Enhanced bilateral somatostatin receptor expression in mediastinal lymph nodes (“chimney sign”) in occult metastatic medullary thyroid cancer: A typical site of tumour manifestation?
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In medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), post-surgically elevated plasma calcitonin and/or carcinoembryonic antigen levels frequently indicate persisting metastatic disease, although conventional diagnostic procedures fail to localize the responsible lesions (occult disease). Somatostatin analogues have been used successfully in disease localization, but recently concerns have been raised that increased thoracic uptake of indium-111 pentetreotide in patients with previous external beam irradiation may represent a false-positive finding, caused by post-irradiation pulmonary fibrosis. We recently examined seven patients with metastatic MTC by somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (six with occult and one with established disease). In four patients, all of whom had stable or slowly rising tumour marker levels over several years, a chimney-like bilateral mediastinal uptake of indium-111 penetreotide was found. In two patients with persisting hypercalcitonaemia immediately after primary surgery, supraclavicular lymph node metastases were identified as the responsible lesions. None of these seven patients had prior external beam radiation therapy. In two cases, histological confirmation was obtained. In one patient, disease progression could be shown during follow-up. These data suggest that bilateral mediastinal lymph node involvement is a typical site of disease in slowly progressing occult metastatic MTC; the “chimney sign” may represent a typical finding with somatostatin analogues in such cases. Therefore, we believe that even in the case of prior external beam irradiation, mediastinal uptake of octreotide might represent metastatic MTC rather than radiation fibrosis.
Key wordsMedullary thyroid cancer Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy Indium-111 pentetreotide Occult metastatic disease Mediastinal lymph node metastases
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