Cushing's syndrome secondary to ectopic ACTH secretion from metastatic breast carcinoma

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Breast carcinoma is a rare cause of ectopic ACTH syndrome. There are only two previously reported cases in which ACTH secretion is documented. We describe the case of a 56-year-old woman who presented with clinical and biochemical features of ectopic ACTH syndrome in the setting of metastatic breast carcinoma. Despite aggressive management of her ectopic ACTH syndrome, her course was complicated by opportunistic infection, respiratory failure and death. Immunostaining of the breast metastases for ACTH was positive and in situ hybridization revealed proopiomelanocortin gene expression. This is the first reported case of ectopic ACTH syndrome associated with metastatic breast cancer in which the technique of in situ hybridization has been used to confirm the breast cancer metastases as the source of ectopic ACTH secretion.

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