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Open access

Ploutarchos Tzoulis, Richard W Corbett, Swarupini Ponnampalam, Elly Baker, Daniel Heaton, Triada Doulgeraki and Justin Stebbing

Summary

Five days following the 3rd cycle of nivolumab, a monoclonal antibody, which acts as immune checkpoint inhibitor against the programmed cell death protein-1, for metastatic lung adenocarcinoma, a 56-year-old woman presented at the hospital critically ill. On admission, she had severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), as evidenced by venous glucose of 47 mmol/L, blood ketones of 7.5 mmol/L, pH of 6.95 and bicarbonate of 6.6 mmol/L. She has had no personal or family history of diabetes mellitus (DM), while random venous glucose, measured 1 week prior to hospitalisation, was 6.1 mmol/L. On admission, her HbA1c was 8.2% and anti-GAD antibodies were 12 kIU/L (0–5 kU/L), while islet cell antibodies and serum C-peptide were undetectable. Nivolumab was recommenced without the development of other immune-mediated phenomena until 6 months later, when she developed hypothyroidism with TSH 18 U/L and low free T4. She remains insulin dependent and has required levothyroxine replacement, while she has maintained good radiological and clinical response to immunotherapy. This case is notable for the rapidity of onset and profound nature of DKA at presentation, which occurred two months following commencement of immunotherapy. Despite the association of nivolumab with immune-mediated endocrinopathies, only a very small number of patients developing type 1 DM has been reported to date. Patients should be closely monitored for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction prior to and periodically during immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • Nivolumab can induce fulminant type 1 diabetes, resulting in DKA.

  • Nivolumab is frequently associated with thyroid dysfunction, mostly hypothyroidism.

  • Nivolumab-treated patients should be monitored regularly for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction.

  • Clinicians should be aware and warn patients of potential signs and symptoms of severe hyperglycaemia.

Open access

Marina Tsoli, Anna Angelousi, Dimitra Rontogianni, Constantine Stratakis and Gregory Kaltsas

Summary

Parathyroid carcinoma is an extremely rare endocrine malignancy that accounts for less than 1% of cases of primary hyperparathyroidism. We report a 44-year-old woman who presented with fatigue and diffuse bone pain. Laboratory findings revealed highly elevated serum calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels and a 4.5 × 3 × 2.5 cm cystic lesion in the lower pole of the right thyroid lobe that was shown histologically to be a parathyroid carcinoma. Ten years later, the patient developed brain and pulmonary metastases and recurrence of PTH-related hypercalcemia. Treatment of hypercalcemia along with localized radiotherapy and various chemotherapy regimens failed to induce a biochemical or radiological response. In conclusion, parathyroid carcinoma is a rare neoplasia that may develop metastases even after prolonged follow-up, for which there is no evidence-based treatment besides surgery. Different chemotherapeutic schemes did not prove to be of any benefit in our case highlighting the need for registering such patients to better understand tumor biology and develop specific treatment.

Learning points:

  • Metastases can develop many years after parathyroid cancer diagnosis.

  • Surgery is the only curative treatment for parathyroid carcinoma.

  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy prove to be ineffective in parathyroid cancer treatment.

  • Patient registering is required in order to delineate underlining pathology and offer specific treatment.

Open access

Tsung-Chun Huang, Yu-Kai Cheng, Tsung-Wei Chen, Yung-Chang Hsu, En-Wei Liu and Hsin-Han Chen

Summary

Thyroid cancer with cranial metastasis in a pregnant woman is very rare. In the literature, most cases are diagnosed early from neurogenic signs or symptomatic thyroid gland. Pregnancy also contributes to a hesitation toward early surgical and medical treatments. We reported a scalp tumor in a physically healthy 37-year-old pregnant female with a follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) with lung, bone and cranial metastasis in initial presentation. Silent neurogenic and physical examinations make an early diagnosis very challenging. Resection of scalp and intracranial tumor, a thyroidectomy, post-operative radioactive iodine therapy and tyrosine kinase inhibitors were employed as treatment. The scalp tumor was confirmed as a metastatic follicular thyroid carcinoma via positive immunoreactivity for thyroglobulin and thyroid transcription factor 1 in tumor cells. Blood examination revealed an elevated thyroglobulin level (>5335 ng/mL). The patient was discharged without any neurological deficit. An asymptomatic scalp tumor in a pregnant woman with a normal thyroid disease history needs differential diagnosis from intracranial origin. Rapid progression and an elevated thyroglobulin level are the indicators that further image study is needed. Aggressive surgical excision of resectable thyroid gland and metastatic tumor are essential for a longer survival rate. There is nothing to indicate that a post-partum operation will worsen prognosis.

Learning points:

  • Follicular thyroid cancer with cranial metastasis in initial presentation can be asymptomatic.

  • Follicular thyroid cancer with cranial metastasis in a pregnant woman can be treated after delivery.

  • Rapid enlargement of scalp tumor is indicated for further image study even in a patient without any neurological deficit.

Open access

Maura Bucciarelli, Ya-Yu Lee and Vasudev Magaji

Summary

Ectopic ACTH secretion from breast cancer is extremely rare. We report a case of a 30-year-old woman with a history of breast cancer, who presented with psychosis and paranoid behaviour. CT of the head showed white matter disease consistent with posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). Despite using mifepristone with multiple antihypertensives including lisinopril, spironolactone and metoprolol, she was hypertensive. Transaminitis did not allow mifepristone dose escalation and ketoconazole utilization. Etomidate infusion at a non-sedating dose in the intensive care unit controlled her hypertension and cortisol levels. She was transitioned to metyrapone and spironolactone. She was discharged from the hospital on metyrapone with spironolactone and underwent chemotherapy. She died 9 months later after she rapidly redeveloped Cushing's syndrome and had progressive metastatic breast cancer involving multiple bones, liver and lungs causing respiratory failure.

Learning points

  • Cushing's syndrome from ectopic ACTH secreting breast cancer is extremely rare.

  • Cushing's syndrome causing psychosis could be multifactorial including hypercortisolism and PRES.

  • Etomidate at non-sedating doses in intensive care setting can be effective to reduce cortisol production followed by transition to oral metyrapone.

Open access

K Nadarasa, M Bailey, H Chahal, O Raja, R Bhat, C Gayle, A B Grossman and M R Druce

Summary

We present the case of a patient with metastatic parathyroid carcinoma whose hypercalcaemia was medically managed through two pregnancies. The diagnosis was made when the patient presented with chronic knee pain and radiological findings consistent with a brown tumour, at the age of 30. Her corrected calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels were significantly elevated. Following localisation studies, a right parathyroidectomy was performed with histology revealing parathyroid carcinoma, adherent to thyroid tissue. Aged 33, following biochemical recurrence of disease, the patient underwent a second operation. A subsequent CT and FDG–PET revealed bibasal pulmonary metastases. Aged 35, the patient was referred to our unit for treatment of persistent hypercalcaemia. The focus of treatment at this time was debulking metastatic disease using radiofrequency ablation. Despite advice to the contrary, the patient conceived twice while taking cinacalcet. Even though there are limited available data regarding the use of cinacalcet in pregnancy, both pregnancies continued to term with the delivery of healthy infants, using intensive medical management for persistent hypercalcaemia.

Learning points

  • Parathyroid carcinoma is a rare cause of primary hyperparathyroidism.

  • Hypercalcaemia during pregnancy can result in significant complications for both the mother and the foetus.

  • The use of high-dose cinacalcet in pregnancy has been shown, in this case, to aid in the management of resistant hypercalcaemia without teratogenicity.

Open access

Viral Chikani, Duncan Lambie and Anthony Russell

Summary

Metastases to the pituitary gland are an uncommon complication of thyroid cancer. They resemble pituitary neoplasms posing a diagnostic challenge. We present a case of an aggressive non-radioiodine avid papillary thyroid cancer with recurrent pituitary metastases and a review of the literature. A 70-year-old woman with a history of papillary thyroid cancer and bony metastases presented with symptoms of hypoadrenalism and peripheral vision loss. Magnetic resonance imaging showed a large pituitary mass impinging on the optic chiasm. She underwent transsphenoidal resection followed by 131I ablation. Post-therapy scintigraphy showed no iodine uptake in the sellar region or bony metastases. Histology of the pituitary mass confirmed metastatic papillary thyroid cancer. Fifteen months later, she had a recurrence of pituitary metastases affecting her vision. This was resected and followed with external beam radiotherapy. Over 2 years, the pituitary metastases increased in size and required two further operations. Radioactive iodine was not considered due to poor response in the past. Progressively, she developed a left-sided III and IV cranial nerve palsy and permanent bitemporal hemianopia. There was a rapid decline in the patient's health with further imaging revealing new lung and bony metastases, and she eventually died 8 months later. To our knowledge, this is the first case of pituitary metastases from a radioiodine-resistant papillary thyroid cancer. Radioiodine-resistant metastatic thyroid cancer may exhibit rapid aggressive growth and remain poorly responsive to the currently available treatment.

Learning points

  • Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) has an excellent prognosis with <5% of the cases presenting with distant metastases, usually to lung and bone.

  • Metastasis to the pituitary is a rare complication of DTC.

  • The diagnosis of pituitary insufficiency secondary to pituitary metastases from DTC may be delayed due to the non-specific systemic symptoms of underlying malignancy and TSH suppression therapy for thyroid cancer.

  • The imaging characteristics of metastases to the pituitary may be similar to non-functioning pituitary adenoma.

  • Radioiodine refractory metastatic thyroid cancer has significantly lower survival rates compared with radioactive iodine-avid metastases due to limited therapeutic options.