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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

E Bahaeldein and M J Brassill

Summary

Postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is a relatively rare diagnosis resulting from excess androgen production from the adrenals or ovaries. The exclusion of malignant causes is a priority. Laboratory tests and imaging are utilised to help differentiate the source of excess androgens. We report two cases of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism in women aged 75 and 67 years. Both cases presented with clinical features suggestive of hyperandrogenism which had developed gradually over the previous 2 years. Laboratory investigations confirmed a significant elevation in their serum testosterone levels. In both cases, imaging did not reveal any abnormality of the adrenals or ovaries. To help differentiate an adrenal vs ovarian source a single-dose GnRH analogue was given with measurement of testosterone and gonadotrophin levels pre and post. The reduction in gonadotrophins achieved by the GnRH analogue resulted in suppression of testosterone levels which suggested an ovarian source. Both patients proceeded to bilateral oophorectomy. Histology revealed a benign hilus cell tumour in one case and a benign Leydig cell tumour in the other.

Learning points:

  • A key part of the work-up of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is to differentiate between an adrenal or an ovarian source of excess androgens;

  • Imaging may not identify small ovarian tumours or hyperthecosis and may also identify incidental adrenal masses which are non-functioning;

  • Current guidelines suggest ovarian and adrenal venous sampling when imaging is inconclusive but this requires technical expertise and has a high failure rate;

  • GnRH analogue use can successfully confirm ovarian source and should be considered as a diagnostic tool in this setting.

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

Khaled Aljenaee, Sulaiman Ali, Seong Keat Cheah, Owen MacEneaney, Niall Mulligan, Neil Hickey, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Markedly elevated androgen levels can lead to clinical virilization in females. Clinical features of virilization in a female patient, in association with biochemical hyperandrogenism, should prompt a search for an androgen-producing tumor, especially of ovarian or adrenal origin. We herein report the case of a 60-year-old woman of Pakistani origin who presented with the incidental finding of male pattern baldness and hirsutism. Her serum testosterone level was markedly elevated at 21 nmol/L (normal range: 0.4–1.7 nmol/L), while her DHEAS level was normal, indicating a likely ovarian source of her elevated testosterone. Subsequently, a CT abdomen-pelvis was performed, which revealed a bulky right ovary, confirmed on MRI of the pelvis as an enlarged right ovary, measuring 2.9 × 2.2 cm transaxially. A laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy was performed, and histopathological examination and immunohistochemistry confirmed the diagnosis of a Leydig cell tumor, a rare tumor accounting for 0.1% of ovarian tumors. Surgical resection led to normalization of testosterone levels.

Learning points:

  • Hirsutism in postmenopausal women should trigger suspicion of androgen-secreting tumor

  • Extremely elevated testosterone level plus normal DHEAS level point toward ovarian source

  • Leydig cell tumor is extremely rare cause of hyperandrogenicity

Open access

Nandini Shankara Narayana, Anne-Maree Kean, Lisa Ewans, Thomas Ohnesorg, Katie L Ayers, Geoff Watson, Arthur Vasilaras, Andrew H Sinclair, Stephen M Twigg and David J Handelsman

Summary

46,XX disorders of sexual development (DSDs) occur rarely and result from disruptions of the genetic pathways underlying gonadal development and differentiation. We present a case of a young phenotypic male with 46,XX SRY-negative ovotesticular DSD resulting from a duplication upstream of SOX9 presenting with a painful testicular mass resulting from ovulation into an ovotestis. We present a literature review of ovulation in phenotypic men and discuss the role of SRY and SOX9 in testicular development, including the role of SOX9 upstream enhancer region duplication in female-to-male sex reversal.

Learning points:

  • In mammals, the early gonad is bipotent and can differentiate into either a testis or an ovary. SRY is the master switch in testis determination, responsible for differentiation of the bipotent gonad into testis.

  • SRY activates SOX9 gene, SOX9 as a transcription factor is the second major gene involved in male sex determination. SOX9 drives the proliferation of Sertoli cells and activates AMH/MIS repressing the ovary. SOX9 is sufficient to induce testis formation and can substitute for SRY function.

  • Assessing karyotype and then determination of the presence or absence of Mullerian structures are necessary serial investigations in any case of DSD, except for mixed gonadal dysgenesis identified by karyotype alone.

  • Treatment is ideal in a multidisciplinary setting with considerations to genetic (implications to family and reproductive recurrence risk), psychological aspects (sensitive individualized counseling including patient gender identity and preference), endocrinological (hormone replacement), surgical (cosmetic, prophylactic gonadectomy) fertility preservation and reproductive opportunities and metabolic health (cardiovascular and bones).

Open access

T O’Shea, R K Crowley, M Farrell, S MacNally, P Govender, J Feeney, J Gibney and M Sherlock

Summary

Meningioma growth has been previously described in patients receiving oestrogen/progestogen therapy. We describe the clinical, radiological, biochemical and pathologic findings in a 45-year-old woman with congenital adrenal hyperplasia secondary to a defect in the 21-hydroxylase enzyme who had chronic poor adherence to glucocorticoid therapy with consequent virilisation. The patient presented with a frontal headache and marked right-sided proptosis. Laboratory findings demonstrated androgen excess with a testosterone of 18.1 nmol/L (0–1.5 nmol) and 17-Hydroxyprogesterone >180 nmol/L (<6.5 nmol/L). CT abdomen was performed as the patient complained of rapid-onset increasing abdominal girth and revealed bilateral large adrenal myelolipomata. MRI brain revealed a large meningioma involving the right sphenoid wing with anterior displacement of the right eye and associated bony destruction. Surgical debulking of the meningioma was performed and histology demonstrated a meningioma, which stained positive for the progesterone receptor. Growth of meningioma has been described in postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy, in women receiving contraceptive therapy and in transsexual patients undergoing therapy with high-dose oestrogen and progestogens. Progesterone receptor positivity has been described previously in meningiomas. 17-Hydroxyprogesterone is elevated in CAH and has affinity and biological activity at the progesterone receptor. Therefore, we hypothesise that patients who have long-standing increased adrenal androgen precursor concentrations may be at risk of meningioma growth.

Learning points:

  • Patients with long-standing CAH (particularly if not optimally controlled) may present with other complications, which may be related to long-standing elevated androgen or decreased glucocorticoid levels.

  • Chronic poor control of CAH is associated with adrenal myelolipoma and adrenal rest tissue tumours.

  • Meningiomas are sensitive to endocrine stimuli including progesterone, oestrogen and androgens as they express the relevant receptors.

Open access

Katia Regina Marchetti, Maria Adelaide Albergaria Pereira, Arnaldo Lichtenstein and Edison Ferreira Paiva

Summary

Adrenacarcinomas are rare, and hypoglycemic syndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by these tumors have been described infrequently. This study describes the case of a young woman with severe persistent hypoglycemia and a large adrenal tumor and discusses the physiopathological mechanisms involved in hypoglycemia. The case is described as a 21-year-old woman who presented with 8 months of general symptoms and, in the preceding 3 months, with episodes of mental confusion and visual blurring secondary to hypoglycemia. A functional assessment of the adrenal cortex revealed ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and hyperandrogenism. Hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, low C-peptide and no ketones were also detected. An evaluation of the GH–IGF axis revealed GH blockade (0.03; reference: up to 4.4 ng/mL), greatly reduced IGF-I levels (9.0 ng/mL; reference: 180–780 ng/mL), slightly reduced IGF-II levels (197 ng/mL; reference: 267–616 ng/mL) and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio (21.9; reference: ~3). CT scan revealed a large expansive mass in the right adrenal gland and pulmonary and liver metastases. During hospitalization, the patient experienced frequent difficult-to-control hypoglycemia and hypokalemia episodes. Octreotide was ineffective in controlling hypoglycemia. Due to unresectability, chemotherapy was tried, but after 3 months, the patient’s condition worsened and progressed to death. In conclusion, our patient presented with a functional adrenal cortical carcinoma, with hyperandrogenism associated with hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis. Patient’s data suggested a diagnosis of hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor (low levels of GH, greatly decreased IGF-I, slightly decreased IGF-II and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio).

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycemyndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by adrenal tumors is a rare condition.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia associated with hyperandrogenism and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis suggests hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor.

  • Hypoglycemia in cases of NICTH should be treated with glucocorticoids, glucagon, somatostatin analogs and hGH.

Open access

Asma Deeb, Hana Al Suwaidi, Salima Attia and Ahlam Al Ameri

Summary

Combined17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency is a rare cause of congenital adrenal hyperplasia and hypogonadism. Hypertension and hypokalemia are essential presenting features. We report an Arab family with four affected XX siblings. The eldest presented with abdominal pain and was diagnosed with a retroperitoneal malignant mixed germ cell tumour. She was hypertensive and hypogonadal. One sibling presented with headache due to hypertension while the other two siblings were diagnosed with hypertension on a routine school check. A homozygous R96Q missense mutation in P450c17 was detected in the index case who had primary amenorrhea and lack of secondary sexual characters at 17 years. The middle two siblings were identical twins and had no secondary sexual characters at the age of 14. All siblings had hypokalemia, very low level of adrenal androgens, high ACTH and high levels of aldosterone substrates. Treatment was commenced with steroid replacement and puberty induction with estradiol. The index case had surgical tumor resection and chemotherapy. All siblings required antihypertensive treatment and the oldest remained on two antihypertensive medications 12 years after diagnosis. Her breast development remained poor despite adequate hormonal replacement. Combined 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency is a rare condition but might be underdiagnosed. It should be considered in young patients presenting with hypertension, particularly if there is a family history of consanguinity and with more than one affected sibling. Antihypertensive medication might continue to be required despite adequate steroid replacement. Breast development may remain poor in mutations causing complete form of the disease.

Learning points

  • Endocrine hypertension due to rarer forms of CAH should be considered in children and adolescents, particularly if more than one sibling is affected and in the presence of consanguinity.

  • 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency is a rare form of CAH but might be underdiagnosed.

  • Blood pressure measurement should be carried out in all females presenting with hypogonadism.

  • Anti-hypertensive medications might be required despite adequate steroid replacement.

  • Initial presenting features might vary within affected members of the same family.

  • Adverse breast development might be seen in the complete enzyme deficiency forms of the disease.

Open access

Chrisanthi Marakaki, Anna Papadopoulou, Olga Karapanou, Dimitrios T Papadimitriou, Kleanthis Kleanthous and Anastasios Papadimitriou

Summary

11β-hydroxylase deficiency (11β-OHD), an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, accounts for 5–8% of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In Greece, no cases of 11β-OHD have been described so far. The patient presented at the age of 13 months with mild virilization of external genitalia and pubic hair development since the age of 3 months. Hormonal profile showed elevated 11-deoxycortisol, adrenal androgens and ACTH levels. ACTH stimulation test was compatible with 11β-OHD. DNA of the proband and her parents was isolated and genotyped for CYP11B1 gene coding cytochrome P450c11. The girl was found to be compound heterozygous for two CYP11B1 novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu (exon 7), inherited from the father and p.Leu471Argin (exon 9) from the mother. Hydrocortisone supplementation therapy was initiated. Four years after presentation she remains normotensive, her growth pattern is normal and the bone age remains advanced despite adequate suppression of adrenal androgens.

Learning points

  • 11β-hydroxylase (CYP11B1) deficiency (11OHD; OMIM +202010) is the second most common cause of CAH accounting for approximately 5–8% of cases with an incidence of 1:100 000–1:200 000 live births in non-consanguineous populations.

  • Two CYP11B1 inactivating novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu and p.Leu471Arg are reported

  • Regarding newborn females, in utero androgen excess results in ambiguous genitalia, whereas in the male newborn diagnosis may go undetected. In infancy and childhood adrenal androgen overproduction results in peripheral precocious puberty in boys and various degrees of virilization in girls.

  • Accumulation of 11-deoxycorticosterone and its metabolites causes hypertension in about two thirds of patients.

  • Diagnosis lies upon elevated 11-deoxycortisol and DOC plus upstream precursors, such as 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and Δ4-androstenedione.

  • The established treatment of steroid 11β-OHD is similar to that of steroid 21-hydroxylase deficiency and consists of glucocorticoid administration in order to reduce ACTH-driven DOC overproduction resulting in hypertension remission and improvement of the virilization symptoms.

Open access

Carla Costa, Cíntia Castro-Correia, Alda Mira-Coelho, Bessa Monteiro, Joaquim Monteiro, Ieuan Hughes and Manuel Fontoura

Summary

The development of male internal and external genitalia in an XY fetus requires a complex interplay of many critical genes, enzymes, and cofactors. The enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase type 3 (17βHSD3) is present almost exclusively in the testicles and converts Delta 4-androstenodione (Δ4) to testosterone. A deficiency in this enzyme is rare and is a frequently misdiagnosed autosomal recessive cause of 46,XY, disorder of sex development. The case report is of a 15-year-old adolescent, who was raised according to female gender. At puberty, the adolescent had a severe virilization and primary amenorrhea. The physical examination showed a male phenotype with micropenis and blind vagina. The Tanner stage was A3B1P4, nonpalpable gonads. The karyotype revealed 46,XY. The endocrinology study revealed: testosterone=2.38 ng/ml, Δ4>10.00 ng/ml, and low testosterone/Δ4 ratio=0.23. Magnetic resonance imaging of the abdominal–pelvic showed the presence of testicles in inguinal canal, seminal vesicle, prostate, micropenis, and absence of uterus and vagina. The genetic study confirmed the mutation p.Glu215Asp on HSD17B3 gene in homozygosity. The dilemma of sex reassignment was seriously considered when the diagnosis was made. During all procedures the patient was accompanied by a child psychiatrist/psychologist. The teenager desired to continue being a female, so gonadectomy was performed. Estrogen therapy and surgical procedure to change external genitalia was carried out. In this case, there was a severe virilization at puberty. It is speculated to be due to a partial activity of 17βHSD3 in the testicles and/or extratesticular ability to convert Δ4 to testosterone by 17βHSD5. Prenatal exposure of the brain to androgens has increasingly been put forward as a critical factor in gender identity development, but in this case the social factor was more important for the gender assignment.

Learning points

  • In this case, we highlight the late diagnosis, probably because the patient belongs to a poor family without proper primary medical care.

  • We emphasize the psychological and social aspects in the sex assignment decision.