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Open access

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey, and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.

  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.

  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.

  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.

Open access

Benjamin G Challis, Chung Thong Lim, Alison Cluroe, Ewen Cameron, and Stephen O’Rahilly

Summary

McKittrick–Wheelock syndrome (MWS) is a rare consequence of severe dehydration and electrolyte depletion due to mucinous diarrhoea secondary to a rectosigmoid villous adenoma. Reported cases of MWS commonly describe hypersecretion of mucinous diarrhoea in association with dehydration, hypokalaemia, hyponatraemia, hypochloraemia and pre-renal azotemia. Hyperglycaemia and diabetes are rarely reported manifestations of MWS. Herein we describe the case of a 59-year-old woman who presented with new-onset diabetes and severe electrolyte derangement due to a giant rectal villous adenoma. Subsequent endoscopic resection of the tumour cured her diabetes and normalised electrolytes. This case describes a rare cause of ‘curable diabetes’ and indicates hyperaldosteronism and/or whole-body potassium stores as important regulators of insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis.

Learning points

  • McKittrick–Wheelock syndrome (MWS) is typically characterised by the triad of pre-renal failure, electrolyte derangement and chronic diarrhoea resulting from a secretory colonic neoplasm.

  • Hyperglycaemia and new-onset diabetes are rare clinical manifestations of MWS.

  • Hyperaldosteronism and/or hypokalaemia may worsen glucose tolerance in MWS.

  • Aggressive replacement of fluid and electrolytes is the mainstay of acute management, with definitive treatment and complete reversal of the metabolic abnormalities being achieved by endoscopic or surgical resection of the neoplasm.

Open access

Benjamin G Challis, Nicolai J Wewer Albrechtsen, Vishakha Bansiya, Keith Burling, Peter Barker, Bolette Hartmann, Fiona Gribble, Stephen O'Rahilly, Jens J Holst, and Helen L Simpson

Summary

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNETs) secreting proglucagon are associated with phenotypic heterogeneity. Here, we describe two patients with pNETs and varied clinical phenotypes due to differential processing and secretion of proglucagon-derived peptides (PGDPs). Case 1, a 57-year-old woman presented with necrolytic migratory erythema, anorexia, constipation and hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia. She was found to have a grade 1 pNET, small bowel mucosal thickening and hyperglucagonaemia. Somatostatin analogue (SSA) therapy improved appetite, abolished hypoglycaemia and improved the rash. Case 2, a 48-year-old male presented with diabetes mellitus, diarrhoea, weight loss, nausea, vomiting and perineal rash due to a grade 1 metastatic pNET and hyperglucagonaemia. In both cases, plasma levels of all measured PGDPs were elevated and attenuated following SSA therapy. In case 1, there was increased production of intact glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and GLP-2, similar to that of the enteroendocrine L cell. In case 2, pancreatic glucagon was elevated due to a pancreatic α-cell-like proglucagon processing profile. In summary, we describe two patients with pNETs and heterogeneous clinical phenotypes due to differential processing and secretion of PGDPs. This is the first description of a patient with symptomatic hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia and marked gastrointestinal dysfunction due to, in part, a proglucagon-expressing pNET.

Learning points

  • PGDPs exhibit a diverse range of biological activities including critical roles in glucose and amino acid metabolism, energy homeostasis and gastrointestinal physiology.

  • The clinical manifestations of proglucagon-expressing tumours may exhibit marked phenotypic variation due to the biochemical heterogeneity of their secreted peptide repertoire.

  • Specific and precise biochemical assessment of individuals with proglucagon-expressing tumours may provide opportunities for improved diagnosis and clinical management.

Open access

Seong Keat Cheah, Chad Ramese Bisambar, Deborah Pitfield, Olivier Giger, Rogier ten Hoopen, Jose-Ezequiel Martin, Graeme R Clark, Soo-Mi Park, Craig Parkinson, Benjamin G Challis, and Ruth T Casey

Summary

A 38-year-old female was identified as carrying a heterozygous pathogenic MEN1 variant (c.1304delG) through predictive genetic testing, following a diagnosis of familial hyperparathyroidism. Routine screening for parathyroid and pituitary disease was negative. However, cross-sectional imaging by CT revealed a 41 mm pancreatic tail mass. Biopsy via endoscopic ultrasound confirmed the lesion to be a well-differentiated (grade 1) pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (pNET) with MIB1<1%. Biochemically, hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia was confirmed following an overnight fast, which was subsequently managed by diet alone prior to definitive surgery. Pre-operative work-up with octreotide SPECT CT demonstrated avid tracer uptake in the pancreatic lesion and, unexpectedly, a focal area of uptake in the left breast. Further investigation, and subsequent mastectomy, confirmed ductal carcinoma in situ pT2 (23 mm) grade 1, N0 (ER positive; HER2 negative). Following mastectomy, our patient underwent a successful distal pancreatectomy to resect the pNET. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the MEN1 locus was found in both the breast tumour and pNET, thereby in keeping with a 'two-hit' hypothesis of oncogenesis, a suggestive but non-definitive clue for causation. To obtain further support for a causative relationship between MEN1 and breast cancer, we undertook a detailed review of the published literature which overall supports the notion that breast cancer is a MEN1-related malignancy that presents at a younger age and histologically, is typically of ductal subtype. Currently, clinical guidance regarding breast cancer surveillance in MEN1 does not exist and further research is required to establish a clinical and cost-effective surveillance strategy).

Learning points

  • We describe a case of pNET and breast cancer diagnosed at a young age of 38 years in a patient who is heterozygous for a pathogenic MEN1 variant. Loss of the wild-type allele was seen in both breast tissue and pNET specimen.

  • Breast cancer may be an under-recognised MEN1-associated malignancy that presents at a younger age than in the general population with a relative risk of 2–3.

  • Further research is required to determine the cost-effectiveness of breast cancer surveillance approach at a younger age in MEN1 patients relative to the general population .