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Open access

Beryl Stütz, Marta Korbonits, Karl Kothbauer, Werner Müller, and Stefan Fischli

Summary

The coincidence of a pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma and a pituitary adenoma in the same patient is a rare condition. In the last few years SDHx and MAX mutations have been identified and discussed as a potential causal connection in cases of coincidence. We describe a case of a middle-aged female patient which presented with acromegaly, a growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma and a symptomatic neck paraganglioma. The patient was cured by surgery from both the pituitary tumour and the paraganglioma and is well after ten years follow-up. Due to the unusual coexistence of two neuroendocrine tumours, further molecular genetic testing was performed which revealed a variant in the TMEM127 gene (c245-10C>G).

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma and coexisting functioning pituitary adenoma are a very rare condition. An appropriate treatment of each tumour entity with a multi-disciplinary approach and regular follow-up is needed.
  • The possibility of a hereditary disease should be considered and genetic workup is recommended. Genetic testing should focus primarily on the genes with mutations related to pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.
  • Next-generation sequencing with multi-gene panel testing is the currently suggested strategy.
  • Genes associated with paragangliomas and pituitary adenomas are SDHA, SDHB, SDHC, SDHD, SDHAF2, MAX and MEN1, while case reports with VHL, RET and NF1 may represent coincidences.
  • Variants of uncertain significance may need ongoing vigilance, in case novel data become available of these variants.
Open access

Ziad Hussein, Marta Korbonits, Stephanie E Baldeweg, and Teng-Teng Chung

Summary

We observed a novel therapeutic response with cabergoline in a male patient with a dopamine-secreting head and neck paraganglioma (HNPGL), macroprolactinoma and germline succinate dehydrogenase C mutation (SDHC). The macroprolactinoma was treated with cabergoline which gave an excellent response. He was found to have raised plasma 3-methoxytyramine of 1014 pmol/L (NR: 0–180 pmol/L); but it was unclear if this was a drug-induced phenomenon from dopamine agonist (DA) therapy. Cabergoline was stopped for 4 weeks and the 3-methoxytyramine level increased significantly to 2185 pmol/L, suggesting a biochemical response of his HNPGL. Subsequently, Gallium-68 Dotatate PET and MRI (Gallium-68 Dotatate PET/MRI) demonstrated a second lesion in the sacrum. Both the HNPGL and metastatic sacral deposit received external beam radiotherapy with a good biochemical and radiological response.

Conclusion

Our case report highlights the rare potential of germline SDHC mutations causing metastatic paraganglioma and concurrent pituitary tumours. Cabergoline treatment may lower elevated 3-methoxytyramine levels and, therefore, mask the biochemical evidence of metastatic disease but also may have therapeutic relevance in dopamine-secreting pheochromocytomas/paragangliomas (PPGLs).

Learning points

  • Several neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) express dopamine D2 and D4 receptors. In this case report, cabergoline significantly reduced plasma 3-methoxytyramine level in a patient with functional HNPGL. Cabergoline might have therapeutic relevance in dopamine-secreting PPGLs.
  • Paragangliomas associated with SDHC mutation classically present with asymptomatic non-functional HNPGL and have rare metastatic potential.
  • The association of pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma and pituitary adenoma is now a well-described rare association (<1%), designated as the three P association. While the three P association is most commonly seen with succinate dehydrogenase B and D mutations, it has also been described in patients with SDHA and SDHC mutations.
  • Cabergoline treatment may lower elevated 3-methoxytyramine levels and mask the biochemical evidence of metastatic disease. Regular functional imaging with Gallium-68 Dotatate PET/MRI provides better evidence of metastatic disease.
Open access

Nikolaos Kyriakakis, Jacqueline Trouillas, Mary N Dang, Julie Lynch, Paul Belchetz, Márta Korbonits, and Robert D Murray

Summary

A male patient presented at the age of 30 with classic clinical features of acromegaly and was found to have elevated growth hormone levels, not suppressing during an oral glucose tolerance test. His acromegaly was originally considered to be of pituitary origin, based on a CT scan, which was interpreted as showing a pituitary macroadenoma. Despite two trans-sphenoidal surgeries, cranial radiotherapy and periods of treatment with bromocriptine and octreotide, his acromegaly remained active clinically and biochemically. A lung mass was discovered incidentally on a chest X-ray performed as part of a routine pre-assessment for spinal surgery 5 years following the initial presentation. This was confirmed to be a bronchial carcinoid tumour, which was strongly positive for growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin receptor type 2 by immunohistochemistry. The re-examination of the pituitary specimens asserted the diagnosis of pituitary GH hyperplasia. Complete resolution of the patient’s acromegaly was achieved following right lower and middle lobectomy. Seventeen years following the successful resection of the bronchial carcinoid tumour the patient remains under annual endocrine follow-up for monitoring of the hypopituitarism he developed after the original interventions to his pituitary gland, while there has been no evidence of active acromegaly or recurrence of the carcinoid tumour. Ectopic acromegaly is extremely rare, accounting for <1% of all cases of acromegaly. Our case highlights the diagnostic challenges differentiating between ectopic acromegaly and acromegaly of pituitary origin and emphasises the importance of avoiding unnecessary pituitary surgery and radiotherapy. The role of laboratory investigations, imaging and histology as diagnostic tools is discussed.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic acromegaly is rare, accounting for less than 1% of all cases of acromegaly.
  • Ectopic acromegaly is almost always due to extra-pituitary GHRH secretion, mainly from neuroendocrine tumours of pancreatic or bronchial origin.
  • Differentiating between acromegaly of pituitary origin and ectopic acromegaly can cause diagnostic challenges due to similarities in clinical presentation and biochemistry.
  • Serum GHRH can be a useful diagnostic tool to diagnose ectopic acromegaly.
  • Pituitary imaging is crucial to differentiate between a pituitary adenoma and pituitary hyperplasia, which is a common finding in ectopic acromegaly.
  • Diagnosing ectopic acromegaly is pivotal to avoid unnecessary interventions to the pituitary and preserve normal pituitary function.
Open access

Syed Ali Imran, Khaled A Aldahmani, Lynette Penney, Sidney E Croul, David B Clarke, David M Collier, Donato Iacovazzo, and Márta Korbonits

Summary

Early-onset acromegaly causing gigantism is often associated with aryl-hydrocarbon-interacting receptor protein (AIP) mutation, especially if there is a positive family history. A15y male presented with tiredness and visual problems. He was 201 cm tall with a span of 217 cm. He had typical facial features of acromegaly, elevated IGF-1, secondary hypogonadism and a large macroadenoma. His paternal aunt had a history of acromegaly presenting at the age of 35 years. Following transsphenoidal surgery, his IGF-1 normalized and clinical symptoms improved. He was found to have a novel AIP mutation destroying the stop codon c.991T>C; p.*331R. Unexpectedly, his father and paternal aunt were negative for this mutation while his mother and older sister were unaffected carriers, suggesting that his aunt represents a phenocopy.

Learning points:

  • Typical presentation for a patient with AIP mutation with excess growth and eunuchoid proportions.
  • Unusual, previously not described AIP variant with loss of the stop codon.
  • Phenocopy may occur in families with a disease-causing germline mutation.
Open access

Ravi Kumar Menon, Francesco Ferrau, Tom R Kurzawinski, Gill Rumsby, Alexander Freeman, Zahir Amin, Márta Korbonits, and Teng-Teng L L Chung

Summary

Adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) has previously only been reported in eight patients with type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF1). There has not been any clear evidence of a causal association between NF1 gene mutations and adrenocortical malignancy development. We report the case of a 49-year-old female, with no family history of endocrinopathy, who was diagnosed with ACC on the background of NF1, due to a novel germline frame shift mutation (c.5452_5453delAT) in exon 37 of the NF1 gene. A left adrenal mass was detected by ultrasound and characterised by contrast computerised tomography (CT) scan. Biochemical tests showed mild hypercortisolism and androgen excess. A 24-h urinary steroid profile and 18flouro deoxy glucose PET suggested ACC. An open adrenalectomy was performed and histology confirmed ACC. This is the first reported case with DNA analysis, which demonstrated the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the NF1 locus in the adrenal cancer, supporting the hypothesis of an involvement of the NF1 gene in the pathogenesis of ACC. LOH analysis of the tumour suggests that the loss of neurofibromin in the adrenal cells may lead to tumour formation.

Learning points

  • ACC is rare but should be considered in a patient with NF1 and adrenal mass when plasma metanephrines are normal.
  • Urinary steroid metabolites and PET/CT are helpful in supporting evidence for ACC.
  • The LOH at the NF1 region of the adrenal tumour supports the role of loss of neurofibromin in the development of ACC.

Open access

Pia T Dinesen, Jakob Dal, Plamena Gabrovska, Mette Gaustadnes, Claus H Gravholt, Karen Stals, Judit Denes, Sylvia L Asa, Márta Korbonits, and Jens O L Jørgensen

Summary

A patient of Cushing's disease (CD) characterized by a large tumor and only subtle symptoms of hormonal hypersecretion was examined. The patient had a germline variant in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein (AIP) gene. A 50-year-old male presenting with headache was diagnosed with a large pituitary tumor by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). His visual fields were intact and he exhibited no features of CD. Owing to an exuberant response to synacthen, an overnight dexamethasone suppression test was performed revealing inadequate suppression of plasma cortisol (419 nmol/l). Owing to tumor growth and visual field impairment, he underwent transsphenoidal surgery and developed hypocortisolemia. The pathology specimen revealed a sparsely granulated corticotrope adenoma. Postoperative MRI showed a large tumor remnant. The patient developed skin hyperpigmentation and a synacthen test demonstrated high basal and stimulated cortisol levels; an overnight dexamethasone suppression test showed no suppression (791 nmol/l) and elevated plasma ACTH levels (135 ng/l). A transcranial operation was performed followed by radiotherapy. Two months after radiotherapy, he developed secondary adrenocortical failure. Genetic testing revealed an AIP variant of unknown significance (p.R16H) without loss of the normal AIP allele in the tumor. A literature review showed ten CD patients with AIP gene variants, of whom five (including our case) were p.R16H. CD is occasionally dominated by pituitary tumor growth rather than symptoms of hypersecretion. The particular AIP gene variant identified in our patient is shared by four other reported cases of CD. Future studies are needed to assess whether the reported AIP gene variant is more than just coincidental.

Learning points

  • CD is occasionally dominated by pituitary tumor growth rather than symptoms of hypersecretion.
  • Resolution of both tumor remnant and hormonal hypersecretion may occur within 2 months after postoperative radiotherapy.
  • The particular AIP gene variant identified in our patient is shared by four other reported cases of CD.

Open access

Michelle Maher, Federico Roncaroli, Nigel Mendoza, Karim Meeran, Natalie Canham, Monika Kosicka-Slawinska, Birgitta Bernhard, David Collier, Juliana Drummond, Kassiani Skordilis, Nicola Tufton, Anastasia Gontsarova, Niamh Martin, Márta Korbonits, and Florian Wernig

Summary

Symptomatic pituitary adenomas occur with a prevalence of approximately 0.1% in the general population. It is estimated that 5% of pituitary adenomas occur in a familial setting, either in isolated or syndromic form. Recently, loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) or MYC-associated factor X (MAX) have been found to predispose to pituitary adenomas in co-existence with paragangliomas or phaeochromocytomas. It is rare, however, for a familial SDHx mutation to manifest as an isolated pituitary adenoma. We present the case of a pituitary lactotroph adenoma in a patient with a heterozygous germline SDHB mutation, in the absence of concomitant neoplasms. Initially, the adenoma showed biochemical response but poor tumour shrinkage in response to cabergoline; therefore, transsphenoidal surgery was performed. Following initial clinical improvement, tumour recurrence was identified 15 months later. Interestingly, re-initiation of cabergoline proved successful and the lesion demonstrated both biochemical response and tumour shrinkage. Our patient’s SDHB mutation was identified when we realised that her father had a metastatic paraganglioma, prompting genetic testing. Re-inspection of the histopathological report of the prolactinoma confirmed cells with vacuolated cytoplasm. This histological feature is suggestive of an SDHx mutation and should prompt further screening for mutations by immunohistochemistry and/or genetic testing. Surprisingly, immunohistochemistry of this pituitary adenoma demonstrated normal SDHB expression, despite loss of SDHB expression in the patient’s father’s paraganglioma.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary adenomas may be the presenting and/or sole feature of SDHB mutation-related disease.
  • SDHx mutated pituitary adenomas may display clinically aggressive behaviour and demonstrate variable response to medical treatment.
  • Histological evidence of intracytoplasmic vacuoles in a pituitary adenoma might suggest an SDH-deficient tumour and should prompt further screening for SDHx mutations.
  • Immunohistochemistry may not always predict the presence of SDHx mutations.