Patient Develops Cyclic Cushing’s Syndrome Due to Lung Neuroendocrine Tumor

Tumors located outside the pituitary gland that produce the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) may cause, on rare occasions, cyclic Cushing’s syndrome — when cortisol levels show substantial fluctuations over time.

That finding, based on the case of a patient with ACTH-secreting lung cancer,  is found in the study, “Cyclic Cushing’s syndrome caused by neuroendocrine tumor: a case report,” which was published in Endocrine Journal.

Cushing’s syndrome is characterized by too much cortisol, either due to adrenal tumors that produce cortisol in excess, or because too much ACTH in circulation — resulting from ACTH-producing tumors — act on the adrenal glands to synthesize cortisol.

Cyclic Cushing’s syndrome (CCS) is a rare type of Cushing’s in which cortisol production is not steadily increased. Instead, it cyclically fluctuates, from periods with excessive cortisol production interspersed with periods of normal levels.

The fluctuations in cortisol levels over time pose difficulties for a definite diagnosis. Moreover, the precise mechanism underlying the periodic peaks of cortisol peaks are unknown.

Investigators now reported the case of a 37-year-old man admitted to the hospital due to repeated attacks of dizziness, weakness, and high cortisol levels for two weeks.

Repeated tests measuring the levels of cortisol in the blood and a 24-hour urine free cortisol (24 hUFC) assay confirmed a cyclic fluctuation of cortisol, with levels peaking three times and dropping twice (the standard rule for diagnosing CSC).

Upon hospitalization, he further developed high blood pressure and weight gain.

The patient underwent computed tomography (CT) scans, which revealed the presence of an ACTH-secreting tumor in the lungs, the likely cause of the patient’s Cushing’s symptoms. These type of tumors are called neuroendocrine tumors because they are able to release hormones into the blood in response to signals from the nervous system.

Additional scans detected tumors in the adrenal and pituitary glands, but further analysis revealed they were non-functioning tumors, i.e., as their name indicates, they didn’t release excessive ACTH. The thyroid gland also was positive for a tumor.

The patient underwent resection surgery to remove the tumor located in the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. After the surgery, the levels of cortisol in the blood and urine returned to normal, confirming the tumor as the source of the CSC.

The patient also received surgery to remove his thyroid tumor.

An analysis of the patient’s genomic DNA revealed a novel mutation in the PDE11A gene, which is linked to a rare form of ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome called primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD) type 2.

Whether the patient developed PPNAD, however, and the contribution of a potential PPNAD diagnosis to the CCS, requires further investigation. “To explore pathogenicity of the genetic mutation, we will still plan for a follow-up visit to this patient,” researchers wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/24/patient-develops-cyclic-cushings-syndrome-due-to-lung-neuroendocrine-tumor/

How to avoid pitfalls in interpretation of adrenal imaging

By Philip Ward, AuntMinnieEurope.com staff writer

January 15, 2019 — A clear understanding of the pitfalls in the performance and interpretation of adrenal CT can help prevent incorrect and inappropriate investigations, award-winning researchers from a top London facility have found. It’s essential to keep aware of the full range of pseudolesions and mimics, they said.

“Evaluation of adrenal tumor function is limited on imaging, but may be inferred from imaging findings,” noted Dr. Gurinder Nandra and colleagues from the department of radiology at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in an e-poster presentation that received a cum laude award at RSNA 2018 in Chicago.

Other adrenal pathology, including metastases and adrenocortical carcinoma, may be encountered, and this means it’s important to know about the imaging approaches to evaluate the adrenals, the authors pointed out.

Incidental adrenal nodules are identified in around 5% of patients who undergo CT. The prevalence of detecting incidentalomas increases with age, but most incidentally encountered adrenal pathology is benign and of little clinical relevance, they wrote. Adenomas are by far the most common adrenal pathology identified.

Among the technical aspects that deserve special attention are the following:

  • The region of interest (ROI): Changing the size of the ROI can alter the perceived attenuation of the nodule. The ROI should cover at least two-thirds of the circumference of the nodule, and exclude tiny areas of heterogeneity from the ROI (e.g., flecks of calcification) that are not representative of the adrenal pathology. Unenhanced attenuation of less than 10 Hounsfield units (HU) can be used to diagnose lipid-rich adrenal adenoma (sensitivity 71%, specificity of 98%).
  • Attenuation values on unenhanced CT: A homogenously dense lesion on unenhanced CT suggests a lack of microscopic lipid content. If attenuation on unenhanced CT is greater than 20 to 30 HU, evaluate the enhancement kinetics with CT.
  • Effect of kVp on attenuation values in a dual energy study: To use threshold of less than 10 HU to diagnose a lipid-rich adrenal adenoma, the kVp should be 120. Changing kVp can alter the attenuation values of soft tissues and adrenal glands.
  • Timing of post-contrast acquisitions: “Imaging needs to be performed at the correct times to allow sufficient time for enhancement and washout of contrast. Post-contrast images should be obtained at 60 to 75 seconds and 15 minutes,” the authors stated.
  • Assessment of washout on nondedicated studies: Relative washout can be calculated on nondedicated studies if more than one acquisition is made within 15 minutes post-intravenous contrast.
  • Suspicious attenuation: Attenuation of more than 43 HU on noncontrast CT is suspicious for malignancy, regardless of washout characteristics. PET/CT is of more use than CT and MRI in such cases, and adrenal hemorrhage also is a consideration at this attenuation.
  • Evaluation of small nodules: Minor nodularity of less than 1 cm in diameter does not require further radiological investigation. Also, CT evaluation of small adrenal nodules is limited by partial volume artifacts. MRI evaluation of small adrenal nodules is limited by the India ink artifact, or black boundary artifact, on an out-of-phase sequence. This artifact may give the impression of signal loss and lead to an incorrect diagnosis of a lipid-rich adenoma.
  • Evaluation of large adrenal masses: Malignancy risk increases with size (over 4 cm, 70%; over 6 cm, 85%) when excluding myelolipoma. In the absence of known malignancy, an adrenal lesion of less than 4 cm with indeterminate imaging features is likely to be benign.
  • Enhancement characteristics of metastases: Enhancement/washout characteristics of adrenal metastases are variable, and they can be confused with pheochromocytoma.
  • Adrenal calcification: Calcification is seen in benign adrenal pathology, but also can be seen in cases of malignancy, including adrenocortical carcinoma. “Look for ancillary features of malignancy including size, heterogeneity and invasion,” the authors recommended. “Evaluation of a predominantly calcified adrenal lesion will be limited with chemical shift MRI.”
  • Heterogeneous signal loss: Heterogeneous signal loss is not typical for a small lipid-rich adenoma and raises the possibility of malignant pathology. It also can be seen in larger adenomas because of calcification/cystic change/myelolipomatous metaplasia.

In their RSNA 2018 exhibit, Nandra and colleagues also identified the following list of mimics that can crop up:

  • Mimics arising from gastrointestinal tract: Gastric pathology can extend into the left suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology. The most common mimics include gastrointestinal stromal tumors and gastric diverticula. Pathology elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract can mimic adrenal pathology (e.g., a fluid-filled colon).
  • Mimics arising from solid viscera: Pathology from the spleen, pancreas, liver, and kidneys can extend into the suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology. This includes splenic lobulation, splenunculi, upper pole renal pathology, pancreatic tail pathology, and exophytic hepatic lesions.
  • Mimics arising from vessels: Dilated, tortuous, or aneurysmal vessels may extend into the suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology. The most common mimics include splenic varices and splenic artery pseudoaneurysms.
  • Mimics arising from retroperitoneal tissues: Various retroperitoneal lesions can extend into the suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology, and normal anatomy in the retroperitoneum also can mimic adrenal pathology (e.g., a thickened diaphragmatic crus).

From https://www.auntminnieeurope.com/index.aspx?sec=ser&sub=def&pag=dis&ItemID=616803

Transsphenoidal Surgery Leads to Remission in Children with Cushing’s Disease

Transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive surgery for removing pituitary tumors in Cushing’s disease patients — is also effective in children and adolescents with the condition, leading to remission with a low rate of complications, a study reports.

The research, “Neurosurgical treatment of Cushing disease in pediatric patients: case series and review of literature,” was published in the journal Child’s Nervous System.

Transsphenoidal (through the nose) pituitary surgery is the main treatment option for children with Cushing’s disease. It allows the removal of pituitary adenomas without requiring long-term replacement therapy, but negative effects on growth and puberty have been reported.

In the study, a team from Turkey shared its findings on 10 children and adolescents (7 females) with the condition, who underwent microsurgery (TSMS) or endoscopic surgery (ETSS, which is less invasive) — the two types of transsphenoidal surgery.

At the time of surgery, the patients’ mean age was 14.8 years, and they had been experiencing symptoms for a mean average of 24.2 months. All but one had gained weight, with a mean body mass index of 29.97.

Their symptoms included excessive body hair, high blood pressure, stretch marks, headaches, acne, “moon face,” and the absence of menstruation.

The patients were diagnosed with Cushing’s after their plasma cortisol levels were measured, and there was a lack of cortical level suppression after they took a low-dose suppression treatment. Measurements of their adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone levels then revealed the cause of their disease was likely pituitary tumors.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, however, only enabled tumor localization in seven patients: three with a microadenoma (a tumor smaller than 10 millimeters), and four showed a macroadenoma.

CD diagnosis was confirmed by surgery and the presence of characteristic pituitary changes. The three patients with no sign of adenoma on their MRIs showed evidence of ACTH-containing adenomas on tissue evaluation.

Eight patients underwent TSMS, and 2 patients had ETSS, with no surgical complications. The patients were considered in remission if they showed clinical adrenal insufficiency and serum cortisol levels under 2.5 μg/dl 48 hours after surgery, or a cortisol level lower than 1.8 μg/dl with a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test at three months post-surgery. Restoration of normal plasma cortisol variation, eased symptoms, and no sign of adenoma in MRI were also requirements for remission.

Eight patients (80%) achieved remission, 4 of them after TSMS. Two patients underwent additional TSMS for remission. Also, 1 patient had ETSS twice after TSMS to gain remission, while another met the criteria after the first endoscopic surgery.

The data further showed that clinical recovery and normalized biochemical parameters were achieved after the initial operation in 5 patients (50%). Three patients (30%) were considered cured after additional operations.

The mean cortisol level decreased to 8.71 μg/dl post-surgery from 23.435 μg/dl pre-surgery. All patients were regularly evaluated in an outpatient clinic, with a mean follow-up period of 11 years.

Two patients showed pituitary insufficiency. Also, 2 had persistent hypocortisolism — too little cortisol — one of whom also had diabetes insipidus, a disorder that causes an imbalance of water in the body. Radiotherapy was not considered in any case.

“Transsphenoidal surgery remains the mainstay therapy for CD [Cushing’s disease] in pediatric patients as well as adults,” the scientists wrote. “It is an effective treatment option with low rate of complications.”

 

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/15/transsphenoidal-surgery-enables-cushings-disease-remission-pediatric-patients-study/

Study Supports Midnight Salivary Cortisol Test to Diagnose Cushing’s in Chinese Population

A simple test that measures free cortisol levels in saliva at midnight — called a midnight salivary cortisol test — showed good diagnostic performance for Cushing’s syndrome among a Chinese population, according to a recent study.

The test was better than the standard urine free cortisol levels and may be an alternative for people with end-stage kidney disease, in whom measuring cortisol in urine is challenging.

The study, “Midnight salivary cortisol for the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome in a Chinese population,” was published in Singapore Medical Journal.

Cushing’s syndrome, defined by excess cortisol levels, is normally diagnosed by measuring the amount of cortisol in bodily fluids.

Traditionally, urine free cortisol has been the test of choice, but this method is subject to complications ranging from improper collection to metabolic differences, and its use is limited in people with poor kidney function.

Midnight salivary cortisol is a test that takes into account the normal fluctuation of cortisol levels in bodily fluids. Cortisol peaks in the morning and declines throughout the day, reaching its lowest levels at midnight. In Cushing’s patients, however, this variation ceases to exist and cortisol remains elevated throughout the day.

Midnight salivary cortisol was first proposed in the 1980s as a noninvasive way to measure cortisol levels, but its efficacy and cutoff value for Cushing’s disease in the Chinese population remained unclear.

Researchers examined midnight salivary cortisol, urine free cortisol, and midnight serum cortisol in Chinese patients suspected of having Cushing’s syndrome and in healthy volunteers. These measurements were then combined with imaging studies to make a diagnosis.

Overall, the study included 29 patients with Cushing’s disease, and 19 patients with Cushing’s syndrome — 15 caused by an adrenal mass and four caused by an ACTH-producing tumor outside the pituitary. Also, 13 patients excluded from the suspected Cushing’s group were used as controls and 21 healthy volunteers were considered the “normal” group.

The team found that the mean midnight salivary cortisol was significantly higher in the Cushing’s group compared to both control and normal subjects. Urine free cortisol and midnight serum cortisol were also significantly higher than those found in the control group, but not the normal group.

The optimal cutoff value of midnight salivary cortisol for diagnosing Cushing’s was 1.7 ng/mL, which had a sensitivity of 98% — only 2% are false negatives — and a specificity of 100% — no false positives.

While midnight salivary cortisol levels correlated with urine free cortisol and midnight serum cortisol — suggesting that all of them can be useful diagnostic markers for Cushing’s — the accuracy of midnight salivary cortisol was better than the other two measures.

Notably, in one patient with a benign adrenal mass and impaired kidney function, urine free cortisol failed to reach the necessary threshold for a Cushing’s diagnosis, but midnight salivary and serum cortisol levels both confirmed the diagnosis, highlighting how midnight salivary cortisol could be a preferable diagnostic method over urine free cortisol.

“MSC is a simple and non-invasive tool that does not require hospitalization. Our results confirmed the accuracy and reliability of [midnight salivary cortisol] as a diagnostic test for [Cushing’s syndrome] for the Chinese population,” the investigators said.

The team also noted that its study is limited: the sample size was quite small, and Cushing’s patients tended to be older than controls, which may have skewed the results. Larger studies will be needed to validate these results in the future.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/10/midnight-salivary-cortisol-test-helps-diagnose-cushings-chinese-study-shows/

Metastatic Pituitary Carcinoma Successfully Treated with Radiation, Chemo.

A man with Cushing’s disease — caused by an adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary adenoma — who later developed metastases in the central nervous system without Cushing’s recurrence, was successfully treated over eight years with radiation and chemotherapy, according to a case report.

The report, “Long-term survival following transformation of an adrenocorticotropic hormone secreting pituitary macroadenoma to a silent corticotroph pituitary carcinoma: Case report,” was published in the journal World Neurosurgery.

Pituitary carcinomas make up only 0.1-0.2% of all pituitary tumors and are characterized by a primary pituitary tumor that metastasizes into cranial, spinal, or systemic locations. Fewer than 200 cases have been reported in the literature.

Most of these carcinomas secrete hormones, with ACTH being the most common. Though the majority of ACTH-secreting carcinomas present with Cushing’s disease, about one-third do not show symptoms of the condition and have normal serum cortisol and ACTH levels. These are called silent corticotroph adenomas and are considered more aggressive.

A research team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham presented the case of a 51-year-old Caucasian man with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease. He had undergone an incomplete transsphenoidal (through the nose) resection of an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma – larger than 10 mm in size – and radiation therapy the year before.

At referral in August 1997, the patient had persistent high cortisol levels and partial hypopituitarism, or pituitary insufficiency. He exhibited Cushing’s symptoms, including facial reddening, moon facies, weight gain above the collarbone, “buffalo hump,” and abdominal stretch marks.

About two years later, the man was weaned off ketoconazole — a medication used to lower cortisol levels — and his cortisol levels had been effectively reduced. He also had no physical manifestations of Cushing’s apart from facial reddening.

In May 2010, the patient reported two episodes of partial seizures, describing two spells of right arm tingling, followed by impaired peripheral vision. Imaging showed a 2.1-by-1-cm mass with an associated cyst within the brain’s right posterior temporal lobe, as well as a 1.8-by-1.2-cm mass at the cervicomedullary junction, which is the region where the brainstem continues as the spinal cord. His right temporal cystic mass was then removed by craniotomy.

A histopathologic analysis was consistent with pituitary carcinoma. Cell morphology was generally similar to the primary pituitary tumor, but cell proliferation was higher. Physical exams showed no recurrence of Cushing’s disease and 24-hour free urinary cortisol was within the normal range.

His cervicomedullary metastasis was treated with radiation therapy in July 2010. He took the oral chemotherapy temozolomide until August 2011, and Avastin (bevacizumab, by Genentech) was administered from September 2010 to November 2012.

At present, the patient continues to undergo annual imaging and laboratory draws. He receives treatment with hydrocortisone, levothyroxine — synthetic thyroid hormone — and testosterone replacement with androgel.

His most recent exam showed no progression over eight years of a small residual right temporal cyst, a residual mass along the pituitary stalk — the connection between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland — and a small residual mass at the cervicomedullary junction. Lab results continue to show no Cushing’s recurrence.

“Our case is the first to document a patient who initially presented with an endocrinologically active ACTH secreting pituitary adenoma and Cushing’s disease who later developed cranial and spinal metastases without recurrence of Cushing’s disease and transformation to a silent corticotroph pituitary carcinoma,” the scientists wrote.

They added that the report is also the first documenting “8 years of progression-free survival in a patient with pituitary carcinoma treated with radiotherapy, [temozolomide] and bevacizumab.”

Adapted from https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/03/successful-treatment-pituitary-carcinoma-radiation-chemo-case-report/

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