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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

Rowena Speak, Jackie Cook, Barney Harrison and John Newell-Price

Mutations of the rearranged during transfection (RET) proto-oncogene, located on chromosome 10q11.2, cause multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). Patients with mutations at the codon 609 usually exhibit a high penetrance of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), but a sufficiently low penetrance of phaeochromocytoma that screening for this latter complication has been called to question. Patients with other RET mutations are at higher risk of younger age onset phaeochromocytoma if they also possess other RET polymorphisms (L769L, S836S, G691S and S904S), but there are no similar data for patients with 609 mutations. We investigated the unusual phenotypic presentation in a family with MEN2A due to a C609Y mutation in RET. Sanger sequencing of the entire RET-coding region and exon–intron boundaries was performed. Five family members were C609Y mutation positive: 3/5 initially presented with phaeochromocytoma, but only 1/5 had MTC. The index case aged 73 years had no evidence of MTC, but presented with phaeochromocytoma. Family members also possessed the G691S and S904S RET polymorphisms. We illustrate a high penetrance of phaeochromocytoma and low penetrance of MTC in patients with a RET C609Y mutation and polymorphisms G691S and S904S. These data highlight the need for life-long screening for the complications of MEN2A in these patients and support the role for the screening of RET polymorphisms for the purposes of risk stratification.

Learning points:

  • C609Y RET mutations may be associated with a life-long risk of phaeochromocytoma indicating the importance of life-long screening for this condition in patients with MEN2A.

  • C609Y RET mutations may be associated with a lower risk of MTC than often quoted, questioning the need for early prophylactic thyroid surgery discussion at the age of 5 years.

  • There may be a role for the routine screening of RET polymorphisms, and this is greatly facilitated by the increasing ease of access to next-generation sequencing.

Open access

Motoyuki Igata, Kaku Tsuruzoe, Junji Kawashima, Daisuke Kukidome, Tatsuya Kondo, Hiroyuki Motoshima, Seiya Shimoda, Noboru Furukawa, Takeshi Nishikawa, Nobuhiro Miyamura and Eiichi Araki

Summary

Resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) is a syndrome of reduced tissue responsiveness to thyroid hormones. RTH is majorly caused by mutations in the thyroid hormone receptor beta (THRB) gene. Recent studies indicated a close association of THRB mutations with human cancers, but the role of THRB mutation in carcinogenesis is still unclear. Here, we report a rare case of RTH with a papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). A 26-year-old woman was referred to our hospital due to a thyroid tumor and hormonal abnormality. She had elevated serum thyroid hormones and non-suppressed TSH levels. Genetic analysis of THRB identified a missense mutation, P452L, leading to a diagnosis of RTH. Ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the tumor and lymph nodes enabled the cytological diagnosis of PTC with lymph node metastases. Total thyroidectomy and neck lymph nodes dissection were performed. Following surgery, thyroxine replacement (≥500 μg) was necessary to avoid the symptoms of hypothyroidism and to maintain her TSH levels within the same range as before the operation. During the follow-up, basal thyroglobulin (Tg) levels were around 6 ng/ml and TSH-stimulated Tg levels were between 12 and 20 ng/ml. Up to present, the patient has had no recurrence of PTC. This indicates that these Tg values are consistent with a biochemical incomplete response or an indeterminate response. There is no consensus regarding the management of thyroid carcinoma in patients with RTH, but aggressive treatments such as total thyroidectomy followed by radioiodine (RAI) and TSH suppression therapy are recommended.

Learning points

  • There are only a few cases reporting the coexistence of RTH and thyroid carcinoma. Moreover, our case would be the first case presenting one with lymph node metastases.

  • Recent studies indicated a close association of THRB mutations with human cancers, but the role of THRB mutation in carcinogenesis is still unclear.

  • When total thyroidectomy is performed in patients with RTH, a large amount of thyroxine is needed to maintain their thyroid function.

  • There is no consensus regarding the management of thyroid carcinoma in patient with RTH, but effective treatments such as total thyroidectomy followed by RAI and TSH suppression therapy are recommended.

Open access

Jin-Ying Lu, Po-Ju Hung, Pei-Lung Chen, Ruoh-Fang Yen, Kuan-Ting Kuo, Tsung-Lin Yang, Chih-Yuan Wang, Tien-Chun Chang, Tien-Shang Huang and Ching-Chung Chang

Summary

We report a case of follicular thyroid carcinoma with concomitant NRAS p.Q61K and GNAS p.R201H mutations, which manifested as a 13.5 cm thyroid mass with lung, humerus and T9 spine metastases, and exhibited good response to radioactive iodine treatment.

Learning points

  • GNAS p.R201H somatic mutation is an activating or gain-of-function mutation resulting in constitutively activated Gs-alpha protein and downstream cAMP cascade, independent of TSH signaling, causing autonomously functioning thyroid nodules.

  • NRAS p.Q61K mutations with GNAS p.R201H mutations are known for a good radioactive iodine treatment response.

  • Further exploration of the GNAS-activating pathway may provide therapeutic insights into the treatment of metastatic follicular carcinoma.

Open access

Naweed Alzaman, Anastassios G Pittas, Miriam O'Leary and Lisa Ceglia

Summary

Transient hypocalcemia after thyroidectomy is not uncommon and the risk increases with the extent of neck surgery. We report a case of severe and prolonged hypocalcemia after total thyroidectomy complicated by thoracic duct injury. Hypoparathyroidism and thoracic duct injury are potential complications following total thyroidectomy with extensive lymph node dissection. This case suggested that having both conditions may complicate treatment of hypoparathyroid-induced hypocalcemia by way of losses of calcium and vitamin D in the chyle leak.

Learning points

  • This report highlights chyle leak as an uncommon cause of prolonged hypocalcemia in patients who have undergone extensive neck surgery.

  • Chyle has an electrolyte concentration similar to that of plasma.

  • Medical treatment options for a chyle leak include fat-free oral diet or parenteral nutrition without oral intake, pharmacological treatment (primarily octreotide).