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Open access

Carine Ghassan Richa, Khadija Jamal Saad, Georges Habib Halabi, Elie Mekhael Gharios, Fadi Louis Nasr and Marie Tanios Merheb

Summary

The objective of this study is to report three cases of paraneoplastic or ectopic Cushing syndrome, which is a rare phenomenon of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent Cushing syndrome. Three cases are reported in respect of clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment in addition to relevant literature review. The results showed that ectopic ACTH secretion can be associated with different types of neoplasm most common of which are bronchial carcinoid tumors, which are slow-growing, well-differentiated neoplasms with a favorable prognosis and small-cell lung cancer, which are poorly differentiated tumors with a poor outcome. The latter is present in two out of three cases and in the remaining one, primary tumor could not be localized, representing a small fraction of patients with paraneoplastic Cushing. Diagnosis is established in the setting of high clinical suspicion by documenting an elevated cortisol level, ACTH and doing dexamethasone suppression test. Treatment options include management of the primary tumor by surgery and chemotherapy and treating Cushing syndrome. Prognosis is poor in SCLC. We concluded that in front of a high clinical suspicion, ectopic Cushing syndrome diagnosis should be considered, and identification of the primary tumor is essential.

Learning points:

  • Learning how to suspect ectopic Cushing syndrome and confirm it among all the causes of excess cortisol.

  • Distinguish between occult and severe ectopic Cushing syndrome and etiology.

  • Providing the adequate treatment of the primary tumor as well as for the cortisol excess.

  • Prognosis depends on the differentiation and type of the primary malignancy.

Open access

Charlotte Boughton, David Taylor, Lea Ghataore, Norman Taylor and Benjamin C Whitelaw

Summary

We describe severe hypokalaemia and hypertension due to a mineralocorticoid effect in a patient with myelodysplastic syndrome taking posaconazole as antifungal prophylaxis. Two distinct mechanisms due to posaconazole are identified: inhibition of 11β hydroxylase leading to the accumulation of the mineralocorticoid hormone 11-deoxycorticosterone (DOC) and secondly, inhibition of 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11βHSD2), as demonstrated by an elevated serum cortisol-to-cortisone ratio. The effects were ameliorated by spironolactone. We also suggest that posaconazole may cause cortisol insufficiency. Patients taking posaconazole should therefore be monitored for hypokalaemia, hypertension and symptoms of hypocortisolaemia, at the onset of treatment and on a monthly basis. Treatment with mineralocorticoid antagonists (spironolactone or eplerenone), supplementation of glucocorticoids (e.g. hydrocortisone) or dose reduction or cessation of posaconazole should all be considered as management strategies.

Learning points:

  • Combined hypertension and hypokalaemia are suggestive of mineralocorticoid excess; further investigation is appropriate.

  • If serum aldosterone is suppressed, then further investigation to assess for an alternative mineralocorticoid is appropriate, potentially using urine steroid profiling and/or serum steroid panelling.

  • Posaconazole can cause both hypokalaemia and hypertension, and we propose that this is due to two mechanisms – both 11β hydroxylase inhibition and 11β HSD2 inhibition.

  • Posaconazole treatment may lead to cortisol insufficiency, which may require treatment; however, in this clinical case, the effect was mild.

  • First-line treatment of this presentation would likely be use of a mineralocorticoid antagonist.

  • Patients taking posaconazole should be monitored for hypertension and hypokalaemia on initiation and monthly thereafter.

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

Maria Mercedes Pineyro, Daiana Arrestia, Mariana Elhordoy, Ramiro Lima, Saul Wajskopf, Raul Pisabarro and Maria Pilar Serra

Summary

Spontaneous reossification of the sellar floor after transsphenoidal surgery has been rarely reported. Strontium ranelate, a divalent strontium salt, has been shown to increase bone formation, increasing osteoblast activity. We describe an unusual case of a young patient with Cushing’s disease who was treated with strontium ranelate for low bone mass who experienced spontaneous sellar reossification after transsphenoidal surgery. A 21-year-old male presented with Cushing’s features. His past medical history included delayed puberty diagnosed at 16 years, treated with testosterone for 3 years without further work-up. He was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease initially treated with transsphenoidal surgery, which was not curative. The patient did not come to follow-up visits for more than 1 year. He was prescribed strontium ranelate 2 g orally once daily for low bone mass by an outside endocrinologist, which he received for more than 1 year. Two years after first surgery he was reevaluated and persisted with active Cushing’s disease. Magnetic resonance image revealed a left 4 mm hypointense mass, with sphenoid sinus occupation by a hyperintense material. At repeated transsphenoidal surgery, sellar bone had a very hard consistency; surgery was complicated and the patient died. Sellar reossification negatively impacted surgery outcomes in this patient. While this entity is possible after transsphenoidal surgery, it remains unclear whether strontium ranelate could have affected sellar ossification.

Learning points:

  • Delayed puberty can be a manifestation of Cushing’s syndrome. A complete history, physical examination and appropriate work-up should be performed before initiating any treatment.

  • Sellar reossification should always be taken into account when considering repeated transsphenoidal surgery. Detailed preoperative evaluation of bony structures by computed tomography ought to be performed in all cases of reoperation.

  • We speculate if strontium ranelate may have affected bone mineralization at the sellar floor. We strongly recommend that indications for prescribing this drug should be carefully followed.

Open access

Regina Streuli, Ina Krull, Michael Brändle, Walter Kolb, Günter Stalla, Marily Theodoropoulou, Annette Enzler-Tschudy and Stefan Bilz

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.

Open access

Shinsuke Uraki, Hiroyuki Ariyasu, Asako Doi, Hiroto Furuta, Masahiro Nishi, Takeshi Usui, Hiroki Yamaue and Takashi Akamizu

Summary

A 54-year-old man had gastrinoma, parathyroid hyperplasia and pituitary tumor. His family history indicated that he might have multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). MEN1 gene analysis revealed a heterozygous germline mutation (Gly156Arg). Therefore, we diagnosed him with MEN1. Endocrinological tests revealed that his serum prolactin (PRL) and plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels were elevated to 1699 ng/mL and 125 pg/mL respectively. Immunohistochemical analysis of the resected pancreatic tumors revealed that the tumors did not express ACTH. Overnight 0.5 and 8 mg dexamethasone suppression tests indicated that his pituitary tumor was a PRL-ACTH-producing plurihormonal tumor. Before transsphenoidal surgery, cabergoline was initiated. Despite no decrease in the volume of the pituitary tumor, PRL and ACTH levels decreased to 37.8 ng/mL and 57.6 pg/mL respectively. Owing to the emergence of metastatic gastrinoma in the liver, octreotide was initiated. After that, PRL and ACTH levels further decreased to 5.1 ng/mL and 19.7 pg/mL respectively. He died from liver dysfunction, and an autopsy of the pituitary tumor was performed. In the autopsy study, histopathological and immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis showed that the tumor was single adenoma and the cells were positive for ACTH, growth hormone (GH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and PRL. RT-PCR analysis showed that the tumor expressed mRNA encoding all anterior pituitary hormones, pituitary transcription factor excluding estrogen receptor (ER) β, somatostatin receptor (SSTR) 2, SSTR5 and dopamine receptor D (D2R). PRL-ACTH-producing tumor is a very rare type of pituitary tumor, and treatment with cabergoline and octreotide may be useful for controlling hormone levels secreted from a plurihormonal pituitary adenoma, as seen in this case of MEN1.

Learning points:

  • Although plurihormonal pituitary adenomas were reported to be more frequent in patients with MEN1 than in those without, the combination of PRL and ACTH is rare.

  • RT-PCR analysis showed that the pituitary tumor expressed various pituitary transcription factors and IHC analysis revealed that the tumor was positive for PRL, ACTH, GH and LH.

  • Generally, the effectiveness of dopamine agonist and somatostatin analog in corticotroph adenomas is low; however, if the plurihormonal pituitary adenoma producing ACTH expresses SSTR2, SSTR5 and D2R, medical therapy for the pituitary adenoma may be effective.

Open access

Hashem Bseiso, Naama Lev-Cohain, David J Gross and Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg

Summary

A 55-year-old woman diagnosed with sporadic MTC underwent total thyroidectomy 20 years ago. After the first surgery, elevated calcitonin levels in parallel with local disease persistence were noted and therefore she underwent repeated neck dissections. During follow-up, multiple foci of metastatic disease were noted in the neck and mediastinal lymph nodes, lungs and bones; however, the disease had an indolent course for a number of years, in parallel with a calcitonin doubling time of more than two years and without significant symptoms. During a routine follow-up visit 2 years ago, findings suggestive of Cushing’s syndrome were observed on physical examination. The biochemical evaluation demonstrated markedly elevated serum calcitonin level, in parallel with lack of cortisol suppression after an overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test, lack of cortisol and ACTH suppression after high-dose IV dexamethasone 8 mg, elevated plasma ACTH up to 79 pg/mL (normal <46 pg/mL) and elevated 24-h urinary free cortisol up to 501 µg/24 h (normal 9–90 µg/24 h). After a negative pituitary MRI, she underwent IPSS, which was compatible with EAS. Whole-body CT demonstrated progressive disease at most of the tumor sites. Treatment with vandetanib at a dosage of 200 mg/day was commenced. The patient showed a significant, rapid and consistent clinical improvement already after two months of treatment, in parallel with biochemical improvement, whereas a decrease in tumor size was demonstrated on follow-up CT.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS) by MTC is an uncommon and a poor prognostic event, being associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

  • We demonstrate that vandetanib is effective in controlling the signs and symptoms related to the EAS in patients with advanced progressive MTC.

  • We demonstrate that vandetanib is effective in decreasing tumor size and in inducing tumor control.

Open access

Elise Flynn, Sara Baqar, Dorothy Liu, Elif I Ekinci, Stephen Farrell, Jeffrey D Zajac, Mario De Luise and Ego Seeman

Summary

ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma (ASP) is a rare cause of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (CS). We report the case of a 63-year-old female presenting with CS secondary to an ASP complicated by bowel perforation. This case report highlights ASP as an uncommon but important cause of ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS). There have been 29 cases of ASP, all of which were unilateral and benign, but associated with significant complications. Patients presenting with ASP have the potential for cure with unilateral adrenalectomy. Given this promising prognosis if recognised, ASP should be considered in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS. As this case demonstrates, gastrointestinal complications can arise from severe hypercortisolaemia associated with CS. Early medical and surgical intervention is imperative as mortality approaches 50% once bowel perforation occurs.

Learning points

  • Consider phaeochromocytoma in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS; screen with plasma metanephrines or urinary catecholamines.

  • Serial screening may be required if ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma is suspected, as absolute levels can be misleading.

  • Early catecholamine receptor blockade and adrenal synthesis blockade may avoid the need for rescue bilateral adrenalectomy in ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma.

  • Consider early medical or surgical management when gastrointestinal features are present in patients with CS, as bowel perforation due to severe hypercortisolaemia can occur and is associated with significant mortality.

Open access

Renata Lange, Caoê Von Linsingen, Fernanda Mata, Aline Barbosa Moraes, Mariana Arruda and Leonardo Vieira Neto

Summary

Ring chromosomes (RCs) are uncommon cytogenetic findings, and RC11 has only been described in 19 cases in the literature. Endocrine abnormalities associated with RC11 were reported for two of these cases. The clinical features of RC11 can result from an alteration in the structure of the genetic material, ring instability, mosaicism, and various extents of genetic material loss. We herein describe a case of RC11 with clinical features of 11q-syndrome and endocrine abnormalities that have not yet been reported. A 20-year-old female patient had facial dysmorphism, short stature, psychomotor developmental delays, a ventricular septal defect, and thrombocytopenia. Karyotyping demonstrated RC11 (46,XX,r(11)(p15q25)). This patient presented with clinical features that may be related to Jacobsen syndrome, which is caused by partial deletion of the long arm of chromosome 11. Regarding endocrine abnormalities, our patient presented with precocious puberty followed by severe hirsutism, androgenic alopecia, clitoromegaly, and amenorrhea, which were associated with overweight, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and hyperinsulinemia; therefore, this case meets the diagnostic criteria for polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrine abnormalities are rare in patients with RC11, and the association of RC11 with precocious puberty, severe clinical hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, and T2DM has not been reported previously. We speculate that gene(s) located on chromosome 11 might be involved in the pathogenesis of these conditions. Despite the rarity of RCs, studies to correlate the genes located on the chromosomes with the phenotypes observed could lead to major advances in the understanding and treatment of more prevalent diseases.

Learning points

  • We hypothesize that the endocrine features of precocious puberty, severe clinical hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, and T2DM might be associated with 11q-syndrome.

  • A karyotype study should be performed in patients with short stature and facial dysmorphism.

  • Early diagnosis and adequate management of these endocrine abnormalities are essential to improve the quality of life of the patient and to prevent other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and its complications.

Open access

Rémi Goupil, Martin Wolley, Jacobus Ungerer, Brett McWhinney, Kuniaki Mukai, Mitsuhide Naruse, Richard D Gordon and Michael Stowasser

Summary

In patients with primary aldosteronism (PA) undergoing adrenal venous sampling (AVS), cortisol levels are measured to assess lateralization of aldosterone overproduction. Concomitant adrenal autonomous cortisol and aldosterone secretion therefore have the potential to confound AVS results. We describe a case where metanephrine was measured during AVS to successfully circumvent this problem. A 55-year-old hypertensive male had raised plasma aldosterone/renin ratios and PA confirmed by fludrocortisone suppression testing. Failure of plasma cortisol to suppress overnight following dexamethasone and persistently suppressed corticotrophin were consistent with adrenal hypercortisolism. On AVS, comparison of adrenal and peripheral A/F ratios (left 5.7 vs peripheral 1.0; right 1.7 vs peripheral 1.1) suggested bilateral aldosterone production, with the left gland dominant but without contralateral suppression. However, using aldosterone/metanephrine ratios (left 9.7 vs peripheral 2.4; right 1.3 vs peripheral 2.5), aldosterone production lateralized to the left with good contralateral suppression. The patient underwent left laparoscopic adrenalectomy with peri-operative glucocorticoid supplementation to prevent adrenal insufficiency. Pathological examination revealed adrenal cortical adenomas producing both cortisol and aldosterone within a background of aldosterone-producing cell clusters. Hypertension improved and cured of PA and hypercortisolism were confirmed by negative post-operative fludrocortisone suppression and overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression testing. Routine dexamethasone suppression testing in patients with PA permits detection of concurrent hypercortisolism which can confound AVS results and cause unilateral PA to be misdiagnosed as bilateral with patients thereby denied potentially curative surgical treatment. In such patients, measurement of plasma metanephrine during AVS may overcome this issue.

Learning points

  • Simultaneous autonomous overproduction of cortisol and aldosterone is increasingly recognised although still apparently uncommon.

  • Because cortisol levels are used during AVS to correct for differences in dilution of adrenal with non-adrenal venous blood when assessing for lateralisation, unilateral cortisol overproduction with contralateral suppression could confound the interpretation of AVS results

  • Measuring plasma metanephrine during AVS to calculate lateralisation ratios may circumvent this problem.