Challenging Case of Ectopic ACTH Secretion from Prostate Adenocarcinoma

Abstract

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) secondary to ectopic adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)-producing prostate cancer is rare with less than 50 cases reported. The diagnosis can be challenging due to atypical and variable clinical presentations of this uncommon source of ectopic ACTH secretion. We report a case of Cushing’s syndrome secondary to prostate adenocarcinoma who presented with symptoms of severe hypercortisolism with recurrent hypokalaemia, limb oedema, limb weakness, and sepsis. He presented with severe hypokalaemia and metabolic alkalosis (potassium 2.5 mmol/L and bicarbonate 36 mmol/L), with elevated 8 am cortisol 1229 nmol/L. ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome was diagnosed with inappropriately normal ACTH 57.4 ng/L, significantly elevated 24-hour urine free cortisol and unsuppressed cortisol after 1 mg low-dose, 2-day low-dose, and 8 mg high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests. 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT showed an increase in DOTANOC avidity in the prostate gland, and his prostate biopsy specimen was stained positive for ACTH and markers for neuroendocrine differentiation. He was started on ketoconazole, which was switched to IV octreotide in view of liver dysfunction from hepatic metastases. He eventually succumbed to the disease after 3 months of his diagnosis. It is imperative to recognize prostate carcinoma as a source of ectopic ACTH secretion as it is associated with poor clinical outcomes, and the diagnosis can be missed due to atypical clinical presentations.

1. Introduction

Ectopic secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is responsible for approximately 10–20% of all causes of Cushing syndrome [1]. The classic sources of ectopic ACTH secretion include bronchial carcinoid tumours, small cell lung carcinoma, thymoma, medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NET), and phaeochromocytomas [2]. Ectopic adrenocorticotropic syndrome (EAS) is diagnostically challenging due to its variable clinical manifestations; however, prompt recognition and treatment is critical. Ectopic ACTH production from prostate carcinoma is rare, and there are less than 50 cases published to date. Here, we report a case of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to prostate adenocarcinoma who did not present with the typical physical features of Cushing’s syndrome, but instead with features of severe hypercortisolism such as hypokalaemia, oedema, and sepsis.

2. Case Presentation

A 61-year-old male presented to our institution with recurrent hypokalaemia, lower limb weakness, and oedema. He had a history of recently diagnosed metastatic prostate adenocarcinoma, for which he was started on leuprolide and finasteride. Other medical history includes poorly controlled diabetes mellitus and hypertension of 1-year duration. He presented with hypokalaemia of 2.7 mmol/L associated with bilateral lower limb oedema and weakness, initially attributed to the intake of complementary medicine, which resolved with potassium supplementation and cessation of the complementary medicine. One month later, he was readmitted for refractory hypokalaemia of 2.5 mmol/L and progression of the lower limb weakness and oedema. On examination, his blood pressure (BP) was 121/78 mmHg, and body mass index (BMI) was 24 kg/m2. He had no Cushingoid features of rounded and plethoric facies, supraclavicular or dorsocervical fat pad, ecchymoses, and no purple striae on the abdominal examination. He had mild bilateral lower limb proximal weakness and oedema.

His initial laboratory findings of severe hypokalaemia with metabolic alkalosis (potassium 2.5 mmol/L and bicarbonate 36 mmol/L), raised 24-hour urine potassium (86 mmol/L), suppressed plasma renin activity and aldosterone, central hypothyroidism, and elevated morning serum cortisol (1229 nmol/L) (Table 1) raised the suspicion for endogenous hypercortisolism. Furthermore, hormonal evaluations confirmed ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome with inappropriately normal ACTH (56 ng/L) and failure of cortisol suppression after 1 mg low-dose, 2-day low-dose, and 8 mg high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests (Table 2). His 24-hour urine free cortisol (UFC) was significantly elevated at 20475 (59–413) nmol/day.

Table 1 
Investigations done during his 2nd admission.
Table 2 
Diagnostic workup for hypercortisolism.

To identify the source of excessive cortisol secretion, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary fossa and computed tomography (CT) of the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis were performed. Pituitary MRI was unremarkable, and CT scan showed the known prostate lesion with extensive liver, lymph nodes, and bone metastases (Figure 1). To confirm that the prostate cancer was the source of ectopic ACTH production, gallium-68 labelled somatostatin receptor positron emission tomography (PET)/CT (68Ga-DOTANOC) was done, which showed an increased DOTANOC avidity in the inferior aspect of the prostate gland (Figure 2). Immunohistochemical staining of his prostate biopsy specimen was requested, and it stained positive for ACTH and markers of neuroendocrine differentiation (synaptophysin and CD 56) (Figures 3 and 4), establishing the diagnosis of EAS secondary to prostate cancer.

Figure 1 
CT thorax abdomen and pelvis showing prostate cancer (blue arrow) with liver metastases (red arrow).
Figure 2 
Ga68-DOTANOC PET/CT demonstrating increased DOTANOC avidity seen in the inferior aspect of the right side of the prostate gland (red arrow).
Figure 3 
Hematoxylin and eosin staining showing acinar adenocarcinoma of the prostate featuring enlarged, pleomorphic cells infiltrating as solid nests and cords with poorly differentiated glands (Gleason score 5 + 4 = 9).
Figure 4 
Positive ACTH immunohistochemical staining of prostate tumour (within the circle).

The patient was started on potassium chloride 3.6 g 3 times daily and spironolactone 25 mg once daily with normalisation of serum potassium. His BP was controlled with the addition of lisinopril and terazosin to spironolactone and ketoconazole, and his blood glucose was well controlled with metformin and sitagliptin. To manage the hypercortisolism, he was treated with ketoconazole 400 mg twice daily with an initial improvement of serum cortisol from 2048 nmol/L to 849 nmol/L (Figure 5). Systemic platinum and etoposide-based chemotherapy was recommended for the treatment of his prostate cancer after a multidisciplinary discussion, but it was delayed due to severe bacterial and viral infection. With the development of liver dysfunction, ketoconazole was switched to intravenous octreotide 100 mcg three times daily as metyrapone was not readily available in our country. However, the efficacy was suboptimal with marginal reduction of serum cortisol from 3580 nmol/L to 3329 nmol/L (Figure 5). The patient continued to deteriorate and was deemed to be medically unfit for chemotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy. He was referred to palliative care services, and he eventually demised due to cancer progression within 3 months of his diagnosis.

Figure 5 
The trend in cortisol levels on pharmacological therapy.

3. Discussion

Ectopic ACTH secretion is an uncommon cause of Cushing’s syndrome accounting for approximately 9–18% of the patients with Cushing’s syndrome [3]. Clinical presentation is highly variable depending on the aggressiveness of the underlying malignancy, but patients typically present with symptoms of severe hypercortisolism such as hypokalaemiaa, oedema, and proximal weakness which were the presenting complaints of our patient [4]. The classical symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are frequently absent due to the rapid clinic onset resulting in diagnostic delay [5].

Prompt diagnosis and localisation of the source of ectopic ACTH secretion are crucial due to the urgent need for treatment initiation. The usual sources include small cell lung carcinoma, bronchial carcinoid, medullary thyroid carcinoma, thymic carcinoid, and pheochromocytoma. CT of the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis should be the first-line imaging modality, and its sensitivity varies with the type of tumour ranging from 77% to 85% [6]. Functional imaging such as 18-fluorodeoxyglucose-PET and gallium-68 labelled somatostatin receptor PET/CT can be useful in localising the source of occult EAS, determining the neuroendocrine nature of the tumour or staging the underlying malignancy [36]. As prostate cancer is an unusual cause of EAS, we proceeded with 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT in our patient to localise the source of ectopic ACTH production.

The goals of management in EAS include treating the hormonal excess and the underlying neoplasm as well as managing the complications secondary to hypercortisolism [3]. Prompt management of the cortisol excess is paramount as complications such as hyperglycaemia, hypertension, hypokalaemia, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, and psychosis can develop especially when UFC is more than 5 times the upper limit of normal [3]. Ideally, surgical resection is the first-line management, but this may not be feasible in metastatic, advanced, or occult diseases.

Pharmacological agents are frequently required with steroidogenesis inhibitors such as ketoconazole and metyrapone, which reduce cortisol production effectively and rapidly [36], the main drawback of ketoconazole being its hepatic toxicity. The efficacy of ketoconazole is reported to be 44%, metyrapone 50–75%, and ketoconazole-metyrapone combination therapy 73% [37]. Mitotane, typically used in adrenocortical carcinoma, is effective in controlling cortisol excess but has a slow onset of action [38]. Etomidate infusion can be used for short-term rapid control of severe symptomatic hypercortisolism and can serve as a bridge to definitive therapy [9]. Mifepristone, a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, is indicated mainly in difficult to control hyperglycaemia secondary to hypercortisolism [8]. Somatostatin analogue has been proposed as a possible pharmacological therapy due to the expression of somatostatin receptors by ACTH secreting tumours [810]. Bilateral adrenalectomy should be considered in patients with severe symptomatic hypercortisolism and life-threatening complications who cannot be optimally managed with medical therapies, especially in patients with occult EAS or metastatic disease [38]. Bilateral adrenalectomy results in immediate improvement in cortisol levels and symptoms secondary to hypercortisolism [11]. However, surgical complications, morbidity, and mortality are high in patients with uncontrolled hypercortisolism [8], and our patient was deemed by his oncologist and surgeon to have too high a risk for bilateral adrenalectomy. For the treatment of prostate carcinoma, platinum and etoposide-based chemotherapies have been used, but their efficacy is limited with a median survival of 7.5 months [412]. The side effects of chemotherapy can be severe with an enhanced risk of infection due to both cortisol and chemotherapy-mediated immunosuppression. Prompt control of hypercortisolism prior to chemotherapy and surgical procedure is strongly suggested to attenuate life-threatening complications such as infection, thrombosis, and bleeding with chemotherapy or surgery as well as to improve prognosis [313].

There are rare reports of ectopic ACTH secretion from prostate carcinoma. These tumours were predominantly of small cell or mixed cell type, and pure adenocarcinoma with neuroendocrine differentiation are less common [45]. There is a strong correlation between the prognosis and the types of malignancy in patients with EAS, and patients with prostate carcinoma have a poor prognosis [4]. These patients had metastatic disease at presentation, and the median survival was weeks to months despite medical treatment, chemotherapy, and even bilateral adrenalectomy [4], as seen with our patient who passed away within 3 months of his diagnosis.

In conclusion, adenocarcinoma of the prostate is a rare cause of EAS. The diagnosis and management are complex and challenging requiring specialised expertise with multidisciplinary involvement. The presentation can be atypical, and it is imperative to suspect and recognise prostate carcinoma as a source of ectopic ACTH secretion. Prompt initiation of treatment is important, as it is a rapidly progressive and aggressive disease associated with intense hypercortisolism resulting in high rates of mortality and morbidity.

Data Availability

The data used to support the findings of this study are included within the article.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Pathology Department of Changi General Hospital for their contribution to this case.

References

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Copyright © 2022 Wanling Zeng and Joan Khoo. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

From https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crie/2022/3739957/

Simultaneous Pituitary and Adrenal Adenomas in a Patient with Non ACTH Dependent Cushing Syndrome

Highlights

Cushing syndrome (CS) is a rare disorder with a variety of underlying etiologies.

CS is expected to affect 0.2 to 5 people per million per year.

Adrenal-dependent CS is an uncommon variant of CS.

This study reports a rare occurrence of pituitary and adrenal adenoma with CS.

Abstract

Introduction

Cushing syndrome is a rare disorder with a variety of underlying etiologies, that can be exogenous or endogenous (adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent or ACTH-independent). The current study aims to report a case of ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome with adrenal adenoma and nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma.

Case report

A 37–year–old female presented with amenorrhea for the last year, associated with weight gain. She had a moon face, buffalo hump, and central obesity. A 24-hour urine collection for cortisol was performed, revealing elevated cortisol. Cortisol level was non-suppressed after administering dexamethasone. MRI of the pituitary revealed a pituitary microadenoma, and the CT scan of the abdomen with adrenal protocol revealed a left adrenal adenoma.

Discussion

Early diagnosis may be postponed due to the variety of clinical presentations and the referral of patients to different subspecialists based on their dominant symptoms (gynecological, dermatological, cardiovascular, psychiatric); it is, therefore, critical to consider the entire clinical presentation for correct diagnosis.

Conclusion

Due to the diversity in the presentation of CS, an accurate clinical, physical and endocrine examination is always recommended.

Keywords

Cushing syndrome
Cushing’s disease
Adrenal adenoma
Pituitary adenoma
Urine free cortisol

1. Introduction

Cushing syndrome (CS) is a collection of clinical manifestations caused by an excess of glucocorticoids [1]. CS is a rare disorder with a variety of underlying etiologies that can be exogenous due to continuous corticosteroid therapy for any underlying inflammatory illness or endogenous due to either adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent or ACTH-independent [2][3]. Cushing syndrome is expected to affect 0.2 to 5 people per million per year. Around 10% of such cases involve children [4][5]. ACTH-dependent glucocorticoid excess owing to pituitary adenoma accounts for the majority (60–70%) of endogenous CS, with primary adrenal causes accounting for only 20–30% and ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors accounting for the remaining 5–10% [6]. Adrenal-dependent CS is an uncommon variant of CS caused mostly by benign (90%) or malignant (8%) adrenal tumors or, less frequently, bilateral micronodular (1%) or macronodular (1%) adrenal hyperplasia [7].

The current study aims to report a case of ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome with adrenal adenoma and nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma. The report has been arranged in line with SCARE guidelines and includes a brief literature review [8].

2. Case report

2.1. Patient’s information

A 37–year–old female presented with amenorrhea for the last year, associated with weight gain. She denied having polyuria, polydipsia, headaches, visual changes, dizziness, dryness of the skin, cold intolerance, or constipation. She had no history of chronic disease and denied using steroids. She visited an internist, a general surgeon, and a gynecologist and was treated for hypothyroidism. She was put on Thyroxin 100 μg daily, and oral contraceptive pills were given for her menstrual problems. Last time, the patient was referred to an endocrinology clinic, and they reviewed the clinical and physical examinations.

2.2. Clinical examination

She had a moon face, buffalo hump, central obesity, pink striae over her abdomen, and proximal weakness of the upper limbs. After reviewing the history and clinical examination, CS was suspected.

2.3. Diagnostic assessment

Because the thyroid function test revealed low thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free T3, and freeT4, the patient was sent for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary, which revealed a pituitary microadenoma (7 ∗ 6 ∗ 5) mm (Fig. 1). Since the patient was taking thyroxin and oral contraceptive pills, the investigations were postponed for another six weeks due to the contraceptive pills’ influence on the results of the hormonal assessment for CS. After six weeks of no medication, a 24-hour urinary free cortisol (UFC) was performed three times, revealing elevated cortisol levels (1238, 1100, and 1248) nmol (normal range, 100–400) nmol. A dexamethasone suppression test was done (after administering dexamethasone tab 1 mg at 11 p.m., serum cortisol was measured at 9 a.m.). The morning serum cortisol level was 620 nmol (non-suppressed), which normally should be less than 50 nmol. The ACTH level was below 1 pg/mL.

Fig. 1

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Fig. 1. Contrast enhanced T1W weighted MRI (coronal section) showing small 7 mm hypo-enhanced microadenoma (yellow arrow) in right side of pituitary gland with mild superior bulge.

Based on these findings, ACTH independent CS was suspected. The computerized tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen with adrenal protocol revealed a left adrenal adenoma (33 mm × 25 mm) without features of malignancy (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

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Fig. 2. Computed tomography scan of the abdomen with IV contrast, coronal section, showing 33 mm × 25 mm lobulated enhanced left adrenal tumor (yellow arrow), showing absolute washout on dynamic adrenal CT protocol, consistent with adrenal adenoma.

2.4. Therapeutic intervention

The patient was referred to the urologist clinic for left adrenalectomy after preparation for surgery and perioperative hormonal management. She underwent laparoscopic adrenalectomy and remained in the hospital for two days. The histopathology results supported the diagnosis of adrenal adenoma.

2.5. Follow-up

She was released home after two days on oral hydrocortisone 20 mg in the morning and 10 mg in the afternoon. After one month of follow-up, serum cortisol was 36 nmol, with the resolution of some features such as weight reduction (3 kg) and skin color (pink striae became white).

3. Discussion

Cushing’s syndrome is a serious and well-known medical condition that results from persistent exposure of the body to excessive glucocorticoids, either from endogenous or, most frequently, exogenous sources [9]. The average age of diagnosis is 41.4 years, with a female-to-male ratio of 3:1 [10]. ACTH-dependent CS accounts for almost 80% of endogenous CS, while ACTH-independent CS accounts for nearly 20% [10]. This potentially fatal condition is accompanied by several comorbidities, including hypertension, diabetes, coagulopathy, cardiovascular disease, infections, and fractures [11]. Exogenous CS, also known as iatrogenic CS, is more prevalent than endogenous CS and is caused by the injection of supraphysiologic glucocorticoid dosages [12]. ACTH-independent CS is induced by uncontrolled cortisol release from an adrenal gland lesion, most often an adenoma, adrenocortical cancer, or, in rare cases, ACTH-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia or primary pigmented nodular adrenal disease [13].

The majority of data suggests that early diagnosis is critical for reducing morbidity and mortality. Detection is based on clinical suspicion initially, followed by biochemical confirmation [14]. The clinical manifestation of CS varies depending on the severity and duration of glucocorticoid excess [14]. Some individuals may manifest varying symptoms and signs because of a rhythmic change in cortisol secretion, resulting in cyclical CS [15]. The classical symptoms of CS include weight gain, hirsutism, striae, plethora, hypertension, ecchymosis, lethargy, monthly irregularities, diminished libido, and proximal myopathy [16]. Neurobehavioral presentations include anxiety, sadness, mood swings, and memory loss [17]. Less commonly presented features include headaches, acne, edema, abdominal pain, backache, recurrent infection, female baldness, dorsal fat pad, frank diabetes, electrocardiographic abnormalities suggestive of cardiac hypertrophy, osteoporotic fractures, and cardiovascular disease from accelerated atherosclerosis [10]. The current case presented with amenorrhea, weight gain, moon face, buffalo hump, and skin discoloration of the abdomen.

Similar to the current case, early diagnosis may be postponed due to the variety of clinical presentations and the referral of patients to different subspecialists based on their dominant symptoms (gynecological, dermatological, cardiovascular, psychiatric); it is, therefore, critical to consider the entire clinical presentation for correct diagnosis [18]. Weight gain may be less apparent in children, but there is frequently an arrest in growth with a fall in height percentile and a delay in puberty [19].

The diagnosis and confirmation of the etiology can be difficult and time-consuming, requiring a variety of laboratory testing and imaging studies [20]. According to endocrine society guidelines, the initial assessment of CS must include one or more of the three following tests: 24-hour UFC measurement; evaluation of the diurnal variation of cortisol secretion by assessing the midnight serum or salivary cortisol level; and a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, typically the 1 mg overnight test [21]. Although UFC has sufficient sensitivity and specificity, it does not function well in milder cases of Cushing’s syndrome [22]. In CS patients, the typical circadian rhythm of cortisol secretion is disrupted, and a high late-night cortisol serum level is the earliest and most sensitive diagnostic indicator of the condition [23]. In the current case, the UFC was elevated, and cortisol was unsuppressed after administration of dexamethasone.

All patients with CS should have a high-resolution pituitary MRI with a gadolinium-based contrast agent to prove the existence or absence of a pituitary lesion and to identify the source of ACTH between pituitary adenomas and ectopic lesions [24]. Adrenal CT scan is the imaging modality of choice for preoperatively localizing and subtyping adrenocortical lesions in ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome [9]. MRI of the pituitary gland of the current case showed a microadenoma and a CT scan of the adrenals showed left adrenal adenoma.

Surgical resection of the origin of the ACTH or glucocorticoid excess (pituitary adenoma, nonpituitary tumor-secreting ACTH, or adrenal tumor) is still the first-line treatment of all forms of CS because it leaves normal adjacent structures and results in prompt remission and inevitable recovery of regular adrenal function [12][25]. Laparoscopic (retroperitoneal or transperitoneal) adrenalectomy has become the gold standard technique for adrenal adenomas since it is associated with fewer postoperative morbidity, hospitalization, and expense when compared to open adrenalectomy [17]. In refractory cases, or when a patient is not a good candidate for surgery, cortisol-lowering medication may be employed [26]. The current case underwent left adrenalectomy.

Symptoms of CS, such as central obesity, muscular wasting or weakness, acne, hirsutism, and purple striae generally improve first and may subside gradually over a few months or even a year; nevertheless, these symptoms may remain in 10–30% of patients [27]. Glucocorticoid replacement is essential after adrenal-sparing curative surgery until the pituitary-adrenal function returns, which might take up to two years, especially if adrenal adenomas have been resected [25]. Chronic glucocorticoid excess causes lots of new co-morbidities, lowering the quality of life and increasing mortality. The most common causes of mortality in CS are cardiovascular disease and infections [28]. After one month of follow-up, serum cortisol was 36 nmol, and several features, such as weight loss (3 kg) and skin color, were resolved (pink striae became white).

In conclusion, the coexistence of adrenal adenoma and pituitary adenoma with CS is a rare possibility. Due to the diversity in the presentation of CS, an accurate clinical, physical and endocrine examination is always recommended. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy is the gold standard for treating adrenal adenoma.

Consent

Written informed consent was obtained from the patient’s family for publication of this case report and accompanying images. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the Editor-in-Chief of this journal on request.

Provenance and peer review

Not commissioned, externally peer-reviewed.

Ethical approval

Approval is not necessary for case report (till 3 cases in single report) in our locality.

The family gave consent for the publication of the report.

Funding

None.

Guarantor

Fahmi Hussein Kakamad, Fahmi.hussein@univsul.edu.iq.

Research registration number

Not applicable.

CRediT authorship contribution statement

Abdulwahid M. Salh: major contribution of the idea, literature review, final approval of the manuscript.

Rawa Bapir: Surgeon performing the operation, final approval of the manuscript.

Fahmi H. Kakamad: Writing the manuscript, literature review, final approval of the manuscript.

Soran H. Tahir, Fattah H. Fattah, Aras Gh. Mahmood, Rawezh Q. Salih, Shaho F. Ahmed: literature review, final approval of the manuscript.

Declaration of competing interest

None to be declared.

References

What Do *You* Think? Smartwatch Measures Cortisone

Share your thoughts here.

The human body responds to stress, from the everyday to the extreme, by producing a hormone called cortisol.

To date, it has been impractical to measure cortisol as a way to potentially identify conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress, in which levels of the hormone are elevated. Cortisol levels traditionally have been evaluated through blood samples by professional labs, and while those measurements can be useful for diagnosing certain diseases, they fail to capture changes in cortisol levels over time.

Now, a UCLA research team has developed a device that could be a major step forward: A smartwatch that assesses cortisol levels found in sweat—accurately, noninvasively and in real time. Described in a study published in Science Advances, the technology could offer wearers the ability to read and react to an essential biochemical indicator of stress.

“I anticipate that the ability to monitor variations in cortisol closely across time will be very instructive for people with psychiatric disorders,” said co-corresponding author Anne Andrews, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA and member of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “They may be able to see something coming or monitor changes in their own personal patterns.”

Cortisol is well-suited for measurement through sweat, according to co-corresponding author Sam Emaminejad, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, and a member of CNSI.

“We determined that by tracking cortisol in sweat, we would be able to monitor such changes in a wearable format, as we have shown before for other small molecules such as metabolites and pharmaceuticals,” he said. “Because of its small molecular size, cortisol diffuses in sweat with concentration levels that closely reflect its circulating levels.”

The technology capitalizes on previous advances in wearable bioelectronics and biosensing transistors made by Emaminejad, Andrews and their research teams.

In the new smartwatch, a strip of specialized thin adhesive film collects tiny volumes of sweat, measurable in millionths of a liter. An attached sensor detects cortisol using engineered strands of DNA, called aptamers, which are designed so that a cortisol molecule will fit into each aptamer like a key fits a lock. When cortisol attaches, the aptamer changes shape in a way that alters electric fields at the surface of a transistor.

The invention—along with a 2021 study that demonstrated the ability to measure key chemicals in the brain using probes—is the culmination of a long scientific quest for Andrews. Over more than 20 years, she has spearheaded efforts to monitor molecules such as serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain tied to mood regulation, in living things, despite transistors’ vulnerability to wet, salty biological environments.

Sweating the small stuff: Smartwatch developed at UCLA measures key stress hormone
The technology capitalizes on previous work by Sam Emaminejad, Anne Andrews and their UCLA research teams. Credit: Emaminejad Lab and Andrews Lab/UCLA

In 1999, she proposed using nucleic acids—rather than proteins, the standard mechanism—to recognize specific molecules.

“That strategy led us to crack a fundamental physics problem: how to make transistors work for electronic measurements in biological fluids,” said Andrews, who is also a professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Meanwhile, Emaminejad has had a vision of ubiquitous personal health monitoring. His lab is pioneering wearable devices with biosensors that track the levels of certain molecules that are related to specific health measures.

“We’re entering the era of point-of-person monitoring, where instead of going to a doctor to get checked out, the doctor is basically always with us,” he said. “The data are collected, analyzed and provided right on the body, giving us real-time feedback to improve our health and well-being.”

Emaminejad’s lab had previously demonstrated that a disposable version of the specialized adhesive film enables smartwatches to analyze chemicals from sweat, as well as a technology that prompts small amounts of sweat even when the wearer is still. Earlier studies showed that sensors developed by Emaminejad’s group could be useful for diagnosing diseases such as cystic fibrosis and for personalizing drug dosages.

One challenge in using cortisol levels to diagnose depression and other disorders is that levels of the hormone can vary widely from person to person—so doctors can’t learn very much from any single measurement. But the authors foresee that tracking individual cortisol levels over time using the smartwatch may alert wearers, and their physicians, to changes that could be clinically significant for diagnosis or monitoring the effects of treatment.

Among the study’s other authors is Janet Tomiyama, a UCLA associate professor of psychology, who has collaborated with Emaminejad’s lab over the years to test his wearable devices in clinical settings.

“This work turned into an important paper by drawing together disparate parts of UCLA,” said Paul Weiss, a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and of materials science and engineering, a member of CNSI, and a co-author of the paper. “It comes from us being close in proximity, not having ego problems and being excited about working together. We can solve each other’s problems and take this technology in new directions.”

The paper’s co-first authors are UCLA postdoctoral scholar Bo Wang and Chuanzhen Zhao, a former UCLA graduate student. Other co-authors are Zhaoqing Wang, Xuanbing Cheng, Wenfei Liu, Wenzhuo Yu, Shuyu Lin, Yichao Zhao, Kevin Cheung and Haisong Lin, all of UCLA; and Milan Stojanović and Kyung-Ae Yang of Columbia University.

From https://techxplore.com/news/2022-02-small-newly-smartwatch-key-stress.html

Medullary thyroid cancer with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome: A multicentre case series

First published: 06 November 2021

Abstract

Objective

Ectopic Cushing′s syndrome (ECS) induced by medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is rare, and data on clinical characteristics, treatment and outcome are limited.

Design

Retrospective cohort study in three German and one Swiss referral centres.

Patients

Eleven patients with MTC and occurrence of ECS and 22 matched MTC patients without ECS were included.

Measurements

The primary endpoint of this study was the overall survival (OS) in MTC patients with ECS versus 1:2 matched MTC patients without ECS.

Results

The median age at diagnosis of ECS was 59 years (range: 35–81) and the median time between initial diagnosis of MTC and diagnosis of ECS was 29 months (range: 0–193). Median serum morning cortisol was 49 µg/dl (range: 17–141, normal range: 6.2–18). Eight (73%) patients received treatment for ECS. Treatment of ECS consisted of bilateral adrenalectomy (BADX) in four (36%) patients and adrenostatic treatment in eight (73%) patients. One patient received treatment with multityrosine kinase inhibitor (MKI) to control hypercortisolism. All patients experienced complete resolution of symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome and biochemical control of hypercortisolism. Patients with ECS showed a shorter median OS of 87 months (95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 64–111) than matched controls (190 months, 95% CI: 95–285). Of the nine deaths, four were related to progressive disease (PD). Four patients showed PD as well as complications and comorbidities of hypercortisolism before death.

Conclusion

This study shows that ECS occurs in advanced stage MTC and is associated with a poor prognosis. Adrenostatic treatment and BADX were effective systemic treatment options in patients with MTC and ECS to control their hypercortisolism. MKI treatment achieved complete remission of hypercortisolism and sustained tumour control in one treated case.

1 INTRODUCTION

Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) arises from calcitonin-producing parafollicular C-cells of the thyroid gland and accounts for 2%–5% of all thyroid malignancies.1 In about 25% of cases, MTC occurs in a hereditary manner as a part of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) caused by oncogenic germline REarranged during Transfection (RET)-mutations. Up to 65% of patients with the sporadic disease have somatic RET-mutations, among which RETM918T is the most common and associated with adverse outcome.25 At diagnosis, cervical lymph node metastases are present in about half of patients and distant metastases in around 10% of MTC patients.6 While the localized disease has a 10-year disease-specific survival (DSS) of 96%, 10-year DSS is only 44% in cases with distant metastases.79

Besides calcitonin and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), C-cells may also ectopically secrete corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Cushing’s syndrome (CS) due to ectopic CRH or ACTH secretion induced by MTC is rare and data on clinical characteristics, treatment and outcome are limited and mostly from case studies. In a retrospective study of 1640 adult patients with MTC, ectopic Cushing’s syndrome (ECS) due to ACTH secretion was reported in only 0.6% of patients, whereas previous studies reported a higher prevalence, possibly due to selection bias.1012 ECS mostly occurs in metastatic cases and significantly impairs prognosis: around 50% of the mortality in patients with ECS has been attributed to complications of hypercortisolism.12 Diagnosis of ECS is difficult and includes a combination of clinical assessment, dynamic biochemical tests (e.g., 24 h urinary-free cortisol, midnight salivary cortisol, 1 and 8 mg dexamethasone suppression test), inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) and multimodal imaging.13

This retrospective study aims at describing clinical characteristics, treatment and prognosis of 11 patients with MTC and ECS at 3 German and 1 Swiss tertiary care centres and to illustrate effective treatment in this ultrarare condition.

2 PATIENTS AND METHODS

2.1 Setting

This registry study was conducted as part of the German Study Group for Rare Malignant Tumours of the Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands. Data were obtained from records of patients diagnosed with MTC between 1990 and 2020 and concomitant ECS diagnosed between 1995 and 2020 in three German and one Swiss tertiary care centres. All patients provided written informed consent and the study was approved by the ethics committee of the University of Würzburg (96/13) and subsequently by the ethics committees of all participating centres.

2.2 Data acquisition

Eligible patients were 11 adults with histopathological evidence of MTC and the diagnosis of ECS at initial diagnosis (synchronous CS) or during the course of disease (metachronous CS). This group was matched with 22 patients with histologically confirmed MTC without evidence of ECS by sex, age at MTC diagnosis (±5 years), tumour stage and calcitonin doubling time (CDT).

The diagnosis of ECS was established by standard endocrine testing according to international guideline recommendations,14 local good clinical practice procedures and laboratory assays in participating centres. The primary endpoint of this study was the assessment of overall survival (OS) in MTC patients with ECS from the date of MTC-diagnosis and the date of ECS-diagnosis versus matched MTC patients without ECS (1:2 ratio). The secondary endpoints were assessment of progression-free survival (PFS) and efficacy of multityrosine kinase inhibitors (MKIs) treatment (based on routine clinical imaging in analogy to RECIST 1.0 and 1.1). Treatment and follow-up of patients were performed according to the local practice of participating centres. Efficacy was assessed locally by imaging (positron emission tomography/computed tomography [PET/CT], CT, magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] of the liver and bone scintigraphy) and measurement of serum calcitonin and CEA levels every 3–6 months. Clinical data were recorded by trained personnel at all sites. Tumour stage was defined according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM classification, seventh edition,15 based on clinical and histopathological assessments.

2.3 Statistical analysis

PFS and OS probabilities were estimated using the Kaplan–Meier method. The log-rank test was not used to test the difference between the study group and the control group due to the paired sample design. For the comparison of nonnormally distributed data, we used the Mann–Whitney U test. p Values less than .05 were considered statistically significant. Statistical analyses were performed with SPSS Version 26 (IBM).

3 RESULTS

3.1 Clinical characteristics of patients with ECS

Eleven patients (five male and six female) with histopathological evidence of MTC with ECS in three German and one Swiss tertiary care centres were included. Twenty-two controls with histologically confirmed MTC without the diagnosis of ECS matched by sex, age at MTC diagnosis (±5 years), tumour stage and CDT were enroled. Baseline clinical characteristics of the study population and the control group are shown in Table 1. In patients with ECS, median follow-up from initial MTC diagnosis was 6.3 years (range: 0–17) and median follow-up from diagnosis of ECS 7 months (range: 0–110). Median age at initial diagnosis of sporadic MTC was 45 (range: 31–67, n = 7) and 52 years (range: 35–55, n = 3) for patients with germline RET mutant MTC.

Read more at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cen.14617

Paraneoplastic Cushing Syndrome in Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumour

Abstract

Ectopic production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) is relatively uncommon. We report a rare case of a liver metastatic G1 low-grade NET of the intestine that induced hypercortisolism after surgical resection. A 50-year-old man was admitted for an intestinal obstruction caused by a tumour of the intestine. Paraneoplastic Cushing syndrome was diagnosed more than a year later following the appearance of cushingoid symptoms, despite stable disease according to RECIST criteria but chromogranin A increase. Ketoconazole and sandostatin medical treatment and liver chemoembolization never managed to control the hypercortisolism unlike the bilateral adrenalectomy. The identification and effective management of this uncommon statement of ectopic ACTH secretion is important to improve the patient’s prognosis and quality of life.

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by S. Karger AG, Basel


Introduction

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are a relatively rare and heterogeneous tumour type, comprising about 2% of all malignancies [1]. The gastrointestinal (GI) and pancreatic tract and lungs are the most common primary tumour sites, with 62%–67% and 22%–27%, respectively, and within the GI tract, most of them occurs in the small bowel or the appendix [23]. Since 2010 and the latest version of the WHO classification, GI and pancreatic NETs are subdivided according to their mitotic count or Ki67 index, associated with cellular proliferation. Well-differentiated NETs are relatively low-aggressive tumours, with a rather indolent disease course and a good prognosis in most patients. Nevertheless, some NETs with a low-grade histologic appearance may behave aggressively with rapid growth and metastasis proliferation [45]. Because of this low incidence, tumour heterogeneity, lack of awareness, and non-uniform classifications, GI and pancreatic NETs remain a poorly understood disease, and delayed diagnosis is common among these [67].

Paraneoplastic Cushing syndrome (PCS) represents approximately 10% of all Cushing syndrome and is frequently caused by NETs [89]. While PCS is common with lung NETs (>50% of PCS), this paraneoplastic syndrome is relatively uncommon associated with GI NETs and only described in isolated case reports. Nevertheless, knowing the indolent course of low-grade NETs and the clinical symptoms of cushingoid appearance resulting from prolonged exposure to excessive glucocorticoids, PCS is typically present before cancer detection [8], and surgery is curative in >80% of patients [1011]. For the remaining 20%, effective management is necessary, given the risk of infections and thromboembolic events due to the immunosuppressive effect and the hypercoagulable state [11]. For patients with medically unmanageable hypercortisolism, synchronous bilateral adrenalectomy is an effective and safe treatment [12]. We describe a case of typical metastatic intestinal NETs associated with a late ectopic Cushing syndrome, which was managed with synchronous bilateral adrenalectomy.

Case Presentation

We describe the case of a 50-year-old man admitted to the emergency department for an intestinal obstruction caused by an intestinal tumour. Anatomopathological analysis of the resected specimen and lymph nodes revealed an NET. Three nodes out of 12 removed were positive for cancer localization. The tumour presented serosa infiltration and perineural, vascular and lymphatics vessel invasion. The primary location could not be confirmed histologically between the ileum and appendix. Our diagnosis was pT3N1 according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) classification. An immunohistochemistry analysis revealed a Ki-67 expression <2%. Mitotic count/10 was 2 × 10 high-power fields, and cells showed well differentiation. So, according to the WHO classification, this tumour was classified as G1 NET. 111In-Octreoscan (Octreoscan) revealed lymph node and multifocal liver metastases.

After discussion with a multidisciplinary team, the patient was started treatment with somatostatin analogue. Twelve months later, although computerized tomography (CT) scan showed stable disease, patient physical examination revealed facial puffiness with fatty tissue deposits in the face, generalized oedema, muscle weakness, and wasting. He also reports polydipsia, insomnia, and balance disorders. We noted however a discreet increase in the chromogranin A (CgA) value, from 55 ng/mL to 199 ng/mL (with a diagnostic value of 1,700 ng/mL) without an increase in the urinary 5-HIAA level.

Laboratory tests revealed an 8.00 a.m. cortisol level of 888 nmol/L, an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) level of 96.5 pg/mL, and 24-h urine free cortisol of 1,494 μg. A high-dose dexamethasone suppression test showed no cortisol suppression. The patient was diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain showed a normal pituitary gland, confirming the PCS diagnosis. Ketoconazole treatment associated with sandostatin alleviated hypercortisolism within a month, with a cortisol level within normal laboratory ranges. Two months later, secondary diabetes mellitus was discovered and managed effectively with insulin glargine.

Four months later and despite stable disease according to RECIST criteria, cortisol levels increased considerably, with cortisol values similar to diagnosis without ketoconazole increased response. Moreover, diabetes became complicated to manage. Also we noted an increase in CgA value, from 165 ng/mL to 393 ng/mL. Chemoembolization was performed on liver metastases without any effectiveness on hypercortisolism. Adding targeted therapy with mTOR inhibitor (everolimus) was considered. Nevertheless, given the magnitude of drug interaction, the use of everolimus should be avoided in ketoconazole-treated patients, or vice versa.

Considering the risks for the patient and expected benefits, synchronous bilateral adrenalectomy was performed. It resolved hypercortisolism and permitted to stabilize diabetes (shown in Fig. 1). Everolimus treatment has been started 1 month after the surgery. Twelve months after everolimus initiation, the patient CT scan still showed stable disease, according to RECIST criteria and a stable CgA value.

Fig. 1.

Histogram of 8:00 a.m. plasmatic cortisol, ACTH, 24-h urinary cortisol, and CgA levels from Cushing syndrome diagnosis to bilateral adrenalectomy. ACTH, adrenocorticotropic-hormone; ULN, upper limit of normal; 8:00 a.m. cortisol normal ranges (172–497) nmol/L; ACTH normal ranges (7–63) ng/L; 24-h urinary cortisol normal ranges (20–50) µg/24 h; CgA normal ranges (27–94) ng/mL. ACTH, adrenocorticotropic hormone; CgA, chromogranin A.

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Discussion

Approximately 10% of Cushing syndrome is paraneoplastic and may result in many tumours, preferentially lung cancer (50–60% of time), with 1–2% of lung NET and about 5% of small-cell lung cancer associated with Cushing syndrome [81113]. Others reported sites of malignancy include the thymus, thyroid, pancreas, and adrenals. Except for the pancreas, PCS secondary to GI NET (appendix, duodenum, ileum, colon, and anal canal) is extremely rare, and only isolated case reports have described this syndrome.

In paraneoplastic endocrine syndrome cases, symptoms are due to secretion of hormones by malignant cells or secondary to the impact of neoplastic cell antibodies on normal cells. PCS arises from tumour secretion of ACTH or CRH, resulting in production and release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Unlike paraneoplastic endocrine syndromes that present most of the time after cancer diagnosis, PCS typically appears before cancer detection and similarly relapse may herald tumour recurrence [1114]. In our case, no symptoms related to hypercortisolaemia led the patient to consult before obstructive syndrome. The occurrence of hypercortisolaemia 12 months after diagnosis was not linked to imaging progression according to RECIST criteria. However, concurrent CgA increase should be noted.

Commonly measured tumour markers in NETs include serum CgA and 5-HIAA, the final secreted product of serotonin, levels in a 24-h urine sample. Elevated levels of circulating of CgA have been associated with almost all types of NETs, including those arising from GI tract but also pheochromocytomas [15]. The clinical sensitivity of CgA has been demonstrated to depend on the threshold cut-off, on NET primary location, and on the spread of the disease, especially the existence of liver metastases [16]. Indeed, a higher sensitivity was found in patients with midgut NETs and liver metastases, as in our patient. Moreover, with our cut-off level (94 ng/mL) approximately the same as used in 2 studies [1617], sensitivity was 62%–67% and specificity was 96%. Furthermore, Korse et al. [18]. postulated that serum CgA was superior to urinary 5-HIAA concerning the prognostic relevance in the follow-up of metastatic midgut NETs. These data are consistent with our patient outcomes for which 5-HIAA was not increased unlike CgA. However, although CgA is currently the best available tumour marker indicating tumour recurrence [19], there are many comorbidities and drugs that may increase CgA levels and lead to false-positive results. As a result, it is questionable whether the CgA increase in our patient was not rather secondary to cardiovascular or GI disorders, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, or even food intake before CgA measurement [162021]. Similarly, many drugs, foods, natural stimulants, and comorbidities may alter the level of 24-h urinary 5-HIAA, positively or negatively.

Cushing syndrome is due to hypercortisolism. Two-thirds of endogenous elevated cortisol is caused by ACTH-secreting pituitary tumours, 15% by primary adrenal glands and 15% by ectopic PCS [22]. The first step is laboratory tests with cortisol and ACTH levels to differentiate ACTH-dependent or ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome. When ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome is confirmed, differentiation between PCS and Cushing disease can be difficult. The high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests help distinguish Cushing disease from PCS, as in our presented case. Indeed, no decrease in blood cortisol during the high-dose test and high ACTH levels are consistent with PCS. Nevertheless, 21–26% of ectopic ACTH secretions have a positive suppression, about one-third of MRI scans for pituitary adenoma exclusion are false-negative, and occult ectopic ACTH-secreting tumours have been described in about 15% of adult patients [2326]. In our patient, both MRI and high-dose dexamethasone suppression test are consistent with PCS. The gold standard diagnosis – inferior petrosal sinus sampling – that demonstrates gradient in ACTH concentration between the affected side sinus and the periphery in pituitary lesions, whereas the absence of this gradient in PCS was not performed because of its invasiveness and its neurological accident risks [27]. Note however although the ACTH level at diagnosis suggests ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome, the occurrence of adrenal metastasis few months after the diagnosis and explaining the sudden deregulation could be possible and consistent with the CgA increase but refuted by adrenal gland histology.

Clinical features of PCS depend on the source of production and rate of ACTH synthesis. Characteristically, these patients have severe hypercortisolaemia, leading to low serum potassium levels, diabetes, generalized infections, hypertension, and psychosis. To confirm whether rapidly growing tumours produce sudden onset of symptoms, gradual physical signs are noticed in slower growing tumours [28], as for our patient for whom we suppose that liver metastases started to produce ACTH ectopically. An option for non-resectable neuroendocrine liver lesions, given that the majority of them are hypervascular, is hepatic directed procedures, which include ablative therapy, transarterial embolization, transarterial chemoembolization, and selective internal radiation therapy with yttrium-90 microspheres [29]. Hepatic artery chemoembolization for the treatment of liver metastases from NETs is useful for tumour size reduction and symptom palliation and can be associated with prolonged survival [30]. Nevertheless, chemoembolization on NET liver metastasis-producing ACTH is not well documented. Given the fact that hepatic metastasis chemoembolization was ineffective on hypercortisolism and despite Octreoscan results, there is still a small chance that he harbours somewhere else metastasis-producing ACTH. Indeed, PET-CT imaging with 68Gallium-DOTATATE has recently replaced Octreoscan as the new gold standard with a higher detection rate in GI NETs [31].

Hypercortisolism requires a prompt therapeutic management to reduce the risk of development of a potentially fatal emergency. Synchronous bilateral adrenalectomy is an effective and safe treatment for patient with unmanageable ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism [12]. Taking account of the risks to the patient and the lack of effective medical therapeutic possibilities, we have chosen to perform this surgery.

According to the recent consensus guidelines for digestive NETs of the jejunum and ileum, the 5-year survival rate is 36% in patients with distant metastases [32]. Several analyses suggest a significant survival benefit in patients who received surgery for the primary tumour even in the presence of metastasis [33]. Moreover, the impact of liver resection or liver-directed therapies on the survival of patients with liver metastasis is unclear with conflicting results [33]. PCS can cause a poor clinical outcome due to various complications with an increase in susceptibility to infection and GI ulceration. Indeed, for small-cell lung cancer and gynaecological malignancies, PCS is associated with accelerated decompensation and poorer response to chemotherapy (Mitchell et al. [14]). Whether these findings can be extrapolated to other malignancies is unknown. However, an early diagnosis and a prompt management can improve patient outcomes through earlier cancer diagnosis or relapse and thus earlier administration of treatment, as was the case with our patient.

Conclusion

We report an uncommon case with PCS due to a GI NET. The identification of this rare cause of ectopic ACTH secretion can be challenging, but aggressive management is critical to prevent or decelerate the acute decompensation of cancer patients and prolong overall survival. In this context, synchronous bilateral adrenalectomy may be the unique answer.

Statement of Ethics

Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this case report and any accompanying images. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the editor-in-chief of this journal.

Conflict of interest Statement

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Funding Sources

No funding was received for this study.

Author Contributions

L.M. conceived the study and participated in data collection. L.V. performed the literature search and wrote the manuscript. L.M. and R.B. critically revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript version.

Data Availability Statement

The datasets used and analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

From https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/518316

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