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Open access

S Livadas, I Androulakis, N Angelopoulos, A Lytras, F Papagiannopoulos, and G Kassi

Summary

HAIR-AN syndrome, the coexistence of Hirsutism, Insulin Resistance (IR) and Acanthosis Nigricans, constitutes a rare nosologic entity. It is characterized from clinical and biochemical hyperandrogenism accompanied with severe insulin resistance, chronic anovulation and metabolic abnormalities. Literally, HAIR-AN represents an extreme case of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In everyday practice, the management of HAIR-AN constitutes a therapeutic challenge with the available pharmaceutical agents. Specifically, the degree of IR cannot be significantly ameliorated with metformin administration, whereas oral contraceptives chronic administration is associated with worsening of metabolic profile. Liraglutide and exenatide, in combination with metformin, have been introduced in the management of significantly obese women with PCOS with satisfactory results. Based on this notion, we prescribed liraglutide in five women with HAIR-AN. In all participants a significant improvement regarding the degree of IR, fat depositions, androgen levels and the pattern of menstrual cycle was observed, with minimal weight loss. Furthermore, one woman became pregnant during liraglutide treatment giving birth to a healthy child. Accordingly, we conclude that liraglutide constitutes an effective alternative in the management of women with HAIR-AN.

Learning points:

  • HAIR-AN management is challenging and classic therapeutic regimens are ineffective.
  • Literally HAIR-AN syndrome, the coexistence of Hirsutism, Insulin Resistance and Acanthosis Nigricans, represents an extreme case of polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • In cases of HAIR-AN, liraglutide constitutes an effective and safe choice.
Open access

Rachel Wurth, Crystal Kamilaris, Naris Nilubol, Samira M Sadowski, Annabel Berthon, Martha M Quezado, Fabio R Faucz, Constantine A Stratakis, and Fady Hannah-Shmouni

Summary

Primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PBMAH) is a rare cause of ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome (CS). This condition is characterized by glucocorticoid and/or mineralocorticoid excess, and is commonly regulated by aberrant G-protein coupled receptor expression may be subclinical, allowing the disease to progress for years undetected. Inhibin A is a glycoprotein hormone and tumor marker produced by certain endocrine glands including the adrenal cortex, which has not been previously investigated as a potential tumor marker for PBMAH. In the present report, serum inhibin A levels were evaluated in three patients with PBMAH before and after adrenalectomy. In all cases, serum inhibin A was elevated preoperatively and subsequently fell within the normal range after adrenalectomy. Additionally, adrenal tissues stained positive for inhibin A. We conclude that serum inhibin A levels may be a potential tumor marker for PBMAH.

Learning points:

  • PBMAH is a rare cause of CS.
  • PBMAH may have an insidious presentation, allowing the disease to progress for years prior to diagnosis.
  • Inhibin A is a heterodimeric glycoprotein hormone expressed in the gonads and adrenal cortex.
  • Inhibin A serum concentrations are elevated in some patients with PBMAH, suggesting the potential use of this hormone as a tumor marker.
  • Further exploration of serum inhibin A concentration, as it relates to PBMAH disease progression, is warranted to determine if this hormone could serve as an early detection marker and/or predictor of successful surgical treatment.
Open access

Baris Akinci, Rasimcan Meral, Diana Rus, Rita Hench, Adam H Neidert, Frank DiPaola, Maria Westerhoff, Simeon I Taylor, and Elif A Oral

Summary

A patient with atypical partial lipodystrophy who had a transient initial response to metreleptin experienced acute worsening of her metabolic state when neutralizing antibodies against metreleptin appeared. Because her metabolic status continued to deteriorate, a therapeutic trial with melanocortin-4 receptor agonist setmelanotide, that is believed to function downstream from leptin receptor in the leptin signaling system, was undertaken in an effort to improve her metabolic status for the first time in a patient with lipodystrophy. To achieve this, a compassionate use (investigational new drug application; IND) was initiated (NCT03262610). Glucose control, body fat by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and MRI, and liver fat by proton density fat fraction were monitored. Daily hunger scores were assessed by patient filled questionnaires. Although there was a slight decrease in hunger scales and visceral fat, stimulating melanocortin-4 receptor by setmelanotide did not result in any other metabolic benefit such as improvement of hypertriglyceridemia or diabetes control as desired. Targeting melanocortin-4 receptor to regulate energy metabolism in this setting was not sufficient to obtain a significant metabolic benefit. However, complex features of our case make it difficult to generalize these observations to all cases of lipodystrophy. It is still possible that melanocortin-4 receptor agonistic action may offer some therapeutic benefits in leptin-deficient patients.

Learning points:

  • A patient with atypical lipodystrophy with an initial benefit with metreleptin therapy developed neutralizing antibodies to metreleptin (Nab-leptin), which led to substantial worsening in metabolic control. The neutralizing activity in her serum persisted for longer than 3 years.
  • Whether the worsening in her metabolic state was truly caused by the development of Nab-leptin cannot be fully ascertained, but there was a temporal relationship. The experience noted in our patient at least raises the possibility for concern for substantial metabolic worsening upon emergence and persistence of Nab-leptin. Further studies of cases where Nab-leptin is detected and better assay systems to detect and characterize Nab-leptin are needed.
  • The use of setmelanotide, a selective MC4R agonist targeting specific neurons downstream from the leptin receptor activation, was not effective in restoring metabolic control in this complex patient with presumed diminished leptin action due to Nab-leptin.
  • Although stimulating the MC4R pathway was not sufficient to obtain a significant metabolic benefit in lowering triglycerides and helping with her insulin resistance as was noted with metreleptin earlier, there was a mild reduction in reported food intake and appetite.
  • Complex features of our case make it difficult to generalize our observation to all leptin-deficient patients. It is possible that some leptin-deficient patients (especially those who need primarily control of food intake) may still theoretically benefit from MC4R agonistic action, and further studies in carefully selected patients may help to tease out the differential pathways of metabolic regulation by the complex network of leptin signaling system.
Open access

Yotsapon Thewjitcharoen, Veekij Veerasomboonsin, Soontaree Nakasatien, Sirinate Krittiyawong, and Thep Himathongkam

Summary

Primary amenorrhea could be caused by disorders of four parts: disorders of the outflow tract, disorders of the ovary, disorders of the anterior pituitary, and disorders of hypothalamus. Delay in diagnosis and hormone substitution therapy causes secondary osteoporosis. Herein, we report a case of a 23-year-old phenotypical female who presented with primary amenorrhea from 46, XX gonadal dysgenesis but had been misdiagnosed as Mayer–Rokitansky–Kuster–Hauser (MRKH) syndrome or Mullerian agenesis. The coexistence of gonadal dysgenesis and MRKH was suspected after laboratory and imaging investigations. However, the vanishing uterus reappeared after 18 months of hormone replacement therapy. Therefore, hormone profiles and karyotype should be thoroughly investigated to distinguish MRKH syndrome from other disorders of sex development (DSD). Double diagnosis of DSD is extremely rare and periodic evaluation should be reassessed. This case highlights the presence of estrogen deficiency state, the uterus may remain invisible until adequate exposure to exogenous estrogen.

Learning points:

  • An early diagnosis of disorders of sex development (DSD) is extremely important in order to promptly begin treatment, provide emotional support to the patient and reduce the risks of associated complications.
  • Hormone profiles and karyotype should be investigated in all cases of the presumptive diagnosis of Mayer–Rokitansky–Kuster–Hauser (MRKH) syndrome or Mullerian agenesis.
  • The association between 46, XX gonadal dysgenesis and Mullerian agenesis has been occasionally reported as a co-incidental event; however, reassessment of the presence of uterus should be done again after administration of exogenous estrogen replacement for at least 6–12 months.
  • A multidisciplinary approach is necessary for patients presenting with DSD to ensure appropriate treatments and follow-up across the lifespan of individuals with DSD.
Open access

N F Lenders and J R Greenfield

Summary

Adrenal oncocytomas are rare tumours, with only approximately 160 cases reported in the literature. We report the use of urinary steroid profiling as part of their diagnostic evaluation and prognostication. A 45-year-old woman presented with clinical features of hyperandrogenism. Serum biochemistry confirmed androgen excess and computed tomography (CT) demonstrated a 3.2 cm adrenal tumour with density 39 HU pre-contrast. Urine steroid profiling showed elevated tetrahydro-11 deoxycortisol (THS), which is associated with adrenal malignancy. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy was performed, and histopathology diagnosed adrenal oncocytoma. Serum and urinary biochemistry resolved post-operatively and remained normal at 1-year follow-up.

Learning points:

  • Differential diagnosis of adrenal masses is challenging. Current techniques for differentiating between tumour types lack sensitivity and specificity.
  • 24-h urinary steroid profiling is a useful tool for reflecting steroid output from adrenal glands. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) of urinary steroid metabolites has sensitivity and specificity of 90% for diagnosing adrenocortical carcinoma.
  • Adrenal oncocytoma are rare tumours. Differentiating between benign and malignant types is difficult. Data guiding prognostication and management are sparse.
Open access

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans, and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
Open access

L I Astaf’eva, Y G Sidneva, B A Kadashev, P L Kalinin, G A Melnichenko, and S A Agadzhanian

Summary

A 32-year-old woman presented with primary amenorrhoea, prolactin (PRL) level of 154 150 mIU/L and was diagnosed with a giant pituitary adenoma measuring maximum 6.2 cm. Cabergoline (CAB) treatment at a dose of 0.5 mg/week was prescribed to the patient. The treatment decreased the tumour size after 3 months (MRI scans of the brain) and brought back to normal the level of the PRL (345 mIU/L) after 6 months of CAB treatment. After 7 months of CAB treatment, menarche was achieved, and after 12 months, the patient became pregnant. She discontinued taking CAB at 4-week gestation. The pregnancy resulted in a missed miscarriage at 6–7 weeks; an abortion was conducted by the vacuum aspiration method. The MRI scans of the brain did not show any tumour enlargement. After 18 months from the start of the treatment the patient got pregnant for the second time. At 25-week gestation an MRI scan of the brain was conducted which did not show any increase in the tumour size. At 38 weeks the patient delivered a healthy full-term girl via C-section. The patient chose not to breastfeed and resumed CAB therapy after the delivery. During the treatment, the PRL level returned to the normal range and the menstrual cycle was restored. After 3 years the patient got pregnant for the third time. The patient did not receive CAB during the pregnancies; the examination did not show any tumour enlargement. Further MRI scans did not show any tumour growth. CAB therapy was effective in normalization of the PRL level, tumour shrinkage, menarche and pregnancy-induction which led to the birth of healthy children in a woman with primary amenorrhoea and a giant prolactinoma invading the skull base bones.

Learning points:

  • Giant prolactinomas are very rarely found in women.
  • Cabergoline therapy can be effective in the normalization of the PRL level, tumour shrinkage, menarche induction in a woman with primary amenorrhoea, and giant prolactinoma.
  • Cabergoline therapy can be effective in pregnancy induction which leads to the birth of children in a woman with giant prolactinoma.
  • Cabergoline discontinuation did not trigger tumour enlargement during pregnancy.
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

Ellena Cotton and David Ray

Summary

A young woman carrying germline DICER1 mutation was discovered to have a pituitary microprolactinoma when she became amenorrhoic. The mutation was identified as a result of family screening following the early death of the patient’s daughter with ovarian cancer. The patient was in follow-up screening for thyroid disease, and investigations were initiated when she became amenorrhoic. MR scan revealed a 6 mm diameter pituitary microadenoma and raised prolactin. The prolactin was efficiently suppressed with low-dose cabergoline, and her menstrual cycles resumed. Dicer is an RNase enzyme, which is essential for processing small non-coding RNAs. These molecules play pleiotropic roles in regulating gene expression, by targeting mRNA sequences for degradation. DICER1 plays different roles depending on cell context, but is thought to be a functional tumour suppressor gene. Accordingly, germline mutation in one DICER1 allele is insufficient for oncogenesis, and a second hit on the other allele is required, as a result of postnatal somatic mutation. Loss of DICER1 is linked to multiple tumours, with prominent endocrine representation. Multinodular goitre is frequent, with increased risk of differentiated thyroid cancer. Rare, developmental pituitary tumours are reported, including pituitary blastoma, but not reports of functional pituitary adenomas. As DICER1 mutations are rare, case reports are the only means to identify new manifestations and to inform appropriate screening protocols.

Learning points:

  • DICER1 mutations lead to endocrine tumours.
  • DICER1 is required for small non-coding RNA expression.
  • DICER1 carriage and microprolactinoma are both rare, but here are reported in the same individual, suggesting association.
  • Endocrine follow-up of patients carrying DICER1 mutations should consider pituitary disease.
Open access

Yew Wen Yap, Steve Ball, and Zubair Qureshi

Summary

The coexistence of primary hypothyroidism and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-stimulating pituitary macroadenoma can be a rare occurrence and can make diagnosis very challenging. We describe a case of a 44-year-old female with a history of fatigue, poor concentration, weight gain and amenorrhoea together with biochemical evidence of primary autoimmune hypothyroidism. Her initial TSH levels were elevated with low normal free thyroxine (T4) levels. Levothyroxine treatment was initiated and the dose was gradually titrated to supraphysiologic doses. This led to the normalisation of her TSH levels but her free T4 and triiodothyronine (T3) levels remained persistently elevated. This prompted a serum prolactin check which returned elevated at 2495 µ/L, leading onto pituitary imaging. A MRI of the pituitary gland revealed a pituitary macroadenoma measuring 2.4 × 2 × 1.6 cm. Despite starting her on cabergoline therapy with a reduction in her prolactin levels, her TSH levels began to rise even further. Additional thyroid assays revealed that she had an abnormally elevated alpha subunit at 3.95 (age-related reference range <3.00). This corresponded to a thyroid-secreting hormone pituitary macroadenoma. She went on to have a transphenoidal hypophysectomy. Histology revealed tissues staining for TSH, confirming this to be a TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma. This case highlighted the importance of further investigations with thyroid assay interferences, heterophile antibodies, alpha subunit testing and anterior pituitary profile in cases of resistant and non-resolving primary hypothyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Levothyroxine treatment in primary hypothyroidism can potentially unmask the presence of a latent TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, which can make diagnosis very challenging.
  • A high index of suspicion should prompt clinicians to further investigate cases of primary hypothyroidism which despite increasing doses of levothyroxine treatment with normalisation of TSH, the free T4 and T3 levels remain persistently elevated.
  • Clinicians should consider investigating for adherence to levothyroxine, thyroid assay interference, heterophile antibodies, TSH dilution studies, alpha subunit and anterior pituitary profile testing to further clarity the diagnosis in these patients.
  • Although coexistent cases of TSHoma with primary hypothyroidism are rare, it should always be in the list of differential diagnoses in cases of unresolving primary hypothyroidism.