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Karen Decaestecker Department of Diabetology-Endocrinology, AZ Nikolaas, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

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Veerle Wijtvliet Department of Diabetology-Endocrinology, AZ Nikolaas, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

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Peter Coremans Department of Diabetology-Endocrinology, AZ Nikolaas, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

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Nike Van Doninck Department of Diabetology-Endocrinology, AZ Nikolaas, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

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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.

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Matthieu St-Jean Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Jessica MacKenzie-Feder Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Isabelle Bourdeau Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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André Lacroix Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Summary

A 29-year-old G4A3 woman presented at 25 weeks of pregnancy with progressive signs of Cushing’s syndrome (CS), gestational diabetes requiring insulin and hypertension. A 3.4 × 3.3 cm right adrenal adenoma was identified during abdominal ultrasound imaging for nephrolithiasis. Investigation revealed elevated levels of plasma cortisol, 24 h urinary free cortisol (UFC) and late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC). Serum ACTH levels were not fully suppressed (4 and 5 pmol/L (N: 2–11)). One month post-partum, CS regressed, 24-h UFC had normalised while ACTH levels were now less than 2 pmol/L; however, dexamethasone failed to suppress cortisol levels. Tests performed in vivo 6 weeks post-partum to identify aberrant hormone receptors showed no cortisol stimulation by various tests (including 300 IU hLH i.v.) except after administration of 250 µg i.v. Cosyntropin 1–24. Right adrenalectomy demonstrated an adrenocortical adenoma and atrophy of adjacent cortex. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of the adenoma revealed the presence of ACTH (MC2) receptor mRNA, while LHCG receptor mRNA was almost undetectable. This case reveals that CS exacerbation in the context of pregnancy can result from the placental-derived ACTH stimulation of MC2 receptors on the adrenocortical adenoma. Possible contribution of other placental-derived factors such as oestrogens, CRH or CRH-like peptides cannot be ruled out.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy is complicated by several physiological alterations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis regulation occurring in normal pregnancy.

  • Cushing’s syndrome (CS) exacerbation during pregnancy can be associated with aberrant expression of LHCG receptor on primary adrenocortical tumour or hyperplasia in some cases, but not in this patient.

  • Placental-derived ACTH, which is not subject to glucocorticoid negative feedback, stimulated cortisol secretion from this adrenal adenoma causing transient CS exacerbation during pregnancy.

  • Following delivery and tumour removal, suppression of HPA axis can require several months to recover and requires glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

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Regina Streuli Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Department of Internal Medicine

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Ina Krull Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Department of Internal Medicine

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Michael Brändle Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Department of Internal Medicine

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Walter Kolb Department of Surgery, Kantonsspital St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland

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Günter Stalla Clinical Neuroendocrinology, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany

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Marily Theodoropoulou Clinical Neuroendocrinology, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany

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Annette Enzler-Tschudy Institute of Pathology, Kantonsspital St Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland

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Stefan Bilz Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Department of Internal Medicine

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Summary

Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome and only a few cases have been reported in the literature. Differentiating between Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome may be particularly difficult if predominant ectopic CRH secretion leads to pituitary corticotroph hyperplasia that may mimic Cushing’s disease during dynamic testing with both dexamethasone and CRH as well as bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS). We present the case of a 24-year-old man diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome caused by an ACTH/CRH co-secreting midgut NET. Both high-dose dexamethasone testing and BIPSS suggested Cushing’s disease. However, the clinical presentation with a rather rapid onset of cushingoid features, hyperpigmentation and hypokalemia led to the consideration of ectopic ACTH/CRH-secretion and prompted a further workup. Computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen revealed a cecal mass which was identified as a predominantly CRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumor. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of an ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumor of the cecum presenting with biochemical features suggestive of Cushing’s disease.

Learning points:

  • The discrimination between a Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome is challenging and has many caveats.

  • Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are very rare.

  • Dynamic tests as well as BIPSS may be compatible with Cushing’s disease in ectopic CRH-secretion.

  • High levels of CRH may induce hyperplasia of the corticotroph cells in the pituitary. This could be the cause of a preserved pituitary response to dexamethasone and CRH.

  • Clinical features of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with rapid development of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperpigmentation, high circulating levels of cortisol with associated hypokalemia, peripheral edema and proximal myopathy should be a warning flag of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome and lead to further investigations.

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Runa Acharya University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Fellowship Program, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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Udaya M Kabadi Veteran Affairs Medical Center and Broadlawns Medical Center, Des Moines University of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Medicine and Endocrinology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Des Moines University, Des Moines, Iowa, USA

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Summary

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is commonly encountered in clinical practice. The current case is a unique and rare presentation of DKA as the initial manifestation of Cushing’s disease secondary to ACTH-secreting pituitary adenoma. Appropriate management as elaborated in the article led to total remission of diabetes as well as the Cushing’s disease.

Learning points:

  • DKA is a serious and potentially life-threatening metabolic complication of diabetes mellitus.

  • Some well-known precipitants of DKA include new-onset T1DM, insulin withdrawal and acute illness.

  • In a patient presenting with DKA, the presence of a mixed acid–base disorder warrants further evaluation for precipitants of DKA.

  • We present a rare case of DKA as an initial manifestation of Cushing’s disease secondary to ACTH-producing pituitary adenoma.

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Katia Regina Marchetti Department of General Medicine

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Maria Adelaide Albergaria Pereira Department of Endocrinology, Clinics Hospital, University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil

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Arnaldo Lichtenstein Department of General Medicine

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Edison Ferreira Paiva Department of General Medicine

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Summary

Adrenacarcinomas are rare, and hypoglycemic syndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by these tumors have been described infrequently. This study describes the case of a young woman with severe persistent hypoglycemia and a large adrenal tumor and discusses the physiopathological mechanisms involved in hypoglycemia. The case is described as a 21-year-old woman who presented with 8 months of general symptoms and, in the preceding 3 months, with episodes of mental confusion and visual blurring secondary to hypoglycemia. A functional assessment of the adrenal cortex revealed ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and hyperandrogenism. Hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, low C-peptide and no ketones were also detected. An evaluation of the GH–IGF axis revealed GH blockade (0.03; reference: up to 4.4 ng/mL), greatly reduced IGF-I levels (9.0 ng/mL; reference: 180–780 ng/mL), slightly reduced IGF-II levels (197 ng/mL; reference: 267–616 ng/mL) and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio (21.9; reference: ~3). CT scan revealed a large expansive mass in the right adrenal gland and pulmonary and liver metastases. During hospitalization, the patient experienced frequent difficult-to-control hypoglycemia and hypokalemia episodes. Octreotide was ineffective in controlling hypoglycemia. Due to unresectability, chemotherapy was tried, but after 3 months, the patient’s condition worsened and progressed to death. In conclusion, our patient presented with a functional adrenal cortical carcinoma, with hyperandrogenism associated with hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis. Patient’s data suggested a diagnosis of hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor (low levels of GH, greatly decreased IGF-I, slightly decreased IGF-II and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio).

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycemyndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by adrenal tumors is a rare condition.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia associated with hyperandrogenism and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis suggests hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor.

  • Hypoglycemia in cases of NICTH should be treated with glucocorticoids, glucagon, somatostatin analogs and hGH.

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Shweta Birla Laboratory of Cyto-Molecular Genetics, Department of Anatomy

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Sameer Aggarwal Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

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Arundhati Sharma Laboratory of Cyto-Molecular Genetics, Department of Anatomy

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Nikhil Tandon Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

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Summary

Carney complex (CNC) is a rare autosomal dominant syndrome characterized by pigmented lesions of the skin and mucosae along with cardiac, endocrine, cutaneous, and neural myxomatous tumors. Mutations in the PRKAR1A gene have been identified in ∼70% of the CNC cases reported worldwide. A 30-year-old male was referred to the endocrinology clinic with suspected acromegaly. He had a history of recurrent atrial myxoma for the past 8 years for which he underwent repeated surgeries. Presently, he complained of having headache, excessive snoring, sweating, and also noticed increase in his shoe size. Evaluation for acromegaly revealed elevated levels of GH in random as well as in suppressed condition. Magnetic resonance imaging scan revealed enlarged sella with microadenoma in the left anterior pituitary. Screening of PRKAR1A gene was carried out for the patient, his parents and siblings who were available and willing to undergo the test. The patient was diagnosed to have the rare CNC syndrome characterized by recurrent atrial myxoma and acromegaly due to a novel 22 bp insertion mutation in PRKAR1A which was predicted to be deleterious by in silico analysis. Screening the available family members revealed the absence of this mutation in them except the elder brother who also tested positive for this mutation. The present study reports on a novel PRKAR1A insertion mutation in a patient with acromegaly and left atrial myxoma in CNC.

Learning points

  • Identification of a novel deleterious PRKAR1A insertion mutation causing CNC.

  • It is important that patients with cardiac myxoma be investigated for presence of endocrine overactivity suggestive of CNC.

  • PRKAR1A mutation analysis should be undertaken in such cases to confirm the diagnosis in the patients as well as first degree relatives.

  • This case highlights an important aspect of diagnosis, clinical course, and management of this rare condition.

Open access
Vivienne Yoon Department of Internal Medicine/Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, VA North Texas Health Care System and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390-8857, USA

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Aliya Heyliger Department of Internal Medicine/Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, VA North Texas Health Care System and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390-8857, USA

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Takashi Maekawa Department of Pathology, Tohoku University School of Medicine and Hospital at Sendai, Sendai, Japan

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Hironobu Sasano Department of Pathology, Tohoku University School of Medicine and Hospital at Sendai, Sendai, Japan

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Kelley Carrick Departments of Pathology

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Stacey Woodruff Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

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Jennifer Rabaglia Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

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Richard J Auchus Department of Internal Medicine/Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

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Hans K Ghayee Department of Internal Medicine/Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, VA North Texas Health Care System and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390-8857, USA

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Summary

Objective: To recognize that benign adrenal adenomas can co-secrete excess aldosterone and cortisol, which can change clinical management.

Methods: We reviewed the clinical and histological features of an adrenal tumor co-secreting aldosterone and cortisol in a patient. Biochemical testing as well as postoperative immunohistochemistry was carried out on tissue samples for assessing enzymes involved in steroidogenesis.

Results: A patient presented with hypertension, hypokalemia, and symptoms related to hypercortisolism. The case demonstrated suppressed renin concentrations with an elevated aldosterone:renin ratio, abnormal dexamethasone suppression test results, and elevated midnight salivary cortisol concentrations. The patient had a right adrenal nodule with autonomous cortisol production and interval growth. Right adrenalectomy was carried out. Postoperatively, the patient tolerated the surgery, but he was placed on a short course of steroid replacement given a subnormal postoperative serum cortisol concentration. Long-term follow-up of the patient showed that his blood pressure and glucose levels had improved. Histopathology slides showed positive staining for 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, 11β-hydroxylase, and 21 hydroxylase.

Conclusion: In addition to the clinical manifestations and laboratory values, the presence of these enzymes in this type of tumor provides support that the tumor in this patient was able to produce mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. The recognition of patients with a tumor that is co-secreting aldosterone and cortisol can affect decisions to treat with glucocorticoids perioperatively to avoid adrenal crisis.

Learning points

  • Recognition of the presence of adrenal adenomas co-secreting mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.

  • Consideration for perioperative and postoperative glucocorticoid use in the treatment of co-secreting adrenal adenomas.

Open access
Rajesh Rajendran Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, Ipswich IP4 5PD, UK

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Sarita Naik Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, Bath BA1 3NG, UK

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Derek D Sandeman Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, University Hospital of Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

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Azraai B Nasruddin Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, University Hospital of Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

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Summary

We report the use of pasireotide in a rare and unusual case of pituitary macroadenoma co-secreting GH, prolactin and ACTH. A 62-year-old Caucasian man presented with impotence. Clinically, he appeared acromegalic and subsequent investigations confirmed GH excess and hyperprolactinaemia. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of pituitary revealed a large pituitary macroadenoma. He underwent trans-sphenoidal surgery and histology confirmed an adenoma with immunohistochemistry positive for ACTH, GH and prolactin. Acromegaly was not cured following surgery and inadequately controlled despite subsequent octreotide therapy. He underwent further debulking pituitary surgery, following which IGF1 levels improved but still high. This time adenoma cells showed immunohistochemistry positivity for ACTH only, following which subsequent investigations confirmed intermittent hypercortisolaemia compatible with pituitary Cushing's disease. We recommended radiotherapy, but in view of the pluripotential nature of the tumour, we proceeded with a trial of s.c. pasireotide therapy on the basis that it may control both his acromegaly and Cushing's disease. After 3 months of pasireotide therapy, his mean GH and IGF1 levels improved significantly, with improvement in his symptoms but intermittent hypercortisolaemia persists. His glycaemic control deteriorated requiring addition of new anti-diabetic medication. MRI imaging showed loss of contrast uptake within the tumour following pasireotide therapy but no change in size. We conclude that our patient has had a partial response to pasireotide therapy. Long-term follow-up studies are needed to establish its safety and efficacy in patients with acromegaly and/or Cushing's disease.

Learning points

  • Plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are rare and unusual.

  • Patients with pituitary adenomas co-secreting ACTH and GH are more likely to present with acromegaly because GH excess can mask hypercortisolaemia.

  • Pasireotide holds potential where conventional somatostatin analogues are not effective in acromegaly due to higher affinity for somatostatin receptor subtypes 1, 2, 3 and 5.

  • Significant deterioration in glycaemic control remains a concern in the use of pasireotide.

  • Currently, long-term safety and efficacy of pasireotide in patients with acromegaly and/or Cushing's disease are not fully clear.

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