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Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.

  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.

  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.

  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.

Open access

Tejhmal Rehman, Ali Hameed, Nigel Beharry, J Du Parcq and Gul Bano

Summary

Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (βhCG) is normally produced by syncytiotrophoblasts of the placenta during pregnancy and aids embryo implantation. However, it is also secreted in varying amounts in non-pregnant conditions commonly heralding a neoplastic process. We present a case of 50-year-old man, who presented with bilateral gynaecomastia with elevated testosterone, oestradiol, suppressed gonadotropins with progressively increasing levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Biochemical and radiological investigations including ultrasonography of testes, breast tissue, MRI pituitary and CT scan full body did not identify the source of hCG. FDG PET scan revealed a large mediastinal mass with lung metastasis. Immunostaining and histological analysis confirmed the diagnosis of primary choriocarcinoma of the mediastinum. It is highly aggressive and malignant tumor with poor prognosis. Early diagnosis and management are essential for the best outcome.

Learning points:

  • High βhCG in a male patient or a non-pregnant female suggests a paraneoplastic syndrome.

  • In the case of persistently positive serum hCG, exclude immunoassay interference by doing the urine hCG as heterophilic antibodies are not present in the urine.

  • Non-gestational choriocarcinoma is an extremely rare trophoblastic tumor and should be considered in young men presenting with gynaecomastia and high concentration of hCG with normal gonads.

  • A high index of suspicion and extensive investigations are required to establish an early diagnosis of extra-gonadal choriocarcinoma.

  • Early diagnosis is crucial to formulate optimal management strategy and to minimize widespread metastasis for best clinical outcome.

Open access

Ana G Ferreira, Tiago N Silva, Henrique V Luiz, Filipa D Campos, Maria C Cordeiro and Jorge R Portugal

Sellar plasmacytomas are rare and the differential diagnosis with non-functioning pituitary adenomas might be difficult because of clinical and radiological resemblance. They usually present with neurological signs and intact anterior pituitary function. Some may already have or eventually progress to multiple myeloma. We describe a case associated with extensive anterior pituitary involvement, which is a rare form of presentation. A 68-year-old man was referred to our Endocrinology outpatient clinic due to gynecomastia, reduced libido and sexual impotence. Physical examination, breast ultrasound and mammography confirmed bilateral gynecomastia. Blood tests revealed slight hyperprolactinemia, low testosterone levels, low cortisol levels and central hypothyroidism. Sellar MRI showed a heterogeneous sellar mass (56 × 60 × 61 mm), initially suspected as an invasive macroadenoma. After correcting the pituitary deficits with hydrocortisone and levothyroxine, the patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery. Histological examination revealed a plasmacytoma and multiple myeloma was ruled out. The patient was unsuccessfully treated with radiation therapy (no tumor shrinkage). Myeloma ultimately developed, with several other similar lesions in different locations. The patient was started on chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant and is now stable (progression free) on lenalidomide and dexamethasone. The presenting symptoms and panhypopituitarism persisted, requiring chronic replacement treatment with levothyroxine, hydrocortisone and testosterone.

Learning points:

  • Plasmacytomas, although rare, are a possible type of sellar masses, which have a completely different treatment approach, so it is important to make the correct diagnosis.

  • Usually, they present with neurological signs and symptoms and a well-preserved pituitary function, but our case shows that anterior pituitary function can be severely compromised.

  • Making a more extensive evaluation (clinical and biochemical) might provide some clues to this diagnosis.