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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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Mawson Wang Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

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Catherine Cho Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

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Callum Gray Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

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Thora Y Chai Department of Endocrinology, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia
Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Ruhaida Daud Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

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Matthew Luttrell Department of Endocrinology, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia

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Summary

We report the case of a 65-year-old female who presented with symptomatic hypercalcaemia (corrected calcium of 4.57 mmol/L) with confusion, myalgias and abdominal discomfort. She had a concomitant metabolic alkalosis (pH 7.46, HCO3 - 40 mmol/L, pCO2 54.6 mmHg). A history of significant Quick-Eze use (a calcium carbonate based antacid) for abdominal discomfort, for 2 weeks prior to presentation, suggested a diagnosis of milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Further investigations did not demonstrate malignancy or primary hyperparathyroidism. Following management with i.v. fluid rehydration and a single dose of i.v. bisphosphonate, she developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia requiring oral and parenteral calcium replacement. She was discharged from the hospital with stable biochemistry on follow-up. This case demonstrates the importance of a detailed history in the diagnosis of severe hypercalcaemia, with MAS representing the third most common cause of hypercalcaemia. We discuss its pathophysiology and clinical importance, which can often present with severe hypercalcaemia that can respond precipitously to calcium-lowering therapy.

Learning points:

  • Milk-alkali syndrome is an often unrecognised cause for hypercalcaemia, but is the third most common cause of admission for hypercalcaemia.

  • Calcium ingestion leading to MAS can occur at intakes as low as 1.0–1.5 g per day in those with risk factors.

  • Early recognition of this syndrome can avoid the use of calcium-lowering therapy such as bisphosphonates which can precipitate hypocalcaemia.

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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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Peter Novodvorsky Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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Ziad Hussein Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK

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Muhammad Fahad Arshad Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK

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Ahmed Iqbal Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK

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Malee Fernando Department of Histopathology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK

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Alia Munir Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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Sabapathy P Balasubramanian Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Department of General Surgery, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK

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Summary

Spontaneous remission of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) due to necrosis and haemorrhage of parathyroid adenoma, the so-called ‘parathyroid auto-infarction’ is a very rare, but previously described phenomenon. Patients usually undergo parathyroidectomy or remain under close clinical and biochemical surveillance. We report two cases of parathyroid auto-infarction diagnosed in the same tertiary centre; one managed surgically and the other conservatively up to the present time. Case #1 was a 51-year old man with PHPT (adjusted (adj.) calcium: 3.11 mmol/L (reference range (RR): 2.20–2.60 mmol/L), parathyroid hormone (PTH) 26.9 pmol/L (RR: 1.6–6.9 pmol/L) and urine calcium excretion consistent with PHPT) referred for parathyroidectomy. Repeat biochemistry 4 weeks later at the surgical clinic showed normal adj. calcium (2.43 mmol/L) and reduced PTH. Serial ultrasound imaging demonstrated reduction in size of the parathyroid lesion from 33 to 17 mm. Twenty months later, following recurrence of hypercalcaemia, he underwent neck exploration and resection of an enlarged right inferior parathyroid gland. Histology revealed increased fibrosis and haemosiderin deposits in the parathyroid lesion in keeping with auto-infarction. Case #2 was a 54-year-old lady admitted with severe hypercalcaemia (adj. calcium: 4.58 mmol/L, PTH 51.6 pmol/L (RR: 1.6–6.9 pmol/L)) and severe vitamin D deficiency. She was treated with intravenous fluids and pamidronate and 8 days later developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia (1.88 mmol/L) with dramatic decrease of PTH (17.6 pmol/L). MRI of the neck showed a 44 mm large cystic parathyroid lesion. To date, (18 months later), she has remained normocalcaemic.

Learning points:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is characterised by excess parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion arising mostly from one or more autonomously functioning parathyroid adenomas (up to 85%), diffuse parathyroid hyperplasia (<15%) and in 1–2% of cases from parathyroid carcinoma.

  • PHPT and hypercalcaemia of malignancy, account for the majority of clinical presentations of hypercalcaemia.

  • Spontaneous remission of PHPT due to necrosis, haemorrhage and infarction of parathyroid adenoma, the so-called ‘parathyroid auto-infarction’, ‘auto-parathyroidectomy’ or ‘parathyroid apoplexy’ is a very rare in clinical practice but has been previously reported in the literature.

  • In most cases, patients with parathyroid auto-infarction undergo parathyroidectomy. Those who are managed conservatively need to remain under close clinical and biochemical surveillance long-term as in most cases PHPT recurs, sometimes several years after auto-infarction.

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Bidhya Timilsina Department of Internal Medicine, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Reading Hospital, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA

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Niranjan Tachamo Department of Internal Medicine, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Reading Hospital, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA

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Prem Raj Parajuli Department of Internal Medicine, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Reading Hospital, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA

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Ilan Gabriely Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Reading Hospital, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA

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Summary

A 74-year-old woman presented with progressive lethargy, confusion, poor appetite and abdominal pain. She was found to have non-PTH-mediated severe hypercalcemia with renal failure and metabolic alkalosis. Extensive workup for hypercalcemia to rule out alternate etiology was unrevealing. Upon further questioning, she was taking excess calcium carbonate (Tums) for her worsening heartburn. She was diagnosed with milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Her hypercalcemia and alkalosis recovered completely with aggressive hydration along with improvement in her renal function. High index of suspicion should be maintained and history of drug and supplements, especially calcium ingestion, should be routinely asked in patients presenting with hypercalcemia to timely diagnose MAS and prevent unnecessary tests and treatments.

Learning points:

  • Suspect milk-alkali syndrome in patients with hypercalcemia, metabolic alkalosis and renal failure, especially in context of ingestion of excess calcium-containing supplements.

  • Careful history of over-the-counter medications, supplements and diet is crucial to diagnose milk-alkali syndrome.

  • Milk-alkali syndrome may cause severe hypercalcemia in up to 25–30% of cases.

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Marina Tsoli Department of Pathophysiology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

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Anna Angelousi Department of Pathophysiology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

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Dimitra Rontogianni Department of Histopathology, Evagelismos General Hospital, Athens, Greece

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Constantine Stratakis Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Program on Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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Gregory Kaltsas Department of Pathophysiology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

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Summary

Parathyroid carcinoma is an extremely rare endocrine malignancy that accounts for less than 1% of cases of primary hyperparathyroidism. We report a 44-year-old woman who presented with fatigue and diffuse bone pain. Laboratory findings revealed highly elevated serum calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels and a 4.5 × 3 × 2.5 cm cystic lesion in the lower pole of the right thyroid lobe that was shown histologically to be a parathyroid carcinoma. Ten years later, the patient developed brain and pulmonary metastases and recurrence of PTH-related hypercalcemia. Treatment of hypercalcemia along with localized radiotherapy and various chemotherapy regimens failed to induce a biochemical or radiological response. In conclusion, parathyroid carcinoma is a rare neoplasia that may develop metastases even after prolonged follow-up, for which there is no evidence-based treatment besides surgery. Different chemotherapeutic schemes did not prove to be of any benefit in our case highlighting the need for registering such patients to better understand tumor biology and develop specific treatment.

Learning points:

  • Metastases can develop many years after parathyroid cancer diagnosis.

  • Surgery is the only curative treatment for parathyroid carcinoma.

  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy prove to be ineffective in parathyroid cancer treatment.

  • Patient registering is required in order to delineate underlining pathology and offer specific treatment.

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Whitney L Stuard Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

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Bryan K Gallerson Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

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Danielle M Robertson Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA

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Summary

The use of in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM) is rapidly emerging as an important clinical tool to evaluate changes in corneal sensory nerves as a surrogate measure for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Commonly used metrics to document and grade the severity of diabetes and risk for diabetic peripheral neuropathy include nerve fiber length, density, branching and tortuosity. In addition to corneal nerves, thinning of the retinal fiber layer has been shown to correlate with the severity of diabetic disease. Here, we present a case report on a pre-diabetic 60-year-old native American woman with abnormal corneal nerve morphology and retinal nerve fiber layer thinning. Her past medical history was positive for illicit substance abuse. IVCM showed a decrease in nerve fiber density and length, in addition to abnormally high levels of tortuosity. OCT revealed focal areas of reduced retinal nerve fiber layer thickness that were asymmetric between eyes. This is the first report of abnormally high levels of tortuosity in the corneal sub-basal nerve plexus in a patient with a past history of cocaine abuse. It also demonstrates, for the first time, that illicit substance abuse can have long-term adverse effects on ocular nerves for years following discontinued use of the drug. Studies using IVCM to evaluate changes in corneal nerve morphology in patients with diabetes need to consider a past history of illicit drug use as an exclusionary measure.

Learning points:

  • Multiple ocular and systemic factors can impede accurate assessment of the corneal sub-basal nerve plexus by IVCM in diabetes.

  • Although current history was negative for illicit substance abuse, past history can have longstanding effects on corneal nerves and the retinal nerve fiber layer.

  • Illicit drug use must be considered an exclusionary measure when evaluating diabetes-induced changes in corneal nerve morphology and the retinal nerve fiber layer.

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Liudmila Rozhinskaya Departments of Neuroendocrinology and Bone Diseases

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Ekaterina Pigarova Departments of Neuroendocrinology and Bone Diseases

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Ekaterina Sabanova Departments of Neuroendocrinology and Bone Diseases

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Elizaveta Mamedova Departments of Neuroendocrinology and Bone Diseases

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Iya Voronkova Departments of Pathomorphology

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Julia Krupinova Endocrinology Research Centre, Moscow, Russia

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Larisa Dzeranova Endocrinology Research Centre, Moscow, Russia

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Anatoly Tiulpakov Department and Laboratory of Inherited Endocrine Disorders

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Vera Gorbunova Department of Chemotherapy, Cancer Research Center, Moscow, Russia

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Nadezhda Orel Department of Chemotherapy, Cancer Research Center, Moscow, Russia

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Artur Zalian Department of Chemotherapy, Cancer Research Center, Moscow, Russia

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Galina Melnichenko Endocrinology Research Centre, Moscow, Russia

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Ivan Dedov Endocrinology Research Centre, Moscow, Russia

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Summary

Parathyroid carcinoma is an extremely rare disorder with little treatment options. It could be misdiagnosed in medical centers with little experience in management of such cases. Our clinical case shows that the initial misdiagnosis of a parathyroid carcinoma in a young woman has led to the development of multiple lung metastases, thus making its treatment hardly possible. Initiation of treatment with sorafenib – a multi-kinase inhibitor approved for treatment of different types of cancer but not parathyroid carcinoma – has led to a significant decrease in the size of lung metastases and has prevented the progression of hyperparathyroidism, which is usually severe in cases of parathyroid carcinoma. The detection of a germline CDC73 mutation in this patient has raised additional concerns about the necessity of periodic screening for early detection of renal, jaw and uterine lesions.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of parathyroid carcinoma may be challenging due to the absence of reliable diagnostic criteria. Thus, thorough histological examination is needed using immunohistochemical staining of resected tissue in suspicious cases.

  • CDC73 genetic testing should be considered in patients with parathyroid carcinoma.

  • Sorafenib may be a promising treatment of patients with parathyroid carcinoma with distant metastases.

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Anna Casteràs Department of Endocrinology

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Lídia Darder Department of Maxilofacial Surgery

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Carles Zafon Department of Endocrinology

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Juan Antonio Hueto Department of Maxilofacial Surgery

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Margarita Alberola Department of Endocrine Surgery, University Hospital Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona, Spain

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Enric Caubet Department of Pathology

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Jordi Mesa Department of Endocrinology

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Summary

Skeletal manifestations of primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) include brown tumors (BT), which are osteoclastic focal lesions often localized in the jaws. Brown tumors are a rare manifestation of pHTP in Europe and USA; however, they are frequent in developing countries, probably related to vitamin D deficiency and longer duration and severity of disease. In the majority of cases, the removal of the parathyroid adenoma is enough for the bone to remineralize, but other cases require surgery. Hyperparathyroidism in MEN1 develops early, and is multiglandular and the timing of surgery remains questionable. To our knowledge, there are no reports of BT in MEN 1 patients. We present a 29-year-old woman with MEN 1 who developed a brown tumor of the jaw 24 months after getting pregnant, while breastfeeding. Serum corrected calcium remained under 2.7 during gestation, and at that point reached a maximum of 2.82 mmol/L. Concomitant PTH was 196 pg/mL, vitamin D 13.7 ng/mL and alkaline phosphatase 150 IU/L. Bone mineral density showed osteopenia on spine and femoral neck (both T-scores = −1.6). Total parathyroidectomy was performed within two weeks, with a failed glandular graft autotransplantation, leading to permanent hypoparathyroidism. Two months after removal of parathyroid glands, the jaw tumor did not shrink; thus, finally it was successfully excised. We hypothesize that higher vitamin D and mineral requirements during maternity may have triggered an accelerated bone resorption followed by appearance of the jaw BT. We suggest to treat pHPT before planning a pregnancy in MEN1 women or otherwise supplement with vitamin D, although this approach may precipitate severe hypercalcemia.

Learning points:

  • Brown tumors of the jaw can develop in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism at a young age (less than 30 years).

  • Pregnancy and lactation might trigger brown tumors by increasing mineral and vitamin D requirements.

  • Early parathyroidectomy is advisable in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, at least before planning a pregnancy.

  • Standard bone mineral density does not correlate with the risk of appearance of a brown tumor.

  • Removal of parathyroid glands does not always lead to the shrinkage of the brown tumor, and surgical excision may be necessary.

Open access