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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.
Open access

Nirusha Arnold, Victor O’Toole, Tien Huynh, Howard C Smith, Catherine Luxford, Roderick Clifton-Bligh and Creswell J Eastman

Summary

Parathyroid-independent hypercalcaemia of pregnancy, due to biallelic loss of function of the P450 enzyme CYP24A1, the principal inactivator of 1,25(OH)2D results in hypervitaminosis D, hypercalcaemia and hypercalciuria. We report two cases of this disorder, with intractable hypercalcaemia, one occurring during gestation and into the postpartum, and the other in the postpartum period. Case 1, a 47-year-old woman with a twin pregnancy conceived by embryo transfer, presented with hypercalcaemia at 23 weeks gestation with subnormal serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) and normal serum 25-OH D levels. She was admitted to hospital at 31 weeks gestation with pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes and increasing hypercalcaemia. Caesarean section at 34 weeks gestation delivered two healthy females weighing 2.13 kg and 2.51 kg. At delivery, the patient’s serum calcium level was 2.90 mmol/L. Postpartum severe hypercalcaemia was treated successfully with Denosumab 60 mg SCI, given on two occasions. CYP24A1 testing revealed she was compound heterozygous for pathogenic variants c.427_429delGAA, (p.Glu143del) and c.1186C>T, (p.Arg396Trp). Case 2, a 36-year-old woman presented 4 days after the delivery of healthy twins with dyspnoea, bradycardia, severe headaches, hypertension and generalized tonic-clonic seizures after an uneventful pregnancy. She was hypercalcaemic with a suppressed PTH, normal 25(OH)D, and elevated 1,25(OH)2D levels. Her symptoms partially responded to i.v. saline and corticosteroids in the short term but bisphosphonates such as Pamidronate and Zoledronic acid did not result in sustained improvement. Denosumab 120 mg SCI successfully treated the hypercalcaemia which resolved completely 2 months post-partum. CYP24A1 testing revealed she was homozygous for the pathogenic variant c.427_429delGAA, (p.Glu143del).

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcaemia in pregnancy can be associated with considerable morbidity with few options available for management.
  • In non-PTH-related hypercalcaemia the diagnosis of CYP24A1 deficiency should be considered.
  • Making a definitive diagnosis of CYP24A1 deficiency by genetic testing delays the diagnosis, while the availability of serum 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (24,25(OH)2D) will expedite a diagnosis.
  • In pregnant women with CYP24A1 deficiency hypercalcaemia can worsen in the post-partum period and is more likely to occur with twin pregnancies but generally resolves within 2–3 months.
  • Therapeutic alternatives are limited in pregnancy and their effectiveness is short-lived and mostly ineffective. Denosumab used in both our patients after delivery was the most effective agent normalizing calcium and may have benefit as a long-term therapeutic agent in preventing complications in patients with CYP24A1 deficiency.
Open access

Isabella Lupi, Alessandro Brancatella, Mirco Cosottini, Nicola Viola, Giulia Lanzolla, Daniele Sgrò, Giulia Di Dalmazi, Francesco Latrofa, Patrizio Caturegli and Claudio Marcocci

Summary

Programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4/B7 (CTLA-4/B7) pathways are key regulators in T-cell activation and tolerance. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab (PD-1 inhibitors), atezolizumab (PD-L1 inhibitor) and ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) are monoclonal antibodies approved for treatment of several advanced cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)-related hypophysitis is described more frequently in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4; however, recent studies reported an increasing prevalence of anti-PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis which also exhibits slightly different clinical features. We report our experience on hypophysitis induced by anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 treatment. We present four cases, diagnosed in the past 12 months, of hypophysitis occurring in two patients receiving anti-PD-1, in one patient receiving anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combined therapy and in one patient receiving anti-PD-L1. In this case series, timing, clinical presentation and association with other immune-related adverse events appeared to be extremely variable; central hypoadrenalism and hyponatremia were constantly detected although sellar magnetic resonance imaging did not reveal specific signs of pituitary inflammation. These differences highlight the complexity of ICI-related hypophysitis and the existence of different mechanisms of action leading to heterogeneity of clinical presentation in patients receiving immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • PD-1/PD-L1 blockade can induce hypophysitis with a different clinical presentation when compared to CTLA-4 blockade.
  • Diagnosis of PD-1/PD-L1 induced hypophysitis is mainly made on clinical grounds and sellar MRI does not show radiological abnormalities.
  • Hyponatremia due to acute secondary adrenal insufficiency is often the principal sign of PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis and can be masked by other symptoms due to oncologic disease.
  • PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis can present as an isolated manifestation of irAEs or be in association with other autoimmune diseases
Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.
  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.
  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.
  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.
  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.
Open access

Jose León Mengíbar, Ismael Capel, Teresa Bonfill, Isabel Mazarico, Laia Casamitjana Espuña, Assumpta Caixàs and Mercedes Rigla

Summary

Durvalumab, a human immunoglobulin G1 kappa monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction of programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) with the PD-1 and CD80 (B7.1) molecules, is increasingly used in advanced neoplasias. Durvalumab use is associated with increased immune-related adverse events. We report a case of a 55-year-old man who presented to our emergency room with hyperglycaemia after receiving durvalumab for urothelial high-grade non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. On presentation, he had polyuria, polyphagia, nausea and vomiting, and laboratory test revealed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Other than durvalumab, no precipitating factors were identified. Pre-durvalumab blood glucose was normal. The patient responded to treatment with intravenous fluids, insulin and electrolyte replacement. Simultaneously, he presented a thyroid hormone pattern that evolved in 10 weeks from subclinical hyperthyroidism (initially attributed to iodinated contrast used in a previous computerised tomography) to overt hyperthyroidism and then to severe primary hypothyroidism (TSH: 34.40 µU/mL, free thyroxine (FT4): <0.23 ng/dL and free tri-iodothyronine (FT3): 0.57 pg/mL). Replacement therapy with levothyroxine was initiated. Finally, he was tested positive for anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD65), anti-thyroglobulin (Tg) and antithyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies (Abs) and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) and silent thyroiditis caused by durvalumab. When durvalumab was stopped, he maintained the treatment of multiple daily insulin doses and levothyroxine. Clinicians need to be alerted about the development of endocrinopathies, such as DM, DKA and primary hypothyroidism in the patients receiving durvalumab.

Learning points:

  • Patients treated with anti-PD-L1 should be screened for the most common immune-related adverse events (irAEs).
  • Glucose levels and thyroid function should be monitored before and during the treatment.
  • Durvalumab is mainly associated with thyroid and endocrine pancreas dysfunction.
  • In the patients with significant autoimmune background, risk–benefit balance of antineoplastic immunotherapy should be accurately assessed.
Open access

Jonathan Brown and Luqman Sardar

Summary

A 68-year-old previously independent woman presented multiple times to hospital over the course of 3 months with a history of intermittent weakness, vacant episodes, word finding difficulty and reduced cognition. She was initially diagnosed with a TIA, and later with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage following a fall; however, despite resolution of the haemorrhage, symptoms were ongoing and continued to worsen. Confusion screen blood tests showed no cause for the ongoing symptoms. More specialised investigations, such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, electroencephalogram and serology also gave no clear diagnosis. The patient had a background of hypothyroidism, with plasma thyroid function tests throughout showing normal free thyroxine and a mildly raised thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However plasma anti-thyroid peroxidise (TPO) antibody titres were very high. After discussion with specialists, it was felt she may have a rare and poorly understood condition known as Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE). After a trial with steroids, her symptoms dramatically improved and she was able to live independently again, something which would have been impossible at presentation.

Learning points:

  • In cases of subacute onset confusion where most other diagnoses have already been excluded, testing for anti-thyroid antibodies can identify patients potentially suffering from HE.
  • In these patients, and under the guidance of specialists, a trial of steroids can dramatically improve patient’s symptoms.
  • The majority of patients are euthyroid at the time of presentation, and so normal thyroid function tests should not prevent anti-thyroid antibodies being tested for.
  • Due to high titres of anti-thyroid antibodies being found in a small percentage of the healthy population, HE should be treated as a diagnosis of exclusion, particularly as treatment with steroids may potentially worsen the outcome in other causes of confusion, such as infection.
Open access

Anna Tortora, Domenico La Sala and Mario Vitale

Summary

Reduced intestinal absorption of levothyroxine (LT4) is the most common cause of failure to achieve an adequate therapeutic target in hypothyroid patients under replacement therapy. We present the case of a 63-year-old woman with autoimmune hypothyroidism previously well-replaced with tablet LT4 who became unexpectedly no more euthyroid. At presentation, the patient reported the onset of acute gastrointestinal symptoms characterized by nausea, loss of appetite, flatulence, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, associated with increase of thyrotropin levels (TSH: 11 mIU/mL). Suspecting a malabsorption disease, a thyroxine solid-to-liquid formulation switch, at the same daily dose, was adopted to reach an optimal therapeutic target despite the gastrointestinal symptoms persistence. Oral LT4 solution normalized thyroid hormones. Further investigations diagnosed giardiasis, and antibiotic therapy was prescribed. This case report is compatible with a malabsorption syndrome caused by an intestinal parasite (Giardia lamblia). The reduced absorption of levothyroxine was resolved by LT4 oral solution.

Learning points:

  • The failure to adequately control hypothyroidism with oral levothyroxine is a common clinical problem.
  • Before increasing levothyroxine dose in a patient with hypothyroidism previously well-controlled with LT4 tablets but no more in appropriate therapeutic target, we suggest to investigate non adhesion to LT4 therapy, drug or food interference with levothyroxine absorption, intestinal infection, inflammatory intestinal disease, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, short bowel syndrome after intestinal or bariatric surgery, hepatic cirrhosis and congestive heart failure.
  • LT4 oral solution has a better absorptive profile than the tablet. In hypothyroid patients affected by malabsorption syndrome, switch of replacement therapy from tablet to liquid LT4 should be tested before increasing the dose of LT4.
Open access

Taisuke Uchida, Hideki Yamaguchi, Kazuhiro Nagamine, Tadato Yonekawa, Eriko Nakamura, Nobuhiro Shibata, Fumiaki Kawano, Yujiro Asada and Masamitsu Nakazato

Summary

We report a case of rapid pleural effusion after discontinuation of lenvatinib. A 73-year-old woman was diagnosed with poorly differentiated thyroid cancer with right pleural metastasis. Weekly paclitaxel treatment was performed for 18 weeks, but it was not effective. Oral administration of lenvatinib, a multi-target tyrosine kinase inhibitor, reduced the size of cervical and thoracic tumors and lowered serum thyroglobulin levels. Lenvatinib was discontinued on day 28 because of Grade 2 thrombocytopenia and Grade 3 petechiae. Seven days after discontinuation of lenvatinib, the patient was hospitalized because of dyspnea and right pleural effusion. Pleural effusion rapidly improved with drainage and re-initiation of lenvatinib and did not recur. Anorexia caused by lenvatinib led to undernutrition, which resulted in death 13 months after initiation of lenvatinib. Autopsy revealed extensive necrosis with primary and metastatic lesions, suggesting that the patient responded to lenvatinib. Physicians should be aware of the possibility of flare-up in patients with thyroid cancer treated with lenvatinib.

Learning points:

  • Autopsy findings revealed that lenvatinib was efficacious in treating poorly differentiated thyroid cancer without primary lesion resection.
  • Flare-up phenomenon may occur in thyroid cancer treated with lenvatinib.
  • Attention should be paid to flare-up phenomenon within a few days of discontinuing lenvatinib.
Open access

Ilan Rahmani Tzvi-Ran, Judith Olchowski, Merav Fraenkel, Asher Bashiri and Leonid Barski

Summary

A previously healthy 24-year-old female underwent an emergent caesarean section without a major bleeding described. During the first post-operative days (POD) she complained of fatigue, headache and a failure to lactate with no specific and conclusive findings on head CT. On the following days, fever rose with a suspicion of an obstetric surgery-related infection, again with no evidence to support the diagnosis. On POD5 a new-onset hyponatremia was documented. The urine analysis suggested SIADH, and following a treatment failure, further investigation was performed and demonstrated both central hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency. The patient was immediately treated with hydrocortisone followed by levothyroxine with a rapid resolution of symptoms and hyponatremia. Further laboratory investigation demonstrated anterior hypopituitarism. The main differential diagnosis was Sheehan’s syndrome vs lymphocytic hypophysitis. Brain MRI was performed as soon as it was available and findings consistent with Sheehan’s syndrome confirmed the diagnosis. Lifelong hormonal replacement therapy was initiated. Further complaints on polyuria and polydipsia have led to a water deprivation testing and the diagnosis of partial central insipidus and appropriate treatment with DDAVP.

Learning points:

  • Sheehan’s syndrome can occur, though rarely, without an obvious major post-partum hemorrhage.
  • The syndrome may resemble lymphocytic hypophysitis clinically and imaging studies may be crucial in order to differentiate both conditions.
  • Hypopituitarism presentation may be variable and depends on the specific hormone deficit.
  • Euvolemic hyponatremia workup must include thyroid function test and 08:00 AM cortisol levels.
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.