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Open access

Vasileios Chortis, Christine J H May, Kassiani Skordilis, John Ayuk, Wiebke Arlt and Rachel K Crowley

Summary

Context

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.

Conclusions

Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.

  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.

  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.

Open access

Yoko Olmedilla, Shoaib Khan, Victoria Young, Robin Joseph, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansgorge, Ashley Grossman and Aparna Pal

Summary

A 21 year-old woman was found to have a pituitary macroadenoma following an episode of haemophilus meningitis. Biochemical TSH and GH excess was noted, although with no clear clinical correlates. She was treated with a somatostatin analogue (SSA), which restored the euthyroid state and controlled GH hypersecretion, but she re-presented with a further episode of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and recurrent meningitis. Histology following transsphenoidal adenomectomy revealed a Pit-1 lineage plurihormonal adenoma expressing GH, TSH and PRL. Such plurihormonal pituitary tumours are uncommon and even more unusual to present with spontaneous bacterial meningitis. The second episode of CSF leak and meningitis appears to have been due to SSA therapy-induced tumour shrinkage, which is not a well-described phenomenon in the literature for this type of tumour.

Learning points:

  • Pit-1 lineage GH/TSH/PRL-expressing plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are uncommon. Moreover, this case is unique as the patient first presented with bacterial meningitis.

  • Inmunohistochemical plurihormonality of pituitary adenomas does not necessarily correlate with biochemical and clinical features of hormonal hypersecretion.

  • Given that plurihormonal Pit-1 lineage adenomas may behave more aggressively than classical pituitary adenomas, accurate pathological characterization of these tumours has an increasing prognostic relevance.

  • Although unusual, a CSF leak and meningitis may be precipitated by SSA therapy of a pituitary macroadenoma via tumour shrinkage.

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

Jill Pancer, Elliot Mitmaker, Oluyomi Ajise, Roger Tabah and Jacques How

Summary

Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is common and the number of tumor foci rarely exceeds ten. The mechanism of multifocal disease is debated, with the two main hypotheses consisting of either intrathyroidal metastatic spread from a single tumor or independent multicentric tumorigenesis from distinct progenitor cells. We report the case of a 46-year-old woman who underwent total thyroidectomy and left central neck lymph node dissection after fine-needle aspiration of bilateral thyroid nodules that yielded cytological findings consistent with PTC. Final pathology of the surgical specimen showed an isthmic dominant 1.5 cm classical PTC and over 30 foci of microcarcinoma, which displayed decreasing density with increasing distance from the central lesion. Furthermore, all malignant tumors and lymph nodes harbored the activating BRAF V600E mutation. The present case highlights various pathological features that support a mechanism of intraglandular spread, namely a strategic isthmic location of the primary tumor, radial pattern of distribution and extensive number of small malignant foci and BRAF mutational homogeneity.

Learning points:

  • Multifocal papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is commonly seen in clinical practice, but the number of malignant foci is usually limited to ten or less.

  • There is no clear consensus in the literature as to whether multifocal PTC arises from a single or multiple distinct tumor progenitor cells.

  • Strategic location of the dominant tumor in the thyroid isthmus may favor intraglandular dissemination of malignant cells by means of the extensive lymphatic network.

  • An important pathological finding that may be suggestive of intrathyroidal metastatic spread is a central pattern of distribution with a reduction in the density of satellite lesions with increasing distance from the dominant focus.

  • PTCs originating from the isthmus with intraglandular metastatic dissemination behave more aggressively. As such, a more aggressive treatment course may be warranted, particularly with regard to the extent of surgery.

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

A Veltroni, G Zambon, S Cingarlini and M V Davì

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), a rare cause of autoimmune hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, is relatively well known in Japan. The incidence in Caucasians is less than one-fifth of that reported in Japanese people, but it is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide in non-Asians as well. Drugs containing sulphydryl groups are known to be associated with the disease in genetically predisposed individuals. Moreover, several recent reports showed a direct association between the onset of IAS and the consumption of dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (LA). Insulinoma remains the most prevalent cause of hypersulinaemic hypoglycaemia in Caucasians. Consequently, primary investigation in these patients is generally focused on localisation of the pancreatic tumour, often with invasive procedures followed by surgery. We described a case of an Italian woman presenting to us with severe recurrent hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide levels and no evidence of pancreatic lesions at imaging diagnostic procedures. She had taken LA until 2 weeks before hospitalisation. After an evaluation of her drug history, an autoimmune form of hypoglycaemia was suspected and the titre of insulin autoantibodies was found to be markedly elevated. This allowed us to diagnose LA-related IAS, thus preventing any unnecessary surgery and avoiding invasive diagnostic interventions.

Learning points:

  • IAS is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia that typically affects Asian population, but it has been increasingly recognised in Caucasian patients.

  • It should be considered among the differential diagnosis of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia to avoid unnecessary diagnostic investigations and surgery.

  • It should be suspected in the presence of very high serum insulin levels (100–10  000  μU/mL) associated with high C-peptide levels.

  • There is a strong association with administration of drugs containing sulphydryl groups included LA, a dietary supplement commonly used in Western countries to treat peripheral neuropathy.

Open access

Miriam Hinaa Ahmad and Ismat Shafiq

Summary

We report a case of a 21-year-old African American female with history of pre-diabetes, and a diagnosis of a rare leukemia, blastic-plasmacytoid dendritic neoplasm (BPDCN), who developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) after the third dose of PEG-asparaginase infusion. She was successfully treated with insulin. Asparaginase is a vital part of treatment protocols for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in combination with other chemotherapeutic drugs. Asparaginase therapy has been reported to cause hyperglycemia especially when used in conjunction with glucocorticoids for the treatment of ALL in the pediatric population. Multiple mechanisms for hyperglycemia have been hypothesized which include decreased insulin secretion, impaired insulin receptor function and excess glucagon formation. Hyperglycemia is usually self-limiting but can deteriorate to diabetic ketoacidosis. DKA is a rare adverse effect with asparaginase therapy with an incidence rate of about 0.8%.

Learning points:

  • DKA is a rare finding following asparaginase therapy.

  • Hyperglycemia is most commonly seen with asparaginase treatment when used along with glucocorticoid.

  • Frequent blood glucose monitoring and prompt initiation of insulin treatment with hyperglycemia can prevent severe complications.

  • Patients and physician education on this complication can reduce morbidity due to DKA.

Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

Open access

Theresa Penger, Andrea Albrecht, Michaela Marx, Daniel Stachel, Markus Metzler and Helmuth G Dörr

Summary

We report on a boy of Albanian descent with the history of juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). JMML was diagnosed at the age of 17 months and treated by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). At the age of 14.3 years, about 12 years after HSCT, he was hospitalized with an adrenal crisis. Hormone findings were consistent with primary adrenal insufficiency. Autoimmune adrenalitis was confirmed by positive autoantibodies against 21-hydroxylase and adrenal tissue. Since autoimmune Hashimoto thyroiditis was already known from the age of 9 years, we assume that both diseases are part of the spectrum of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS) type 2. APS type 2 is a rare endocrine disease characterized by Addison’s disease along with autoimmune thyroid disease and/or type 1 diabetes.

Learning points:

  • Endocrine sequelae after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) are common and can develop over a long period.

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency after HSCT is absolutely rare.

  • The combination of adrenal autoimmune disease and Hashimoto thyroiditis is consistent with autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 2.

Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Patricia Cipriano, Vanessa Henriques, João Sequeira Duarte and Conceição Canas Marques

Summary

Granular cell tumours (GCT) are rare, slow-growing, benign neoplasms that are usually located in the head and neck. They are more frequent in the female gender and typically have an asymptomatic clinical course, being diagnosed only at autopsy. Symptomatic GCT of the neurohypophysis are exceedingly rare, being less than 70 cases described so far. The authors report on a case of a 28-year-old male that presented to the Endocrinology clinic with clinical and biochemical evidence of hypogonadism. He also reported minor headaches without any major visual symptoms. Further laboratory tests confirmed hypopituitarism (hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, central hypothyroidism and hypocortisolism) and central nervous system imaging revealed a pituitary macroadenoma. The patient underwent transcranial pituitary adenoma resection and the pathology report described a GCT of the neurohypophysis with low mitotic index. The reported case is noteworthy for the rarity of the clinicopathological entity.

Learning points:

  • Symptomatic GCTs are rare CNS tumours whose cell of origin is not well defined that usually give rise to visual symptoms, headache and endocrine dysfunction.

  • Imaging is quite unspecific and diagnosis is difficult to establish preoperatively.

  • Surgical excision is challenging due to lesion’s high vascularity and propensity to adhere to adjacent structures.

  • The reported case is noteworthy for the rarity of the clinicopathological entity.