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G. Schaison and J. Metzger


Twelve patients (10 women and 2 men) with a primary empty sella turcica were studied. Endocrine function tests were performed as follows: growth hormone (GH) was measured after insulin-induced-hypoglycaemia, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) after LH-releasing hormone, thyrotrophin (TSH) and prolactin after thyrotrophin-releasing hormone; pituitary reserve of adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) was determined by measurement of plasma cortisol after lysinevasopressin and 11 deoxycortisol after metyrapone.

Five of the patients (group A) had no endocrine disturbance.

Seven patients (group B) had a hypothalamo-pituitary disorder. Two of them had panhypopituitarism which appeared in one case after meningoencephalitis and in the other after a severe cranial trauma. In two cases an amenorrhoea-galactorrhoea syndrome with increased prolactin level (68 and 230 ng/ml) led to a diagnosis of a prolactin producing adenoma, which was confirmed by surgery. Finally three cases of amenorrhoeagalactorrhoea, with normal prolactin level, and/or diabetes insipidus remained unexplained. However, no causal relationship could be demonstrated between the pituitary disturbance and the "empty sella".

Primary empty sella turcica is therefore a neuroanatomical and neuroradiological entity with no endocrine implication. A pituitary disorder might suggest a microadenoma or an incidentally associated disease.

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G. Schaison, F. Durand and I. Mowszowicz


ACTH decreases plasma testosterone levels in men. The aim of this study was to assess the part played by the glucocorticoids in this effect, and the mechanism of their action. Plasma androstenedione, testosterone, cortisol and LH were measured in 8 normal men, before and after the following tests: ACTH stimulation (2 mg im), metyrapone administration (500 mg/every 4 h/6 times) and dexamethasone suppression (8 mg/day/3 days). In addition, androstenedione and testosterone were evaluated under human chorionic gonadotrophin (5000 IU HCG/day/3 days) before and after dexamethasone suppression (8 mg/day/6 days).

In all patients, ACTH decreased plasma testosterone from 5.87 ± 1.59 (sd) ng/ml to 3.06 ± 0.8 (sd) ng/ml (P < 0.001). In contrast, after metyrapone, the mean plasma testosterone was increased to 6.98 ± 1.75 (sd) ng/ml. This increase, though not statistically significant, was observed in all patients but one. Both tests resulted in a significant increase of plasma androstenedione (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively). Dexamethasone suppressed both testosterone and androstenedione levels. None of the three tests had a significant effect on the LH concentration. HCG injection increased the mean plasma testosterone to 11.46 ± 2.80 ng/ml. Dexamethasone significantly depressed (P < 0.01) the testosterone response to HCG.

These data are consistent with the following conclusions: 1) The decrease of plasma testosterone levels, observed in men after ACTH administration, is not observed after metyrapone induced ACTH increase. This confirms that it is related to cortisol levels rather than to ACTH itself. 2) Glucocorticoids act directly on testicular biosynthesis since they do not induce any change in LH secretion and since dexamethasone reduces testosterone response to HCG.

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G. Schaison, P. Thomopoulos, D. Leguillouzic, G. Thomas and M. Moatti

Abstract. To investigate the respective role of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) in the regulation of TSH secretion, we studied the action of sodium ipodate and propylthiouracil (PTU) in 11 athyreotic patients. The lT4 replacement dose was adjusted to obtain, in each patient, a normal basal TSH level and a normal TSH response to TRH. In the 5 ipodate-treated patients (single 6 g oral dose), the mean serum T3 level fell by 64% below the baseline value and serum rT3 rose 180% above the baseline. The free T4 index (FT4I) did not change whereas the mean serum TSH concentration increased 280% above baseline values. In the 6 PTU-treated patients (250 mg orally every 6 h for 10 days), serum T3 levels fell 33%, serum rT3 increased up to 82% and the FT4I did not change. The mean serum TSH concentration increased 68% above the baseline value. Thus, the mean percentage increase in serum TSH was less in PTU- than in ipodate-treated patients (68% vs 280%). Statistical analysis of the correlation between the serum T3 decrease (ΔT3) and the serum TSH (ΔTSH) increase demonstrated that for the same T3 diminution, the ipodate-treated group displayed higher increase of TSH than the PTU-treated patients. In the rat, PTU interferes with the 5'-deiodination of T4 in the liver and kidney but not in the pituitary, while ipodate appears to have the same effect in all tissues. If this holds true for human subjects, our data strongly suggest that circulating T4 (through its intrapituitary conversion to T3) shares with serum T3 the capacity to regulate TSH secretion in man.

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S Leboulleux, E Baudin, J Young, B Caillou, V Lazar, G Pellegriti, M Ducreux, G Schaison and M Schlumberger

Neuroendocrine tumors (NET) of the thyroid gland are rare. Apart from medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), metastases of gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) NET may also occur. Features of six patients (five men, one female: age range, 39-67 years) with thyroid metastases from a GEP-NET are described. Thyroid metastases were bilateral in all patients and were associated with enlarged neck lymph nodes in five. In four cases, the thyroid tumor was either the first sign of the disease (n = 2) or was an isolated site of recurrence (n = 2). The tumors were well (n = 3) or poorly differentiated (n = 3). Five tumors for which the primary site could be determined corresponded to foregut-derived tumors (3 lungs, 1 thymus and 1 pancreatic NET). One tumor demonstrated calcitonin (CT) production as shown by immunohistochemistry and elevated plasma CT levels. However, the disease history and the clinical features strongly favored a metastasizing GEP-NET. No tumoral RET proto-oncogene mutation was found in this patient. The differential diagnosis between metastatic GEP-NET and MTC is crucial because prognosis, work-up, and treatment differ greatly.

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P Chanson, N De Roux, J Young, JM Bidart, P Jacquet, M Misrahi, E Milgrom and G Schaison

The monoclonal origin of gonadotropin-secreting pituitary adenomas has been well demonstrated but only few molecular abnormalities have so far been recognized in these tumors. For many years, several authors have suggested a role for GnRH and/or GnRH receptors (GnRH-R) in the development of these pituitary adenomas. To test the hypothesis that mutant genes encoding a constitutively activated GnRH-R might be involved in the pathogenesis of these tumors, the sequence of the GnRH-R gene was analyzed in tumoral pituitary tissue obtained from ten patients (six female, four male). The pituitary gonadotropin-secreting adenoma was associated with in vivo hypersecretion of FSH, LH and/or free alpha-subunit (n = 7) or was clinically silent (normal plasma levels of gonadotropins or free alpha-subunit, n = 3). In all cases, immunocytochemical studies of the removed adenoma confirmed their gonadotroph nature by revealing positivity for FSH, LH and/or alpha-subunit. Genomic DNA was extracted from the pathological tissue obtained at neurosurgery. Eight sequencing primers were used to amplify the three exons of the GnRH-R gene from tumoral DNA. The entire coding sequence of the GnRH-R gene was sequenced in the ten adenomas. No mutation was found in any of the tumor specimens examined. In conclusion, mutations in the GnRH receptor coding sequence occur infrequently if at all in gonadotropin-secreting pituitary adenomas.

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A Ciofu, E Baudin, P Chanson, AF Cailleux, E Comoy, JC Sabourin, M Ducreux, G Schaison and M Schlumberger

OBJECTIVE: Amine precursor uptake and decarboxylation is a classical feature of gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) neuroendocrine tumors (NET). Production of catecholamines was studied in GEP NET and non-NET patients. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study was undertaken. METHODS: We studied catecholamine and metabolite secretion in 115 consecutive GEP NET patients and in 20 patients with non-NET. After specific extraction, vanilmandelic acid, homovanilic acid, catecholamines (norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine) and methoxylated derivates (metanephrine, normetanephrine, methoxytyramine) in urinary extracts were analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography. Results were indexed to the 24-h urinary creatinine levels. RESULTS: Among the 115 patients with NET, 9 (8%) had an increase of at least one urinary catecholamine or metabolite; in 7 out of the 9 the increase was slight being less than twice the upper value of the normal range. Elevated urinary dopamine (3 patients), methoxytyramine (6 patients), norepinephrine (2 patients) and normetanephrine (2 patients) were found. No increased urinary excretion of epinephrine nor metanephrine was observed. An adrenal mass existed in one of these nine patients but metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy was negative as was immunohistochemistry for epithelial markers. None of the 20 patients with non-NET demonstrated an increased excretion of catecholamine or metabolites. No relationships were found between catecholamine and metabolite excretions and patients' tumor and treatment characteristics. CONCLUSION: Production of catecholamines and metabolites is a rare event in GEP NET patients. Histological results, including positive immunohistochemistry for epithelial markers may help to diagnose GEP NET.