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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

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

Jose León Mengíbar, Ismael Capel, Teresa Bonfill, Isabel Mazarico, Laia Casamitjana Espuña, Assumpta Caixàs and Mercedes Rigla

Summary

Durvalumab, a human immunoglobulin G1 kappa monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction of programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) with the PD-1 and CD80 (B7.1) molecules, is increasingly used in advanced neoplasias. Durvalumab use is associated with increased immune-related adverse events. We report a case of a 55-year-old man who presented to our emergency room with hyperglycaemia after receiving durvalumab for urothelial high-grade non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. On presentation, he had polyuria, polyphagia, nausea and vomiting, and laboratory test revealed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Other than durvalumab, no precipitating factors were identified. Pre-durvalumab blood glucose was normal. The patient responded to treatment with intravenous fluids, insulin and electrolyte replacement. Simultaneously, he presented a thyroid hormone pattern that evolved in 10 weeks from subclinical hyperthyroidism (initially attributed to iodinated contrast used in a previous computerised tomography) to overt hyperthyroidism and then to severe primary hypothyroidism (TSH: 34.40 µU/mL, free thyroxine (FT4): <0.23 ng/dL and free tri-iodothyronine (FT3): 0.57 pg/mL). Replacement therapy with levothyroxine was initiated. Finally, he was tested positive for anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD65), anti-thyroglobulin (Tg) and antithyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies (Abs) and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) and silent thyroiditis caused by durvalumab. When durvalumab was stopped, he maintained the treatment of multiple daily insulin doses and levothyroxine. Clinicians need to be alerted about the development of endocrinopathies, such as DM, DKA and primary hypothyroidism in the patients receiving durvalumab.

Learning points:

  • Patients treated with anti-PD-L1 should be screened for the most common immune-related adverse events (irAEs).
  • Glucose levels and thyroid function should be monitored before and during the treatment.
  • Durvalumab is mainly associated with thyroid and endocrine pancreas dysfunction.
  • In the patients with significant autoimmune background, risk–benefit balance of antineoplastic immunotherapy should be accurately assessed.
Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.
  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.
  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.
  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.
  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.
  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.
Open access

Benedetta Zampetti, Roberto Attanasio and Renato Cozzi

Summary

A 69-year-old male was admitted for severe hyponatremia disclosed after an accidental fall. He was anticoagulated from 2 months after the implantation of a biologic aortic valve prosthesis. The work-up disclosed adrenal failure and MRI showed bilateral adrenal hemorrhage. Clinical picture and lab parameters normalized quickly after the appropriate replacement treatment. Anticoagulation excess should be added to the list of drugs potentially causing hyponatremia.

Learning points:

  • Hyponatremia requires a complete and timely workup in order to start an appropriate treatment for the improvement of clinical conditions.
  • History is crucial: a detailed list of drugs potentially causing hyponatremia should be collected. Anticoagulants should be added to the list, mostly in the event of excessive anticoagulation.
  • Intra-adrenal hemorrhage is a rare cause of hyponatremia and adrenal failure.
  • The ACTH test is still the gold standard for the diagnosis of hypoadrenalism.
Open access

Su Ann Tee, Earn Hui Gan, Mohamad Zaher Kanaan, David Ashley Price, Tim Hoare and Simon H S Pearce

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency secondary to syphilis is extremely rare, with only five cases being reported in the literature. We report a case of adrenal insufficiency as a manifestation of Treponema pallidum infection (tertiary syphilis). A 69-year-old, previously fit and well Caucasian male was found to have adrenal insufficiency after being admitted with weight loss, anorexia and postural dizziness resulting in a fall. Biochemical testing showed hyponatraemia, hyperkalaemia, and an inadequate response to Synacthen testing, with a peak cortisol level of 302 nmol/L after administration of 250 µg Synacthen. Abdominal imaging revealed bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with inguinal and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy. He was started on hydrocortisone replacement; however, it was not until he re-attended ophthalmology with a red eye and visual loss 1 month later, that further work-up revealed the diagnosis of tertiary syphilis. Following a course of penicillin, repeat imaging 5 months later showed resolution of the abnormal radiological appearances. However, adrenal function has not recovered and 3 years following initial presentation, the patient remains on both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, this case highlights the importance of considering syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis in patients presenting with adrenal insufficiency and bilateral adrenal masses, given the recent re-emergence of this condition. The relative ease of treating infectious causes of adrenal lesions makes accurate and timely diagnosis crucial.

Learning points:

  • Infectious causes, including syphilis, should be excluded before considering adrenalectomy or biopsy for any patient presenting with an adrenal mass.
  • It is important to perform a full infection screen including tests for human immunodeficiency virus, other blood-borne viruses and concurrent sexually transmitted diseases in patients presenting with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with primary adrenal insufficiency.
  • Awareness of syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis is important, as it not only has a wide range of clinical presentations, but its prevalence has been increasing in recent times.
Open access

Ali A Zaied, Halis K Akturk, Richard W Joseph and Augustine S Lee

Summary

Nivolumab, a monoclonal antibody against programmed cell death-1 receptor, is increasingly used in advanced cancers. While nivolumab use enhances cancer therapy, it is associated with increased immune-related adverse events. We describe an elderly man who presented in ketoacidosis after receiving nivolumab for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. On presentation, he was hyperpneic and laboratory analyses showed hyperglycemia and anion-gapped metabolic acidosis consistent with diabetic ketoacidosis. No other precipitating factors, besides nivolumab, were identified. Pre-nivolumab blood glucose levels were normal. The patient responded to treatment with intravenous fluids, insulin and electrolyte replacement. He was diagnosed with insulin-dependent autoimmune diabetes mellitus secondary to nivolumab. Although nivolumab was stopped, he continued to require multiple insulin injection therapy till his last follow-up 7 months after presentation. Clinicians need to be alerted to the development of diabetes mellitus and diabetic ketoacidosis in patients receiving nivolumab.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis should be considered in the differential of patients presenting with metabolic acidosis following treatment with antibodies to programmed cell death-1 receptor (anti-PD-1).
  • Autoimmune islet cell damage is the presumed mechanism for how insulin requiring diabetes mellitus can develop de novo following administration of anti-PD-1.
  • Because anti-PD-1 works by the activation of T-cells and reduction of ‘self-tolerance’, other autoimmune disorders are likely to be increasingly recognized with increased use of these agents.
Open access

Nicholas R Zessis, Jennifer L Nicholas and Stephen I Stone

Summary

Bilateral adrenal hemorrhages rarely occur during the neonatal period and are often associated with traumatic vaginal deliveries. However, the adrenal gland has highly regenerative capabilities and adrenal insufficiency typically resolves over time. We evaluated a newborn female after experiencing fetal macrosomia and a traumatic vaginal delivery. She developed acidosis and acute renal injury. Large adrenal hemorrhages were noted bilaterally on ultrasound, and she was diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency based on characteristic electrolyte changes and a low cortisol (4.2 µg/dL). On follow-up testing, this patient was unable to be weaned off of hydrocortisone or fludrocortisone despite resolution of hemorrhages on ultrasound. Providers should consider bilateral adrenal hemorrhage when evaluating critically ill neonates after a traumatic delivery. In extreme cases, this may be a persistent process.

Learning points:

  • Risk factors for adrenal hemorrhage include fetal macrosomia, traumatic vaginal delivery and critical acidemia.
  • Signs of adrenal hemorrhage include jaundice, flank mass, skin discoloration or scrotal hematoma.
  • Adrenal insufficiency often is a transient process when related to adrenal hemorrhage.
  • Severe adrenal hemorrhages can occur in the absence of symptoms.
  • Though rare, persistent adrenal insufficiency may occur in extremely severe cases of bilateral adrenal hemorrhage.
  • Consider adrenal hemorrhage when evaluating a neonate for shock in the absence of an infectious etiology.
Open access

Ken Takeshima, Hiroyuki Ariyasu, Tatsuya Ishibashi, Shintaro Kawai, Shinsuke Uraki, Jinsoo Koh, Hidefumi Ito and Takashi Akamizu

Summary

Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is an autosomal dominant multisystem disease affecting muscles, the eyes and the endocrine organs. Diabetes mellitus and primary hypogonadism are endocrine manifestations typically seen in patients with DM1. Abnormalities of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis have also been reported in some DM1 patients. We present a case of DM1 with a rare combination of multiple endocrinopathies; diabetes mellitus, a combined form of primary and secondary hypogonadism, and dysfunction of the HPA axis. In the present case, diabetes mellitus was characterized by severe insulin resistance with hyperinsulinemia. Glycemic control improved after modification of insulin sensitizers, such as metformin and pioglitazone. Hypogonadism was treated with testosterone replacement therapy. Notably, body composition analysis revealed increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat mass in our patient. This implies that manifestations of hypogonadism could be hidden by symptoms of myotonic dystrophy. Our patient had no symptoms associated with adrenal deficiency, so adrenal dysfunction was carefully followed up without hydrocortisone replacement therapy. In this report, we highlight the necessity for evaluation and treatment of multiple endocrinopathies in patients with DM1.

Learning points:

  • DM1 patients could be affected by a variety of multiple endocrinopathies.
  • Our patients with DM1 presented rare combinations of multiple endocrinopathies; diabetes mellitus, combined form of primary and secondary hypogonadism and dysfunction of HPA axis.
  • Testosterone treatment of hypogonadism in patients with DM1 could improve body composition.
  • The patients with DM1 should be assessed endocrine functions and treated depending on the degree of each endocrine dysfunction.
Open access

Hodaka Yamada, Shunsuke Funazaki, Masafumi Kakei, Kazuo Hara and San-e Ishikawa

Summary

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a critical complication of type 1 diabetes associated with water and electrolyte disorders. Here, we report a case of DKA with extreme hyperkalemia (9.0 mEq/L) in a patient with type 1 diabetes on hemodialysis. He had a left frontal cerebral infarction resulting in inability to manage his continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion pump. Electrocardiography showed typical changes of hyperkalemia, including absent P waves, prolonged QRS interval and tented T waves. There was no evidence of total body water deficit. After starting insulin and rapid hemodialysis, the serum potassium level was normalized. Although DKA may present with hypokalemia, rapid hemodialysis may be necessary to resolve severe hyperkalemia in a patient with renal failure.

Learning points:

  • Patients with type 1 diabetes on hemodialysis may develop ketoacidosis because of discontinuation of insulin treatment.
  • Patients on hemodialysis who develop ketoacidosis may have hyperkalemia because of anuria.
  • Absolute insulin deficit alters potassium distribution between the intracellular and extracellular space, and anuria abolishes urinary excretion of potassium.
  • Rapid hemodialysis along with intensive insulin therapy can improve hyperkalemia, while fluid infusions may worsen heart failure in patients with ketoacidosis who routinely require hemodialysis.