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Open access

Vasileios Chortis, Christine J H May, Kassiani Skordilis, John Ayuk, Wiebke Arlt and Rachel K Crowley

Summary

Context

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.

Conclusions

Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.

  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.

  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.

Open access

Catherine D Zhang, Pavel N Pichurin, Aleh Bobr, Melanie L Lyden, William F Young Jr and Irina Bancos

Summary

Carney complex (CNC) is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome characterized by spotty pigmentation of the skin and mucosa in association with various non-endocrine and endocrine tumors, including primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD). A 20-year-old woman was referred for suspected Cushing syndrome. She had signs of cortisol excess as well as skin lentigines on physical examination. Biochemical investigation was suggestive of corticotropin (ACTH)-independent Cushing syndrome. Unenhanced computed tomography scan of the abdomen did not reveal an obvious adrenal mass. She subsequently underwent bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy, and histopathology was consistent with PPNAD. Genetic testing revealed a novel frameshift pathogenic variant c.488delC/p.Thr163MetfsX2 (ClinVar Variation ID: 424516) in the PRKAR1A gene, consistent with clinical suspicion for CNC. Evaluation for other clinical features of the complex was unrevealing. We present a case of PPNAD-associated Cushing syndrome leading to the diagnosis of CNC due to a novel PRKAR1A pathogenic variant.

Learning points:

  • PPNAD should be considered in the differential for ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome, especially when adrenal imaging appears normal.

  • The diagnosis of PPNAD should prompt screening for CNC.

  • CNC is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome caused by inactivating pathogenic variants in the PRKAR1A gene.

  • Timely diagnosis of CNC and careful surveillance can help prevent potentially fatal complications of the disease.

Open access

Yoko Olmedilla, Shoaib Khan, Victoria Young, Robin Joseph, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansgorge, Ashley Grossman and Aparna Pal

Summary

A 21 year-old woman was found to have a pituitary macroadenoma following an episode of haemophilus meningitis. Biochemical TSH and GH excess was noted, although with no clear clinical correlates. She was treated with a somatostatin analogue (SSA), which restored the euthyroid state and controlled GH hypersecretion, but she re-presented with a further episode of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and recurrent meningitis. Histology following transsphenoidal adenomectomy revealed a Pit-1 lineage plurihormonal adenoma expressing GH, TSH and PRL. Such plurihormonal pituitary tumours are uncommon and even more unusual to present with spontaneous bacterial meningitis. The second episode of CSF leak and meningitis appears to have been due to SSA therapy-induced tumour shrinkage, which is not a well-described phenomenon in the literature for this type of tumour.

Learning points:

  • Pit-1 lineage GH/TSH/PRL-expressing plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are uncommon. Moreover, this case is unique as the patient first presented with bacterial meningitis.

  • Inmunohistochemical plurihormonality of pituitary adenomas does not necessarily correlate with biochemical and clinical features of hormonal hypersecretion.

  • Given that plurihormonal Pit-1 lineage adenomas may behave more aggressively than classical pituitary adenomas, accurate pathological characterization of these tumours has an increasing prognostic relevance.

  • Although unusual, a CSF leak and meningitis may be precipitated by SSA therapy of a pituitary macroadenoma via tumour shrinkage.

Open access

Jill Pancer, Elliot Mitmaker, Oluyomi Ajise, Roger Tabah and Jacques How

Summary

Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is common and the number of tumor foci rarely exceeds ten. The mechanism of multifocal disease is debated, with the two main hypotheses consisting of either intrathyroidal metastatic spread from a single tumor or independent multicentric tumorigenesis from distinct progenitor cells. We report the case of a 46-year-old woman who underwent total thyroidectomy and left central neck lymph node dissection after fine-needle aspiration of bilateral thyroid nodules that yielded cytological findings consistent with PTC. Final pathology of the surgical specimen showed an isthmic dominant 1.5 cm classical PTC and over 30 foci of microcarcinoma, which displayed decreasing density with increasing distance from the central lesion. Furthermore, all malignant tumors and lymph nodes harbored the activating BRAF V600E mutation. The present case highlights various pathological features that support a mechanism of intraglandular spread, namely a strategic isthmic location of the primary tumor, radial pattern of distribution and extensive number of small malignant foci and BRAF mutational homogeneity.

Learning points:

  • Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is commonly seen in clinical practice, but the number of malignant foci is usually limited to ten or less.

  • There is no clear consensus in the literature as to whether multifocal PTC arises from a single or multiple distinct tumor progenitor cells.

  • Strategic location of the dominant tumor in the thyroid isthmus may favor intraglandular dissemination of malignant cells by means of the extensive lymphatic network.

  • An important pathological finding that may be suggestive of intrathyroidal metastatic spread is a central pattern of distribution with a reduction in the density of satellite lesions with increasing distance from the dominant focus.

  • PTCs originating from the isthmus with intraglandular metastatic dissemination behave more aggressively. As such, a more aggressive treatment course may be warranted, particularly with regard to the extent of surgery.

Open access

Danielle R Bullock, Bradley S Miller, H Brent Clark and Patricia M Hobday

Summary

IgG4-related hypophysitis is an important diagnostic consideration in patients with a pituitary mass or pituitary dysfunction and can initially present with headaches, visual field deficits and/or endocrine dysfunction. Isolated IgG4-related pituitary disease is rare, with most cases of IgG4-related disease involving additional organ systems. We report the case of a teenage female patient with isolated IgG4-related hypophysitis, diagnosed after initially presenting with headaches. Our patient had no presenting endocrinologic abnormalities. She was treated with surgical resection, prednisolone and rituximab with no further progression of disease and sustained normal endocrine function. This case, the youngest described patient with isolated IgG4-related hypophysitis and uniquely lacking endocrinologic abnormalities, adds to the limited reports of isolated pituitary disease. The use of rituximab for isolated pituitary disease has never been described. While IgG4-related hypophysitis has been increasingly recognized, substantial evidence concerning the appropriate treatment and follow-up of these patients is largely lacking.

Learning points:

  • IgG4-related hypophysitis most often occurs in the setting of additional organ involvement but can be an isolated finding. This diagnosis should therefore be considered in a patient presenting with pituitary abnormalities.

  • Most patients with IgG4-related hypophysitis will have abnormal pituitary function, but normal functioning does not exclude this diagnosis.

  • Corticosteroids have been the mainstay of therapy for IgG4-related disease, with other immunosuppressive regimens being reserved for refractory cases. Further research is needed to understand the effectiveness of corticosteroid-sparing regimens and whether there is utility in using these agents as first-line therapies.

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

Maria P Yavropoulou, Christos Poulios, Christoforos Foroulis, Symeon Tournis, Prodromos Hytiroglou, Kalliopi Kotsa, Isaak Kessisoglou and Pantelis Zebekakis

Summary

Tumor-induced osteomalacia (TIO) is a rare form of hypophosphatemia usually caused by phosphaturic mesenchymal tumors (PMTs); the biologic behavior of PMTs is under investigation. Herein we present a case of TIO with a protracted course over 12 years leading to a fatal outcome. A 39-year-old man presented with weakness in 2004 and was found to have decreased serum phosphorus, phosphaturia and low levels of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Four years later he developed a painful left calf mass. The lesion was resected, but recurred causing extreme pain and dysfunction. Radiological examination showed a large cluster of soft tissue tumors affecting all the muscle compartments of the calf and a smaller lesion inside the metaphysis of the tibia. Above-knee amputation was performed. Histological examination of all lesions showed a cellular spindle cell neoplasm with variously sized vessels, wide vessel-like spaces and scattered deposits of calcified extracellular material. The tumor infiltrated skeletal muscles, subcutaneous fat and the proximal end of the fibula. The tibial lesion had identical histology. Three years after the amputation the patient presented with cough and dyspnea. Radiological examination, followed by an open biopsy, showed that there were multiple metastatic nodules of PMTs in both lungs. Shortly after the diagnosis the patient died. This case illustrates that even benign cases of PMTs may lead to a fatal outcome and the classification of PMTs into benign and malignant should be reassessed in order to correspond to its biological behavior.

Learning points:

  • PMTs, aside from having locally aggressive behavior, may metastasize and cause death

  • PMTs may behave aggressively despite ‘benign’ histological findings

  • Accurate diagnosis of tumor-induced osteomalacia and patient management require a multidisciplinary approach

Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Patricia Cipriano, Vanessa Henriques, João Sequeira Duarte and Conceição Canas Marques

Summary

Granular cell tumours (GCT) are rare, slow-growing, benign neoplasms that are usually located in the head and neck. They are more frequent in the female gender and typically have an asymptomatic clinical course, being diagnosed only at autopsy. Symptomatic GCT of the neurohypophysis are exceedingly rare, being less than 70 cases described so far. The authors report on a case of a 28-year-old male that presented to the Endocrinology clinic with clinical and biochemical evidence of hypogonadism. He also reported minor headaches without any major visual symptoms. Further laboratory tests confirmed hypopituitarism (hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, central hypothyroidism and hypocortisolism) and central nervous system imaging revealed a pituitary macroadenoma. The patient underwent transcranial pituitary adenoma resection and the pathology report described a GCT of the neurohypophysis with low mitotic index. The reported case is noteworthy for the rarity of the clinicopathological entity.

Learning points:

  • Symptomatic GCTs are rare CNS tumours whose cell of origin is not well defined that usually give rise to visual symptoms, headache and endocrine dysfunction.

  • Imaging is quite unspecific and diagnosis is difficult to establish preoperatively.

  • Surgical excision is challenging due to lesion’s high vascularity and propensity to adhere to adjacent structures.

  • The reported case is noteworthy for the rarity of the clinicopathological entity.

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.