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Open access

Osamah A Hakami, Julia Ioana, Shahzad Ahmad, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Summary

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have revolutionised cancer therapy and improved outcomes for patients with advanced disease. Pembrolizumab, a monoclonal antibody that acts as a programmed cell death 1 (PD-1(PDCD1)) inhibitor, has been approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma and other solid tumours. Immune-related adverse events (irAEs) including endocrinopathies have been well described with this and other PD-1 inhibitors. While hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and less commonly hypophysitis, are the most common endocrinopathies occurring in patients treated with pembrolizumab, the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) was low in clinical trials. We report a case of pembrolizumab-induced primary hypothyroidism and T1DM presenting with severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). A 52-year-old male patient was treated with pembrolizumab for metastatic melanoma. He presented to the emergency department with a 1-day history of nausea and vomiting 2 weeks after his seventh dose of pembrolizumab, having complained of polyuria and polydipsia for 2 months before presentation. He had been diagnosed with thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody-negative hypothyroidism, requiring thyroxine replacement, shortly after his fifth dose. Testing revealed a severe DKA (pH: 6.99, glucose: 38.6 mmol/L, capillary ketones: 4.9 and anion gap: 34.7). He was treated in the intensive care unit as per the institutional protocol, and subsequently transitioned to subcutaneous basal-bolus insulin. After his diabetes and thyroid stabilised, pembrolizumab was recommenced to treat his advanced melanoma given his excellent response. This case highlights the importance of blood glucose monitoring as an integral part of cancer treatment protocols composed of pembrolizumab and other ICIs.

Learning points:

  • The incidence of T1DM with pembrolizumab treatment is being increasingly recognised and reported, and DKA is a common initial presentation.

  • Physicians should counsel patients about this potential irAE and educate them about the symptoms of hyperglycaemia and DKA.

  • The ESMO guidelines recommend regular monitoring of blood glucose in patients treated with ICIs, a recommendation needs to be incorporated into cancer treatment protocols for pembrolizumab and other ICIs in order to detect hyperglycaemia early and prevent DKA.

Open access

Saurabh Uppal, James Blackburn, Mohammed Didi, Rajeev Shukla, James Hayden and Senthil Senniappan

Summary

Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) can be associated with embryonal tumours and congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI). We present an infant with BWS who developed congenital hepatoblastoma and Wilms’ tumour during infancy. The infant presented with recurrent hypoglycaemia requiring high intravenous glucose infusion and was biochemically confirmed to have CHI. He was resistant to diazoxide but responded well to octreotide and was switched to Lanreotide at 1 year of age. Genetic analysis for mutations of ABCC8 and KCNJ11 were negative. He had clinical features suggestive of BWS. Methylation-sensitive multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification revealed hypomethylation at KCNQ1OT1:TSS-DMR and hypermethylation at H19 /IGF2:IG-DMR consistent with mosaic UPD(11p15). Hepatoblastoma was detected on day 4 of life, which was resistant to chemotherapy, requiring surgical resection. He developed Wilms’ tumour at 3 months of age, which also showed poor response to induction chemotherapy with vincristine and actinomycin D. Surgical resection of Wilms’ tumour was followed by post-operative chemotherapy intensified with cycles containing cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, carboplatin and etoposide, in addition to receiving flank radiotherapy. We report, for the first time, an uncommon association of hepatoblastoma and Wilms’ tumour in BWS in early infancy. Early onset tumours may show resistance to chemotherapy. UPD(11p15) is likely associated with persistent CHI in BWS.

Learning points:

  • Long-acting somatostatin analogues are effective in managing persistent CHI in BWS.

  • UPD(11)pat genotype may be a pointer to persistent and severe CHI.

  • Hepatoblastoma and Wilms’ tumour may have an onset within early infancy and early tumour surveillance is essential.

  • Tumours associated with earlier onset may be resistant to recognised first-line chemotherapy.

Open access

A Veltroni, G Zambon, S Cingarlini and M V Davì

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), a rare cause of autoimmune hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, is relatively well known in Japan. The incidence in Caucasians is less than one-fifth of that reported in Japanese people, but it is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide in non-Asians as well. Drugs containing sulphydryl groups are known to be associated with the disease in genetically predisposed individuals. Moreover, several recent reports showed a direct association between the onset of IAS and the consumption of dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (LA). Insulinoma remains the most prevalent cause of hypersulinaemic hypoglycaemia in Caucasians. Consequently, primary investigation in these patients is generally focused on localisation of the pancreatic tumour, often with invasive procedures followed by surgery. We described a case of an Italian woman presenting to us with severe recurrent hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide levels and no evidence of pancreatic lesions at imaging diagnostic procedures. She had taken LA until 2 weeks before hospitalisation. After an evaluation of her drug history, an autoimmune form of hypoglycaemia was suspected and the titre of insulin autoantibodies was found to be markedly elevated. This allowed us to diagnose LA-related IAS, thus preventing any unnecessary surgery and avoiding invasive diagnostic interventions.

Learning points:

  • IAS is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia that typically affects Asian population, but it has been increasingly recognised in Caucasian patients.

  • It should be considered among the differential diagnosis of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia to avoid unnecessary diagnostic investigations and surgery.

  • It should be suspected in the presence of very high serum insulin levels (100–10  000  μU/mL) associated with high C-peptide levels.

  • There is a strong association with administration of drugs containing sulphydryl groups included LA, a dietary supplement commonly used in Western countries to treat peripheral neuropathy.

Open access

D Cappellani, C Sardella, M C Campopiano, A Falorni, P Marchetti and E Macchia

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), or Hirata disease, is a rare hypoglycaemic disorder caused by the presence of high titer of insulin autoantibodies (IAA) in patients without previous exposure to exogenous insulin. Even though its pathogenesis is not fully understood, striking evidences link IAS to previous exposure to sulphydryl-containing medications, like alpha-lipoic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. Although challenging, a careful differential diagnosis from other causes of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia (such as insulinoma) is mandatory, since these conditions require different therapeutic approaches. In the present study, we report a 35-year-old woman originally from Sri Lanka who was referred to our University Hospital on suspicion of occult insulinoma. Her medical history was positive for endometriosis, treated with estroprogestins and alpha-lipoic acid. The latter supplement was begun 2 weeks before the first hypoglycaemic episode. Our tests confirmed the presence of hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide concentrations. When insulin concentrations were compared using different assays, the results were significantly different. Moreover, insulin values significantly decreased after precipitation with polyethylene glycol. An assay for IAA proved positive (530 U/mL). A genetic analysis revealed the presence of HLA-DRB1*04,15, an immunogenetic determinant associated with IAS. On the basis of clinical data we avoided a first-line approach with immunosuppressive treatments, and the patient was advised to modify her diet, with the introduction of frequent low-caloric meals. During follow-up evaluations, glucose levels (registered trough a flash glucose monitoring system) resulted progressively more stable. IAA titer progressively decreased, being undetectable by the fifteenth month, thus indicating the remission of the IAS.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, whose prevalence is higher in East Asian populations due to the higher prevalence of specific immunogenetic determinants. Nevertheless, an increasing number of IAS cases is being reported worldwide, due to the wide diffusion of medications such as alpha-lipoic acid.

  • Differential diagnosis of IAS from other causes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia is challenging. Even though many tests can be suggestive of IAS, the gold standard remains the detection of IAAs, despite that dedicated commercial kits are not widely available.

  • The therapeutic approach to IAS is problematic. As a matter of fact IAS is often a self-remitting disease, but sometimes needs aggressive immunosuppression. The benefits and risks of any therapeutic choice should be carefully weighted and tailored on the single patient.

Open access

Xin Chen, Dina Kamel, Braden Barnett, Evan Yung, Adrienne Quinn and Caroline Nguyen

Summary

There has been an increasing awareness of post gastric bypass hypoglycemia (PGBH). Histopathologic findings from such patients who underwent partial/total pancreatomy, however, can vary widely from minimal changes to classic nesidioblastosis, making the pathologic diagnosis challenging. PGBH typically presents as postprandial hypoglycemia, as opposed to insulinoma, which presents as fasting hypoglycemia. Herein, we describe an unusual case of a patient with PGBH who initially presented with postprandial hypoglycemia three years after surgery, but later developed fasting hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia as the disease progressed. Our hypothesis for this phenomenon is that this disease is progressive, and later in its course, the insulin release becomes dissociated from food stimulation and is increased at baseline. Future studies are needed to investigate the prevalence as well as etiology of this progression from postprandial to fasting hypoglycemia.

Learning points:

  • There has been an increasing awareness of post gastric bypass hypoglycemia (PGBH).

  • Histopathologically, PGBH can vary from minimal changes to nesidioblastosis.

  • Although uncommon, patients with PGBH after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass may present with both postprandial and fasting hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia as disease progresses.

  • Our hypothesis for this phenomenon is that the insulin release becomes dissociated from food stimulation and is increased at baseline with disease progression.

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

Harmony Thompson, Helen Lunt, Cate Fleckney and Steven Soule

Summary

An adolescent with type 1 diabetes and a history of self-harm, which included intentional overdoses and insulin omission, presented with an insulin degludec overdose. She had been commenced on the ultra-long-acting insulin, degludec, with the aim of reducing ketoacidosis episodes in response to intermittent refusal to take insulin. Insulin degludec was administered under supervision as an outpatient. Because it was anticipated that she would attempt a degludec overdose at some stage, the attending clinicians implemented a proactive management plan for this (and related) scenarios. This included long-term monitoring of interstitial glucose using the Abbott Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitor. The patient took a witnessed overdose of 242 units of degludec (usual daily dose, 32 units). She was hospitalised an hour later. Inpatient treatment was guided primarily by interstitial glucose results, with capillary and venous glucose tests used as secondary measures to assess the accuracy of interstitial glucose values. Four days of inpatient treatment was required. The patient was managed with high glycaemic loads of food and also intermittent intravenous dextrose. No hypoglycaemia was documented during the admission. In summary, while a degludec overdose may require several days of inpatient management, in situations where proactive management is an option and the dose administered is relatively modest, it may be possible to avoid significant hypoglycaemia. In addition, this case demonstrates that inpatient interstitial glucose monitoring may have a role in managing insulin overdose, especially in situations where the effect of the insulin overdose on glucose levels is likely to be prolonged.

Learning points:

  • Degludec overdoses have a prolonged effect on blood glucose levels, but if the clinical situation allows for early detection and management, treatment may prove easier than that which is typically needed following overdoses of a similar dose of shorter acting insulins.

  • Inpatient real-time interstitial monitoring helped guide management, which in this context included the prescription of high dietary carbohydrate intake (patient led) and intravenous 10% dextrose (nurse led).

  • Use of inpatient interstitial glucose monitoring to guide therapy might be considered ‘off label’ use, thus, both staff and also patients should be aware of the limitations, as well as the benefits, of interstitial monitoring systems.

  • The Libre flash glucose monitor provided nurses with low cost, easy-to-use interstitial glucose results, but it is nevertheless advisable to check these results against conventional glucose tests, for example, capillary ‘finger-stick’ or venous glucose tests.

Open access

Akihiko Ando, Shoichiro Nagasaka and Shun Ishibashi

Summary

We report a case of a woman with diabetes mellitus caused by a genetic defect in ABCC8-coding sulfonylurea receptor 1 (SUR1), a subunit of the ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel protein. She was diagnosed with diabetes at 7 days after birth. After intravenous insulin drip for 1 month, her hyperglycaemia remitted. At the age of 13 years, her diabetes relapsed, and after that she had been treated by intensive insulin therapy for 25 years with relatively poor glycaemic control. She was switched to oral sulfonylurea therapy and attained euglycaemia. In addition, her insulin secretory capacity was ameliorated gradually.

Learning points:

  • Genetic testing should be considered in any individuals or family with diabetes that occurred within the first year or so of life.

  • Sulfonylurea can achieve good glycaemic control in patients with KATP channel mutations by restoring endogenous insulin secretion, even if they were treated with insulin for decades.

  • Early screening and genetic testing are important to improve the prognosis of patients with neonatal diabetes mellitus arising from ABCC8 or KCNJ11 mutation.

Open access

Takatoshi Anno, Hideaki Kaneto, Ryo Shigemoto, Fumiko Kawasaki, Yasuhiro Kawai, Noriyo Urata, Hirofumi Kawamoto, Kohei Kaku and Niro Okimoto

Summary

Hypoglycemia is induced by many causes, especially over-dose of insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents in diabetic subjects. In such a case, hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia is usually observed. On the other hand, it is important to classify secondary hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia. Liver injury-induced hypoglycemia is one of the causes of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia but rarely observed in clinical practice. Herein, we experienced similar 2 cases of non-diabetic hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia. Both of them were elderly subjects with low body weight. Furthermore, it is likely that hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia in both subjects was triggered by severe liver injury, at least in part, due to possible limited liver glycogen store. In elderly subjects with low body weight and/or malnutrition, metabolism in the liver is reduced and glycogen accumulation is decreased. Such alteration brings out acute and marked liver injury, which finally leads to the onset of severe hypoglycemia. It is known that not only liver injury but also multiple organ failure could be induced due to extreme emaciation in subjects. It is likely that in elderly subjects with low body weight and/or malnutrition, multiple organ failure including liver failure could be induced due to the similar reason. Therefore, we should be very careful of such subjects in order to avoid the development of multiple organ failure which leads to life-threatening situations. In conclusion, we should keep in mind the possibility of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia when we examine severe liver injury, especially in elderly or starving subjects with low body weight and limited liver glycogen stores.

Learning points:

  • It is important to classify secondary hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia.

  • Liver injury-induced hypoglycemia is one of the causes of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia but rarely observed in everyday clinical practice.

  • Herein, we reported similar 2 cases of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia without diabetes presumably triggered by severe liver injury.

  • In both cases, hypoglycemia was improved by glucose infusion, although their liver injury was not improved.

  • We should keep in mind the possibility of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia when we examine severe liver injury, especially in elderly subjects with low body weight.

Open access

Sarah Y Qian, Matthew J L Hare, Alan Pham and Duncan J Topliss

Summary

Insulinomas are rare neuroendocrine tumours that classically present with fasting hypoglycaemia. This case report discusses an uncommon and challenging case of insulinoma soon after upper gastrointestinal surgery. A 63-year-old man presented with 6 months of post-prandial hypoglycaemia beginning after a laparoscopic revision of Toupet fundoplication. Hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia was confirmed during a spontaneous episode and in a mixed-meal test. Localisation studies including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and gallium dotatate positron emission tomography (68Ga Dotatate PET) were consistent with a small insulinoma in the mid-body of the pancreas. The lesion was excised and histopathology was confirmed a localised well-differentiated neuroendocrine pancreatic neoplasm. There have been no significant episodes of hypoglycaemia since. This case highlights several key points. Insulinoma should be sought in proven post-prandial hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia – even in the absence of fasting hypoglycaemia. The use of nuclear imaging targeting somatostatin and GLP1 receptors has improved accuracy of localisation. Despite these advances, accurate surgical resection can remain challenging.

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycaemia is defined by Whipple’s triad and can be provoked by fasting or mixed-meal tests.

  • Although uncommon, insulinomas can present with post-prandial hypoglycaemia.

  • In hypoglycaemia following gastrointestinal surgery (i.e. bariatric surgery or less commonly Nissen fundoplication) dumping syndrome or non-insulinoma pancreatogenous hypoglycaemia syndrome (NIPHS) should be considered.

  • Improved imaging techniques including MRI, endoscopic ultrasound and functional nuclear medicine scans aid localisation of insulinomas.

  • Despite advances in imaging and surgical techniques, accurate resection of insulinomas remains challenging.