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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

L I Astaf’eva, Y G Sidneva, B A Kadashev, P L Kalinin, G A Melnichenko and S A Agadzhanian

Summary

A 32-year-old woman presented with primary amenorrhoea, prolactin (PRL) level of 154 150 mIU/L and was diagnosed with a giant pituitary adenoma measuring maximum 6.2 cm. Cabergoline (CAB) treatment at a dose of 0.5 mg/week was prescribed to the patient. The treatment decreased the tumour size after 3 months (MRI scans of the brain) and brought back to normal the level of the PRL (345 mIU/L) after 6 months of CAB treatment. After 7 months of CAB treatment, menarche was achieved, and after 12 months, the patient became pregnant. She discontinued taking CAB at 4-week gestation. The pregnancy resulted in a missed miscarriage at 6–7 weeks; an abortion was conducted by the vacuum aspiration method. The MRI scans of the brain did not show any tumour enlargement. After 18 months from the start of the treatment the patient got pregnant for the second time. At 25-week gestation an MRI scan of the brain was conducted which did not show any increase in the tumour size. At 38 weeks the patient delivered a healthy full-term girl via C-section. The patient chose not to breastfeed and resumed CAB therapy after the delivery. During the treatment, the PRL level returned to the normal range and the menstrual cycle was restored. After 3 years the patient got pregnant for the third time. The patient did not receive CAB during the pregnancies; the examination did not show any tumour enlargement. Further MRI scans did not show any tumour growth. CAB therapy was effective in normalization of the PRL level, tumour shrinkage, menarche and pregnancy-induction which led to the birth of healthy children in a woman with primary amenorrhoea and a giant prolactinoma invading the skull base bones.

Learning points:

  • Giant prolactinomas are very rarely found in women.
  • Cabergoline therapy can be effective in the normalization of the PRL level, tumour shrinkage, menarche induction in a woman with primary amenorrhoea, and giant prolactinoma.
  • Cabergoline therapy can be effective in pregnancy induction which leads to the birth of children in a woman with giant prolactinoma.
  • Cabergoline discontinuation did not trigger tumour enlargement during pregnancy.
Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.
  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.
  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.
  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.
  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.
Open access

Ellena Cotton and David Ray

Summary

A young woman carrying germline DICER1 mutation was discovered to have a pituitary microprolactinoma when she became amenorrhoic. The mutation was identified as a result of family screening following the early death of the patient’s daughter with ovarian cancer. The patient was in follow-up screening for thyroid disease, and investigations were initiated when she became amenorrhoic. MR scan revealed a 6 mm diameter pituitary microadenoma and raised prolactin. The prolactin was efficiently suppressed with low-dose cabergoline, and her menstrual cycles resumed. Dicer is an RNase enzyme, which is essential for processing small non-coding RNAs. These molecules play pleiotropic roles in regulating gene expression, by targeting mRNA sequences for degradation. DICER1 plays different roles depending on cell context, but is thought to be a functional tumour suppressor gene. Accordingly, germline mutation in one DICER1 allele is insufficient for oncogenesis, and a second hit on the other allele is required, as a result of postnatal somatic mutation. Loss of DICER1 is linked to multiple tumours, with prominent endocrine representation. Multinodular goitre is frequent, with increased risk of differentiated thyroid cancer. Rare, developmental pituitary tumours are reported, including pituitary blastoma, but not reports of functional pituitary adenomas. As DICER1 mutations are rare, case reports are the only means to identify new manifestations and to inform appropriate screening protocols.

Learning points:

  • DICER1 mutations lead to endocrine tumours.
  • DICER1 is required for small non-coding RNA expression.
  • DICER1 carriage and microprolactinoma are both rare, but here are reported in the same individual, suggesting association.
  • Endocrine follow-up of patients carrying DICER1 mutations should consider pituitary disease.
Open access

Yew Wen Yap, Steve Ball and Zubair Qureshi

Summary

The coexistence of primary hypothyroidism and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-stimulating pituitary macroadenoma can be a rare occurrence and can make diagnosis very challenging. We describe a case of a 44-year-old female with a history of fatigue, poor concentration, weight gain and amenorrhoea together with biochemical evidence of primary autoimmune hypothyroidism. Her initial TSH levels were elevated with low normal free thyroxine (T4) levels. Levothyroxine treatment was initiated and the dose was gradually titrated to supraphysiologic doses. This led to the normalisation of her TSH levels but her free T4 and triiodothyronine (T3) levels remained persistently elevated. This prompted a serum prolactin check which returned elevated at 2495 µ/L, leading onto pituitary imaging. A MRI of the pituitary gland revealed a pituitary macroadenoma measuring 2.4 × 2 × 1.6 cm. Despite starting her on cabergoline therapy with a reduction in her prolactin levels, her TSH levels began to rise even further. Additional thyroid assays revealed that she had an abnormally elevated alpha subunit at 3.95 (age-related reference range <3.00). This corresponded to a thyroid-secreting hormone pituitary macroadenoma. She went on to have a transphenoidal hypophysectomy. Histology revealed tissues staining for TSH, confirming this to be a TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma. This case highlighted the importance of further investigations with thyroid assay interferences, heterophile antibodies, alpha subunit testing and anterior pituitary profile in cases of resistant and non-resolving primary hypothyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Levothyroxine treatment in primary hypothyroidism can potentially unmask the presence of a latent TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, which can make diagnosis very challenging.
  • A high index of suspicion should prompt clinicians to further investigate cases of primary hypothyroidism which despite increasing doses of levothyroxine treatment with normalisation of TSH, the free T4 and T3 levels remain persistently elevated.
  • Clinicians should consider investigating for adherence to levothyroxine, thyroid assay interference, heterophile antibodies, TSH dilution studies, alpha subunit and anterior pituitary profile testing to further clarity the diagnosis in these patients.
  • Although coexistent cases of TSHoma with primary hypothyroidism are rare, it should always be in the list of differential diagnoses in cases of unresolving primary hypothyroidism.
Open access

Wael M Almistehi and Mussa H Almalki

Summary

Giant prolactinomas are a rare entity; during pregnancy, the risk for complications associated with these tumors is higher. Here, we report a case of a young woman who had an invasive, giant prolactinoma post resection with residual disease who became pregnant. This patient was treated with cabergoline to prevent tumor expansion in pregnancy, resulting in the uneventful delivery of a healthy baby boy.

Learning points:

  • Giant prolactinoma can cause both diagnostic and therapeutic challenges given their atypical presentation.
  • Accurate diagnosis is paramount to avoid unnecessary surgical intervention or pituitary irradiation.
  • This case demonstrates the effectiveness and safety of CAB therapy during pregnancy.
Open access

Laura Hamilton Adams and Derick Adams

Summary

Co-secreting TSH and growth hormone pituitary adenomas are rare. We present a case of a 55-year-old woman who presented with symptoms of neck fullness. Ultrasound revealed multiple thyroid nodules and examination revealed several clinical features of acromegaly. She was found to have a co-secreting TSH and growth hormone pituitary macroadenoma. She underwent surgical resection followed by gamma knife radiation, which resulted in complete remission of her TSH and GH-secreting adenoma.

Learning points:

  • TSH-secreting pituitary adenomas are rare and about one-third co-secrete other hormones.
  • Thyroid nodules are common in acromegaly and can be the presenting sign of a growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma.
  • In the workup of acromegaly, assessment of other pituitary hormones is essential, even in the absence of symptoms of other pituitary hormone dysfunction.
  • Complete remission of co-secreting GH and TSH pituitary macroadenomas is possible with surgery and radiation alone.
Open access

W K M G Amarawardena, K D Liyanarachchi, J D C Newell-Price, R J M Ross, D Iacovazzo and M Debono

Summary

The granulation pattern of somatotroph adenomas is well known to be associated with differing clinical and biochemical characteristics, and it has been shown that sparsely granulated tumours respond poorly to commonly used somatostatin receptor ligands (SRLs). We report a challenging case of acromegaly with a sparsely granulated tumour resistant to multiple modalities of treatment, ultimately achieving biochemical control with pasireotide. A 26-year-old lady presented with classical features of acromegaly, which was confirmed by an oral glucose tolerance test. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) was 1710 µg/L (103–310 µg/L) and mean growth hormone (GH) was >600 U/L. MRI scan showed a 4 cm pituitary macroadenoma with suprasellar extension and right-sided cavernous sinus invasion. She underwent trans-sphenoidal pituitary surgery. Histology displayed moderate amounts of sparsely granular eosinophilic cytoplasm, staining only for GH. Postoperative investigations showed uncontrolled disease (IGF1:1474 µg/L, mean GH:228 U/L) and residual tumour in the cavernous sinus. She received external beam fractionated radiation. Over the years, she received octreotide LAR (up to 30 mg), lanreotide (up to 120 mg) two weekly, cabergoline, pegvisomant and stereotactic radiosurgery to no avail. Only pegvisomant resulted in an element of disease control; however, this had to be stopped due to abnormal liver function tests. Fifteen years after the diagnosis, she was started on pasireotide 40 mg monthly. Within a month, her IGF1 dropped and has remained within the normal range (103–310 µg/L). Pasireotide has been well tolerated, and there has been significant clinical improvement. Somatostatin receptor subtyping revealed a positivity score of two for both sst5 and sst2a subtypes.

Learning points:

  • Age, size of the tumour, GH levels on presentation, histopathological type and the somatostatin receptor status of the tumour in acromegaly should be reviewed in patients who poorly respond to first-generation somatostatin receptor ligands.
  • Tumours that respond poorly to first-generation somatostatin receptor ligands, especially sparsely granulated somatotroph adenomas, can respond to pasireotide and treatment should be considered early in the management of resistant tumours.
  • Patients with membranous expression of sst5 are likely to be more responsive to pasireotide.
Open access

Guadalupe Vargas, Lourdes-Josefina Balcazar-Hernandez, Virgilio Melgar, Roser-Montserrat Magriña-Mercado, Baldomero Gonzalez, Javier Baquera and Moisés Mercado

A 19-year-old woman with a history of isosexual precocious puberty and bilateral oophorectomy at age 10 years because of giant ovarian cysts, presents with headaches and mild symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism. Hormonal evaluation revealed elevated FSH and LH levels in the postmenopausal range and free hyperthyroxinemia with an inappropriately normal TSH. Pituitary MRI showed a 2-cm macroadenoma with suprasellar extension. She underwent successful surgical resection of the pituitary tumor, which proved to be composed of two distinct populations of cells, each of them strongly immunoreactive for FSH and TSH, respectively. This mixed adenoma resulted in two different hormonal hypersecretion syndromes: the first one during childhood and consisting of central precocious puberty and ovarian hyperstimulation due to the excessive secretion of biologically active FSH and which was not investigated in detail and 10 years later, central hyperthyroidism due to inappropriate secretion of biologically active TSH. Although infrequent, two cases of isosexual central precocious puberty in girls due to biologically active FSH secreted by a pituitary adenoma have been previously reported in the literature. However, this is the first reported case of a mixed adenoma capable of secreting both, biologically active FSH and TSH.

Learning points:

  • Although functioning gonadotrophinomas are infrequent, they should be included in the differential diagnosis of isosexual central precocious puberty.
  • Some functioning gonadotrophinomas are mixed adenomas, secreting other biologically active hormones besides FSH, such as TSH.
  • Early recognition and appropriate treatment of these tumors by transsphenoidal surgery is crucial in order to avoid unnecessary therapeutic interventions that may irreversibly compromise gonadal function.
Open access

S Vimalesvaran, S Narayanaswamy, L Yang, J K Prague, A Buckley, A D Miras, S Franks, K Meeran and W S Dhillo

Summary

Primary amenorrhoea is defined as the failure to commence menstruation by the age of 15 years, in the presence of normal secondary sexual development. The potential causes of primary amenorrhoea extend from structural to chromosomal abnormalities. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of secondary amenorrhoea but an uncommon cause of primary amenorrhoea. An early and prompt diagnosis of PCOS is important, as up to 30% of these women are predisposed to glucose intolerance and obesity, with the subgroup of women presenting with primary amenorrhoea and PCOS displaying a higher incidence of metabolic dysfunction. We describe a case of an 18-year-old female presenting with primary amenorrhoea of unknown aetiology. Although initial investigations did not demonstrate clinical or biochemical hyperandrogenism or any radiological evidence of polycystic ovaries, a raised luteinising hormone (LH) suggested a diagnosis of PCOS. If PCOS was the correct diagnosis, then one would expect intact hypothalamic GnRH and pituitary gonadotropin release. We used the novel hormone kisspeptin to confirm intact hypothalamic GnRH release and a GnRH stimulation test to confirm intact pituitary gonadotroph function. This case highlights that kisspeptin is a potential unique tool to test GnRH function in patients presenting with reproductive disorders.

Learning points:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can present with primary amenorrhoea, and therefore, should be considered in the differential diagnosis.
  • PCOS is a heterogeneous condition that may present in lean women with few or absent signs of hyperandrogenism.
  • GnRH stimulation tests are useful in evaluating pituitary function; however, to date, we do not have a viable test of GnRH function. Kisspeptin has the potential to form a novel diagnostic tool for assessing hypothalamic GnRH function by monitoring gonadotropin response as a surrogate marker of GnRH release.
  • Confirmation of intact GnRH function helps consolidate a diagnosis in primary amenorrhoea and gives an indication of future fertility.