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Daniela Gallo Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Sara Rosetti Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Ilaria Marcon Department of Oncology, ASST dei Sette Laghi, Varese, Italy

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Elisabetta Armiraglio Pathology Unit, ASST Gaetano Pini, Centro Specialistico Ortopedico Traumatologico, Gaetano Pini-CTO, Milano, Italy

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Antonina Parafioriti Pathology Unit, ASST Gaetano Pini, Centro Specialistico Ortopedico Traumatologico, Gaetano Pini-CTO, Milano, Italy

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Graziella Pinotti Department of Oncology, ASST dei Sette Laghi, Varese, Italy

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Giuseppe Perrucchini I.R.C.C.S Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi, Milano, Italy

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Bohdan Patera Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Linda Gentile Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Maria Laura Tanda Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Luigi Bartalena Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Eliana Piantanida Department of Medicine and Surgery, Endocrine Unit, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

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Summary

Brown tumors are osteoclastic, benign lesions characterized by fibrotic stroma, intense vascularization and multinucleated giant cells. They are the terminal expression of the bone remodelling process occurring in advanced hyperparathyroidism. Nowadays, due to earlier diagnosis, primary hyperparathyroidism keeps few of the classical manifestations and brown tumors are definitely unexpected. Thus, it may happen that they are misdiagnosed as primary or metastatic bone cancer. Besides bone imaging, endocrine evaluation including measurement of serum parathyroid hormone and calcium (Ca) levels supports the pathologist to address the diagnosis. Herein, a case of multiple large brown tumors misdiagnosed as a non-treatable osteosarcoma is described, with special regards to diagnostic work-up. After selective parathyroidectomy, treatment with denosumab was initiated and a regular follow-up was established. The central role of multidisciplinary approach involving pathologist, endocrinologist and oncologist in the diagnostic and therapeutic work-up is reported. In our opinion, the discussion of this case would be functional especially for clinicians and pathologists not used to the differential diagnosis in uncommon bone disorders.

Learning points:

  • Brown tumors develop during the remodelling process of bone in advanced and long-lasting primary or secondary hyperparathyroidism.

  • Although rare, they should be considered during the challenging diagnostic work-up of giant cell lesions.

  • Coexistence of high parathyroid hormone levels and hypercalcemia in primary hyperparathyroidism is crucial for the diagnosis.

  • A detailed imaging study includes bone X-ray, bone scintiscan and total body CT; to rule out bone malignancy, evaluation of bone lesion biopsy should include immunostaining for neoplastic markers as H3G34W and Ki67 index.

  • If primary hyperparathyroidism is confirmed, selective parathyroidectomy is the first-line treatment.

  • In advanced bone disease, treatment with denosumab should be considered, ensuring a strict control of Ca levels.

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S Hamidi Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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S Mottard Division of Orthopedic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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M J Berthiaume Department of Radiology, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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J Doyon Department of Pathology, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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M J Bégin Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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L Bondaz Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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Summary

Brown tumors (BTs) are expansile osteolytic lesions complicating severe primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). Clinical, radiological and histological features of BTs share many similarities with other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, which can make their diagnosis challenging. We report the case of a 32-year-old man in whom an aggressive osteolytic lesion of the iliac crest was initially diagnosed as a giant cell tumor by biopsy. The patient was scheduled for surgical curettage, with a course of neoadjuvant denosumab. Routine biochemical workup prior to denosumab administration incidentally revealed high serum calcium levels. The patient was diagnosed with PHPT and a parathyroid adenoma was identified. In light of these findings, histological slices of the iliac lesion were reviewed and diagnosis of a BT was confirmed. Follow-up CT-scans performed 2 and 7 months after parathyroidectomy showed regression and re-ossification of the bone lesion. The aim of this case report is to underline the importance of distinguishing BTs from other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone and to highlight the relevance of measuring serum calcium as part of the initial evaluation of osteolytic bone lesions. This can have a major impact on patients’ management and can prevent unnecessary invasive surgical interventions.

Learning points:

  • Although rare, brown tumors should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of osteolytic giant cell-containing bone lesions.

  • Among giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, the main differential diagnoses of brown tumors are giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts.

  • Clinical, radiological and histological characteristics can be non-discriminating between brown tumors and giant cell tumors. One of the best ways to distinguish these two diagnoses appears to be through biochemical workup.

  • Differentiating brown tumors from giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts is crucial in order to ensure better patient care and prevent unnecessary morbid surgical interventions.

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Florence Gunawan Barwon Health, Geelong University Hospital, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Elizabeth George Barwon Health, Geelong University Hospital, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Mark Kotowicz Barwon Health, Geelong University Hospital, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Summary

Denosumab is a fully human MAB that acts as a potent anti-resorptive by inhibiting activation of osteoclasts by inhibiting the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B (RANK) ligand. Hypocalcaemia has been reported as one of the serious adverse sequelae of use of denosumab. We present a case of refractory hypocalcaemia following administration of a single dose of denosumab in a patient with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer. The patient’s serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations and renal function were normal prior to denosumab administration. Serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) level was however elevated pre-morbidly consistent with known bone metastases. The patient was treated with high-dose oral and IV calcium without any appreciable response in serum calcium. During his 30-day hospital admission, he demonstrated disease progression with development of new liver metastases and bone marrow involvement. Normocalcaemia was not achieved despite 1 month of aggressive therapy. Given the patient was asymptomatic and prognosis guarded, he was eventually discharged for ongoing supportive care under the palliative care team.

Learning points:

  • Denosumab is a potent anti-resorptive therapy and hypocalcaemia is one of the known adverse effects.

  • Serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations must be replete prior to administration of denosumab to reduce the risk of hypocalcaemia.

  • Denosumab has been proven to be more effective than zoledronic acid in preventing skeletal-related adverse effects in patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

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Nirusha Arnold Westmead Private Hospital, Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Victor O’Toole Westmead Private Hospital, Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Tien Huynh Westmead Private Hospital, Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Howard C Smith Westmead Teaching Hospital, Royal North Shore Teaching Hospital, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Catherine Luxford Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Teaching Hospital, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Roderick Clifton-Bligh Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Teaching Hospital, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Creswell J Eastman Westmead Private Hospital, Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Westmead Teaching Hospital, Royal North Shore Teaching Hospital, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Summary

Parathyroid-independent hypercalcaemia of pregnancy, due to biallelic loss of function of the P450 enzyme CYP24A1, the principal inactivator of 1,25(OH)2D results in hypervitaminosis D, hypercalcaemia and hypercalciuria. We report two cases of this disorder, with intractable hypercalcaemia, one occurring during gestation and into the postpartum, and the other in the postpartum period. Case 1, a 47-year-old woman with a twin pregnancy conceived by embryo transfer, presented with hypercalcaemia at 23 weeks gestation with subnormal serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) and normal serum 25-OH D levels. She was admitted to hospital at 31 weeks gestation with pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes and increasing hypercalcaemia. Caesarean section at 34 weeks gestation delivered two healthy females weighing 2.13 kg and 2.51 kg. At delivery, the patient’s serum calcium level was 2.90 mmol/L. Postpartum severe hypercalcaemia was treated successfully with Denosumab 60 mg SCI, given on two occasions. CYP24A1 testing revealed she was compound heterozygous for pathogenic variants c.427_429delGAA, (p.Glu143del) and c.1186C>T, (p.Arg396Trp). Case 2, a 36-year-old woman presented 4 days after the delivery of healthy twins with dyspnoea, bradycardia, severe headaches, hypertension and generalized tonic-clonic seizures after an uneventful pregnancy. She was hypercalcaemic with a suppressed PTH, normal 25(OH)D, and elevated 1,25(OH)2D levels. Her symptoms partially responded to i.v. saline and corticosteroids in the short term but bisphosphonates such as Pamidronate and Zoledronic acid did not result in sustained improvement. Denosumab 120 mg SCI successfully treated the hypercalcaemia which resolved completely 2 months post-partum. CYP24A1 testing revealed she was homozygous for the pathogenic variant c.427_429delGAA, (p.Glu143del).

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcaemia in pregnancy can be associated with considerable morbidity with few options available for management.

  • In non-PTH-related hypercalcaemia the diagnosis of CYP24A1 deficiency should be considered.

  • Making a definitive diagnosis of CYP24A1 deficiency by genetic testing delays the diagnosis, while the availability of serum 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (24,25(OH)2D) will expedite a diagnosis.

  • In pregnant women with CYP24A1 deficiency hypercalcaemia can worsen in the post-partum period and is more likely to occur with twin pregnancies but generally resolves within 2–3 months.

  • Therapeutic alternatives are limited in pregnancy and their effectiveness is short-lived and mostly ineffective. Denosumab used in both our patients after delivery was the most effective agent normalizing calcium and may have benefit as a long-term therapeutic agent in preventing complications in patients with CYP24A1 deficiency.

Open access
Nikolaos Asonitis National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, First Department of Internal Medicine, Laikon Hospital, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece
Msc Metabolic Bone Diseases, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

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Eva Kassi National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, First Department of Internal Medicine, Laikon Hospital, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece
Msc Metabolic Bone Diseases, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

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Michalis Kokkinos National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, First Department of Internal Medicine, Laikon Hospital, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

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Ilias Giovanopoulos National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, First Department of Internal Medicine, Laikon Hospital, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

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Foteini Petychaki National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, First Department of Internal Medicine, Laikon Hospital, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

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Helen Gogas National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, First Department of Internal Medicine, Laikon Hospital, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

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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 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Ulf Elbelt Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Manfred Ventz Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Knut Mai Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Tina Kienitz Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Lukas Maurer Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Thomas Rose Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Medical Department, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Jens C Rückert Department of General Visceral Vascular and Thoracic Surgery, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Christian J Strasburger Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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Joachim Spranger Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany

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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 Department of Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 18103, USA

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Ya-Yu Lee Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 18103, USA

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Vasudev Magaji Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 18103, USA

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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.

Open access