A 60-year-old Japanese male presented with swelling of bilateral cervical lymph nodes was subsequently diagnosed as the late stage of primary small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC). He was then treated with cisplatin and irinotecan as first-line chemotherapy, but hypokalemia with muscle weakness of the bilateral legs became gradually noticeable following two months of effective chemotherapy. A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed enlargement of bilateral adrenal glands and abdominal and mediastinal lymph nodes, though primary lung tumor remained the same in size. An ectopic ACTH-producing syndrome (EAS) was subsequently revealed by the following endocrinological studies. Hypokalemia was clinically improved by the treatment with metyrapone and the second-line chemotherapy with amrubicin for SCLC was started, but the patient died 12 days after the second-line chemotherapy. Post-mortem examination revealed ACTH immunoreactivity in tumor cells of all the metastatic lesions. Non-neoplastic adrenal cortex demonstrated hyperplasia associated with lipid depletion and marked expression of steroidogenic enzymes, especially in cortical cells around tumor infiltration, suggestive of paracrine ACTH stimulation of cortisol production. This is the first report evaluating expression of steroidogenic enzymes in adrenal cortex especially adjacent to the adrenal metastasis in the patients with EAS due to SCLC. These findings suggest that ACTH producing adrenal metastasis can induce EAS more frequently and severely, and that the symptoms and examination of EAS should be monitored carefully in the patients with adrenal metastasis of SCLC.
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