs of pituitary inflammation. These differences highlight the complexity of ICI-related hypophysitis and the existence of different mechanisms of action leading to heterogeneity of clinical presentation in patients receiving immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • PD-1/PD-L1 blockade can induce hypophysitis with a different clinical presentation when compared to CTLA-4 blockade.
  • Diagnosis of PD-1/PD-L1 induced hypophysitis is mainly made on clinical grounds and sellar MRI does not show radiological abnormalities.
  • Hyponatremia due to acute secondary adrenal insufficiency is often the principal sign of PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis and can be masked by other symptoms due to oncologic disease.
  • PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis can present as an isolated manifestation of irAEs or be in association with other autoimmune diseases
Open access

Yoko Olmedilla, Shoaib Khan, Victoria Young, Robin Joseph, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansgorge, Ashley Grossman and Aparna Pal

Summary

A 21 year-old woman was found to have a pituitary macroadenoma following an episode of haemophilus meningitis. Biochemical TSH and GH excess was noted, although with no clear clinical correlates. She was treated with a somatostatin analogue (SSA), which restored the euthyroid state and controlled GH hypersecretion, but she re-presented with a further episode of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and recurrent meningitis. Histology following transsphenoidal adenomectomy revealed a Pit-1 lineage plurihormonal adenoma expressing GH, TSH and PRL. Such plurihormonal pituitary tumours are uncommon and even more unusual to present with spontaneous bacterial meningitis. The second episode of CSF leak and meningitis appears to have been due to SSA therapy-induced tumour shrinkage, which is not a well-described phenomenon in the literature for this type of tumour.

Learning points:

  • Pit-1 lineage GH/TSH/PRL-expressing plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are uncommon. Moreover, this case is unique as the patient first presented with bacterial meningitis.
  • Inmunohistochemical plurihormonality of pituitary adenomas does not necessarily correlate with biochemical and clinical features of hormonal hypersecretion.
  • Given that plurihormonal Pit-1 lineage adenomas may behave more aggressively than classical pituitary adenomas, accurate pathological characterization of these tumours has an increasing prognostic relevance.
  • Although unusual, a CSF leak and meningitis may be precipitated by SSA therapy of a pituitary macroadenoma via tumour shrinkage.
Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Patricia Cipriano, Vanessa Henriques, João Sequeira Duarte and Conceição Canas Marques

Summary

Granular cell tumours (GCT) are rare, slow-growing, benign neoplasms that are usually located in the head and neck. They are more frequent in the female gender and typically have an asymptomatic clinical course, being diagnosed only at autopsy. Symptomatic GCT of the neurohypophysis are exceedingly rare, being less than 70 cases described so far. The authors report on a case of a 28-year-old male that presented to the Endocrinology clinic with clinical and biochemical evidence of hypogonadism. He also reported minor headaches without any major visual symptoms. Further laboratory tests confirmed hypopituitarism (hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, central hypothyroidism and hypocortisolism) and central nervous system imaging revealed a pituitary macroadenoma. The patient underwent transcranial pituitary adenoma resection and the pathology report described a GCT of the neurohypophysis with low mitotic index. The reported case is noteworthy for the rarity of the clinicopathological entity.

Learning points:

  • Symptomatic GCTs are rare CNS tumours whose cell of origin is not well defined that usually give rise to visual symptoms, headache and endocrine dysfunction.
  • Imaging is quite unspecific and diagnosis is difficult to establish preoperatively.
  • Surgical excision is challenging due to lesion’s high vascularity and propensity to adhere to adjacent structures.
  • The reported case is noteworthy for the rarity of the clinicopathological entity.
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

Alicia R Jones, Alan McNeil, Christopher Yates, Bala Krishnamurthy and Peter S Hamblin

Summary

A variety of neoplastic, inflammatory and congenital conditions can cause pituitary stalk thickening. Differentiating between these causes is important as targeted treatment may be offered. Diagnostic work-up consists of a thorough history, examination, biochemical analysis and imaging. We present the case of a 33-year-old male who presented with diabetes insipidus and had pituitary stalk thickening on magnetic resonance imaging. Further investigations revealed an elevated CSF βhCG, which raised the possibility of an intracranial germ cell tumor. However, when repeated on four different assays, the βhCG levels were discordant. On serial imaging, the pituitary stalk thickening reduced slightly, which would be unexpected for a germ cell tumor. This case raises the difficulties interpreting CSF βhCG, as not all immunoassays for βhCG have been validated for use in CSF. The Roche Diagnostics Elecsys and Siemens Centaur assays have been validated for CSF βhCG, and so we advocate using one of these methods. If unavailable or serum/CSF results are ambiguous, serial MRI is appropriate, with pituitary stalk biopsy considered if the stalk measures >6.5 mm or other imaging abnormalities are present.

Learning points:

  • Most adult patients with central diabetes insipidus have imaging abnormalities on a pituitary MRI. The most common abnormalities are loss of the posterior pituitary bright spot and pituitary stalk thickening, both of which are non-specific.
  • Causes of pituitary stalk thickening include neoplastic, inflammatory, infective and congenital lesions.
  • Investigation of pituitary stalk thickening should encompass the many possible causes and include biochemical analyses as well as imaging of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. Further investigations should be guided by the clinical context, but may include testicular ultrasound, CSF analysis and pituitary stalk biopsy.
  • Germ cell tumors involving the pituitary stalk may be suspected on clinical grounds, but in the absence of a tissue diagnosis (biopsy) confirmation may be difficult and relies on biochemical assessment of blood and possibly CSF as well as serial MRI imaging.
  • CSF βhCG levels should be analyzed on an instrument validated for use in CSF or on multiple instruments, and the pitfalls of testing this marker (false negative in some germ cell tumors, false positives in other conditions, lack of internationally agreed reference ranges for diagnosing germ cell tumors) should be considered when interpreting the results.
Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Emma van der Poest Clement and Richard Feelders

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease that results from prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids. Severe and rapidly progressive cases are often, but not exclusively, attributable to ectopic ACTH secretion. Extreme hypercortisolism usually has florid metabolic consequences and is associated with an increased infectious and thrombotic risk. The authors report on a case of a 51-year-old male that presented with severe Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, whose diagnostic workup was affected by concurrent subclinical multifocal pulmonary infectious nodules. The case is noteworthy for the atypically severe presentation of Cushing’s disease, and it should remind the clinician of the possible infectious and thrombotic complications associated with Cushing’s syndrome.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is not always caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Hypercortisolism is a state of immunosuppression, being associated with an increased risk for opportunistic infections.
  • Infectious pulmonary infiltrates may lead to imaging diagnostic dilemmas when investigating a suspected ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Cushing’s syndrome carries an increased thromboembolic risk that may even persist after successful surgical management.
  • Antibiotic and venous thromboembolism prophylaxis should be considered in every patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome.
Open access

Regina Streuli, Ina Krull, Michael Brändle, Walter Kolb, Günter Stalla, Marily Theodoropoulou, Annette Enzler-Tschudy and Stefan Bilz

Summary

Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome and only a few cases have been reported in the literature. Differentiating between Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome may be particularly difficult if predominant ectopic CRH secretion leads to pituitary corticotroph hyperplasia that may mimic Cushing’s disease during dynamic testing with both dexamethasone and CRH as well as bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS). We present the case of a 24-year-old man diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome caused by an ACTH/CRH co-secreting midgut NET. Both high-dose dexamethasone testing and BIPSS suggested Cushing’s disease. However, the clinical presentation with a rather rapid onset of cushingoid features, hyperpigmentation and hypokalemia led to the consideration of ectopic ACTH/CRH-secretion and prompted a further workup. Computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen revealed a cecal mass which was identified as a predominantly CRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumor. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of an ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumor of the cecum presenting with biochemical features suggestive of Cushing’s disease.

Learning points:

  • The discrimination between a Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome is challenging and has many caveats.
  • Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are very rare.
  • Dynamic tests as well as BIPSS may be compatible with Cushing’s disease in ectopic CRH-secretion.
  • High levels of CRH may induce hyperplasia of the corticotroph cells in the pituitary. This could be the cause of a preserved pituitary response to dexamethasone and CRH.
  • Clinical features of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with rapid development of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperpigmentation, high circulating levels of cortisol with associated hypokalemia, peripheral edema and proximal myopathy should be a warning flag of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome and lead to further investigations.
Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Francisco Sousa Santos, João Sequeira Duarte and Carlos Vasconcelos

Summary

Central diabetes insipidus (DI) is a rare clinical entity characterized by low circulating levels of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) presenting with polyuria and volume depletion. Pituitary surgery is the most common cause of central DI in adults. Pituitary and hypothalamic disease, particularly invasive neoplasms, rarely cause DI, being idiopathic cases responsible for the majority of non-surgical cases. HIV patients, especially those with poor virulogical control, are prone to the development of CNS neoplasms, particularly lymphomas. These neoplasms usually become manifest with mass effects and seizures. Central DI and hypopituitarism are uncommon initial manifestations of primary CNS lymphomas. The authors describe the case of 29-year-old female, HIV-positive patient whose CNS lymphoma presented with DI.

Learning points:

  • Central diabetes insipidus has multiple causes and central nervous system lymphomas are not often considered in the differential diagnosis due to their low prevalence.
  • Accurate biochemical diagnosis should always be followed by etiological investigation.
  • The HIV population is at risk for many neoplasms, especially CNS lymphomas.
  • New-onset polyuria in an HIV-positive patient in the absence of focal neurological signs should raise the suspicion for a central nervous system process of neoplastic nature.
  • This clinical entity usually constitutes a therapeutical challenge, often requiring a multidisciplinary approach for optimal outcome.
Open access

A León-Suárez, P Roldán-Sarmiento, M A Gómez-Sámano, A Nava-De la Vega, V M Enríquez-Estrada, F J Gómez-Pérez and D Cuevas-Ramos

Summary

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a hematological tumor caused by abnormal lymphoid proliferation. NHL can arise in any part of the body, including central nervous system (CNS). However, pituitary involvement is a quite rare presentation. The diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common subtype when pituitary is infiltrated. Here, we report a case of pituitary infiltration of NHL DLBCL type in a woman with hypopituitarism and an infundibulum-hypophysitis-like image on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A female aged 64 years, complained of dyspepsia, fatigue, weight loss and urine volume increment with thirst. Endoscopy and gastric biopsy confirmed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Treatment with chemotherapy using R-CHOP was initiated. During her hospitalization, hypotension and polyuria were confirmed. Hormonal evaluation was compatible with central diabetes insipidus and hypopituitarism. Simple T1 sequence of MRI showed thickening of the infundibular stalk with homogeneous enhancement. After lumbar puncture analysis, CNS infiltration was confirmed showing positive atypical lymphocytes. Pituitary and infundibular stalk size normalized after R-CHOP chemotherapy treatment. In conclusion, pituitary infiltration of NHL with infundibular-hypophysitis-like image on MRI is a rare finding. Clinical picture included hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus. Diagnosis should be suspected after biochemical analysis and MRI results. Treatment consists of chemotherapy against NHL and hormonal replacement for pituitary dysfunction.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary infiltration by lymphoma can present with signs and symptoms of panhypopituitarism and diabetes insipidus.
  • MRI findings can resemble an autoimmune hypophysitis.
  • Patients can recover pituitary function as well as normalization of MRI after chemotherapy treatment.