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Open access

Gemma White, Nicola Tufton and Scott A Akker

Summary

At least 40% of phaeochromocytomas and paraganglioma’s (PPGLs) are associated with an underlying genetic mutation. The understanding of the genetic landscape of these tumours has rapidly evolved, with 18 associated genes now identified. Among these, mutations in the subunits of succinate dehydrogenase complex (SDH) are the most common, causing around half of familial PPGL cases. Occurrence of PPGLs in carriers of SDHB, SDHC and SDHD subunit mutations has been long reported, but it is only recently that variants in the SDHA subunit have been linked to PPGL formation. Previously documented cases have, to our knowledge, only been found in isolated cases where pathogenic SDHA variants were identified retrospectively. We report the case of an asymptomatic suspected carotid body tumour found during surveillance screening in a 72-year-old female who is a known carrier of a germline SDHA pathogenic variant. To our knowledge, this is the first screen that detected PPGL found in a previously identified SDHA pathogenic variant carrier, during surveillance imaging. This finding supports the use of cascade genetic testing and surveillance screening in all carriers of a pathogenic SDHA variant.

Learning points:

  • SDH mutations are important causes of PPGL disease.

  • SDHA is much rarer compared to SDHB and SDHD mutations.

  • Pathogenicity and penetrance are yet to be fully determined in cases of SDHA-related PPGL.

  • Surveillance screening should be used for SDHA PPGL cases to identify recurrence, metastasis or metachronous disease.

  • Surveillance screening for SDH-related disease should be performed in identified carriers of a pathogenic SDHA variant.

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

Jill Pancer, Elliot Mitmaker, Oluyomi Ajise, Roger Tabah and Jacques How

Summary

Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is common and the number of tumor foci rarely exceeds ten. The mechanism of multifocal disease is debated, with the two main hypotheses consisting of either intrathyroidal metastatic spread from a single tumor or independent multicentric tumorigenesis from distinct progenitor cells. We report the case of a 46-year-old woman who underwent total thyroidectomy and left central neck lymph node dissection after fine-needle aspiration of bilateral thyroid nodules that yielded cytological findings consistent with PTC. Final pathology of the surgical specimen showed an isthmic dominant 1.5 cm classical PTC and over 30 foci of microcarcinoma, which displayed decreasing density with increasing distance from the central lesion. Furthermore, all malignant tumors and lymph nodes harbored the activating BRAF V600E mutation. The present case highlights various pathological features that support a mechanism of intraglandular spread, namely a strategic isthmic location of the primary tumor, radial pattern of distribution and extensive number of small malignant foci and BRAF mutational homogeneity.

Learning points:

  • Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is commonly seen in clinical practice, but the number of malignant foci is usually limited to ten or less.

  • There is no clear consensus in the literature as to whether multifocal PTC arises from a single or multiple distinct tumor progenitor cells.

  • Strategic location of the dominant tumor in the thyroid isthmus may favor intraglandular dissemination of malignant cells by means of the extensive lymphatic network.

  • An important pathological finding that may be suggestive of intrathyroidal metastatic spread is a central pattern of distribution with a reduction in the density of satellite lesions with increasing distance from the dominant focus.

  • PTCs originating from the isthmus with intraglandular metastatic dissemination behave more aggressively. As such, a more aggressive treatment course may be warranted, particularly with regard to the extent of surgery.

Open access

Nikolaos Asonitis, Eva Kassi, Michalis Kokkinos, Ilias Giovanopoulos, Foteini Petychaki and Helen Gogas

Summary

Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients. It is associated with a poor prognosis, since it reflects an advanced cancer stage. Among all cancer in females, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, and it has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia. Approximately 70% of patients with breast cancer have bone metastases and 10% of them will have hypercalcemia as a complication at some point in the disease. Herein, we report a 69-year-old female patient with metastatic breast cancer, who developed severe hypercalcemia in the course of her disease and was diagnosed with humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM). Intense hydration along with corticoisteroids and antiresorptive medication (calcitonin, bisphosphonates and denosumab) were administered to the patient. Despite the above treatment, serum calcium levels remain elevated and calcimimetic cinacalcet was added. Upon discontinuation of cinacalcet, calcium levels were raised and returned back to the normal levels following re-initiation of the calcimimetic. Her calcium level restored to normal, and she was discharged with the following medical treatment: denosumab monthly, and cinacalcet at a titrated dose of 90 mg per day. The patient is followed as an outpatient and 11 months later, her calcium level remained within the normal range.

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients.

  • Breast cancer has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia.

  • The cornerstone of therapy remains the intense hydration and intravenous bisphosphonates (preferably zoledronic acid).

  • In case of persistent hypercalcemia of malignancy, the administration of calcimimetic cinacalcet could be an additional effective therapeutic option.

Open access

Hans-Christof Schober, Christian Kneitz, Franziska Fieber, Kathrin Hesse and Henry Schroeder

Summary

Tumor-induced osteomalacia (TIO) is caused by the hormone fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF-23). It is mainly produced in the tissue of mesenchymal tumors. Patients with TIO frequently suffer from a chronic decompensated pain syndrome and/or muscle weakness with postural deformity. Despite the severity of the disease, the diagnosis is frequently established late. In some cases, it takes several years to establish the condition. This case report concerning a 68-year old woman demonstrates the selective blood sampling for FGF-23 as path-breaking diagnostics to confirm the diagnosis of a neuroendocrine tumor.

Learning points:

  • Tumor-induced osteomalacia is a rare condition compared to other paraneoplastic syndromes.

  • It causes complex symptoms such as progressive reduction of physical capacity, exhaustion, fatigue, a decompensated pain syndrome of the musculoskeletal system and fractures of several bones.

  • Elevated serum levels of FGF-23 implicate massive phosphate elimination and resulting hypophosphatemia.

  • The diagnosis is often established over a period of several years because the localization of small FGF-23-producing tumors is complicated.

  • It is the combination of MRI and selective blood sampling for FGF-23 which permits reliable identification of tumors causing TIO and leads to accurate localization.

  • In a patient with generalized pain and reduced physical capacity, osteological parameters such as phosphate, 25-OH vitamin D3 and 1,25-(OH)2D3, as well as bone-specific alkaline phosphatase levels in serum should be determined. Hypophosphatemia should always lead to further diagnostic investigations aiming at the detection of an FGF-23-producing tumor.

Open access

Marta Araujo Castro, Ainhoa Abad López, Luz Martín Fragueiro and Nuria Palacios García

Summary

The 85% of cases of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) are due to parathyroid adenomas (PA) and less than 1% to parathyroid carcinomas (PC). The PA usually measure <2 cm, weigh <1 g and generate a mild PHPT, whereas the PC usually exceeds these dimensions and are associated with a severe PHPT. However, giant PA (GPA), which is defined as those larger than 3 g, has been documented. Those may be associated with very high levels of PTH and calcium. In these cases, their differentiation before and after surgery with PC is very difficult. We present a case of severe PHPT associated with a large parathyroid lesion, and we discuss the differential aspects between the GPA and PC.

Learning points:

  • In parathyroid lesions larger than 2 cm, the differential diagnosis between GPA and PC should be considered.

  • Pre and postsurgical differentiation between GPA and PC is difficult; however, there are clinical, analytical and radiographic characteristics that may be useful.

  • The depth/width ratio larger or smaller than 1 seems to be the most discriminatory ultrasound parameter for the differential diagnosis.

  • Loss of staining for parafibromin has a specificity of 99% for the diagnosis of PC.

  • The simultaneous presence of several histological characteristics, according to the classification of Schantz and Castleman, is frequent in PC and rare in GPA.

Open access

Adriana de Sousa Lages, Isabel Paiva, Patrícia Oliveira, Francisco Portela and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Insulinomas are the most frequent cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia. Although surgical enucleation is the standard treatment, a few other options are available to high-risk patients who are elderly or present with co-morbidities. We present a case report of an 89-year-old female patient who was admitted to the emergency department due to recurrent hypoglycaemia, especially during fasting. Laboratory work-up raised the suspicion of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, and abdominal CT scan revealed a 12 mm nodular hypervascular lesion of the pancreatic body suggestive of neuroendocrine tumour. The patient was not considered a suitable candidate for surgery, and medical therapy with diazoxide was poorly tolerated. Endoscopic ultrasound-guided ethanol ablation therapy was performed and a total of 0.6 mL of 95% ethanol was injected into the lesion by a transgastric approach; no complications were reported after the procedure. At 5 months of follow-up, no episodes of hypoglycaemia were reported, no diazoxide therapy was necessary, and revaluation abdominal CT scan revealed a pancreatic nodular lesion with a size involution of about half of its original volume. The patient is regularly followed-up at the endocrinology clinic and shows a significant improvement in her wellbeing and quality of life.

Learning points:

  • Insulinomas are the most frequent cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia.

  • Surgical enucleation is the standard treatment with a few other options available to high-risk patients.

  • Endoscopic ultrasound-guided ethanol ablation therapy is one feasible option in high-risk patients with satisfactory clinical outcomes, significant positive impact on quality of life and low complication rates related to the procedure.

Open access

Anna Casteràs, Lídia Darder, Carles Zafon, Juan Antonio Hueto, Margarita Alberola, Enric Caubet and Jordi Mesa

Summary

Skeletal manifestations of primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) include brown tumors (BT), which are osteoclastic focal lesions often localized in the jaws. Brown tumors are a rare manifestation of pHTP in Europe and USA; however, they are frequent in developing countries, probably related to vitamin D deficiency and longer duration and severity of disease. In the majority of cases, the removal of the parathyroid adenoma is enough for the bone to remineralize, but other cases require surgery. Hyperparathyroidism in MEN1 develops early, and is multiglandular and the timing of surgery remains questionable. To our knowledge, there are no reports of BT in MEN 1 patients. We present a 29-year-old woman with MEN 1 who developed a brown tumor of the jaw 24 months after getting pregnant, while breastfeeding. Serum corrected calcium remained under 2.7 during gestation, and at that point reached a maximum of 2.82 mmol/L. Concomitant PTH was 196 pg/mL, vitamin D 13.7 ng/mL and alkaline phosphatase 150 IU/L. Bone mineral density showed osteopenia on spine and femoral neck (both T-scores = −1.6). Total parathyroidectomy was performed within two weeks, with a failed glandular graft autotransplantation, leading to permanent hypoparathyroidism. Two months after removal of parathyroid glands, the jaw tumor did not shrink; thus, finally it was successfully excised. We hypothesize that higher vitamin D and mineral requirements during maternity may have triggered an accelerated bone resorption followed by appearance of the jaw BT. We suggest to treat pHPT before planning a pregnancy in MEN1 women or otherwise supplement with vitamin D, although this approach may precipitate severe hypercalcemia.

Learning points:

  • Brown tumors of the jaw can develop in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism at a young age (less than 30 years).

  • Pregnancy and lactation might trigger brown tumors by increasing mineral and vitamin D requirements.

  • Early parathyroidectomy is advisable in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, at least before planning a pregnancy.

  • Standard bone mineral density does not correlate with the risk of appearance of a brown tumor.

  • Removal of parathyroid glands does not always lead to the shrinkage of the brown tumor, and surgical excision may be necessary.

Open access

Chun-Han Lo and Ding-Ping Sun

Summary

Insulinomas are the most common cause of hypoglycemia resulting from endogenous hyperinsulinism. Traditionally, inappropriately elevated levels of insulin in the face of hypoglycemia are the key to diagnosis. However, contradictory levels of insulin and C-peptide do not necessarily exclude the diagnosis. A 50-year-old female was brought to our emergency department because of conscious disturbance on the previous night. She had no history of diabetes mellitus, and was not using any medications or alcohol. Laboratory data showed low sugar, a significantly low insulin level, and elevated C-peptide. After admission, she had multiple episodes of spontaneous hypoglycemia after overnight fasts without discomfort. It was considered that a neuroendocrine tumor was the source of her hypoglycemia. CT scan of the abdomen revealed a 1.1cm hypervascular nodule in the pancreatic tail. Elective laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy was incorporated into her treatment course. A 1.2×1.0cm homogenous well-encapsulated tumor was resected. We monitored her glucose levels in the outpatient clinic every month for a period of six months. She did not have another episode of spontaneous hypoglycemia.

Learning points

  • Insulinoma causes endogenous hypoglycemia – it cannot be ruled out in patients presenting with hypoglycemia and low insulin levels; history and imaging studies should be done for further assessment

  • A 24-h fast test has the same clinical significance as that of 72-h fast test

  • C-peptide is a useful biochemical marker in addition to serum insulin, which can be used to diagnose insulinomas

  • CT scan is used to measure the tumor size and localize the tumor. However, definitive diagnosis is only achieved through histopathologic evaluation of diseased tissue

Open access

Marta Guimarães, Pedro Rodrigues, Sofia S Pereira, Mário Nora, Gil Gonçalves, Nicolai Wewer Albrechtsen, Bolette Hartmann, Jens Juul Holst and Mariana P Monteiro

Summary

Post-prandial hypoglycemia is frequently found after bariatric surgery. Although rare, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET), which occasionally are mixed hormone secreting, can lead to atypical clinical manifestations, including reactive hypoglycemia. Two years after gastric bypass surgery for the treatment of severe obesity, a 54-year-old female with previous type 2 diabetes, developed post-prandial sweating, fainting and hypoglycemic episodes, which eventually led to the finding by ultrasound of a 1.8-cm solid mass in the pancreatic head. The 72-h fast test and the plasma chromogranin A levels were normal but octreotide scintigraphy showed a single focus of abnormal radiotracer uptake at the site of the nodule. There were no other clinical signs of hormone secreting pNET and gastrointestinal hormone measurements were not performed. The patient underwent surgical enucleation with complete remission of the hypoglycemic episodes. Histopathology revealed a well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma with low-grade malignancy with positive chromogranin A and glucagon immunostaining. An extract of the resected tumor contained a high concentration of glucagon (26.707 pmol/g tissue), in addition to traces of GLP1 (471 pmol/g), insulin (139 pmol/g) and somatostatin (23 pmol/g). This is the first report of a GLP1 and glucagon co-secreting pNET presenting as hypoglycemia after gastric bypass surgery. Although pNET are rare, they should be considered in the differential diagnosis of the clinical approach to the post-bariatric surgery hypoglycemia patient.

Learning points

  • pNETs can be multihormonal-secreting, leading to atypical clinical manifestations.

  • Reactive hypoglycemic episodes are frequent after gastric bypass.

  • pNETs should be considered in the differential diagnosis of hypoglycemia after bariatric surgery.