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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

Mads Ryø Jochumsen, Peter Iversen and Anne Kirstine Arveschoug

Summary

A case of follicular thyroid cancer with intense focal Methionine uptake on 11C-Methionine PET/CT is reported here. The use of 11C-Methionine PET in differentiated thyroid cancer is currently being investigated as a surrogate tracer compared to the more widely used 18F-FDG PET. This case illustrates the potential incremental value of this modality, not only in the localizing of parathyroid adenoma, but also indicating that 11C-Methionine PET might have a potential of increasing the pretest likelihood of thyroid malignancy in a cold nodule with highly increased Sestamibi uptake.

Learning points:

  • 11C-Methionine PET/CT and 18F-Fluorocholine PET/CT often visualizes the parathyroid adenoma in case of negative Tc-99m-MIBI SPECT/CT.

  • A cold nodule in Tc-99m Pertechnetat thyroid scintigraphy with a negative Sestamibi scintigraphy has a very low probability of being malignant.

  • However, the pretest likelihood of thyroid cancer in a cold nodule with increased Sestamibi uptake is low.

  • 11C-Methionine PET might have a potential incremental value in increasing the pretest likelihood of thyroid malignancy in a cold nodule with highly increased Sestamibi uptake.

Open access

Regina Streuli, Ina Krull, Michael Brändle, Walter Kolb, Günter Stalla, Marily Theodoropoulou, Annette Enzler-Tschudy and Stefan Bilz

Summary

Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome and only a few cases have been reported in the literature. Differentiating between Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome may be particularly difficult if predominant ectopic CRH secretion leads to pituitary corticotroph hyperplasia that may mimic Cushing’s disease during dynamic testing with both dexamethasone and CRH as well as bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS). We present the case of a 24-year-old man diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome caused by an ACTH/CRH co-secreting midgut NET. Both high-dose dexamethasone testing and BIPSS suggested Cushing’s disease. However, the clinical presentation with a rather rapid onset of cushingoid features, hyperpigmentation and hypokalemia led to the consideration of ectopic ACTH/CRH-secretion and prompted a further workup. Computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen revealed a cecal mass which was identified as a predominantly CRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumor. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of an ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumor of the cecum presenting with biochemical features suggestive of Cushing’s disease.

Learning points:

  • The discrimination between a Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome is challenging and has many caveats.

  • Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are very rare.

  • Dynamic tests as well as BIPSS may be compatible with Cushing’s disease in ectopic CRH-secretion.

  • High levels of CRH may induce hyperplasia of the corticotroph cells in the pituitary. This could be the cause of a preserved pituitary response to dexamethasone and CRH.

  • Clinical features of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with rapid development of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperpigmentation, high circulating levels of cortisol with associated hypokalemia, peripheral edema and proximal myopathy should be a warning flag of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome and lead to further investigations.

Open access

Noman Ahmad, Abdulmonem Mohammed Almutawa, Mohamed Ziyad Abubacker, Hossam Ahmed Elzeftawy and Osama Abdullah Bawazir

Summary

An insulinoma is a rare tumour with an incidence of four cases per million per year in adults. The incidence in children is not established. There is limited literature available in children with insulinoma, and only one case is reported in association with Down’s syndrome in adults. Insulinoma diagnosis is frequently missed in adults as well as in children. The Whipple triad is the most striking feature although it has limited application in young children. Hypoglycaemia with elevated insulin, C-peptide and absent ketones is highly suggestive of hyperinsulinism. We present a case of 10-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome with recurrent insulinoma. He was initially misdiagnosed as having an adrenal insufficiency and developed cushingoid features and obesity secondary to hydrocortisone treatment and excessive sugar intake. The tumour was successfully localised in the head of the pancreas with an MRI and octreotide scan on first presentation. Medical treatment with diazoxide and octreotide could not achieve normal blood glucose levels. The insulinoma was laparoscopically enucleated and pathological examination confirmed a neuroendocrine tumour. Subsequently, he had complete resolution of symptoms. He had a recurrence after 2 years with frequent episodes of hypoglycaemia. The biochemical workup was suggestive of hyperinsulinism. MRI and PET scan confirmed the recurrence at the same site (head of the pancreas). He had an open laparotomy for insulinoma resection. The pathology was consistent with benign insulinoma, and subsequently, he had complete resolution of symptoms.

Learning points:

  • Insulinoma is a very rare tumour in children; it should be considered in the differential diagnosis of hypoglycaemia with absent ketones.

  • Refractory neurological symptoms like seizure, migraine, mood changes and regression of learning abilities should suggest evaluation for hypoglycaemia.

  • MRI with contrast and PET scan would localise the majority of pancreatic beta islet cell lesions.

  • Medical treatment with diazoxide, octreotide and the addition of corn starch in feeds is not curative but can be supportive to maintain normoglycemia until the surgical resection.

  • Surgical resection is the only curative treatment. The surgical procedure of choice (laparoscopic/open laparotomy) depends on local expertise, preoperative localisation, tumour size and number.

  • Surgical treatment results in complete resolution of symptoms, but all cases should be closely followed up to monitor for recurrence. The recurrence rate is four times higher in MEN1 cases.

Open access

Elise Flynn, Sara Baqar, Dorothy Liu, Elif I Ekinci, Stephen Farrell, Jeffrey D Zajac, Mario De Luise and Ego Seeman

Summary

ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma (ASP) is a rare cause of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (CS). We report the case of a 63-year-old female presenting with CS secondary to an ASP complicated by bowel perforation. This case report highlights ASP as an uncommon but important cause of ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS). There have been 29 cases of ASP, all of which were unilateral and benign, but associated with significant complications. Patients presenting with ASP have the potential for cure with unilateral adrenalectomy. Given this promising prognosis if recognised, ASP should be considered in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS. As this case demonstrates, gastrointestinal complications can arise from severe hypercortisolaemia associated with CS. Early medical and surgical intervention is imperative as mortality approaches 50% once bowel perforation occurs.

Learning points

  • Consider phaeochromocytoma in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS; screen with plasma metanephrines or urinary catecholamines.

  • Serial screening may be required if ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma is suspected, as absolute levels can be misleading.

  • Early catecholamine receptor blockade and adrenal synthesis blockade may avoid the need for rescue bilateral adrenalectomy in ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma.

  • Consider early medical or surgical management when gastrointestinal features are present in patients with CS, as bowel perforation due to severe hypercortisolaemia can occur and is associated with significant mortality.

Open access

Benjamin G Challis, Nicolai J Wewer Albrechtsen, Vishakha Bansiya, Keith Burling, Peter Barker, Bolette Hartmann, Fiona Gribble, Stephen O'Rahilly, Jens J Holst and Helen L Simpson

Summary

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNETs) secreting proglucagon are associated with phenotypic heterogeneity. Here, we describe two patients with pNETs and varied clinical phenotypes due to differential processing and secretion of proglucagon-derived peptides (PGDPs). Case 1, a 57-year-old woman presented with necrolytic migratory erythema, anorexia, constipation and hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia. She was found to have a grade 1 pNET, small bowel mucosal thickening and hyperglucagonaemia. Somatostatin analogue (SSA) therapy improved appetite, abolished hypoglycaemia and improved the rash. Case 2, a 48-year-old male presented with diabetes mellitus, diarrhoea, weight loss, nausea, vomiting and perineal rash due to a grade 1 metastatic pNET and hyperglucagonaemia. In both cases, plasma levels of all measured PGDPs were elevated and attenuated following SSA therapy. In case 1, there was increased production of intact glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and GLP-2, similar to that of the enteroendocrine L cell. In case 2, pancreatic glucagon was elevated due to a pancreatic α-cell-like proglucagon processing profile. In summary, we describe two patients with pNETs and heterogeneous clinical phenotypes due to differential processing and secretion of PGDPs. This is the first description of a patient with symptomatic hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia and marked gastrointestinal dysfunction due to, in part, a proglucagon-expressing pNET.

Learning points

  • PGDPs exhibit a diverse range of biological activities including critical roles in glucose and amino acid metabolism, energy homeostasis and gastrointestinal physiology.

  • The clinical manifestations of proglucagon-expressing tumours may exhibit marked phenotypic variation due to the biochemical heterogeneity of their secreted peptide repertoire.

  • Specific and precise biochemical assessment of individuals with proglucagon-expressing tumours may provide opportunities for improved diagnosis and clinical management.

Open access

Marta Guimarães, Pedro Rodrigues, Sofia S Pereira, Mário Nora, Gil Gonçalves, Nicolai Wewer Albrechtsen, Bolette Hartmann, Jens Juul Holst and Mariana P Monteiro

Summary

Post-prandial hypoglycemia is frequently found after bariatric surgery. Although rare, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET), which occasionally are mixed hormone secreting, can lead to atypical clinical manifestations, including reactive hypoglycemia. Two years after gastric bypass surgery for the treatment of severe obesity, a 54-year-old female with previous type 2 diabetes, developed post-prandial sweating, fainting and hypoglycemic episodes, which eventually led to the finding by ultrasound of a 1.8-cm solid mass in the pancreatic head. The 72-h fast test and the plasma chromogranin A levels were normal but octreotide scintigraphy showed a single focus of abnormal radiotracer uptake at the site of the nodule. There were no other clinical signs of hormone secreting pNET and gastrointestinal hormone measurements were not performed. The patient underwent surgical enucleation with complete remission of the hypoglycemic episodes. Histopathology revealed a well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma with low-grade malignancy with positive chromogranin A and glucagon immunostaining. An extract of the resected tumor contained a high concentration of glucagon (26.707 pmol/g tissue), in addition to traces of GLP1 (471 pmol/g), insulin (139 pmol/g) and somatostatin (23 pmol/g). This is the first report of a GLP1 and glucagon co-secreting pNET presenting as hypoglycemia after gastric bypass surgery. Although pNET are rare, they should be considered in the differential diagnosis of the clinical approach to the post-bariatric surgery hypoglycemia patient.

Learning points

  • pNETs can be multihormonal-secreting, leading to atypical clinical manifestations.

  • Reactive hypoglycemic episodes are frequent after gastric bypass.

  • pNETs should be considered in the differential diagnosis of hypoglycemia after bariatric surgery.

Open access

Maria P Yavropoulou, Nikolina Gerothanasi, Athanasios Frydas, Evangelia Triantafyllou, Chris Poulios, Prodromos Hytiroglou, Panagiotis Apostolou, Ioannis Papasotiriou, Symeon Tournis, Isaak Kesisoglou and John G Yovos

Summary

Tumor-induced osteomalacia (TIO) is a rare paraneoplastic syndrome caused primarily by benign mesenchymal tumors. These tumors typically follow a benign clinical course and local recurrence occurs in <5% of cases. We investigated a 49-year-old man with a recurrent mesenchymal phosphaturic tumor showing no signs of malignancy. The patient suffered from chronic muscle weakness, myalgia and cramps. His medical record included the diagnosis of oncogenic osteomalacia, for which he was submitted to tumor resection in the left leg three times before. Laboratory examination showed hypophosphatemia, hyperphosphaturia and an elevated serum FGF23 level. A radical surgical approach (amputation) was advised, however, complete biochemical and clinical remission was not reached. Molecular analysis of the tumor cells demonstrated overexpression of growth factor receptors implicated in tumor angiogenesis and metastatic potential (platelet derived growth factor type A (PDGFRA), PDGFRB and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor) together with increased expression of FGF23, x-linked-phosphate-regulating endopeptidase and KLOTHO. TIO is usually associated with benign phosphauturic tumors and, when identified, resection of the tumor leads to complete remission in the majority of cases. The underlying pathophysiology of recurrences in these tumors is not known. This is the first report showing increased expression of growth factor receptors in a locally aggressive but histopathologically benign phosphaturic mesenchymal tumor.

Learning points

  • TIO is usually associated with benign soft tissue or bone neoplasms of mesenchymal origin.

  • These tumors typically follow a benign clinical course and even in the rare malignant cases local recurrence occurs in <5%.

  • Successful identification and removal of the tumor leads to full recovery in the majority of cases.

Open access

Avital Nahmias, Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Asher Salmon and David J Gross

Summary

Approximately 35% of the pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) are functional, the most common of which is an insulinoma. Rarely can initially nonfunctioning tumor undergo biological transformation to a hormone-secreting tumor with subsequent changes in the clinical picture. We present here three unique patients with long-standing pNETs who developed life-threatening hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia along with tumor progression. In two of the patients, everolimus (Afinitor) was administered in an attempt to control both tumor growth and hypoglycemia. In two cases everolimus therapy resulted in the abolishment of hypoglycemia and induced significant tumor regression; however these beneficial responses were transient. These cases highlight the exceptional ability of pNETs to change biological behavior in parallel with disease progression. Our experience concurs with recently published studies demonstrating the utility of everolimus for the control of both hypoglycemia and tumor progression.

Learning points

  • Nonfunctional pNET can gain new features such as insulin secretion with related morbidity.

  • Gain of function in a previously nonfunctional pNET signifies tumor progression and is usually associated with poor prognosis.

  • Everolimus proved to be a viable treatment for hypoglycemia in insulinoma patients and was also proven highly effective in the patients presented here.

  • As disease progresses, the effect of everolimus on hypoglycemia wanes. We report for the first time the development of hypoglycemia during everolimus treatment.

Open access

Julien Ducry, Fulgencio Gomez, John O Prior, Ariane Boubaker, Maurice Matter, Matteo Monti, Yan Pu, Nelly Pitteloud and Luc Portmann

Summary

Ectopic ACTH Cushing's syndrome (EAS) is often caused by neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) of lungs, pancreas, thymus, and other less frequent locations. Localizing the source of ACTH can be challenging. A 64-year-old man presented with rapidly progressing fatigue, muscular weakness, and dyspnea. He was in poor condition and showed facial redness, proximal amyotrophy, and bruises. Laboratory disclosed hypokalemia, metabolic alkalosis, and markedly elevated ACTH and cortisol levels. Pituitary was normal on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and bilateral inferior petrosal sinus blood sampling with corticotropin-releasing hormone stimulation showed no significant central-to-periphery gradient of ACTH. Head and neck, thoracic and abdominal computerized tomography (CT), MRI, somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SSRS), and 18F-deoxyglucose-positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) failed to identify the primary tumor. 18F-dihydroxyphenylalanine (F-DOPA)-PET/CT unveiled a 20-mm nodule in the jejunum and a metastatic lymph node. Segmental jejunum resection showed two adjacent NETs, measuring 2.0 and 0.5 cm with a peritoneal metastasis. The largest tumor expressed ACTH in 30% of cells. Following surgery, after a transient adrenal insufficiency, ACTH and cortisol levels returned to normal values and remain normal over a follow-up of 26 months. Small mid-gut NETs are difficult to localize on CT or MRI, and require metabolic imaging. Owing to low mitotic activity, NETs are generally poor candidates for FDG-PET, whereas SSRS shows poor sensitivity in EAS due to intrinsically low tumor concentration of type-2 somatostatin receptors (SST2) or to receptor down regulation by excess cortisol. However, F-DOPA-PET, which is related to amine precursor uptake by NETs, has been reported to have high positive predictive value for occult EAS despite low sensitivity, and constitutes a useful alternative to more conventional methods of tumor localization.

Learning points

  • Uncontrolled high cortisol levels in EAS can be lethal if untreated.

  • Surgical excision is the keystone of NETs treatment, thus tumor localization is crucial.

  • Most cases of EAS are caused by NETs, which are located mainly in the lungs. However, small gut NETs are elusive to conventional imaging and require metabolic imaging for detection.

  • FDG-PET, based on tumor high metabolic rate, may not detect NETs that have low mitotic activity. SSRS may also fail, due to absent or low concentration of SST2, which may be down regulated by excess cortisol.

  • F-DOPA-PET, based on amine-precursor uptake, can be a useful method to localize the occult source of ACTH in EAS when other methods have failed.