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Open access

Lima Lawrence, Peng Zhang, Humberto Choi, Usman Ahmad, Valeria Arrossi, Andrei Purysko and Vinni Makin

Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production leading to ectopic ACTH syndrome accounts for a small proportion of all Cushing’s syndrome (CS) cases. Thymic neuroendocrine tumors are rare neoplasms that may secrete ACTH leading to rapid development of hypercortisolism causing electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and an increased risk for opportunistic infections. We present a unique case of a patient who presented with a mediastinal mass, revealed to be an ACTH-secreting thymic neuroendocrine tumor (NET) causing ectopic CS. As the diagnosis of CS from ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) remains challenging, we emphasize the necessity for high clinical suspicion in the appropriate setting, concordance between biochemical, imaging and pathology findings, along with continued vigilant monitoring for recurrence after definitive treatment.

Learning points:

  • Functional thymic neuroendocrine tumors are exceedingly rare.

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to thymic neuroendocrine tumors secreting ACTH present with features of hypercortisolism including electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and hyperglycemia, and opportunistic infections.

  • The ability to undergo surgery and completeness of resection are the strongest prognostic factors for improved overall survival; however, the recurrence rate remains high.

  • A high degree of initial clinical suspicion followed by vigilant monitoring is required for patients with this challenging disease.

Open access

Seong Keat Cheah, David Halsall, Peter Barker, John Grant, Abraham Mathews, Shyam Seshadri and Singhan Krishnan

Summary

A frail 79-year-old lady with dementia presented with a 2-year history of frequent falls. Recurrent hypoglycaemic episodes were diagnosed and treated with continuous glucose infusion in multiple hospital admissions. Hypoadrenalism and hypothyroidism were ruled out. Whilst hypoglycaemic (blood glucose 1.6 mmol/L), both plasma C-peptide and proinsulin concentrations, were inappropriately elevated at 4210 pmol/L (174–960) and >200 pmol/L (0–7) respectively with plasma insulin suppressed at 12 pmol/L (0–180). Whilst reported cases of proinsulinoma are typically pancreatic in origin, radiological investigations of the pancreas in this patient did not identify abnormalities. Unexpectedly contrast CT identified a heterogeneously enhancing mass (6.6 cm) at the lower pole of the left kidney consistent with renal cell carcinoma. Non-islet cell tumour-induced hypoglycaemia has been associated with renal malignancy; however, a serum IGF2:IGF1 ratio measured at <10 effectively excludes this diagnosis. Concomitantly on the CT, extensive peripherally enhancing heterogeneous mass lesions in the liver were identified, the largest measuring 12 cm. A palliative approach was taken due to multiple comorbidities. On post-mortem, the kidney lesion was confirmed as clear cell renal carcinoma, whilst the liver lesions were identified as proinsulin-secreting neuroendocrine tumours. In conclusion, the diagnosis of proinsulinoma can be missed if plasma proinsulin concentration is not measured at the time of hypoglycaemia. In this case, the plasma insulin:C-peptide ratio was too high to be accounted for by the faster relative clearance of insulin and was due to proinsulin cross-reactivity in the C-peptide assay. In addition, the concomitant malignancy proved to be a challenging red herring.

Learning points:

  • Even in non-diabetics, hypoglycaemia needs to be excluded in a setting of frequent falls. Insulin- or proinsulin-secreting tumours are potentially curable causes.

  • Whilst investigating spontaneous hypoglycaemia, if plasma insulin concentration is appropriate for the hypoglycaemia, it is prudent to check proinsulin concentrations during the hypoglycaemic episode.

  • Proinsulin cross-reacts variably with C-peptide and insulin assays; the effect is method dependent. In this case, the discrepancy between the insulin and C-peptide concentrations was too great to be accounted for by the faster relative clearance of insulin, raising the suspicion of assay interference. The C-peptide assay in question (Diasorin liaison) has been shown to be 100% cross reactive with proinsulin based on spiking studies with a proinsulin reference preparation.

  • Whilst reported cases of proinsulinoma and 99% of insulinomas are of pancreatic origin, conventional imaging studies (CT, MRI or ultrasound) fail to detect neuroendocrine tumours <1 cm in 50% of cases.

  • The concomitant renal mass identified radiologically proved to be a red herring.

  • In view of the rarity of proinsulinoma, no conclusive association with renal cell carcinoma can be established.

Open access

Chad Bisambar, Andrew Collier, Fraser Duthie and Carron Meney

Summary

A 40-year-old Caucasian female presented with hyperglycaemia, polyuria, polydipsia and weight loss of 6 kg over a 1-month period. There was no personal or family history of malignancy or diabetes mellitus. On examination, she was jaundiced with pale mucous membranes and capillary glucose was 23.1 mmol/L. Initial investigations showed iron deficiency anaemia and obstructive pattern of liver function tests. HbA1c was diagnostic of diabetes mellitus at 79 mmol/mol. Malignancy was suspected and CT chest, abdomen and pelvis showed significant dilatation of intra- and extra-hepatic biliary tree including pancreatic duct, with periampullary 30 mm mass lesion projecting into lumen of duodenum. Enlarged nodes were seen around the superior mesenteric artery. This was confirmed on MRI liver. Fasting gut hormones were normal except for a mildly elevated somatostatin level. Chromogranin A was elevated at 78 pmol/L with normal chromogranin B. Duodenoscopy and biopsy showed possible tubovillous adenoma with low-grade dysplasia, but subsequent endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy revealed a grade 1, well differentiated neuroendocrine tumour. The patient was started on insulin, transfused to Hb >8 g/dL and Whipple’s pancreatico-duodenectomy was undertaken. This showed a well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma arising in duodenum (Grade G1 with Ki67: 0.5%), with areas of chronic pancreatitis and preservation of pancreatic islet cells. There was complete resolution of diabetes post Whipple’s procedure and patient was able to come of insulin treatment. Her last HBA1C was 31 mmol/mol, 4 months post tumour resection.

Learning points:

  • Diabetes mellitus and malignancy can be related.

  • A high index of suspicion is needed when diabetes mellitus presents atypically.

  • Non-functional neuroendocrine tumours can present with diabetes mellitus.

Open access

Bernardo Marques, Raquel G Martins, Guilherme Tralhão, Joana Couto, Sandra Saraiva, Henrique Ferrão, João Ribeiro, Jacinta Santos, Teresa Martins, Ana Teresa Cadime and Fernando Rodrigues

Summary

Gastric neuroendocrine neoplasms (GNENs) are classified into three types according to their aetiology. We present a clinical case of a female patient of 66 years and a well-differentiated (grade 2), type 3 GNEN with late liver metastasis (LM). The patient underwent surgical excision of a gastric lesion at 50 years of age, without any type of follow-up. Sixteen years later, she was found to have a neuroendocrine tumour (NET) metastatic to the liver. The histological review of the gastric lesion previously removed confirmed that it was a NET measuring 8 mm, pT1NxMx (Ki67 = 4%). 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT reported two LM and a possible pancreatic tumour/gastric adenopathy. Biopsies of the lesion were repeatedly inconclusive. She had a high chromogranin A, normal gastrin levels and negative anti-parietal cell and intrinsic factor antibodies, which is suggestive of type 3 GNEN. She underwent total gastrectomy and liver segmentectomies (segment IV and VII) with proven metastasis in two perigastric lymph nodes and both with hepatic lesions (Ki67 = 5%), yet no evidence of local recurrence. A 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT was performed 3 months after surgery, showing no tumour lesions and normalisation of CgA. Two years after surgery, the patient had no evidence of disease. This case illustrates a rare situation, being a type 3, well-differentiated (grade 2) GNEN, with late LM. Despite this, it was possible to perform surgery with curative intent, which is crucial in these cases, as systemic therapies have limited efficacy. We emphasise the need for extended follow-up in these patients.

Learning points:

  • GNENs have a very heterogeneous biological behaviour.

  • Clinical distinction between the three types of GNEN is essential to plan the correct management strategy.

  • LMs are rare and more common in type 3 and grade 3 GNEN.

  • Adequate follow-up is crucial for detection of disease recurrence.

  • Curative intent surgery is the optimal therapy for patients with limited and resectable LM, especially in well-differentiated tumours (grade 1 and 2).

Open access

Tiago Nunes da Silva, M L F van Velthuysen, Casper H J van Eijck, Jaap J Teunissen, J Hofland and Wouter W de Herder

Summary

Non-functional pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) can present with advanced local or distant (metastatic) disease limiting the possibility of surgical cure. Several treatment options have been used in experimental neoadjuvant settings to improve the outcomes in such cases. Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PPRT) using beta emitting radiolabelled somatostatin analogues has been used in progressive pancreatic NETs. We report a 55-year-old female patient with a 12.8 cm pancreatic NET with significant local stomach and superior mesenteric vein compression and liver metastases. The patient underwent treatment with [177Lutetium-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotate (177Lu-octreotate) for the treatment of local and metastatic symptomatic disease. Six months after 4 cycles of 177lutetium-octreotate, resolution of the abdominal complaints was associated with a significant reduction in tumour size and the tumour was rendered operable. Histology of the tumour showed a 90% necrotic tumour with abundant hyalinized fibrosis and haemorrhage compatible with PPRT-induced radiation effects on tumour cells. This report supports that PPRT has a role in unresectable and metastatic pancreatic NET.

Learning points:

  • PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate can be considered a useful therapy for symptomatic somatostatin receptor-positive pancreatic NET.

  • The clinical benefits of PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate can be seen in the first months while tumour reduction can be seen up to a year after treatment.

  • PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate was clinically well tolerated and did not interfere with the subsequent surgical procedure.

  • PRRT with 177Lu-octreotate can result in significant tumour reduction and may improve surgical outcomes. As such, this therapy can be considered as a neoadjuvant therapy.

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

Raluca Maria Furnica, Julie Lelotte, Thierry Duprez, Dominique Maiter and Orsalia Alexopoulou

Summary

A 26-year-old woman presented with severe postpartum headaches. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a symmetric, heterogeneous enlargement of the pituitary gland. Three months later, she developed central diabetes insipidus. A diagnosis of postpartum hypophysitis was suspected and corticosteroids were prescribed. Six months later, the pituitary mass showed further enlargement and characteristics of a necrotic abscess with a peripheral shell and infiltration of the hypothalamus. Transsphenoidal surgery was performed, disclosing a pus-filled cavity which was drained. No bacterial growth was observed, except a single positive blood culture for Staphylococcus aureus, considered at that time as a potential contaminant. A short antibiotic course was, however, administered together with hormonal substitution for panhypopituitarism. Four months after her discharge, severe headaches recurred. Pituitary MRI was suggestive of a persistent inflammatory mass of the sellar region. She underwent a new transsphenoidal resection of a residual abscess. At that time, the sellar aspiration fluid was positive for Staphylococcus aureus and she was treated with antibiotics for 6 weeks, after which she had complete resolution of her infection. The possibility of a pituitary abscess, although rare, should be kept in mind during evaluation for a necrotic inflammatory pituitary mass with severe headaches and hormonal deficiencies.

Learning points:

  • The possibility of a pituitary abscess, although rare, should be kept in mind during evaluation for a necrotic inflammatory pituitary mass with severe headaches and hormonal deficiencies.

  • In a significant proportion of cases no pathogenic organism can be isolated.

  • A close follow-up is necessary given the risk of recurrence and the high rate of postoperative pituitary deficiencies.

Open access

Sarah Y Qian, Matthew J L Hare, Alan Pham and Duncan J Topliss

Summary

Insulinomas are rare neuroendocrine tumours that classically present with fasting hypoglycaemia. This case report discusses an uncommon and challenging case of insulinoma soon after upper gastrointestinal surgery. A 63-year-old man presented with 6 months of post-prandial hypoglycaemia beginning after a laparoscopic revision of Toupet fundoplication. Hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia was confirmed during a spontaneous episode and in a mixed-meal test. Localisation studies including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and gallium dotatate positron emission tomography (68Ga Dotatate PET) were consistent with a small insulinoma in the mid-body of the pancreas. The lesion was excised and histopathology was confirmed a localised well-differentiated neuroendocrine pancreatic neoplasm. There have been no significant episodes of hypoglycaemia since. This case highlights several key points. Insulinoma should be sought in proven post-prandial hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia – even in the absence of fasting hypoglycaemia. The use of nuclear imaging targeting somatostatin and GLP1 receptors has improved accuracy of localisation. Despite these advances, accurate surgical resection can remain challenging.

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycaemia is defined by Whipple’s triad and can be provoked by fasting or mixed-meal tests.

  • Although uncommon, insulinomas can present with post-prandial hypoglycaemia.

  • In hypoglycaemia following gastrointestinal surgery (i.e. bariatric surgery or less commonly Nissen fundoplication) dumping syndrome or non-insulinoma pancreatogenous hypoglycaemia syndrome (NIPHS) should be considered.

  • Improved imaging techniques including MRI, endoscopic ultrasound and functional nuclear medicine scans aid localisation of insulinomas.

  • Despite advances in imaging and surgical techniques, accurate resection of insulinomas remains challenging.

Open access

Run Yu, Danielle Sharaga, Christopher Donner, M Fernando Palma Diaz, Masha J Livhits and Michael W Yeh

Summary

Pheochromocytomatosis, a very rare form of pheochromocytoma recurrence, refers to new, multiple, and often small pheochromocytomas growing in and around the surgical resection bed of a previous adrenalectomy for a solitary pheochromocytoma. We here report a case of pheochromocytomatosis in a 70-year-old female. At age 64 years, she was diagnosed with a 6-cm right pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy, during which the tumor capsule was ruptured. At age 67 years, CT of abdomen did not detect recurrence. At age 69 years, she began experiencing episodes of headache and diaphoresis. At age 70 years, biochemical markers of pheochromocytoma became elevated with normal calcitonin level. CT revealed multiple nodules of various sizes in the right adrenal fossa, some of which were positive on metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan. She underwent open resection of pheochromocytomatosis. Histological examination confirmed numerous pheochromocytomas ranging 0.1–1.2 cm in size. Next-generation sequencing of a panel of genes found a novel heterozygous germline c.570delC mutation in TMEM127, one of the genes that, if mutated, confers susceptibility to syndromic pheochromocytoma. Molecular analysis showed that the c.570delC mutation is likely pathogenic. Our case highlights the typical presentation of pheochromocytomatosis, a rare complication of adrenalectomy for pheochromocytoma. Previous cases and ours collectively demonstrate that tumor capsule rupture during adrenalectomy is a risk factor for pheochromocytomatosis. We also report a novel TMEM127 mutation in this case.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytomatosis is a very rare form of pheochromocytoma recurrence.

  • Pheochromocytomatosis refers to new, multiple and often small pheochromocytomas growing in and around the surgical resection bed of a previous adrenalectomy for a solitary pheochromocytoma.

  • Tumor capsule rupture during adrenalectomy predisposes a patient to develop pheochromocytomatosis.

  • Surgical resection of the multiple tumors of pheochromocytomatosis is recommended.

  • Pheochromocytoma recurrence should prompt genetic testing for syndromic pheochromocytoma.

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.