Objective: Patients treated for childhood craniopharyngioma often develop hypothalamic obesity (HO), which has a huge impact on the physical condition and quality of life of these patients. Treatment for HO thus far has been disappointing, and although several different strategies have been attempted, all interventions had only transient effects. Since thyroid hormones increase energy expenditure metabolism (thyroid hormone induced thermogenesis), it was speculated that treatment with tri-iodothyronine (T3) may be beneficial. In 2002, a case report was published on reduction of body weight after T3 treatment for HO. No studies have been reported since. Recent experimental studies in rodents showed that T3 increases brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity via (pre)sympathetic pathways between the hypothalamus and BAT. Our aim was to investigate whether T3 treatment increases BAT activity in a patient with HO resulting from (treatment of) childhood craniopharyngioma.
Methods: Thyroxine treatment for central hypothyroidism was switched to T3 monotherapy. Serum T3 and free thyroxine (FT4) concentrations were measured twice weekly for 2 months. 123I-MIBG and 18F-FDG-PET after induction of non-shivering thermogenesis for the assessment of sympathetic and metabolic activity of BAT as well as indirect calorimetry for assessment of resting energy expenditure were performed before and during T3 treatment.
Results: No change in sympathetic and metabolic BAT activity, energy expenditure, or BMI was seen during T3 treatment despite the expected changes in thyroid hormone plasma concentrations.
Conclusion: We conclude that T3 monotherapy does not seem to be effective in decreasing HO in childhood craniopharyngioma.