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Open access

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.

  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.

  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.

  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.

Open access

Matthieu St-Jean, Jessica MacKenzie-Feder, Isabelle Bourdeau and André Lacroix

Summary

A 29-year-old G4A3 woman presented at 25 weeks of pregnancy with progressive signs of Cushing’s syndrome (CS), gestational diabetes requiring insulin and hypertension. A 3.4 × 3.3 cm right adrenal adenoma was identified during abdominal ultrasound imaging for nephrolithiasis. Investigation revealed elevated levels of plasma cortisol, 24 h urinary free cortisol (UFC) and late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC). Serum ACTH levels were not fully suppressed (4 and 5 pmol/L (N: 2–11)). One month post-partum, CS regressed, 24-h UFC had normalised while ACTH levels were now less than 2 pmol/L; however, dexamethasone failed to suppress cortisol levels. Tests performed in vivo 6 weeks post-partum to identify aberrant hormone receptors showed no cortisol stimulation by various tests (including 300 IU hLH i.v.) except after administration of 250 µg i.v. Cosyntropin 1–24. Right adrenalectomy demonstrated an adrenocortical adenoma and atrophy of adjacent cortex. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of the adenoma revealed the presence of ACTH (MC2) receptor mRNA, while LHCG receptor mRNA was almost undetectable. This case reveals that CS exacerbation in the context of pregnancy can result from the placental-derived ACTH stimulation of MC2 receptors on the adrenocortical adenoma. Possible contribution of other placental-derived factors such as oestrogens, CRH or CRH-like peptides cannot be ruled out.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy is complicated by several physiological alterations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis regulation occurring in normal pregnancy.

  • Cushing’s syndrome (CS) exacerbation during pregnancy can be associated with aberrant expression of LHCG receptor on primary adrenocortical tumour or hyperplasia in some cases, but not in this patient.

  • Placental-derived ACTH, which is not subject to glucocorticoid negative feedback, stimulated cortisol secretion from this adrenal adenoma causing transient CS exacerbation during pregnancy.

  • Following delivery and tumour removal, suppression of HPA axis can require several months to recover and requires glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Open access

Joseph A Chorny, John J Orrego and José Manuel Cameselle-Teijeiro

Summary

Most medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTCs) are low grade and produce calcitonin. There are some calcitonin-negative MTCs that produce only calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Rarely, MTCs are negative for calcitonin and CGRP peptides, but contain their corresponding mRNAs. Primary thyroid neuroendocrine neoplasms other than MTCs are extremely rare. We describe a primary high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma that was negative for CGRP and calcitonin at both the protein and mRNA levels. A 42-year-old woman presented with a rapidly enlarging thyroid mass replacing most of the left lobe and isthmus. A computed tomography-guided core-needle biopsy was performed. The tumor was composed of sheets of small-to-medium sized epithelial cells. The cells were immunoreactive for pancytokeratin, synaptophysin, CD56 and thyroid transcription factor-1, but negative for CK7, CK20, CD45, CD99, ERG, chromogranin A, thyroglobulin, calcitonin, CGRP and carcinoembryonic antigen. The Ki-67 proliferation index was ~90%. In situ hybridization was negative for calcitonin mRNA. The patient was initially diagnosed as having a small cell carcinoma. She was treated with cisplatin and etoposide (VP16), followed by radiation therapy. Given the excellent clinical course, the tumor was reviewed and reclassified as a high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma (non-small-cell type). Heretofore, only a few other similar high-grade neuroendocrine tumors with negative markers of C-cell derivation have been reported. In our case, the patient is cancer free five years after diagnosis, but in the other cases, the outcome was poor.

Learning points:

  • There are neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid that do not produce calcitonin or calcitonin gene-related peptide.

  • This category of calcitonin-negative neuroendocrine carcinomas is heterogeneous, consisting of low- and high-grade tumors.

  • The high-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid are rare and generally have a poor prognosis. They are divided into small cell and non-small cell or large cell types.

Open access

Tiago Nunes da Silva, M L F van Velthuysen, Casper H J van Eijck, Jaap J Teunissen, J Hofland and Wouter W de Herder

Summary

Non-functional pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) can present with advanced local or distant (metastatic) disease limiting the possibility of surgical cure. Several treatment options have been used in experimental neoadjuvant settings to improve the outcomes in such cases. Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PPRT) using beta emitting radiolabelled somatostatin analogues has been used in progressive pancreatic NETs. We report a 55-year-old female patient with a 12.8 cm pancreatic NET with significant local stomach and superior mesenteric vein compression and liver metastases. The patient underwent treatment with [177Lutetium-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotate (177Lu-octreotate) for the treatment of local and metastatic symptomatic disease. Six months after 4 cycles of 177lutetium-octreotate, resolution of the abdominal complaints was associated with a significant reduction in tumour size and the tumour was rendered operable. Histology of the tumour showed a 90% necrotic tumour with abundant hyalinized fibrosis and haemorrhage compatible with PPRT-induced radiation effects on tumour cells. This report supports that PPRT has a role in unresectable and metastatic pancreatic NET.

Learning points:

  • PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate can be considered a useful therapy for symptomatic somatostatin receptor-positive pancreatic NET.

  • The clinical benefits of PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate can be seen in the first months while tumour reduction can be seen up to a year after treatment.

  • PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate was clinically well tolerated and did not interfere with the subsequent surgical procedure.

  • PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate can result in significant tumour reduction and may improve surgical outcomes. As such, this therapy can be considered as a neoadjuvant therapy.

Open access

Marina Tsoli, Anna Angelousi, Dimitra Rontogianni, Constantine Stratakis and Gregory Kaltsas

Summary

Parathyroid carcinoma is an extremely rare endocrine malignancy that accounts for less than 1% of cases of primary hyperparathyroidism. We report a 44-year-old woman who presented with fatigue and diffuse bone pain. Laboratory findings revealed highly elevated serum calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels and a 4.5 × 3 × 2.5 cm cystic lesion in the lower pole of the right thyroid lobe that was shown histologically to be a parathyroid carcinoma. Ten years later, the patient developed brain and pulmonary metastases and recurrence of PTH-related hypercalcemia. Treatment of hypercalcemia along with localized radiotherapy and various chemotherapy regimens failed to induce a biochemical or radiological response. In conclusion, parathyroid carcinoma is a rare neoplasia that may develop metastases even after prolonged follow-up, for which there is no evidence-based treatment besides surgery. Different chemotherapeutic schemes did not prove to be of any benefit in our case highlighting the need for registering such patients to better understand tumor biology and develop specific treatment.

Learning points:

  • Metastases can develop many years after parathyroid cancer diagnosis.

  • Surgery is the only curative treatment for parathyroid carcinoma.

  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy prove to be ineffective in parathyroid cancer treatment.

  • Patient registering is required in order to delineate underlining pathology and offer specific treatment.

Open access

Yasutaka Takeda, Yukihiro Fujita, Kentaro Sakai, Tomoe Abe, Tomonobu Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Yanagimachi, Hidemitsu Sakagami, Jun Honjo, Atsuko Abiko, Yuichi Makino and Masakazu Haneda

Summary

MEN1-associated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) may potentially express distinct hormones, but the mechanism has not been elucidated. Transcription factors such as MafA and Pdx1 have been identified to lead to beta cell differentiation, while Arx and Brn4 to alpha cell differentiation in developing pancreas. We hypothesized those transcription factors are important to produce specific hormones in pNETs, similarly to developing pancreas, and examined the expression of transcription factors in a case of MEN1 who showed immunohistological coexistence of several hormone-producing pNETs including insulinoma. A 70-year-old woman was found to manifest hypoglycemia with non-suppressed insulinemia and hypercalcemia with elevated PTH level. She was diagnosed as MEN1 based on the manifestation of primary hyperparathyroidism, pituitary adenoma and insulinoma, with genetic variation of MEN1 gene. She had pylorus-preserving pancreaticoduodenectomy because CT scan and SACI test indicated that insulinoma was localized in the head of the pancreas. Histopathological finding was MEN1-associated NET, G1. Interestingly, immunohistological examination of the resected pancreas revealed that two insulinomas, a glucagon-positive NET and a multiple hormone-positive NET coexisted. Hence, we examined the expression of transcription factors immunohistochemically to elucidate the role of the transcription factors in MEN1-associated hormone-producing pNETs. We observed homogeneous expressions of MafA and Pdx1 in insulinomas and Arx in glucagon-positive NET, respectively. Moreover, multiple hormone-positive NETs expressed several transcription factors heterogeneously. Collectively, our results suggested that transcription factors could play important roles in the production of specific hormones in MEN1-associated pNETs, similar to islet differentiation.

Learning points:

  • To date, it has been shown that different hormone-producing tumors coexist in MEN1-associated pNETs; however, the underlying mechanism of the hormone production in MEN1-associated pNETs has not been well elucidated.

  • Although this case presented symptomatic hypoglycemia, several hormone-producing pNETs other than insulinoma also coexisted in the pancreas.

  • Immunohistochemical analysis showed MafA and Pdx1 expressions distinctly in insulinoma, and Arx expression particularly in a glucagon-positive NET, while a multiple hormone-positive NET expressed MafA, Pdx1 and Arx.

  • Collectively, clinicians should consider that several hormone-producing pNETs may coexist in a MEN1 case and examine both endocrinological and histopathological analysis of pNETs, regardless of whether symptoms related to the excess of hormones are observed or not.

Open access

Whitney L Stuard, Bryan K Gallerson and Danielle M Robertson

Summary

The use of in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM) is rapidly emerging as an important clinical tool to evaluate changes in corneal sensory nerves as a surrogate measure for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Commonly used metrics to document and grade the severity of diabetes and risk for diabetic peripheral neuropathy include nerve fiber length, density, branching and tortuosity. In addition to corneal nerves, thinning of the retinal fiber layer has been shown to correlate with the severity of diabetic disease. Here, we present a case report on a pre-diabetic 60-year-old native American woman with abnormal corneal nerve morphology and retinal nerve fiber layer thinning. Her past medical history was positive for illicit substance abuse. IVCM showed a decrease in nerve fiber density and length, in addition to abnormally high levels of tortuosity. OCT revealed focal areas of reduced retinal nerve fiber layer thickness that were asymmetric between eyes. This is the first report of abnormally high levels of tortuosity in the corneal sub-basal nerve plexus in a patient with a past history of cocaine abuse. It also demonstrates, for the first time, that illicit substance abuse can have long-term adverse effects on ocular nerves for years following discontinued use of the drug. Studies using IVCM to evaluate changes in corneal nerve morphology in patients with diabetes need to consider a past history of illicit drug use as an exclusionary measure.

Learning points:

  • Multiple ocular and systemic factors can impede accurate assessment of the corneal sub-basal nerve plexus by IVCM in diabetes.

  • Although current history was negative for illicit substance abuse, past history can have longstanding effects on corneal nerves and the retinal nerve fiber layer.

  • Illicit drug use must be considered an exclusionary measure when evaluating diabetes-induced changes in corneal nerve morphology and the retinal nerve fiber layer.

Open access

Liudmila Rozhinskaya, Ekaterina Pigarova, Ekaterina Sabanova, Elizaveta Mamedova, Iya Voronkova, Julia Krupinova, Larisa Dzeranova, Anatoly Tiulpakov, Vera Gorbunova, Nadezhda Orel, Artur Zalian, Galina Melnichenko and Ivan Dedov

Summary

Parathyroid carcinoma is an extremely rare disorder with little treatment options. It could be misdiagnosed in medical centers with little experience in management of such cases. Our clinical case shows that the initial misdiagnosis of a parathyroid carcinoma in a young woman has led to the development of multiple lung metastases, thus making its treatment hardly possible. Initiation of treatment with sorafenib – a multi-kinase inhibitor approved for treatment of different types of cancer but not parathyroid carcinoma – has led to a significant decrease in the size of lung metastases and has prevented the progression of hyperparathyroidism, which is usually severe in cases of parathyroid carcinoma. The detection of a germline CDC73 mutation in this patient has raised additional concerns about the necessity of periodic screening for early detection of renal, jaw and uterine lesions.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of parathyroid carcinoma may be challenging due to the absence of reliable diagnostic criteria. Thus, thorough histological examination is needed using immunohistochemical staining of resected tissue in suspicious cases.

  • CDC73 genetic testing should be considered in patients with parathyroid carcinoma.

  • Sorafenib may be a promising treatment of patients with parathyroid carcinoma with distant metastases.

Open access

Rowena Speak, Jackie Cook, Barney Harrison and John Newell-Price

Mutations of the rearranged during transfection (RET) proto-oncogene, located on chromosome 10q11.2, cause multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). Patients with mutations at the codon 609 usually exhibit a high penetrance of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), but a sufficiently low penetrance of phaeochromocytoma that screening for this latter complication has been called to question. Patients with other RET mutations are at higher risk of younger age onset phaeochromocytoma if they also possess other RET polymorphisms (L769L, S836S, G691S and S904S), but there are no similar data for patients with 609 mutations. We investigated the unusual phenotypic presentation in a family with MEN2A due to a C609Y mutation in RET. Sanger sequencing of the entire RET-coding region and exon–intron boundaries was performed. Five family members were C609Y mutation positive: 3/5 initially presented with phaeochromocytoma, but only 1/5 had MTC. The index case aged 73 years had no evidence of MTC, but presented with phaeochromocytoma. Family members also possessed the G691S and S904S RET polymorphisms. We illustrate a high penetrance of phaeochromocytoma and low penetrance of MTC in patients with a RET C609Y mutation and polymorphisms G691S and S904S. These data highlight the need for life-long screening for the complications of MEN2A in these patients and support the role for the screening of RET polymorphisms for the purposes of risk stratification.

Learning points:

  • C609Y RET mutations may be associated with a life-long risk of phaeochromocytoma indicating the importance of life-long screening for this condition in patients with MEN2A.

  • C609Y RET mutations may be associated with a lower risk of MTC than often quoted, questioning the need for early prophylactic thyroid surgery discussion at the age of 5 years.

  • There may be a role for the routine screening of RET polymorphisms, and this is greatly facilitated by the increasing ease of access to next-generation sequencing.

Open access

Jerena Manoharan, Caroline L Lopez, Karl Hackmann, Max B Albers, Anika Pehl, Peter H Kann, Emily P Slater, Evelin Schröck and Detlef K Bartsch

Summary

We report about a young female who developed an unusual and an aggressive phenotype of the MEN1 syndrome characterized by the development of a pHPT, malignant non-functioning pancreatic and duodenal neuroendocrine neoplasias, a pituitary adenoma, a non-functioning adrenal adenoma and also a malignant jejunal NET at the age of 37 years. Initial Sanger sequencing could not detect a germline mutation of the MEN1 gene, but next generation sequencing and MPLA revealed a deletion of the MEN1 gene ranging between 7.6 and 25.9 kb. Small intestine neuroendocrine neoplasias (SI-NENs) are currently not considered to be a part of the phenotype of the MEN1-syndrome. In our patient the SI-NENs were detected during follow-up imaging on Ga68-Dotatoc PET/CT and could be completely resected. Although SI-NENs are extremely rare, these tumors should also be considered in MEN1 patients. Whether an aggressive phenotype or the occurrence of SI-NENs in MEN1 are more likely associated with large deletions of the gene warrants further investigation.

Learning points

  • Our patient presents an extraordinary course of disease.

  • Although SI-NENs are extremely rare, these tumors should also be considered in MEN1 patients, besides the typical MEN1 associated tumors.

  • This case reports indicate that in some cases conventional mutation analysis of MEN1 patients should be supplemented by the search for larger gene deletions with modern techniques, if no germline mutation could be identified by Sanger sequencing.