Background: The diagnosis of ectopic pituitary hormone secretion requires abnormally high circulating hormone levels, absence of a pituitary tumor, and localization of the hormone in question to the extrapituitary malignant neoplasm. No case of a malignant solid tumor producing prolactin has been documented thus far.
Case report: A 47-year-old woman presented with amenorrhea and galactorrhea of 3-year duration. Serum prolactin ranged from 300 to > 900 ng/mL, and other pituitary and thyroid indices were normal, including testing for macroprolactinemia. Pituitary magnetic resonance imaging revealed a partially empty sella but no tumor. Cabergoline 0.5 mg twice weekly did not affect her prolactinemia (1700 to 1900 ng/mL), and the medication was stopped. In the meantime, she developed abdominal pain, and a computed tomography scan showed a 17 × 13 × 8-cm mass abutting the distal stomach, proximal duodenum, and right colon. After the tumor was excised, her galactorrhea resolved, menstrual periodicity resumed within the first month, and serum prolactin fell to 5 ng/mL. Pathological examination of the excised tumor was consistent with perivascular epithelioid cell tumor. Between 5 and 10% of the tumor cells were strongly positive for prolactin on immunohistochemistry. RT-PCR detected prolactin mRNA in the tumor cell extract, confirming the diagnosis of ectopic prolactin synthesis and secretion.
Conclusion: We present the first example of massive and symptomatic hyperprolactinemia due to ectopic prolactin production by a solid extrapituitary mesenchymal tumor confirmed with both mRNA analysis and immunohistochemistry. Ectopic prolactin secretion should be suspected in patients with a prolactin >200 ng/mL and negative sellar MRI.