Objective: Ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) occurs in about 5–10% of all patients with ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with most of them caused by intrathoracic neoplasms. It may be associated with overt malignancies or with occult and indolent tumors. We assessed the accuracy of dynamic tests, inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) using desmopressin, and imaging in the work-up diagnosis of EAS.
Design and subjects: Tumor markers, imaging, and outcome data from 25 patients (13F/12M) aged 18–72 years. High dexamethasone suppression test (HDDST), desmopressin test, GHRP-6 test, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) test, IPSS, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and 111In-pentetreotide scintigraphy were revised.
Results: In 5 out of 20 patients HDDST was positive. In 13 patients who underwent desmopressin test, ACTH- and cortisol-positive responses were seen in six and five patients respectively. GHRP-6 test was positive in two out of three cases. Two patients underwent CRH test with negative response. In the seven patients submitted to IPSS using desmopressin in six of them, none had ACTH gradients. CT was positive in 15 out of 21 patients and MRI in 8 out of 17 cases. 111In-pentetreotide scintigraphy was positive in three out of five patients. Fourteen patients had intrathoracic tumors, five had pheochromocytomas, three had pancreatic tumors, one had a glomic tumor, and had three occult tumors. Six out of 11 patients with metastasis died and 3 others without metastasis died.
Conclusions: IPSS with desmopressin was helpful for differential diagnosis. Patients initially harboring occult carcinoids may also exhibit severe hypercortisolism and those harboring tymic carcinoids had poor prognoses when compared with bronchial carcinoids and pheocromocytomas.