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Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

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.