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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

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

Athanasios Fountas, Shu Teng Chai, John Ayuk, Neil Gittoes, Swarupsinh Chavda and Niki Karavitaki

Summary

Co-existence of craniopharyngioma and acromegaly has been very rarely reported. A 65-year-old man presented with visual deterioration, fatigue and frontal headaches. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a suprasellar heterogeneous, mainly cystic, 1.9 × 2 × 1.9 cm mass compressing the optic chiasm and expanding to the third ventricle; the findings were consistent with a craniopharyngioma. Pituitary hormone profile showed hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, mildly elevated prolactin, increased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and normal thyroid function and cortisol reserve. The patient had transsphenoidal surgery and pathology of the specimen was diagnostic of adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma. Post-operatively, he had diabetes insipidus, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and adrenocorticotropic hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone deficiency. Despite the hypopituitarism, his IGF-1 levels remained elevated and subsequent oral glucose tolerance test did not show complete growth hormone (GH) suppression. Further review of the pre-operative imaging revealed a 12 × 4 mm pituitary adenoma close to the right carotid artery and no signs of pituitary hyperplasia. At that time, he was also diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the left upper lung lobe finally managed with radical radiotherapy. Treatment with long-acting somatostatin analogue was initiated leading to biochemical control of the acromegaly. Latest imaging has shown no evidence of craniopharyngioma regrowth and stable adenoma. This is a unique case report of co-existence of craniopharyngioma, acromegaly and squamous lung cell carcinoma that highlights diagnostic and management challenges. Potential effects of the GH hypersecretion on the co-existent tumours of this patient are also briefly discussed.

Learning points:

  • Although an extremely rare clinical scenario, craniopharyngioma and acromegaly can co-exist; aetiopathogenic link between these two conditions is unlikely.
  • Meticulous review of unexpected biochemical findings is vital for correct diagnosis of dual pituitary pathology.
  • The potential adverse impact of GH excess due to acromegaly in a patient with craniopharyngioma (and other neoplasm) mandates adequate biochemical control of the GH hypersecretion.
Open access

W K M G Amarawardena, K D Liyanarachchi, J D C Newell-Price, R J M Ross, D Iacovazzo and M Debono

Summary

The granulation pattern of somatotroph adenomas is well known to be associated with differing clinical and biochemical characteristics, and it has been shown that sparsely granulated tumours respond poorly to commonly used somatostatin receptor ligands (SRLs). We report a challenging case of acromegaly with a sparsely granulated tumour resistant to multiple modalities of treatment, ultimately achieving biochemical control with pasireotide. A 26-year-old lady presented with classical features of acromegaly, which was confirmed by an oral glucose tolerance test. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) was 1710 µg/L (103–310 µg/L) and mean growth hormone (GH) was >600 U/L. MRI scan showed a 4 cm pituitary macroadenoma with suprasellar extension and right-sided cavernous sinus invasion. She underwent trans-sphenoidal pituitary surgery. Histology displayed moderate amounts of sparsely granular eosinophilic cytoplasm, staining only for GH. Postoperative investigations showed uncontrolled disease (IGF1:1474 µg/L, mean GH:228 U/L) and residual tumour in the cavernous sinus. She received external beam fractionated radiation. Over the years, she received octreotide LAR (up to 30 mg), lanreotide (up to 120 mg) two weekly, cabergoline, pegvisomant and stereotactic radiosurgery to no avail. Only pegvisomant resulted in an element of disease control; however, this had to be stopped due to abnormal liver function tests. Fifteen years after the diagnosis, she was started on pasireotide 40 mg monthly. Within a month, her IGF1 dropped and has remained within the normal range (103–310 µg/L). Pasireotide has been well tolerated, and there has been significant clinical improvement. Somatostatin receptor subtyping revealed a positivity score of two for both sst5 and sst2a subtypes.

Learning points:

  • Age, size of the tumour, GH levels on presentation, histopathological type and the somatostatin receptor status of the tumour in acromegaly should be reviewed in patients who poorly respond to first-generation somatostatin receptor ligands.
  • Tumours that respond poorly to first-generation somatostatin receptor ligands, especially sparsely granulated somatotroph adenomas, can respond to pasireotide and treatment should be considered early in the management of resistant tumours.
  • Patients with membranous expression of sst5 are likely to be more responsive to pasireotide.