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Open access

Pratima Herle, Steven Boyages, Rina Hui, Najmun Nahar, and Nicholas K Ngui

Summary

In most developed countries, breast carcinoma is the most common malignancy in women and while thyroid cancer is less common, its incidence is almost three to five times greater in women than in men. Since 1966, studies have demonstrated an association between thyroid and breast cancer and despite these studies, the mechanism/s by which they are related, remains unclear. We present a case of a 56-year-old lady who initially presented in 2014 with a screen detected left breast carcinoma but was subsequently found to have occult metastatic thyroid cancer to the axilla, diagnosed from a sentinel node biopsy from the primary breast procedure. The patient underwent a left mastectomy, left axillary dissection and total thyroidectomy followed by three courses of radioactive iodine ablation. Despite this, her thyroglobulin level continued to increase, which was secondary to a metastatic thyroid cancer parasternal metastasis. Breast and thyroid cancer presents metachronously or synchronously more often than by chance. With improving mortality in primary cancers, such as breast and differentiated thyroid cancer, it is likely that as clinicians, we will continue to encounter this association in practice.

Learning points:

  • There has been a long-standing observation of an association between breast and thyroid cancer although the exact mechanism of this association remains unclear.
  • Our patient presented with thyroid cancer with an incidental diagnosis from a sentinel node biopsy during her primary breast operation for breast cancer and was also found to have a parasternal distant bony metastasis.
  • Thyroid axillary metastases are generally rare.
  • The interesting nature in which this patient’s metastatic thyroid carcinoma behaved more like a breast carcinoma highlights a correlation between these two cancers.
  • With improving mortality in these primary cancers, clinicians are likely to encounter this association in clinical practice.
  • Systemic therapy for metastatic breast and thyroid cancers differ and therefore a clear diagnosis of metastasis is crucial.
Open access

Mike Lin, Venessa Tsang, Janice Brewer, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Matti L Gild

Summary

Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare neuroendocrine disease characterised by an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. We report a 50-year-old woman who presented with headaches and bilateral sixth cranial nerve palsies. MRI of the pituitary revealed extensive fibrosis involving the sellar and extending into both cavernous sinuses causing bilateral occlusion of the internal carotid arteries (ICA). Transphenoidal biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of infiltrative fibrotic lymphocytic hypophysitis. Symptoms resolved with high dose of oral steroids but relapsed on tapering, requiring several treatments of i.v. pulse steroids over 8 months. Rituximab combined with mycophenolate mofetil was required to achieve long-term symptom relief. Serial MRI pituitary imaging showed stabilisation of her disease without reduction in sellar mass or regression of ICA occlusion. The patient’s brain remained perfused solely by her posterior circulation. This case demonstrates an unusual presentation of a rare disease and highlights a successful steroid-sparing regimen in a refractory setting.

Learning points:

  • Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. In exceptional cases, there is infiltration of the cavernous sinus with subsequent occlusion of the internal carotid arteries.
  • First-line treatment of lymphocytic hypophysitis is high-dose glucocorticoids. Relapse after tapering or discontinuation is common and its use is limited by long-term adverse effects.
  • There is a paucity of data for treatment of refractory lymphocytic hypophysitis. Goals of treatment should include improvement in symptoms, correction of hormonal insufficiencies, reduction in lesion size and prevention of recurrence.
  • Steroid-sparing immunosuppressive drugs such as rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil have been successful in case reports. This therapeutic combination represents a viable alternative treatment for refractory disease.
Open access

Mawson Wang, Benjamin Jonker, Louise Killen, Yvonne Bogum, Ann McCormack, and Ramy H Bishay

Summary

Cushing’s disease is a rare disorder characterised by excessive cortisol production as a consequence of a corticotroph pituitary tumour. While the primary treatment is surgical resection, post-operative radiation therapy may be used in cases of ongoing inadequate hormonal control or residual or progressive structural disease. Despite improved outcomes, radiotherapy for pituitary tumours is associated with hypopituitarism, visual deficits and, rarely, secondary malignancies. We describe an unusual case of a 67-year-old female with presumed Cushing’s disease diagnosed at the age of 37, treated with transsphenoidal resection of a pituitary tumour with post-operative external beam radiotherapy (EBRT), ketoconazole for steroidogenesis inhibition, and finally bilateral adrenalectomy for refractory disease. She presented 30 years after her treatment with a witnessed generalised tonic-clonic seizure. Radiological investigations confirmed an extracranial mass infiltrating through the temporal bone and into brain parenchyma. Due to recurrent generalised seizures, the patient was intubated and commenced on dexamethasone and anti-epileptic therapy. Resection of the tumour revealed a high-grade osteoblastic osteosarcoma. Unfortunately, the patient deteriorated in intensive care and suffered a fatal cardiac arrest following a likely aspiration event. We describe the risk factors, prevalence and treatment of radiation-induced osteosarcoma, an exceedingly rare and late complication of pituitary irradiation. To our knowledge, this is the longest reported latency period between pituitary irradiation and the development of an osteosarcoma of the skull.

Learning points:

  • Cushing’s disease is treated with transsphenoidal resection as first-line therapy, with radiotherapy used in cases of incomplete resection, disease recurrence or persistent hypercortisolism.
  • The most common long-term adverse outcome of pituitary tumour irradiation is hypopituitarism occurring in 30–60% of patients at 10 years, and less commonly, vision loss and oculomotor nerve palsies, radiation-induced brain tumours and sarcomas.
  • Currently proposed characteristics of radiation-induced osteosarcomas include: the finding of a different histological type to the primary tumour, has developed within or adjacent to the path of the radiation beam, and a latency period of at least 3 years.
  • Treatment of osteosarcoma of the skull include complete surgical excision, followed by systemic chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
  • Overall prognosis in radiation-induced sarcoma of bone is poor.
  • Newer techniques such as stereotactic radiosurgery may reduce the incidence of radiation-induced malignancies.
Open access

Jane J Tellam, Ghusoon Abdulrasool, and Louise C H Ciin

Summary

Distinguishing primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) from familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia (FHH) can be challenging. Currently, 24-h urinary calcium is used to differentiate between the two conditions in vitamin D replete patients, with urinary calcium creatinine clearance ratio (UCCR) <0.01 suggestive of FHH and >0.02 supportive of PHPT. A 26-year-old Caucasian gentleman presented with recurrent mild hypercalcaemia and inappropriately normal parathyroid hormone (PTH) following previous parathyroidectomy 3 years prior. He had symptoms of fatigue and light-headedness. He did not have any other symptoms of hypercalcaemia. His previous evaluation appeared to be consistent with PHPT as evidenced by hypercalcaemia with inappropriately normal PTH and UCCR of 0.0118 (borderline low using guidelines of >0.01 consistent with PHPT). He underwent parathyroidectomy and three parathyroid glands were removed. His calcium briefly normalised after surgery, but rose again to pre-surgery levels within 3 months. Subsequently, he presented to our centre and repeated investigations showed 24-h urinary calcium of 4.6 mmol/day and UCCR of 0.0081 which prompted assessment for FHH. His calcium-sensing receptor (CASR) gene was sequenced and a rare inactivating variant was detected. This variant was described once previously in the literature. His mother was also confirmed to have mild hypercalcaemia with hypocalciuria and, on further enquiry, had the same CASR variant. The CASR variant was classified as likely pathogenic and is consistent with the diagnosis of FHH. This case highlights the challenges in differentiating FHH from PHPT. Accurate diagnosis is vital to prevent unnecessary surgical intervention in the FHH population and is not always straightforward.

Learning points:

  • Distinguishing FHH from PHPT with co-existing vitamin D deficiency is difficult as this can mimic FHH. Therefore, ensure patients are vitamin D replete prior to performing 24-h urinary calcium collection.
  • Individuals with borderline UCCR could have either FHH or PHPT. Consider performing CASR gene sequencing for UCCR between 0.01 and 0.02.
  • Parathyroid imaging is not required for making the diagnosis of PHPT. It is performed when surgery is considered after confirming the diagnosis of PHPT.
Open access

Mawson Wang, Catherine Cho, Callum Gray, Thora Y Chai, Ruhaida Daud, and Matthew Luttrell

Summary

We report the case of a 65-year-old female who presented with symptomatic hypercalcaemia (corrected calcium of 4.57 mmol/L) with confusion, myalgias and abdominal discomfort. She had a concomitant metabolic alkalosis (pH 7.46, HCO3 - 40 mmol/L, pCO2 54.6 mmHg). A history of significant Quick-Eze use (a calcium carbonate based antacid) for abdominal discomfort, for 2 weeks prior to presentation, suggested a diagnosis of milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Further investigations did not demonstrate malignancy or primary hyperparathyroidism. Following management with i.v. fluid rehydration and a single dose of i.v. bisphosphonate, she developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia requiring oral and parenteral calcium replacement. She was discharged from the hospital with stable biochemistry on follow-up. This case demonstrates the importance of a detailed history in the diagnosis of severe hypercalcaemia, with MAS representing the third most common cause of hypercalcaemia. We discuss its pathophysiology and clinical importance, which can often present with severe hypercalcaemia that can respond precipitously to calcium-lowering therapy.

Learning points:

  • Milk-alkali syndrome is an often unrecognised cause for hypercalcaemia, but is the third most common cause of admission for hypercalcaemia.
  • Calcium ingestion leading to MAS can occur at intakes as low as 1.0–1.5 g per day in those with risk factors.
  • Early recognition of this syndrome can avoid the use of calcium-lowering therapy such as bisphosphonates which can precipitate hypocalcaemia.
Open access

Frank Gao, Stephen Hall, and Leon A Bach

Summary

Sodium/glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors are novel oral hypoglycaemic agents that are increasingly used in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). They are now recommended as second-line pharmacotherapy (in conjunction with metformin) in patients with type 2 diabetes and established atherosclerotic heart disease, heart failure or chronic kidney disease due to their favourable effects on cardiovascular and renal outcomes. We report a case of a 69-year-old man who developed muscle pain, weakness and wasting after commencing the SGLT2 inhibitor empagliflozin. This persisted for 1 year before he underwent resistance testing, which confirmed muscle weakness. His symptoms resolved within weeks of ceasing empagliflozin, with improvement in muscle strength on clinical assessment and resistance testing and reversal of MRI changes. No other cause of myopathy was identified clinically, on biochemical assessment or imaging, suggesting that empagliflozin was the cause of his myopathy.

Learning points:

  • Empagliflozin, a commonly used SGLT2 inhibitor, was associated with myopathy.
  • A high degree of suspicion is required to diagnose drug-induced myopathy, with a temporal relationship between starting the medication and symptom onset being the main indicator.
  • Recognition of drug-induced myopathy is essential, as discontinuation of the offending drug typically improves symptoms.
Open access

Albert S Kim, Rashida Hakeem, Azaliya Abdullah, Amanda J Hooper, Michel C Tchan, Thushari I Alahakoon, and Christian M Girgis

Summary

A 19-year-old female presented at 25-weeks gestation with pancreatitis. She was found to have significant hypertriglyceridaemia in context of an unconfirmed history of familial hypertriglyceridaemia. This was initially managed with fasting and insulin infusion and she was commenced on conventional interventions to lower triglycerides, including a fat-restricted diet, heparin, marine oil and gemfibrozil. Despite these measures, the triglyceride levels continued to increase as she progressed through the pregnancy, and it was postulated that she had an underlying lipoprotein lipase defect. Therefore, a multidisciplinary decision was made to commence therapeutic plasma exchange to prevent further episodes of pancreatitis. She underwent a total of 13 sessions of plasma exchange, and labour was induced at 37-weeks gestation in which a healthy female infant was delivered. There was a rapid and significant reduction in triglycerides in the 48 h post-delivery. Subsequent genetic testing of hypertriglyceridaemia genes revealed a missense mutation of the LPL gene. Fenofibrate and rosuvastatin was commenced to manage her hypertriglyceridaemia postpartum and the importance of preconception counselling for future pregnancies was discussed. Hormonal changes in pregnancy lead to an overall increase in plasma lipids to ensure adequate nutrient delivery to the fetus. These physiological changes become problematic, where a genetic abnormality in lipid metabolism exists and severe complications such as pancreatitis can arise. Available therapies for gestational hypertriglyceridaemia rely on augmentation of LPL activity. Where there is an underlying LPL defect, these therapies are ineffective and removal of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins via plasma exchange should be considered.

Learning points:

  • Hormonal changes in pregnancy, mediated by progesterone,oestrogen and human placental lactogen, lead to a two- to three-fold increase in serum triglyceride levels.
  • Pharmacological intervention for management of gestational hypertriglyceridaemia rely on the augmentation of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity to enhance catabolism of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins.
  • Genetic mutations affecting the LPL gene can lead to severe hypertriglyceridaemia.
  • Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) is an effective intervention for the management of severe gestational hypertriglyceridaemia and should be considered in cases where there is an underlying LPL defect.
  • Preconception counselling and discussion regarding contraception is of paramount importance in women with familial hypertriglyceridaemia.
Open access

M L Gild, L Heath, J Y Paik, R J Clifton-Bligh, and B G Robinson

Summary

Struma ovarii is a rare, usually benign ovarian tumour with malignancy occurring in <5% of cases. Metastases, particularly seeding to bone, are extremely rare. Presentation is variable but often features local pain and/or ascites and hyperthyroidism may occur. It is not established how to best treat and follow patients with extensive disease. Case reports of radioiodine (I131) ablative therapy following thyroidectomy have shown reduced recurrence. We describe the case of a 33-year-old woman who presented with bone pain and was diagnosed with skeletal metastases with features of follicular thyroid carcinoma. However, thyroid pathology was benign. She recalled that 5 years prior, an ovarian teratoma was excised, classified at that time as a dermoid cyst. Retrospective review of this pathology confirmed struma ovarii without obvious malignant features. The patient was found to have widespread metastases to bone and viscera and her thyroglobulin was >3000 µg/L following recombinant TSH administration prior to her first dose of I131. At 25 months following radioiodine treatment, she is in remission with an undetectable thyroglobulin and clear I131 surveillance scans. This case demonstrates an unusual presentation of malignant struma ovarii together with challenges of predicting metastatic disease, and demonstrates a successful radioiodine regimen inducing remission.

Learning points:

  • Malignant transformation of struma ovarii (MSO) is extremely rare and even rarer are metastatic deposits in bone and viscera.
  • MSO can be difficult to predict by initial ovarian pathology, analogous to the difficulty in some cases of differentiating between follicular thyroid adenoma and carcinoma.
  • No consensus exists on the management for post operative treatment of MSO; however, in this case, three doses of 6Gbq radioiodine therapy over a short time period eliminated metastases to viscera and bone.
  • Patients should continue to have TSH suppression for ~5 years.
  • Monitoring thyroglobulin levels can predict recurrence.
Open access

Florence Gunawan, Elizabeth George, and Mark Kotowicz

Summary

Denosumab is a fully human MAB that acts as a potent anti-resorptive by inhibiting activation of osteoclasts by inhibiting the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B (RANK) ligand. Hypocalcaemia has been reported as one of the serious adverse sequelae of use of denosumab. We present a case of refractory hypocalcaemia following administration of a single dose of denosumab in a patient with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer. The patient’s serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations and renal function were normal prior to denosumab administration. Serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) level was however elevated pre-morbidly consistent with known bone metastases. The patient was treated with high-dose oral and IV calcium without any appreciable response in serum calcium. During his 30-day hospital admission, he demonstrated disease progression with development of new liver metastases and bone marrow involvement. Normocalcaemia was not achieved despite 1 month of aggressive therapy. Given the patient was asymptomatic and prognosis guarded, he was eventually discharged for ongoing supportive care under the palliative care team.

Learning points:

  • Denosumab is a potent anti-resorptive therapy and hypocalcaemia is one of the known adverse effects.
  • Serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations must be replete prior to administration of denosumab to reduce the risk of hypocalcaemia.
  • Denosumab has been proven to be more effective than zoledronic acid in preventing skeletal-related adverse effects in patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.
Open access

Shivani Patel, Venessa Chin, and Jerry R Greenfield

Summary

Durvalumab is a programmed cell death ligand 1 inhibitor, which is now approved in Australia for use in non-small-cell lung and urothelial cancers. Autoimmune diabetes is a rare immune-related adverse effect associated with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. It is now being increasingly described reflecting the wider use of immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. We report the case of a 49-year-old female who presented with polyuria, polydipsia and weight loss, 3 months following the commencement of durvalumab. On admission, she was in severe diabetic ketoacidosis with venous glucose: 20.1 mmol/L, pH: 7.14, bicarbonate 11.2 mmol/L and serum beta hydroxybutyrate: >8.0 mmol/L. She had no personal or family history of diabetes or autoimmune disease. Her HbA1c was 7.8% and her glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibodies were mildly elevated at 2.2 mU/L (reference range: <2 mU/L) with negative zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8) and islet cell (ICA) antibodies. Her fasting C-peptide was low at 86 pmol/L (reference range: 200–1200) with a corresponding serum glucose of 21.9 mmol/L. She was promptly stabilised with an insulin infusion in intensive care and discharged on basal bolus insulin. Durvalumab was recommenced once her glycaemic control had stabilised. Thyroid function tests at the time of admission were within normal limits with negative thyroid autoantibodies. Four weeks post discharge, repeat thyroid function tests revealed hypothyroidism, with an elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) at 6.39 mIU/L (reference range: 0.40–4.80) and low free T4: 5.9 pmol/L (reference range: 8.0–16.0). These findings persisted with repeat testing despite an absence of clinical symptoms. Treatment with levothyroxine was commenced after excluding adrenal insufficiency (early morning cortisol: 339 nmol/L) and hypophysitis (normal pituitary on MRI).

Learning points:

  • Durvalumab use is rarely associated with fulminant autoimmune diabetes, presenting with severe DKA.
  • Multiple endocrinopathies can co-exist with the use of a single immune checkpoint inhibitors; thus, patients should be regularly monitored.
  • Regular blood glucose levels should be performed on routine pathology on all patients on immune checkpoint inhibitor.
  • Clinician awareness of immunotherapy-related diabetes needs to increase in an attempt to detect hyperglycaemia early and prevent DKA.