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Open access

Taisuke Uchida, Hideki Yamaguchi, Kazuhiro Nagamine, Tadato Yonekawa, Eriko Nakamura, Nobuhiro Shibata, Fumiaki Kawano, Yujiro Asada and Masamitsu Nakazato

Summary

We report a case of rapid pleural effusion after discontinuation of lenvatinib. A 73-year-old woman was diagnosed with poorly differentiated thyroid cancer with right pleural metastasis. Weekly paclitaxel treatment was performed for 18 weeks, but it was not effective. Oral administration of lenvatinib, a multi-target tyrosine kinase inhibitor, reduced the size of cervical and thoracic tumors and lowered serum thyroglobulin levels. Lenvatinib was discontinued on day 28 because of Grade 2 thrombocytopenia and Grade 3 petechiae. Seven days after discontinuation of lenvatinib, the patient was hospitalized because of dyspnea and right pleural effusion. Pleural effusion rapidly improved with drainage and re-initiation of lenvatinib and did not recur. Anorexia caused by lenvatinib led to undernutrition, which resulted in death 13 months after initiation of lenvatinib. Autopsy revealed extensive necrosis with primary and metastatic lesions, suggesting that the patient responded to lenvatinib. Physicians should be aware of the possibility of flare-up in patients with thyroid cancer treated with lenvatinib.

Learning points:

  • Autopsy findings revealed that lenvatinib was efficacious in treating poorly differentiated thyroid cancer without primary lesion resection.
  • Flare-up phenomenon may occur in thyroid cancer treated with lenvatinib.
  • Attention should be paid to flare-up phenomenon within a few days of discontinuing lenvatinib.
Open access

Ali A Zaied, Halis K Akturk, Richard W Joseph and Augustine S Lee

Summary

Nivolumab, a monoclonal antibody against programmed cell death-1 receptor, is increasingly used in advanced cancers. While nivolumab use enhances cancer therapy, it is associated with increased immune-related adverse events. We describe an elderly man who presented in ketoacidosis after receiving nivolumab for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. On presentation, he was hyperpneic and laboratory analyses showed hyperglycemia and anion-gapped metabolic acidosis consistent with diabetic ketoacidosis. No other precipitating factors, besides nivolumab, were identified. Pre-nivolumab blood glucose levels were normal. The patient responded to treatment with intravenous fluids, insulin and electrolyte replacement. He was diagnosed with insulin-dependent autoimmune diabetes mellitus secondary to nivolumab. Although nivolumab was stopped, he continued to require multiple insulin injection therapy till his last follow-up 7 months after presentation. Clinicians need to be alerted to the development of diabetes mellitus and diabetic ketoacidosis in patients receiving nivolumab.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis should be considered in the differential of patients presenting with metabolic acidosis following treatment with antibodies to programmed cell death-1 receptor (anti-PD-1).
  • Autoimmune islet cell damage is the presumed mechanism for how insulin requiring diabetes mellitus can develop de novo following administration of anti-PD-1.
  • Because anti-PD-1 works by the activation of T-cells and reduction of ‘self-tolerance’, other autoimmune disorders are likely to be increasingly recognized with increased use of these agents.
Open access

Kazuyuki Oishi, Daisuke Takabatake and Yuichi Shibuya

Summary

We experienced a case of an 82-year-old woman who presented to our hospital with a 1-month history of dysphagia and dyspnea. Cervical contrast-enhanced computed tomography revealed diffuse thyroid neoplasms causing significant tracheal stenosis with tumors, particularly of the superior mediastinum, which were associated with an embolism of the brachiocephalic vein and suspected invasion to the bilateral common carotid arteries. Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) was diagnosed by fine-needle aspiration; thus, emergency tracheostomy and gastrostomy were performed. We made a definitive diagnosis of ATC (T4bN0M0 Stage IVB) and initiated continuous lenvatinib administration at 24 mg/day. Although several adverse events occurred, the tumor size reduced remarkably over a short period. However, the patient died from rupture of the common carotid artery 30 days after treatment initiation. Here, we report our experience with lenvatinib therapy for ATC and include a literature review.

Learning points:

  • Lenvatinib is extremely effective for ATC.
  • Lenvatinib has a much greater cytoreductive effect than traditional therapies, but it needs dose reduction or withdrawal because of treatment-related side effects.
  • Lenvatinib may cause treatment-related carotid blowout syndrome, resulting in death for patients with invasion to the carotid artery.
Open access

Ayanthi A Wijewardene, Sarah J Glastras, Diana L Learoyd, Bruce G Robinson and Venessa H M Tsang

Summary

Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a rare neuroendocrine tumour that originates from the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland. The most common presentation of MTC is with a single nodule; however, by the time of diagnosis, most have spread to the surrounding cervical lymph nodes. Cushing’s syndrome is a rare complication of MTC and is due to ectopic adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) secretion by tumour cells. Cushing’s syndrome presents a challenging diagnostic and management issue in patients with MTC. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) previously used for the management of metastatic MTC have become an important therapeutic option for the management of ectopic ACTH in metastatic MTC. The article describes three cases of ectopic ACTH secretion in MTC and addresses the significant diagnostic and management challenges related to Cushing’s syndrome in metastatic MTC.

Learning points:

  • Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a rare neuroendocrine tumour.
  • Cushing’s syndrome is a rare complication of MTC that has a significant impact on patients’ morbidity and mortality.
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) provide an important therapeutic option for the management of ectopic ACTH in metastatic MTC.
Open access

Shamil D Cooray and Duncan J Topliss

Summary

A 58-year-old man with metastatic radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) presented with left thigh and right flank numbness. He had known progressive and widespread bony metastases, for which he received palliative radiotherapy, and multiple bilateral asymptomatic pulmonary metastases. CT scan and MRI of the spine revealed metastases at right T10–L1 vertebrae with extension into the central canal and epidural disease at T10 and T11 causing cord displacement and canal stenosis but retention of spinal cord signal. Spinal surgery was followed by palliative radiotherapy resulting in symptom resolution. Two months later, sorafenib received approval for use in Australia and was commenced and up-titrated with symptomatic management of mild adverse effects. Follow-up CT scan three months after commencement of sorafenib revealed regression of pulmonary metastases but no evident change in most bone metastases except for an advancing lesion eroding into the right acetabulum. The patient underwent a right total hip replacement, intra-lesional curettage and cementing. After six months of sorafenib therapy, CT scanning showed enlarging liver lesions with marked elevation of serum thyroglobulin. Lenvatinib was commenced and sorafenib was ceased. He now has stable disease with a falling thyroglobulin more than 5 years after metastatic radioiodine-refractory DTC was diagnosed.

In DTC, 5% of distant metastases become radioiodine-refractory, resulting in a median overall survival of 2.5–3.5 years. Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy has recently been demonstrated to increase progression-free survival in these patients but poses some unique management issues and is best used as part of an integrated approach with directed therapy.

Learning points:

  • Directed therapies may have greater potential to control localised disease and related symptoms when compared to systemic therapies.
  • Consider TKI therapy in progressive disease where benefits outweigh risks.
  • Active surveillance and timely intervention are required for TKI-related adverse effects.
  • There is a need for further research on the clinical application of TKI therapy in advanced DTC, including comparative efficacy, sequencing and identifying responders.
Open access

Tsung-Chun Huang, Yu-Kai Cheng, Tsung-Wei Chen, Yung-Chang Hsu, En-Wei Liu and Hsin-Han Chen

Summary

Thyroid cancer with cranial metastasis in a pregnant woman is very rare. In the literature, most cases are diagnosed early from neurogenic signs or symptomatic thyroid gland. Pregnancy also contributes to a hesitation toward early surgical and medical treatments. We reported a scalp tumor in a physically healthy 37-year-old pregnant female with a follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) with lung, bone and cranial metastasis in initial presentation. Silent neurogenic and physical examinations make an early diagnosis very challenging. Resection of scalp and intracranial tumor, a thyroidectomy, post-operative radioactive iodine therapy and tyrosine kinase inhibitors were employed as treatment. The scalp tumor was confirmed as a metastatic follicular thyroid carcinoma via positive immunoreactivity for thyroglobulin and thyroid transcription factor 1 in tumor cells. Blood examination revealed an elevated thyroglobulin level (>5335 ng/mL). The patient was discharged without any neurological deficit. An asymptomatic scalp tumor in a pregnant woman with a normal thyroid disease history needs differential diagnosis from intracranial origin. Rapid progression and an elevated thyroglobulin level are the indicators that further image study is needed. Aggressive surgical excision of resectable thyroid gland and metastatic tumor are essential for a longer survival rate. There is nothing to indicate that a post-partum operation will worsen prognosis.

Learning points:

  • Follicular thyroid cancer with cranial metastasis in initial presentation can be asymptomatic.
  • Follicular thyroid cancer with cranial metastasis in a pregnant woman can be treated after delivery.
  • Rapid enlargement of scalp tumor is indicated for further image study even in a patient without any neurological deficit.
Open access

Hashem Bseiso, Naama Lev-Cohain, David J Gross and Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg

Summary

A 55-year-old woman diagnosed with sporadic MTC underwent total thyroidectomy 20 years ago. After the first surgery, elevated calcitonin levels in parallel with local disease persistence were noted and therefore she underwent repeated neck dissections. During follow-up, multiple foci of metastatic disease were noted in the neck and mediastinal lymph nodes, lungs and bones; however, the disease had an indolent course for a number of years, in parallel with a calcitonin doubling time of more than two years and without significant symptoms. During a routine follow-up visit 2 years ago, findings suggestive of Cushing’s syndrome were observed on physical examination. The biochemical evaluation demonstrated markedly elevated serum calcitonin level, in parallel with lack of cortisol suppression after an overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test, lack of cortisol and ACTH suppression after high-dose IV dexamethasone 8 mg, elevated plasma ACTH up to 79 pg/mL (normal <46 pg/mL) and elevated 24-h urinary free cortisol up to 501 µg/24 h (normal 9–90 µg/24 h). After a negative pituitary MRI, she underwent IPSS, which was compatible with EAS. Whole-body CT demonstrated progressive disease at most of the tumor sites. Treatment with vandetanib at a dosage of 200 mg/day was commenced. The patient showed a significant, rapid and consistent clinical improvement already after two months of treatment, in parallel with biochemical improvement, whereas a decrease in tumor size was demonstrated on follow-up CT.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS) by MTC is an uncommon and a poor prognostic event, being associated with significant morbidity and mortality.
  • We demonstrate that vandetanib is effective in controlling the signs and symptoms related to the EAS in patients with advanced progressive MTC.
  • We demonstrate that vandetanib is effective in decreasing tumor size and in inducing tumor control.
Open access

G K Dimitriadis, K Gopalakrishnan, R Rao, D K Grammatopoulos, H S Randeva, M O Weickert and N Murthy

Summary

We report the case of a 70-year-old previously healthy female who presented acutely to the Accident and Emergency department with left-sided vasomotor symptoms including reduced muscle tone, weakness upon walking and slurred speech. Physical examination confirmed hemiparesis with VIIth nerve palsy and profound hepatomegaly. A random glucose was low at 1.7 mmol/l, which upon correction resolved her symptoms. In hindsight, the patient recalled having had similar episodes periodically over the past 3 months to which she did not give much attention. While hospitalized, she continued having episodes of symptomatic hypoglycaemia during most nights, requiring treatment with i.v. dextrose and/or glucagon. Blood tests including insulin and C-peptide were invariably suppressed, in correlation with low glucose. A Synacthen stimulation test was normal (Cort (0′) 390 nmol/l, Cort (30′) 773 nmol/l). A computed tomography scan showed multiple lobulated masses in the abdomen, liver and pelvis. An ultrasound guided biopsy of one of the pelvic masses was performed. Immunohistochemistry supported the diagnosis of a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) positive for CD34 and CD117. A diagnosis of a non islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia (NICTH) secondary to an IGF2 secreting GIST was confirmed with further biochemical investigations (IGF2=96.5 nmol/l; IGF2:IGF1 ratio 18.9, ULN <10). Treatment with growth hormone resolved the patient's hypoglycaemic symptoms and subsequent targeted therapy with Imatinib was successful in controlling disease progression over an 8-year observation period.

Learning points

  • NICTH can be a rare complication of GISTs that may manifest with severe hypoglycaemia and neuroglucopenic symptoms.
  • NICTH can masquerade as other pathologies thus causing diagnostic confusion.
  • Histological confirmation of GIST induced NICTH and exclusion of other conditions causing hypoglycaemia is essential.
  • Mutational analysis of GISTs should be carried out in all cases as it guides treatment decision.
  • Tailored management of hypoglycaemia, in this case using growth hormone and targeted cyto-reductive therapy, minimizes the risk of possible life-threatening complications.