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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

Florence Gunawan, Elizabeth George and Adam Roberts

Summary

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are the mainstay of treatment for advanced melanoma, and their use is being increasingly implicated in the development of autoimmune endocrinopathies. We present a case of a 52-year-old man with metastatic melanoma on combination nivolumab and ipilumimab therapy who developed concurrent hypophysitis, type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and diabetes insipidus. He presented prior to third cycle of combination treatment with a headache, myalgias and fatigue. Biochemistry and MRI pituitary confirmed anterior pituitary dysfunction with a TSH: 0.02 mU/L (0.5–5.5 mU/L), fT4: 5.2 pmol/L (11–22 pmol/L), fT3: 4.0 pmol/L (3.2–6.4 pmol/L), cortisol (12:00 h): <9 nmol/L (74–286 nmol/L), FSH: 0.7 IU/L (1.5–9.7 IU/L), LH: <0.1 IU/L (1.8–9.2 IU/L), PRL: 1 mIU/L (90–400 mIU/L), SHBG: 34 nmol/L (19–764 nmol/L) and total testosterone: <0.4 nmol/L (9.9–27.8 nmol/L). High-dose dexamethasone (8 mg) was administered followed by hydrocortisone, thyroxine and topical testosterone replacement. Two weeks post administration of the third cycle, he became unwell with lethargy, weight loss and nocturia. Central diabetes insipidus was diagnosed on the basis of symptoms and sodium of 149 mmol/L (135–145 mmol/L). Desmopressin nasal spray was instituted with symptom resolution and normalization of serum sodium. Three weeks later, he presented again polyuric and polydipsic. His capillary glucose was 20.8 mmol/L (ketones of 2.4 mmol), low C-peptide 0.05 nmol/L (0.4–1.5 nmol/L) and HbA1c of 7.7%. T1DM was suspected, and he was commenced on an insulin infusion with rapid symptom resolution. Insulin antibodies glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), insulin antibody-2 (IA-2) and zinc transporter-8 (ZnT8) were negative. A follow-up MRI pituitary revealed findings consistent with recovering autoimmune hypophysitis. Immunotherapy was discontinued based on the extent of these autoimmune endocrinopathies.

Learning points:

  • The most effective regime for treatment of metastatic melanoma is combination immunotherapy with nivolumab and ipilumimab, and this therapy is associated with a high incidence of autoimmune endocrinopathies.

  • Given the high prevalence of immune-related adverse events, the threshold for functional testing should be low.

  • Traditional antibody testing may not be reliable to identify early-onset endocrinopathy.

  • Routine screening pathways have yet to be adequately validated through clinical trials.

Open access

Yasutaka Takeda, Yukihiro Fujita, Kentaro Sakai, Tomoe Abe, Tomonobu Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Yanagimachi, Hidemitsu Sakagami, Jun Honjo, Atsuko Abiko, Yuichi Makino and Masakazu Haneda

Summary

MEN1-associated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) may potentially express distinct hormones, but the mechanism has not been elucidated. Transcription factors such as MafA and Pdx1 have been identified to lead to beta cell differentiation, while Arx and Brn4 to alpha cell differentiation in developing pancreas. We hypothesized those transcription factors are important to produce specific hormones in pNETs, similarly to developing pancreas, and examined the expression of transcription factors in a case of MEN1 who showed immunohistological coexistence of several hormone-producing pNETs including insulinoma. A 70-year-old woman was found to manifest hypoglycemia with non-suppressed insulinemia and hypercalcemia with elevated PTH level. She was diagnosed as MEN1 based on the manifestation of primary hyperparathyroidism, pituitary adenoma and insulinoma, with genetic variation of MEN1 gene. She had pylorus-preserving pancreaticoduodenectomy because CT scan and SACI test indicated that insulinoma was localized in the head of the pancreas. Histopathological finding was MEN1-associated NET, G1. Interestingly, immunohistological examination of the resected pancreas revealed that two insulinomas, a glucagon-positive NET and a multiple hormone-positive NET coexisted. Hence, we examined the expression of transcription factors immunohistochemically to elucidate the role of the transcription factors in MEN1-associated hormone-producing pNETs. We observed homogeneous expressions of MafA and Pdx1 in insulinomas and Arx in glucagon-positive NET, respectively. Moreover, multiple hormone-positive NETs expressed several transcription factors heterogeneously. Collectively, our results suggested that transcription factors could play important roles in the production of specific hormones in MEN1-associated pNETs, similar to islet differentiation.

Learning points:

  • To date, it has been shown that different hormone-producing tumors coexist in MEN1-associated pNETs; however, the underlying mechanism of the hormone production in MEN1-associated pNETs has not been well elucidated.

  • Although this case presented symptomatic hypoglycemia, several hormone-producing pNETs other than insulinoma also coexisted in the pancreas.

  • Immunohistochemical analysis showed MafA and Pdx1 expressions distinctly in insulinoma, and Arx expression particularly in a glucagon-positive NET, while a multiple hormone-positive NET expressed MafA, Pdx1 and Arx.

  • Collectively, clinicians should consider that several hormone-producing pNETs may coexist in a MEN1 case and examine both endocrinological and histopathological analysis of pNETs, regardless of whether symptoms related to the excess of hormones are observed or not.

Open access

Marianne Geilswijk, Lise Lotte Andersen, Morten Frost, Klaus Brusgaard, Henning Beck-Nielsen, Anja Lisbeth Frederiksen and Dorte Møller Jensen

Summary

Hypoglycemia during pregnancy can have serious health implications for both mother and fetus. Although not generally recommended in pregnancy, synthetic somatostatin analogues are used for the management of blood glucose levels in expectant hyperinsulinemic mothers. Recent reports suggest that octreotide treatment in pregnancy, as well as hypoglycemia in itself, may pose a risk of fetal growth restriction. During pregnancy, management of blood glucose levels in familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia thus forms a medical dilemma. We report on pregnancy outcomes in a woman with symptomatic familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, type 3. During the patient’s first pregnancy with a viable fetus octreotide treatment was instituted in gestational age 23 weeks to prevent severe hypoglycemic incidences. Fetal growth velocity declined, and at 37 weeks of gestation, intrauterine growth retardation was evident. During the second pregnancy with a viable fetus, blood glucose levels were managed through dietary intervention alone. Thus, the patient was advised to take small but frequent meals high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Throughout pregnancy, no incidences of severe hypoglycemia occurred and fetal growth velocity was normal. We conclude that octreotide treatment during pregnancy may pose a risk of fetal growth restriction and warrants careful consideration. In some cases of familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, blood glucose levels can be successfully managed through diet only, also during pregnancy.

Learning points:

  • Gain-of-function mutations in GCK cause familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia.

  • Hypoglycemia during pregnancy may have serious health implications for mother and fetus.

  • Pregnancy with hyperinsulinism represents a medical dilemma as hypoglycemia as well as octreotide treatment may pose a risk of fetal growth restriction.

  • In some cases of familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, blood glucose levels can be successfully managed through diet only.

Open access

Pooja Sahni, Nitin Trivedi and Abdulkadir Omer

Summary

A 65-year-old obese Caucasian woman presented with symptomatic postprandial hypoglycemic episodes, resolution of symptoms with carbohydrate intake and significantly elevated anti-insulin antibody levels. She did not have any evidence for the use of oral antidiabetic medications, insulin, herbal substances, performing strenuous exercise or history of bariatric surgery. Fingerstick blood glucose readings revealed blood sugar of 35 mg/dL and 48 mg/dL, when she had these symptoms. Her medical history was significant for morbid obesity, hypothyroidism and gastro esophageal reflux disease. Her home medications included levothyroxine, propranolol and omeprazole. A blood sample obtained during the symptoms revealed the following: fingerstick blood sugar 38 mg/dL, venous blood glucose 60 mg/dL (normal (n): 70–99 mg/dL), serum insulin 202 IU/mL (n: <21), proinsulin 31.3 pmol/L (n: <28.9), C-peptide 8 ng/mL (n: 0.9–7), beta-hydroxybutyrate 0.12 mmol/L (n: 0.02–0.27) anti-insulin antibody >45.4 U/mL (n: <0.4). The result obtained while screening for serum sulfonylurea and meglitinides was negative. The repeated episodes of postprandial hypoglycemia associated with significantly elevated anti-insulin antibodies led to a diagnosis of insulin antibody syndrome (IAS). Significant improvement of hypoglycemic symptoms and lower anti-insulin antibody levels (33 U/mL) was noted on nutritional management during the following 6 months. Based on a report of pantoprazole-related IAS cases, her omeprazole was switched to a H2 receptor blocker. She reported only two episodes of hypoglycemia, and anti-insulin antibody levels were significantly lower at 10 U/mL after the following 12-month follow-up.

Learning points:

  • Initial assessment of the Whipple criteria is critical to establish the clinical diagnosis of hypoglycemia accurately.

  • Blood sugar monitoring with fingerstick blood glucose method can provide important information during hypoglycemia workup.

  • Autoimmune hypoglycemia is a rare cause of hypoglycemia, which can be diagnosed on high index of clinical suspicion and systematic evaluation.

Open access

Sally K Abell, Jessie Teng, Anthony Dowling, Michael S Hofman, Richard J MacIsaac and Nirupa Sachithanandan

Summary

This paper details the case of a 77-year-old male with refractory hypoglycaemia due to inoperable metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (pNET) co-secreting insulin and gastrin. Multiple medical therapies were trialled with limited success, and we describe the complications experienced by our patient. Somatostatin analogues can ameliorate hypoglycaemia and may have tumour-stabilising effects; however, in our case resulted in paradoxical worsening of hypoglycaemia. This rendered our patient hospital dependent for glycaemic support including continuous dextrose infusion. Although this is a reported adverse effect with initiation of therapy, we describe successful initiation of short-acting octreotide as an inpatient followed by commencement of long-acting octreotide. Hypoglycaemic collapse occurred only after dose titration of long-acting octreotide. We outline the pitfalls of somatostatin analogue therapy and the mechanisms that may contribute to worsening hypoglycaemia. This rare side effect cannot be reliably predicted, necessitating close supervision and glucose monitoring during therapy. Our patient achieved disease stabilisation and gradual resolution of hypoglycaemia with peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT), an emerging therapeutic option for metastatic neuroendocrine tumours with high efficacy and low toxicity. We present a brief but comprehensive discussion of currently available and novel therapies for insulin secreting pNETs.

Learning points

  • Hypoglycaemia due to malignant insulin secreting pNET is frequently severe and may be life-threatening despite supportive therapies.

  • Octreotide can ameliorate hypoglycaemia, and may have anti-proliferative and tumour-stabilising effects in malignant pNETs that are surgically unresectable.

  • Paradoxical worsening of hypoglycaemia may occur with octreotide initiation and dose titration, necessitating close supervision and glucose monitoring.

  • PRRT is emerging as a therapeutic option with high efficacy and low toxicity.