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Open access

Tu Vinh Luong, Zaibun Nisa, Jennifer Watkins, and Aimee R Hayes

Summary

Colorectal poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs) are typically associated with poor outcomes. The mechanisms of their aggressiveness are still being investigated. Microsatellite instability (MSI) has recently been found in colorectal NECs showing aberrant methylation of the MLH1 gene and is associated with improved prognosis. We present a 76-year-old lady with an ascending colon tumour showing features of a pT3 N0 R0, large cell NEC (LCNEC) following right hemicolectomy. The adjacent mucosa showed a sessile serrated lesion (SSL) with low-grade dysplasia. Immunohistochemistry showed loss of expression for MLH1 and PMS2 in both the LCNEC and dysplastic SSL. Molecular analysis indicated the sporadic nature of the MLH1 mismatch repair (MMR) protein-deficient status. Our patient did not receive adjuvant therapy and she is alive and disease-free after 34 months follow-up. This finding, similar to early-stage MMR-deficient colorectal adenocarcinoma, is likely practice-changing and will be critical in guiding the appropriate treatment pathway for these patients. We propose that testing of MMR status become routine for early-stage colorectal NECs.

Learning points:

  • Colorectal poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs) are known to be aggressive and typically associated with poor outcomes.
  • A subset of colorectal NECs can display microsatellite instability (MSI) with mismatch repair (MMR) protein-deficient status.
  • MMR-deficient colorectal NECs have been found to have a better prognosis compared with MMR-proficient NECs.
  • MMR status can be detected using immunohistochemistry.
  • Immunohistochemistry for MMR status is routinely performed for colorectal adenocarcinomas.
  • Immunohistochemical expression of MMR protein and MSI analysis should be performed routinely for early-stage colorectal NECs in order to identify a subgroup of MMR-deficient NECs which are associated with a significantly more favourable prognosis.
Open access

J Pedro, F M Cunha, V Neto, V Hespanhol, D F Martins, S Guimarães, A Varela, and D Carvalho

Summary

We describe the case of a 56 year-old woman with the almost simultaneous appearance of diffuse idiopathic pulmonary neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia (DIPNECH) and a carotid body paraganglioma. Of interest, 6 years earlier, the patient underwent total thyroidectomy due to papillary thyroid carcinoma and, in the meantime, she was submitted to mastectomy to treat an invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. In order to explain these lesions, an extensive genetic study was performed. Results showed positivity for the presence of the tumor suppressor gene PALB2, whose presence had already been detected in a niece with breast cancer. The patient underwent different procedures to treat the lesions and currently she is symptom-free over 2 years of follow-up.

Learning points:

  • The presence of two rare neoplasms in a single person should raise the suspicion of a common etiology.
  • To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case that shows the coexistence of DIPNECH and paraganglioma.
  • The contribution of the PALB2 gene in the etiology of these rare neoplasms is a possibility.
Open access

Sakshi Jhawar, Rahul Lakhotia, Mari Suzuki, James Welch, Sunita K Agarwal, John Sharretts, Maria Merino, Mark Ahlman, Jenny E Blau, William F Simonds, and Jaydira Del Rivero

Summary

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is an autosomal dominant condition characterized by parathyroid, anterior pituitary and enteropancreatic endocrine cell tumors. Neuroendocrine tumors occur in approximately in 5–15% of MEN1 patients. Very few cases of ovarian NETs have been reported in association with clinical MEN1 and without genetic testing confirmation. Thirty-three-year-old woman with MEN1 was found to have right adnexal mass on computed tomography (CT). Attempt at laparoscopic removal was unsuccessful, and mass was removed via a minilaparotomy in piecemeal fashion. Pathology showed ovarian NET arising from a teratoma. Four years later, patient presented with recurrence involving the pelvis and anterior abdominal wall. She was treated with debulking surgery and somatostatin analogs (SSAs). Targeted DNA sequencing analysis on the primary adnexal mass as well as the recurrent abdominal wall tumor confirmed loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the MEN1 gene locus. This case represents to our knowledge, the first genetically confirmed case of ovarian NET arising by a MEN1 mechanism in a patient with MEN1. Extreme caution should be exercised during surgery as failure to remove an ovarian NET en masse can result in peritoneal seeding and recurrence. For patients with advanced ovarian NETs, systemic therapy options include SSAs, peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT) and novel agents targeting mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Learning points:

  • Ovarian NET can arise from a MEN1 mechanism, and any adnexal mass in a MEN1 patient can be considered as a possible malignant NET.
  • Given the rarity of this disease, limited data are available on prognostication and treatment. Management strategies are extrapolated from evidence available in NETs from primaries of other origins.
  • Care should be exercised to remove ovarian NETs en bloc as failure to do so may result in peritoneal seeding and recurrence.
  • Treatment options for advanced disease include debulking surgery, SSAs, TKIs, mTOR inhibitors, PRRT and chemotherapy.
Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui, and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.
  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.
  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.
  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.
  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.
Open access

Teresa M Canteros, Valeria De Miguel, and Patricia Fainstein-Day

Summary

Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.
  • Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.
  • Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.
Open access

Ana Gonçalves Ferreira, Tiago Nunes da Silva, Sofia Alegria, Maria Carlos Cordeiro, and Jorge Portugal

Summary

Pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL) are neuroendocrine tumors that can secrete catecholamines. The authors describe a challenging case who presented as stress cardiomyopathy and myocardial infarction (MI). A 76-year-old man, with a medical history of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidaemia and a previous inferior MI in 2001, presented to the emergency department due to chest pain, headaches and vomiting. He also reported worsening blood glucose levels and increasing constipation over the preceding weeks. BP was 185/89 mmHg (no other relevant findings). EKG had ST segment depression in leads V2-V6, T troponin was 600 ng/L (<14) and the echocardiogram showed left ventricular hypokinesia with mildly compromised systolic function. Nevertheless, he rapidly progressed to severe biventricular dysfunction. Coronary angiogram showed a 90% anterior descendent coronary artery occlusion (already present in 2001), which was treated with angioplasty/stenting. In the following days, a very labile BP profile and unexplained sinus tachycardia episodes were observed. Because of sustained severe constipation, the patient underwent an abdominal CT that revealed a retroperitoneal, heterogeneous, hypervascular mass on the right (62 × 35 mm), most likely a paraganglioma. Urinary metanephrines were increased several fold. 68Ga-DOTANOC PET-CT scan showed increased uptake in the abdominal mass (no evidence of disease elsewhere). He was started on a calcium-channel blocker and alpha blockade and underwent surgery with no major complications. Eight months after surgery, the patient has no evidence of disease. Genetic testing was negative for known germline mutations. This was a challenging diagnosis, but it was essential for adequate cardiovascular stabilization and to reduce further morbidity.

Learning points:

  • PPGL frequently produces catecholamines and can manifest with several cardiovascular syndromes, including stress cardiomyopathy and myocardial infarction.
  • Even in the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD), PPGL should be suspected if signs or symptoms attributed to catecholamine excess are present (in this case, high blood pressure, worsening hyperglycaemia and constipation).
  • Establishing the correct diagnosis is important for adequate treatment choice.
  • Inodilators and mechanical support might be preferable options (if available) for cardiovascular stabilization prior to alpha blockade and surgery.
  • Laboratory interference should be suspected irrespective of metanephrine levels, especially in the context of treated Parkinson’s disease.
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

Lima Lawrence, Peng Zhang, Humberto Choi, Usman Ahmad, Valeria Arrossi, Andrei Purysko, and Vinni Makin

Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production leading to ectopic ACTH syndrome accounts for a small proportion of all Cushing’s syndrome (CS) cases. Thymic neuroendocrine tumors are rare neoplasms that may secrete ACTH leading to rapid development of hypercortisolism causing electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and an increased risk for opportunistic infections. We present a unique case of a patient who presented with a mediastinal mass, revealed to be an ACTH-secreting thymic neuroendocrine tumor (NET) causing ectopic CS. As the diagnosis of CS from ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) remains challenging, we emphasize the necessity for high clinical suspicion in the appropriate setting, concordance between biochemical, imaging and pathology findings, along with continued vigilant monitoring for recurrence after definitive treatment.

Learning points:

  • Functional thymic neuroendocrine tumors are exceedingly rare.
  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to thymic neuroendocrine tumors secreting ACTH present with features of hypercortisolism including electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and hyperglycemia, and opportunistic infections.
  • The ability to undergo surgery and completeness of resection are the strongest prognostic factors for improved overall survival; however, the recurrence rate remains high.
  • A high degree of initial clinical suspicion followed by vigilant monitoring is required for patients with this challenging disease.
Open access

Mara Ventura, Leonor Gomes, Joana Rosmaninho-Salgado, Luísa Barros, Isabel Paiva, Miguel Melo, Diana Oliveira, and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Intracranial germinomas are rare tumors affecting mostly patients at young age. Therefore, molecular data on its etiopathogenesis are scarce. We present a clinical case of a male patient of 25 years with an intracranial germinoma and a 16p11.2 microdeletion. His initial complaints were related to obesity, loss of facial hair and polydipsia. He also had a history of social-interaction difficulties during childhood. His blood tests were consistent with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and secondary adrenal insufficiency, and he had been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism. He also presented with polyuria and polydipsia and the water deprivation test confirmed the diagnosis of diabetes insipidus. His sellar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed two lesions: one located in the pineal gland and other in the suprasellar region, both with characteristics suggestive of germinoma. Chromosomal microarray analysis was performed due to the association of obesity with social disability, and the result identified a 604 kb 16p11.2 microdeletion. The surgical biopsy confirmed the histological diagnosis of a germinoma. Pharmacological treatment with testosterone, hydrocortisone and desmopressin was started, and the patient underwent radiotherapy (40 Gy divided in 25 fractions). Three months after radiotherapy, a significant decrease in suprasellar and pineal lesions without improvement in pituitary hormonal deficiencies was observed. The patient is currently under follow-up. To the best of our knowledge, we describe the first germinoma in a patient with a 16p11.2 deletion syndrome, raising the question about the impact of this genetic alteration on tumorigenesis and highlighting the need of molecular analysis of germ cell tumors as only little is known about their genetic background.

Learning points:

  • Central nervous system germ cell tumors (CNSGTs) are rare intracranial tumors that affect mainly young male patients. They are typically located in the pineal and suprasellar regions and patients frequently present with symptoms of hypopituitarism.
  • The molecular pathology of CNSGTs is unknown, but it has been associated with gain of function of the KIT gene, isochromosome 12p amplification and a low DNA methylation.
  • Germinoma is a radiosensitive tumor whose diagnosis depends on imaging, tumor marker detection, surgical biopsy and cerebrospinal fluid cytology.
  • 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome is phenotypically characterized by developmental delay, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.
  • Seminoma, cholesteatoma, desmoid tumor, leiomyoma and Wilms tumor have been described in a few patients with 16p11.2 deletion.
  • Bifocal germinoma was identified in this patient with a 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome, which represents a putative new association not previously reported in the literature.
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.