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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

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
Open access

Haruyuki Ohsugi, Nae Takizawa, Hidefumi Kinoshita and Tadashi Matsuda

Summary

A 21-year-old woman was referred to our hospital to treat bilateral pheochromocytomas (PCCs) after a diagnosis of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). We performed bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy. One year after the operation, urinary fractionated metanephrines in 24-h urine increased. MRI showed a 30 mm tumor on the interaortocaval region and 123I-MIBG concentrated in this area. We excised the tumor and performed para-aortic lymphadenectomy. Histopathologic examination confirmed a PCC arising from ectopic adrenal tissue. Urinary fractionated metanephrines in 24-h urine declined to basal levels immediately after the operation. We detected no recurrence of paraganglioma or PCC for 5 years after the treatment.

Learning points:

  • Most ectopic adrenal tissue is associated with no symptoms and contains only the adrenal cortex.
  • Adrenocortical tumors sometimes arise from ectopic adrenal tissues similarly to in the normal adrenal gland.
  • PCC arising from ectopic adrenal tissue occurs infrequently.
  • MEN2-related PCC is accompanied by adrenal medullary hyperplasia, which might be part of tumorigenesis.
Open access

Sakshi Jhawar, Rahul Lakhotia, Mari Suzuki, James Welch, Sunita K Agarwal, John Sharretts, Maria Merino, Mark Ahlman, Jenny E Blau, William F Simonds and Jaydira Del Rivero

Summary

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is an autosomal dominant condition characterized by parathyroid, anterior pituitary and enteropancreatic endocrine cell tumors. Neuroendocrine tumors occur in approximately in 5–15% of MEN1 patients. Very few cases of ovarian NETs have been reported in association with clinical MEN1 and without genetic testing confirmation. Thirty-three-year-old woman with MEN1 was found to have right adnexal mass on computed tomography (CT). Attempt at laparoscopic removal was unsuccessful, and mass was removed via a minilaparotomy in piecemeal fashion. Pathology showed ovarian NET arising from a teratoma. Four years later, patient presented with recurrence involving the pelvis and anterior abdominal wall. She was treated with debulking surgery and somatostatin analogs (SSAs). Targeted DNA sequencing analysis on the primary adnexal mass as well as the recurrent abdominal wall tumor confirmed loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the MEN1 gene locus. This case represents to our knowledge, the first genetically confirmed case of ovarian NET arising by a MEN1 mechanism in a patient with MEN1. Extreme caution should be exercised during surgery as failure to remove an ovarian NET en masse can result in peritoneal seeding and recurrence. For patients with advanced ovarian NETs, systemic therapy options include SSAs, peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT) and novel agents targeting mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Learning points:

  • Ovarian NET can arise from a MEN1 mechanism, and any adnexal mass in a MEN1 patient can be considered as a possible malignant NET.
  • Given the rarity of this disease, limited data are available on prognostication and treatment. Management strategies are extrapolated from evidence available in NETs from primaries of other origins.
  • Care should be exercised to remove ovarian NETs en bloc as failure to do so may result in peritoneal seeding and recurrence.
  • Treatment options for advanced disease include debulking surgery, SSAs, TKIs, mTOR inhibitors, PRRT and chemotherapy.
Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.
  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.
  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.
  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.
  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.
Open access

Haruhiko Yamazaki, Hiroyuki Iwasaki, Yoichiro Okubo, Nobuyasu Suganuma, Katsuhiko Masudo, Hirotaka Nakayama, Yasushi Rino and Munetaka Masuda

Summary

The objective this study is to report two cases of thyroid gland invasion by upper mediastinal carcinoma. Mediastinal tumors are uncommon and represent 3% of the tumors seen within the chest. In reports on mediastinal masses, the incidence of malignant lesions ranged from 25 to 49%. The thyroid gland can be directly invaded by surrounding organ cancers. We report these cases contrasting them to the case of a thyroid cancer with mediastinal lesions. Case 1 was a 73-year-old woman who was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma, and she underwent surgery and postoperative radioactive iodine. Case 2 was a 74-year-old man who was diagnosed with non-small-cell lung carcinoma, favor squamous cell carcinoma, and he underwent chemoradiotherapy. Case 3 was a 77-year-old man who was diagnosed a thymic carcinoma based on pathological findings and referred the patient to thoracic surgeons for surgical management. The images of the three cases were similar, and the differential diagnoses were difficult and required pathological examination. Primary thyroid carcinoma and invading carcinoma originating from the adjacent organs need to be distinguished because their prognoses and treatment strategies are different. It is important to properly diagnose them by images and pathological findings.

Learning points:

  • The thyroid gland in the anterior neck can be directly invaded by surrounding organ cancers.
  • Primary thyroid carcinoma and invading carcinoma originating from the adjacent organs need to be distinguished because their prognoses and treatment strategies are different.
  • It is important to properly diagnose by images and pathological findings.
Open access

Vasileios Chortis, Christine J H May, Kassiani Skordilis, John Ayuk, Wiebke Arlt and Rachel K Crowley

Summary

Context

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.

Conclusions

Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.
  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.
  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.
Open access

Seong Keat Cheah, David Halsall, Peter Barker, John Grant, Abraham Mathews, Shyam Seshadri and Singhan Krishnan

Summary

A frail 79-year-old lady with dementia presented with a 2-year history of frequent falls. Recurrent hypoglycaemic episodes were diagnosed and treated with continuous glucose infusion in multiple hospital admissions. Hypoadrenalism and hypothyroidism were ruled out. Whilst hypoglycaemic (blood glucose 1.6 mmol/L), both plasma C-peptide and proinsulin concentrations, were inappropriately elevated at 4210 pmol/L (174–960) and >200 pmol/L (0–7) respectively with plasma insulin suppressed at 12 pmol/L (0–180). Whilst reported cases of proinsulinoma are typically pancreatic in origin, radiological investigations of the pancreas in this patient did not identify abnormalities. Unexpectedly contrast CT identified a heterogeneously enhancing mass (6.6 cm) at the lower pole of the left kidney consistent with renal cell carcinoma. Non-islet cell tumour-induced hypoglycaemia has been associated with renal malignancy; however, a serum IGF2:IGF1 ratio measured at <10 effectively excludes this diagnosis. Concomitantly on the CT, extensive peripherally enhancing heterogeneous mass lesions in the liver were identified, the largest measuring 12 cm. A palliative approach was taken due to multiple comorbidities. On post-mortem, the kidney lesion was confirmed as clear cell renal carcinoma, whilst the liver lesions were identified as proinsulin-secreting neuroendocrine tumours. In conclusion, the diagnosis of proinsulinoma can be missed if plasma proinsulin concentration is not measured at the time of hypoglycaemia. In this case, the plasma insulin:C-peptide ratio was too high to be accounted for by the faster relative clearance of insulin and was due to proinsulin cross-reactivity in the C-peptide assay. In addition, the concomitant malignancy proved to be a challenging red herring.

Learning points:

  • Even in non-diabetics, hypoglycaemia needs to be excluded in a setting of frequent falls. Insulin- or proinsulin-secreting tumours are potentially curable causes.
  • Whilst investigating spontaneous hypoglycaemia, if plasma insulin concentration is appropriate for the hypoglycaemia, it is prudent to check proinsulin concentrations during the hypoglycaemic episode.
  • Proinsulin cross-reacts variably with C-peptide and insulin assays; the effect is method dependent. In this case, the discrepancy between the insulin and C-peptide concentrations was too great to be accounted for by the faster relative clearance of insulin, raising the suspicion of assay interference. The C-peptide assay in question (Diasorin liaison) has been shown to be 100% cross reactive with proinsulin based on spiking studies with a proinsulin reference preparation.
  • Whilst reported cases of proinsulinoma and 99% of insulinomas are of pancreatic origin, conventional imaging studies (CT, MRI or ultrasound) fail to detect neuroendocrine tumours <1 cm in 50% of cases.
  • The concomitant renal mass identified radiologically proved to be a red herring.
  • In view of the rarity of proinsulinoma, no conclusive association with renal cell carcinoma can be established.
Open access

Chad Bisambar, Andrew Collier, Fraser Duthie and Carron Meney

Summary

A 40-year-old Caucasian female presented with hyperglycaemia, polyuria, polydipsia and weight loss of 6 kg over a 1-month period. There was no personal or family history of malignancy or diabetes mellitus. On examination, she was jaundiced with pale mucous membranes and capillary glucose was 23.1 mmol/L. Initial investigations showed iron deficiency anaemia and obstructive pattern of liver function tests. HbA1c was diagnostic of diabetes mellitus at 79 mmol/mol. Malignancy was suspected and CT chest, abdomen and pelvis showed significant dilatation of intra- and extra-hepatic biliary tree including pancreatic duct, with periampullary 30 mm mass lesion projecting into lumen of duodenum. Enlarged nodes were seen around the superior mesenteric artery. This was confirmed on MRI liver. Fasting gut hormones were normal except for a mildly elevated somatostatin level. Chromogranin A was elevated at 78 pmol/L with normal chromogranin B. Duodenoscopy and biopsy showed possible tubovillous adenoma with low-grade dysplasia, but subsequent endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy revealed a grade 1, well differentiated neuroendocrine tumour. The patient was started on insulin, transfused to Hb >8 g/dL and Whipple’s pancreatico-duodenectomy was undertaken. This showed a well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma arising in duodenum (Grade G1 with Ki67: 0.5%), with areas of chronic pancreatitis and preservation of pancreatic islet cells. There was complete resolution of diabetes post Whipple’s procedure and patient was able to come of insulin treatment. Her last HBA1C was 31 mmol/mol, 4 months post tumour resection.

Learning points:

  • Diabetes mellitus and malignancy can be related.
  • A high index of suspicion is needed when diabetes mellitus presents atypically.
  • Non-functional neuroendocrine tumours can present with diabetes mellitus.
Open access

Bernardo Marques, Raquel G Martins, Guilherme Tralhão, Joana Couto, Sandra Saraiva, Henrique Ferrão, João Ribeiro, Jacinta Santos, Teresa Martins, Ana Teresa Cadime and Fernando Rodrigues

Summary

Gastric neuroendocrine neoplasms (GNENs) are classified into three types according to their aetiology. We present a clinical case of a female patient of 66 years and a well-differentiated (grade 2), type 3 GNEN with late liver metastasis (LM). The patient underwent surgical excision of a gastric lesion at 50 years of age, without any type of follow-up. Sixteen years later, she was found to have a neuroendocrine tumour (NET) metastatic to the liver. The histological review of the gastric lesion previously removed confirmed that it was a NET measuring 8 mm, pT1NxMx (Ki67 = 4%). 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT reported two LM and a possible pancreatic tumour/gastric adenopathy. Biopsies of the lesion were repeatedly inconclusive. She had a high chromogranin A, normal gastrin levels and negative anti-parietal cell and intrinsic factor antibodies, which is suggestive of type 3 GNEN. She underwent total gastrectomy and liver segmentectomies (segment IV and VII) with proven metastasis in two perigastric lymph nodes and both with hepatic lesions (Ki67 = 5%), yet no evidence of local recurrence. A 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT was performed 3 months after surgery, showing no tumour lesions and normalisation of CgA. Two years after surgery, the patient had no evidence of disease. This case illustrates a rare situation, being a type 3, well-differentiated (grade 2) GNEN, with late LM. Despite this, it was possible to perform surgery with curative intent, which is crucial in these cases, as systemic therapies have limited efficacy. We emphasise the need for extended follow-up in these patients.

Learning points:

  • GNENs have a very heterogeneous biological behaviour.
  • Clinical distinction between the three types of GNEN is essential to plan the correct management strategy.
  • LMs are rare and more common in type 3 and grade 3 GNEN.
  • Adequate follow-up is crucial for detection of disease recurrence.
  • Curative intent surgery is the optimal therapy for patients with limited and resectable LM, especially in well-differentiated tumours (grade 1 and 2).