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Open access

Alessandro Rossini, Francesca Perticone, Laura Frosio, Marco Schiavo Lena and Roberto Lanzi

Summary

ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma is a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome, with a high morbidity and mortality risk due to both cortisol and catecholamines excess. We report the case of a 45-year-old female patient with a 3 cm, high-density, left adrenal mass, diagnosed as an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma. The biochemical sensitivity of the tumor to somatostatin analogues was tested by a 100 μg s.c. octreotide administration, which led to an ACTH and cortisol reduction of 50 and 25% respectively. In addition to alpha and beta blockers, preoperative approach to laparoscopic adrenalectomy included octreotide, a somatostatin analogue, together with ketoconazole, in order to achieve an adequate pre-surgical control of cortisol release. Histopathological assessment confirmed an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma expressing type 2 and 5 somatostatin receptors (SSTR-2 and -5).

Learning points:

  • ACTH-secreting pheochromocytomas represent a rare and severe condition, characterized by high morbidity and mortality risk.
  • Surgical removal of the adrenal mass is the gold standard treatment, but adequate medical therapy is required preoperatively to improve the surgical outcome and to avoid major complications.
  • Somatostatin analogs, in addition to other medications, may represent a useful therapeutic option for the presurgical management of selected patients.
  • In this sense, the octreotide challenge test is a useful tool to predict favorable therapeutic response to the treatment.
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

Anna Tortora, Domenico La Sala and Mario Vitale

Summary

Reduced intestinal absorption of levothyroxine (LT4) is the most common cause of failure to achieve an adequate therapeutic target in hypothyroid patients under replacement therapy. We present the case of a 63-year-old woman with autoimmune hypothyroidism previously well-replaced with tablet LT4 who became unexpectedly no more euthyroid. At presentation, the patient reported the onset of acute gastrointestinal symptoms characterized by nausea, loss of appetite, flatulence, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, associated with increase of thyrotropin levels (TSH: 11 mIU/mL). Suspecting a malabsorption disease, a thyroxine solid-to-liquid formulation switch, at the same daily dose, was adopted to reach an optimal therapeutic target despite the gastrointestinal symptoms persistence. Oral LT4 solution normalized thyroid hormones. Further investigations diagnosed giardiasis, and antibiotic therapy was prescribed. This case report is compatible with a malabsorption syndrome caused by an intestinal parasite (Giardia lamblia). The reduced absorption of levothyroxine was resolved by LT4 oral solution.

Learning points:

  • The failure to adequately control hypothyroidism with oral levothyroxine is a common clinical problem.
  • Before increasing levothyroxine dose in a patient with hypothyroidism previously well-controlled with LT4 tablets but no more in appropriate therapeutic target, we suggest to investigate non adhesion to LT4 therapy, drug or food interference with levothyroxine absorption, intestinal infection, inflammatory intestinal disease, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, short bowel syndrome after intestinal or bariatric surgery, hepatic cirrhosis and congestive heart failure.
  • LT4 oral solution has a better absorptive profile than the tablet. In hypothyroid patients affected by malabsorption syndrome, switch of replacement therapy from tablet to liquid LT4 should be tested before increasing the dose of LT4.
Open access

A Veltroni, G Zambon, S Cingarlini and M V Davì

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), a rare cause of autoimmune hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, is relatively well known in Japan. The incidence in Caucasians is less than one-fifth of that reported in Japanese people, but it is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide in non-Asians as well. Drugs containing sulphydryl groups are known to be associated with the disease in genetically predisposed individuals. Moreover, several recent reports showed a direct association between the onset of IAS and the consumption of dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (LA). Insulinoma remains the most prevalent cause of hypersulinaemic hypoglycaemia in Caucasians. Consequently, primary investigation in these patients is generally focused on localisation of the pancreatic tumour, often with invasive procedures followed by surgery. We described a case of an Italian woman presenting to us with severe recurrent hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide levels and no evidence of pancreatic lesions at imaging diagnostic procedures. She had taken LA until 2 weeks before hospitalisation. After an evaluation of her drug history, an autoimmune form of hypoglycaemia was suspected and the titre of insulin autoantibodies was found to be markedly elevated. This allowed us to diagnose LA-related IAS, thus preventing any unnecessary surgery and avoiding invasive diagnostic interventions.

Learning points:

  • IAS is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia that typically affects Asian population, but it has been increasingly recognised in Caucasian patients.
  • It should be considered among the differential diagnosis of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia to avoid unnecessary diagnostic investigations and surgery.
  • It should be suspected in the presence of very high serum insulin levels (100–10  000  μU/mL) associated with high C-peptide levels.
  • There is a strong association with administration of drugs containing sulphydryl groups included LA, a dietary supplement commonly used in Western countries to treat peripheral neuropathy.
Open access

D Cappellani, C Sardella, M C Campopiano, A Falorni, P Marchetti and E Macchia

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), or Hirata disease, is a rare hypoglycaemic disorder caused by the presence of high titer of insulin autoantibodies (IAA) in patients without previous exposure to exogenous insulin. Even though its pathogenesis is not fully understood, striking evidences link IAS to previous exposure to sulphydryl-containing medications, like alpha-lipoic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. Although challenging, a careful differential diagnosis from other causes of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia (such as insulinoma) is mandatory, since these conditions require different therapeutic approaches. In the present study, we report a 35-year-old woman originally from Sri Lanka who was referred to our University Hospital on suspicion of occult insulinoma. Her medical history was positive for endometriosis, treated with estroprogestins and alpha-lipoic acid. The latter supplement was begun 2 weeks before the first hypoglycaemic episode. Our tests confirmed the presence of hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide concentrations. When insulin concentrations were compared using different assays, the results were significantly different. Moreover, insulin values significantly decreased after precipitation with polyethylene glycol. An assay for IAA proved positive (530 U/mL). A genetic analysis revealed the presence of HLA-DRB1*04,15, an immunogenetic determinant associated with IAS. On the basis of clinical data we avoided a first-line approach with immunosuppressive treatments, and the patient was advised to modify her diet, with the introduction of frequent low-caloric meals. During follow-up evaluations, glucose levels (registered trough a flash glucose monitoring system) resulted progressively more stable. IAA titer progressively decreased, being undetectable by the fifteenth month, thus indicating the remission of the IAS.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, whose prevalence is higher in East Asian populations due to the higher prevalence of specific immunogenetic determinants. Nevertheless, an increasing number of IAS cases is being reported worldwide, due to the wide diffusion of medications such as alpha-lipoic acid.
  • Differential diagnosis of IAS from other causes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia is challenging. Even though many tests can be suggestive of IAS, the gold standard remains the detection of IAAs, despite that dedicated commercial kits are not widely available.
  • The therapeutic approach to IAS is problematic. As a matter of fact IAS is often a self-remitting disease, but sometimes needs aggressive immunosuppression. The benefits and risks of any therapeutic choice should be carefully weighted and tailored on the single patient.
Open access

Daniela Regazzo, Marina Paola Gardiman, Marily Theodoropoulou, Carla Scaroni, Gianluca Occhi and Filippo Ceccato

Summary

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem hereditary cutaneous condition, characterized by multiple hamartomas. In rare cases, pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNETs) have been described in patients with TSC, but the causal relationship between these two diseases is still under debate. TSC is mostly caused by mutations of two tumor suppressor genes, encoding for hamartin (TSC1) and tuberin (TSC2), controlling cell growth and proliferation. Here, we present the case of a 62-year-old Caucasian woman with TSC and a silent gonadotroph PitNET with suprasellar extension, treated with transsphenoidal endoscopic neurosurgery with complete resection. Therapeutic approaches based on mTOR signaling (i.e. everolimus) have been successfully used in patients with TSC and tested in non-functioning PitNET cellular models with promising results. Here, we observed a reduction of cell viability after an in vitro treatment of PitNET’s derived primary cells with everolimus. TSC analysis retrieved no disease-associated variants with the exception of the heterozygous intronic variant c.4006-71C>T found in TSC2: the computational tools predicted a gain of a new splice site with consequent intron retention, not confirmed by an in vitro analysis of patient’s lymphocyte-derived RNA. Further analyses are therefore needed to provide insights on the possible mechanisms involving the hamartin-tuberin complex in the pathogenesis of pituitary adenomas. However, our data further support previous observations of an antiproliferative effect of everolimus on PitNET.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNET) in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) are rare: only few cases have been reported in literature.
  • Therapeutic approach related to mTOR signaling, such as everolimus, may be used in some patients with PitNETs as well as those with TSC.
  • We reported a woman with both non-secreting PitNET and TSC; PitNET was surgically removed and classified as a silent gonadotroph tumor.
  • Everolimus treatment in PitNET’s-derived primary cells revealed a significant decrease in cell viability.
  • Considering our case and available evidence, it is still unclear whether a PitNET is a part of TSC or just a coincidental tumor.
Open access

Elda Kara, Elisa Della Valle, Sara De Vincentis, Vincenzo Rochira and Bruno Madeo

Summary

Spontaneous or fine-needle aspiration (FNAB)-induced remission of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) may occur, especially for cystic lesions. However, the disease generally relapses over a short time period. We present a case of PHPT due to an enlarged hyperfunctioning parathyroid that underwent long-term (almost 9 years) clinical and ultrasonographic remission after the disappearance of the lesion following ultrasound (US)-assisted FNAB. A 67-year-old woman with PHPT underwent biochemical and US examinations that confirmed the diagnosis and showed a lesion suggestive for parathyroid adenoma or hyperplasia. US-FNAB of the lesion confirmed its parathyroid nature by means of elevated levels of parathyroid hormone within the needle washing fluid. At the second visit, the patient referred slight neck swelling that resolved spontaneously in the days after the US-FNAB. At subsequent follow-up, the enlarged parathyroid was not found; it was visible neither with US nor with magnetic resonance imaging. Biochemical remission persists after 9 years. This is the first reported case of cure of PHPT after US-FNAB performed on a hyperfunctioning parathyroid resulting in its complete disappearance over a period of 9 years of negative biochemical and ultrasonographic follow-up.

Learning points:

  • Spontaneous or fine-needle aspiration-induced remission of primary hyperparathyroidism can occur.
  • Both circumstances may present disease relapse over a variable time period, but definite remission is also possible even though long-term periodic follow-up should be performed.
  • Parathyroid damage should be ruled out in case of neck symptomatology after parathyroid fine-needle aspiration or spontaneous symptomatology in patients with history of primary hyperparathyroidism.
Open access

Alfredo Di Cerbo, Federica Pezzuto and Alessandro Di Cerbo

Summary

Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism in iodine-replete countries, is associated with the presence of immunoglobulins G (IgGs) that are responsible for thyroid growth and hyperfunction. In this article, we report the unusual case of a patient with acromegaly and a severe form of Graves’ disease. Here, we address the issue concerning the role of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) in influencing thyroid function. Severity of Graves’ disease is exacerbated by coexistent acromegaly and both activity indexes and symptoms and signs of Graves’ disease improve after the surgical remission of acromegaly. We also discuss by which signaling pathways GH and IGF1 may play an integrating role in regulating the function of the immune system in Graves’ disease and synergize the stimulatory activity of Graves’ IgGs.

Learning points:

  • Clinical observations have demonstrated an increased prevalence of euthyroid and hyperthyroid goiters in patients with acromegaly.
  • The coexistence of acromegaly and Graves’ disease is a very unusual event, the prevalence being <1%.
  • Previous in vitro studies have showed that IGF1 synergizes the TSH-induced thyroid cell growth-activating pathways independent of TSH/cAMP/PKA cascade.
  • We report the first case of a severe form of Graves’ disease associated with acromegaly and show that surgical remission of acromegaly leads to a better control of symptoms of Graves’ disease.
Open access

Marco Russo, Ilenia Marturano, Romilda Masucci, Melania Caruso, Maria Concetta Fornito, Dario Tumino, Martina Tavarelli, Sebastiano Squatrito and Gabriella Pellegriti

Summary

Struma ovarii is a rare ovarian teratoma characterized by the presence of thyroid tissue as the major component. Malignant transformation of the thyroidal component (malignant struma ovarii) has been reported in approximately 5% of struma ovarii. The management and follow-up of this unusual disease remain controversial. We report the case of a woman with a history of autoimmune thyroiditis and a previous resection of a benign struma ovarii that underwent hystero-annexiectomy for malignant struma ovarii with multiple papillary thyroid cancer foci and peritoneal involvement. Total thyroidectomy and subsequent radioiodine treatment lead to complete disease remission after 104 months of follow-up. The diagnosis and natural progression of malignant struma ovarii are difficult to discern, and relapses can occur several years after diagnosis. A multidisciplinary approach is mandatory; after surgical excision of malignant struma, thyroidectomy in combination with 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with a standard approach in differentiated thyroid cancer patients.

Learning points

  • Malignant struma ovarii is a rare disease; diagnosis is difficult and management is not well defined.
  • Predominant sites of metastasis are adjacent pelvic structures.
  • Thyroidectomy and 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with standard approaches in DTC patients.