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Open access

Mara Ventura, Leonor Gomes, Joana Rosmaninho-Salgado, Luísa Barros, Isabel Paiva, Miguel Melo, Diana Oliveira and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Intracranial germinomas are rare tumors affecting mostly patients at young age. Therefore, molecular data on its etiopathogenesis are scarce. We present a clinical case of a male patient of 25 years with an intracranial germinoma and a 16p11.2 microdeletion. His initial complaints were related to obesity, loss of facial hair and polydipsia. He also had a history of social-interaction difficulties during childhood. His blood tests were consistent with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and secondary adrenal insufficiency, and he had been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism. He also presented with polyuria and polydipsia and the water deprivation test confirmed the diagnosis of diabetes insipidus. His sellar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed two lesions: one located in the pineal gland and other in the suprasellar region, both with characteristics suggestive of germinoma. Chromosomal microarray analysis was performed due to the association of obesity with social disability, and the result identified a 604 kb 16p11.2 microdeletion. The surgical biopsy confirmed the histological diagnosis of a germinoma. Pharmacological treatment with testosterone, hydrocortisone and desmopressin was started, and the patient underwent radiotherapy (40 Gy divided in 25 fractions). Three months after radiotherapy, a significant decrease in suprasellar and pineal lesions without improvement in pituitary hormonal deficiencies was observed. The patient is currently under follow-up. To the best of our knowledge, we describe the first germinoma in a patient with a 16p11.2 deletion syndrome, raising the question about the impact of this genetic alteration on tumorigenesis and highlighting the need of molecular analysis of germ cell tumors as only little is known about their genetic background.

Learning points:

  • Central nervous system germ cell tumors (CNSGTs) are rare intracranial tumors that affect mainly young male patients. They are typically located in the pineal and suprasellar regions and patients frequently present with symptoms of hypopituitarism.

  • The molecular pathology of CNSGTs is unknown, but it has been associated with gain of function of the KIT gene, isochromosome 12p amplification and a low DNA methylation.

  • Germinoma is a radiosensitive tumor whose diagnosis depends on imaging, tumor marker detection, surgical biopsy and cerebrospinal fluid cytology.

  • 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome is phenotypically characterized by developmental delay, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.

  • Seminoma, cholesteatoma, desmoid tumor, leiomyoma and Wilms tumor have been described in a few patients with 16p11.2 deletion.

  • Bifocal germinoma was identified in this patient with a 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome, which represents a putative new association not previously reported in the literature.

Open access

Benedetta Zampetti, Giorgia Simonetti, Roberto Attanasio, Antonio Silvani and Renato Cozzi

Summary

We describe the 20-year course of a 63-year-old male with a macroprolactinoma that acquired resistance to treatment and aggressive behavior after a 4-year successful treatment with cabergoline. He was submitted to multiple surgical resections by a skilled surgeon, fractionated radiotherapy and was eventually treated with temozolomide. After a first 6-month standard cycle, a relapse occurred and he was treated again successfully.

Learning points:

  • Prolactinomas are the most frequent type of pituitary adenoma.

  • They usually have a benign course.

  • In most cases dopamine-agonist drugs, mainly cabergoline, are first-line (and usually only) treatment.

  • Occasionally prolactinomas can have or acquire resistance to treatment and/or aggressive behavior.

  • Temozolomide (TMZ), an oral alkylating drug, can be effective in such aggressive tumors.

  • Multimodal treatment (surgery, radiation, cabergoline and TMZ) is warranted in aggressive pituitary tumors.

  • We describe here successful rechallenge with TMZ after relapse occurring 18 months after a first TMZ cycle.

Open access

Anne de Bray, Zaki K Hassan-Smith, Jamal Dirie, Edward Littleton, Swarupsinh Chavda, John Ayuk, Paul Sanghera and Niki Karavitaki

Summary

A 48-year-old man was diagnosed with a large macroprolactinoma in 1982 treated with surgery, adjuvant radiotherapy and bromocriptine. Normal prolactin was achieved in 2005 but in 2009 it started rising. Pituitary MRIs in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015 were reported as showing empty pituitary fossa. Prolactin continued to increase (despite increasing bromocriptine dose). Trialling cabergoline had no effect (prolactin 191,380 mU/L). In January 2016, he presented with right facial weakness and CT head was reported as showing no acute intracranial abnormality. In late 2016, he was referred to ENT with hoarse voice; left hypoglossal and recurrent laryngeal nerve palsies were found. At this point, prolactin was 534,176 mU/L. Just before further endocrine review, he had a fall and CT head showed a basal skull mass invading the left petrous temporal bone. Pituitary MRI revealed a large enhancing mass within the sella infiltrating the clivus, extending into the left petrous apex and occipital condyle with involvement of the left Meckel’s cave, internal acoustic meatus, jugular foramen and hypoglossal canal. At that time, left abducens nerve palsy was also present. CT thorax/abdomen/pelvis excluded malignancy. Review of previous images suggested that this lesion had started becoming evident below the fossa in pituitary MRI of 2015. Temozolomide was initiated. After eight cycles, there is significant tumour reduction with prolactin 1565 mU/L and cranial nerve deficits have remained stable. Prolactinomas can manifest aggressive behaviour even decades after initial treatment highlighting the unpredictable clinical course they can demonstrate and the need for careful imaging review.

Learning points:

  • Aggressive behaviour of prolactinomas can manifest even decades after first treatment highlighting the unpredictable clinical course these tumours can demonstrate.

  • Escape from control of hyperprolactinaemia in the absence of sellar adenomatous tissue requires careful and systematic search for the anatomical localisation of the lesion responsible for the prolactin excess.

  • Temozolomide is a valuable agent in the therapeutic armamentarium for aggressive/invasive prolactinomas, particularly if they are not amenable to other treatment modalities.

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

Ana G Ferreira, Tiago N Silva, Henrique V Luiz, Filipa D Campos, Maria C Cordeiro and Jorge R Portugal

Sellar plasmacytomas are rare and the differential diagnosis with non-functioning pituitary adenomas might be difficult because of clinical and radiological resemblance. They usually present with neurological signs and intact anterior pituitary function. Some may already have or eventually progress to multiple myeloma. We describe a case associated with extensive anterior pituitary involvement, which is a rare form of presentation. A 68-year-old man was referred to our Endocrinology outpatient clinic due to gynecomastia, reduced libido and sexual impotence. Physical examination, breast ultrasound and mammography confirmed bilateral gynecomastia. Blood tests revealed slight hyperprolactinemia, low testosterone levels, low cortisol levels and central hypothyroidism. Sellar MRI showed a heterogeneous sellar mass (56 × 60 × 61 mm), initially suspected as an invasive macroadenoma. After correcting the pituitary deficits with hydrocortisone and levothyroxine, the patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery. Histological examination revealed a plasmacytoma and multiple myeloma was ruled out. The patient was unsuccessfully treated with radiation therapy (no tumor shrinkage). Myeloma ultimately developed, with several other similar lesions in different locations. The patient was started on chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant and is now stable (progression free) on lenalidomide and dexamethasone. The presenting symptoms and panhypopituitarism persisted, requiring chronic replacement treatment with levothyroxine, hydrocortisone and testosterone.

Learning points:

  • Plasmacytomas, although rare, are a possible type of sellar masses, which have a completely different treatment approach, so it is important to make the correct diagnosis.

  • Usually, they present with neurological signs and symptoms and a well-preserved pituitary function, but our case shows that anterior pituitary function can be severely compromised.

  • Making a more extensive evaluation (clinical and biochemical) might provide some clues to this diagnosis.

Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Emma van der Poest Clement and Richard Feelders

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease that results from prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids. Severe and rapidly progressive cases are often, but not exclusively, attributable to ectopic ACTH secretion. Extreme hypercortisolism usually has florid metabolic consequences and is associated with an increased infectious and thrombotic risk. The authors report on a case of a 51-year-old male that presented with severe Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, whose diagnostic workup was affected by concurrent subclinical multifocal pulmonary infectious nodules. The case is noteworthy for the atypically severe presentation of Cushing’s disease, and it should remind the clinician of the possible infectious and thrombotic complications associated with Cushing’s syndrome.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is not always caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Hypercortisolism is a state of immunosuppression, being associated with an increased risk for opportunistic infections.

  • Infectious pulmonary infiltrates may lead to imaging diagnostic dilemmas when investigating a suspected ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Cushing’s syndrome carries an increased thromboembolic risk that may even persist after successful surgical management.

  • Antibiotic and venous thromboembolism prophylaxis should be considered in every patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome.

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.

Open access

Nikolaos Kyriakakis, Jacqueline Trouillas, Mary N Dang, Julie Lynch, Paul Belchetz, Márta Korbonits and Robert D Murray

Summary

A male patient presented at the age of 30 with classic clinical features of acromegaly and was found to have elevated growth hormone levels, not suppressing during an oral glucose tolerance test. His acromegaly was originally considered to be of pituitary origin, based on a CT scan, which was interpreted as showing a pituitary macroadenoma. Despite two trans-sphenoidal surgeries, cranial radiotherapy and periods of treatment with bromocriptine and octreotide, his acromegaly remained active clinically and biochemically. A lung mass was discovered incidentally on a chest X-ray performed as part of a routine pre-assessment for spinal surgery 5 years following the initial presentation. This was confirmed to be a bronchial carcinoid tumour, which was strongly positive for growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin receptor type 2 by immunohistochemistry. The re-examination of the pituitary specimens asserted the diagnosis of pituitary GH hyperplasia. Complete resolution of the patient’s acromegaly was achieved following right lower and middle lobectomy. Seventeen years following the successful resection of the bronchial carcinoid tumour the patient remains under annual endocrine follow-up for monitoring of the hypopituitarism he developed after the original interventions to his pituitary gland, while there has been no evidence of active acromegaly or recurrence of the carcinoid tumour. Ectopic acromegaly is extremely rare, accounting for <1% of all cases of acromegaly. Our case highlights the diagnostic challenges differentiating between ectopic acromegaly and acromegaly of pituitary origin and emphasises the importance of avoiding unnecessary pituitary surgery and radiotherapy. The role of laboratory investigations, imaging and histology as diagnostic tools is discussed.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic acromegaly is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all cases of acromegaly.

  • Ectopic acromegaly is almost always due to extra-pituitary GHRH secretion, mainly from neuroendocrine tumours of pancreatic or bronchial origin.

  • Differentiating between acromegaly of pituitary origin and ectopic acromegaly can cause diagnostic challenges due to similarities in clinical presentation and biochemistry.

  • Serum GHRH can be a useful diagnostic tool to diagnose ectopic acromegaly.

  • Pituitary imaging is crucial to differentiate between a pituitary adenoma and pituitary hyperplasia, which is a common finding in ectopic acromegaly.

  • Diagnosing ectopic acromegaly is pivotal to avoid unnecessary interventions to the pituitary and preserve normal pituitary function.

Open access

Emilia Sbardella, George Farah, Ahmed Fathelrahman, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are a common intracranial neoplasm, usually demonstrating a benign phenotype. They can be classified according to pathological, radiological or clinical behaviour as typical, atypical or carcinomas, invasive or noninvasive, and aggressive or nonaggressive. Prolactinomas account for 40–60% of all pituitary adenomas, with dopamine agonists representing the first-line treatment and surgery/radiotherapy reserved for drug intolerance/resistance or in neuro-ophthalmological emergencies. We present the case of a 62-year-old man with an apparently indolent prolactin-secreting macroadenoma managed with partial resection and initially showing a biochemical response to cabergoline. Five years later, the tumour became resistant to cabergoline, despite a substantial increase in dosage, showing rapid growth and causing worsening of vision. The patient then underwent two further transsphenoidal operations and continued on high-dose cabergoline; despite these interventions, the tumour continued enlarging and prolactin increased to 107 269 U/L. Histology of the third surgical specimen demonstrated features of aggressive behaviour (atypical adenoma with a high cell proliferation index) not present in the tumour removed at the first operation. Subsequently, he was referred for radiotherapy aiming to control tumour growth.

Learning points:

  • The development of secondary resistance to dopamine agonists (DAs) is a serious sign as it may be associated with de-differentiation of the prolactinoma and thus of aggressive or malignant transformation.

  • Significant de-differentiation of the adenoma documented on consecutive histologies suggests a possible transition to malignancy.

  • A combination of histological ‘alarm’ features associated with persistent growth and escape from DAs treatment in recurrent adenomas should alert clinicians and demands close follow-up.

  • A multidisciplinary approach by pathologists, endocrinologists and neurosurgeons is essential.

Open access

Fergus Keane, Aoife M Egan, Patrick Navin, Francesca Brett and Michael C Dennedy

Summary

Pituitary apoplexy represents an uncommon endocrine emergency with potentially life-threatening consequences. Drug-induced pituitary apoplexy is a rare but important consideration when evaluating patients with this presentation. We describe an unusual case of a patient with a known pituitary macroadenoma presenting with acute-onset third nerve palsy and headache secondary to tumour enlargement and apoplexy. This followed gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) agonist therapy used to treat metastatic prostate carcinoma. Following acute management, the patient underwent transphenoidal debulking of his pituitary gland with resolution of his third nerve palsy. Subsequent retrospective data interpretation revealed that this had been a secretory gonadotropinoma and GNRH agonist therapy resulted in raised gonadotropins and testosterone. Hence, further management of his prostate carcinoma required GNRH antagonist therapy and external beam radiotherapy. This case demonstrates an uncommon complication of GNRH agonist therapy in the setting of a pituitary macroadenoma. It also highlights the importance of careful, serial data interpretation in patients with pituitary adenomas. Finally, this case presents a unique insight into the challenges of managing a hormonal-dependent prostate cancer in a patient with a secretory pituitary tumour.

Learning points

  • While non-functioning gonadotropinomas represent the most common form of pituitary macroadenoma, functioning gonadotropinomas are exceedingly rare.

  • Acute tumour enlargement, with potential pituitary apoplexy, is a rare but important adverse effect arising from GNRH agonist therapy in the presence of both functioning and non-functioning pituitary gonadotropinomas.

  • GNRH antagonist therapy represents an alternative treatment option for patients with hormonal therapy-requiring prostate cancer, who also have diagnosed with a pituitary gonadotropinoma.