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Open access

Nikolaos Asonitis, Eva Kassi, Michalis Kokkinos, Ilias Giovanopoulos, Foteini Petychaki and Helen Gogas

Summary

Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients. It is associated with a poor prognosis, since it reflects an advanced cancer stage. Among all cancer in females, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, and it has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia. Approximately 70% of patients with breast cancer have bone metastases and 10% of them will have hypercalcemia as a complication at some point in the disease. Herein, we report a 69-year-old female patient with metastatic breast cancer, who developed severe hypercalcemia in the course of her disease and was diagnosed with humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM). Intense hydration along with corticoisteroids and antiresorptive medication (calcitonin, bisphosphonates and denosumab) were administered to the patient. Despite the above treatment, serum calcium levels remain elevated and calcimimetic cinacalcet was added. Upon discontinuation of cinacalcet, calcium levels were raised and returned back to the normal levels following re-initiation of the calcimimetic. Her calcium level restored to normal, and she was discharged with the following medical treatment: denosumab monthly, and cinacalcet at a titrated dose of 90 mg per day. The patient is followed as an outpatient and 11 months later, her calcium level remained within the normal range.

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients.

  • Breast cancer has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia.

  • The cornerstone of therapy remains the intense hydration and intravenous bisphosphonates (preferably zoledronic acid).

  • In case of persistent hypercalcemia of malignancy, the administration of calcimimetic cinacalcet could be an additional effective therapeutic option.

Open access

Reiner Jumpertz von Schwartzenberg, Ulf Elbelt, Manfred Ventz, Knut Mai, Tina Kienitz, Lukas Maurer, Thomas Rose, Jens C Rückert, Christian J Strasburger and Joachim Spranger

Parathyroid carcinoma is a rare disease leading to severe hypercalcemia due to hyperparathyroidism. Surgery is the primary treatment option. A more progressive form of the disease is characterized by parathyrotoxicosis, and subsequent hypercalcemia is the most common cause of death. We report a case presenting with severe hypercalcemia due to parathyrotoxicosis from parathyroid carcinoma treated for the first time using the monoclonal antibody denosumab as a rescue therapy and present long-term follow-up data. The 71-year-old patient presented with severe hypercalcemia due to metastatic parathyroid carcinoma. Despite undergoing treatment with bisphosphonates, cinacalcet hydrochloride, and forced diuresis, the patient`s condition deteriorated rapidly due to resistant hypercalcemia. Surgery performed because of spinal metastasis and forced diuresis lowered calcium levels, albeit they remained in the hypercalcemic range and significantly increased when forced diuresis was stopped. Considering a palliative situation to overcome hypercalcemia, we decided to administer denosumab, a monoclonal antibody that binds to the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B ligand. After a single subcutaneous administration of 60 mg denosumab, calcium levels normalized within one day. Subsequent denosumab injections led to permanent control of serum calcium for more than 2 years despite rising parathyroid hormone levels and repeated surgeries. Together with recent cases in the literature supporting our observation, we believe that denosumab is relevant for future trials and represents an effective tool to control hypercalcemia in patients with advanced stages of parathyroid cancer.

Learning points

  • Severe hypercalcemia is the most common cause of death in patients with parathyroid carcinoma.

  • The monoclonal antibody denosumab rapidly lowered severely elevated serum calcium levels due to parathyrotoxicosis.

  • Denosumab was effective in the long-term treatment of hypercalcemia despite progression of parathyroid carcinoma.

Open access

Maura Bucciarelli, Ya-Yu Lee and Vasudev Magaji

Summary

Ectopic ACTH secretion from breast cancer is extremely rare. We report a case of a 30-year-old woman with a history of breast cancer, who presented with psychosis and paranoid behaviour. CT of the head showed white matter disease consistent with posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). Despite using mifepristone with multiple antihypertensives including lisinopril, spironolactone and metoprolol, she was hypertensive. Transaminitis did not allow mifepristone dose escalation and ketoconazole utilization. Etomidate infusion at a non-sedating dose in the intensive care unit controlled her hypertension and cortisol levels. She was transitioned to metyrapone and spironolactone. She was discharged from the hospital on metyrapone with spironolactone and underwent chemotherapy. She died 9 months later after she rapidly redeveloped Cushing's syndrome and had progressive metastatic breast cancer involving multiple bones, liver and lungs causing respiratory failure.

Learning points

  • Cushing's syndrome from ectopic ACTH secreting breast cancer is extremely rare.

  • Cushing's syndrome causing psychosis could be multifactorial including hypercortisolism and PRES.

  • Etomidate at non-sedating doses in intensive care setting can be effective to reduce cortisol production followed by transition to oral metyrapone.