Postsurgical treatment often necessary in persistent, recurrent Cushing’s disease

Nearly half of adults with Cushing’s disease that persists or recurs after surgical treatment require second and sometimes third therapeutic interventions, including pituitary surgical reintervention, radiotherapy, pharmacotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy, study data from Mexico show.

Moisés Mercado, MD, FRCPC, of the ABC Hospital Neurological and Cancer Centers in Mexico City, and colleagues evaluated 84 adults (median age, 34 years; 77 women) with Cushing’s disease to determine the long-term efficacy of secondary interventions for persistent and recurrent Cushing’s disease. Median follow-up was 6.3 years.

Overall, 81 participants were primarily treated with transsphenoidal surgery. More than half experienced long-lasting remission (61.7%); disease remained active in 16%, who were diagnosed with persistent Cushing’s disease; and 22% experienced relapse after remission and were diagnosed with recurrent Cushing’s disease.

After the initial procedure, 18 participants required pituitary surgical reintervention, including 10 with recurrent and eight with persistent disease. Radiation therapy was administered to 14 participants, including two as primary therapy and 12 after failed pituitary surgery. Pharmacologic treatment with ketoconazole was prescribed for 15 participants at one point during the course of disease. Bilateral adrenalectomy was performed in 12 participants.

Pituitary surgical reintervention was the most commonly used secondary treatment (22.2%), followed by pharmacologic therapy with ketoconazole (16%), radiotherapy (14.8%) and bilateral adrenalectomy (14.8%). More than half of participants experienced early remissions after a second operation (66.6%) and radiotherapy (58.3%), whereas long-lasting remission was reached in only 33.3% of participants who underwent a second surgery and 41.6% of participants who underwent radiotherapy. Half of participants who underwent bilateral adrenalectomy were diagnosed with Nelson’s syndrome.

Overall, 88% of participants achieved remission, and disease was biochemically controlled with pharmacologic treatment in 9.5% of participants after their initial, secondary and third-line treatments.

“The efficacy of treatment alternatives for recurrent or persistent [Cushing’s disease] vary among patients, and often, more than one of these interventions is required in order to achieve a long-lasting remission,” the researchers wrote. – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.


Science Teacher Receives Support After Cushing’s Disease Diagnosis

I find it amazing that it’s newsworthy in this day and age for anyone receiving support after a diagnosis.  Of course, a diagnosed person should be getting support as a matter of course.  If she had cancer, everyone would be all over this.

For Kara Murrow, the most rewarding moments as a teacher come when students learn about animals in the classroom. So it’s difficult for the Bonham Elementary fifth-grade science and social studies teacher to be away from school while she prepares for surgery.

“I enjoy it, and I know my kids enjoy the class and enjoy science because of it,” Murrow said. “With the science club I do after school once a week, the kids get upset when it gets canceled because of meetings. Not having it now is upsetting, too.”

Murrow was diagnosed this month with Cushing’s disease, a condition that develops when a tumor on the pituitary gland causes it to secrete too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. Murrow, who moved to West Texas from Arizona three years ago, said she has received support from Midland ISD employees and others in the local community.

Murrow’s mother, Louise Gonzalez, also appreciates Midlanders’ concerns for her daughter.

“People in Midland have been wonderful, considering how new we are to the area,” Gonzalez said. “The school district sent out the GoFundMe page and there’s been an outpouring of support for that. People at my church always ask me.”

Murrow’s family is collecting donations from the website GoFundMe to cover the costs of medical and travel expenses. Murrow and her husband, Kai, recently spent money on hospital stays connected to their 4-year-old son’s food sensitivities.

“They’ve been paying off those bills and doing OK until this came,” Gonzalez said. “Plus, she’s been going to the doctor about this. Because Cushing’s is so rare, doctors don’t recognize it.”

Murrow was diagnosed with the disease after medical professionals discovered a tumor on her pituitary gland. For six years, she experienced symptoms — including weight gain, dizziness and headaches — but said doctors couldn’t determine the cause. Murrow was thankful when she received an answer.

“It was a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis and know that I wasn’t crazy or making things up,” Murrow said. “It’s weird to be excited about a brain tumor. It’s a relief to know what was happening and that I have a solution.”

Murrow traveled this week to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where she’s scheduled to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Though Murrow said recovery lasts several months, she hopes to return to the classroom next school year.

Jaime White, fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Bonham, said both staff and students miss her presence. She said Murrow expresses concern for her students during her time away.

“She’s worried about how kids will do on the STAAR [State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness],” White said. “She doesn’t want them to think she abandoned them. The disease has to take center stage.”

At school, White said she noticed her colleague’s dedication toward helping her students understand science.

“She’s hands-on,” White said. “When it comes to science, she’s always making sure the kids are doing some sort of experiment. She wants to make sure the kids grasp it.”

Murrow teaches students about animals through dissections and presentations. Before she became a teacher nine years ago, she coordinated outreach programs at an Arizona zoo.

When she came to MISD, Murrow saw an opportunity to generate enthusiasm about science. She launched an invite-only science club for fifth-graders who show interest in the subject.

“I started it because there wasn’t really anything,” Murrow said. “They have tutorials for reading and math. There’s not a lot kids can do with science after school. They get science in the younger grades, but the focus is on reading and math. Science is something kids really enjoy.”

Though Murrow is disappointed about not being able to facilitate the club, she recognizes the importance of her upcoming surgery. She’s happy her mother, husband and two children will be in Phoenix for support.

“I hope that it will bring about a sense of relief to all the symptoms I’ve been dealing with and provide a chance for myself and my family to continue along with a full life,” Murrow said.


Postoperative ACTH, cortisol levels may predict Cushing’s disease remission rate

Early and midterm nonremission after transsphenoidal surgery in people with Cushing’s disease may be predicted by normalized early postoperative values for adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol, study data show.

Prashant Chittiboina, MD, MPH, assistant clinical investigator in the neurosurgery unit for pituitary and inheritable diseases at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke at the NIH, and colleagues evaluated 250 patients with Cushing’s disease who received 291 transsphenoidal surgery procedures during the study period to determine remission after the procedure. Patients were treated between December 2003 and July 2016. Early remission was assessed at 10 days and medium-term remission was assessed at 11 months.

Early nonremission was predicted by normalized early postoperative values for cortisol (P = .016) and by normalized early postoperative values for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH; P = .048). Early nonremission was further predicted with 100% sensitivity, 39% specificity, 100% negative predictive value and 18% positive predictive value for a cutoff of –12 µg/mL in normalized early postoperative values for cortisol and with 88% sensitivity, 41% specificity, 96% negative predictive value and 16% positive predictive value for a cutoff of –40 pg/mL in normalized early postoperative values for ACTH.

Medium-term nonremission was also predicted by normalized early postoperative values for cortisol (P = .023) and ACTH (P = .025).

“We evaluated the utility of early postoperative cortisol and ACTH levels for predicting nonremission after transsphenoidal adenomectomy for Cushing’s disease,” the researchers wrote. “Postoperative operative day 1 values at 6 a.m. performed best at predicting early nonremission, albeit with a lower [area under the receiver operating characteristic curve]. Normalizing early cortisol and ACTH values to post-[corticotropin-releasing hormone] values improved their prognostic value. Further prospective studies will explore the utility of normalized very early postoperative day 0 cortisol and ACTH levels in identifying patients at risk for nonremission following [transsphenoidal surgery] in patients with [Cushing’s disease].” – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.


Suspecting Pituitary Disorders: “What’s Next?”

In this “3 in 3” video, Ji Hyun (CJ) Chun, PA-C, BC-ADM, covers 3 types of pituitary disorders and describes useful workups for use by primary care clinicians.

Clinician Reviews’ “3 in 3” video series delivers 3 take-home points in 3 minutes—or less.

View the video here

Scalp Hair Cortisol Accurate in Cushing’s Syndrome Diagnosis

Scalp hair cortisol measurement is an accurate first-line diagnostic test for Cushing’s syndrome in adults and offers several advantages over other first-line diagnostic procedures, according to findings published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

“[Hair cortisol content] has practical advantages over currently used diagnostic tests, since sample collection can easily be performed in an outpatient setting and is not dependent on patient adherence to sampling instructions,” Elisabeth F. C. van Rossum, MD, PhD, professor at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues wrote. “Furthermore, [hair cortisol content] measurement offers retrospective information about cortisol levels over months of time in a single measurement, thereby potentially circumventing the limitations posed by the variability in cortisol secretion in endogenous [Cushing’s syndrome].”

Van Rossum and colleagues analyzed data from 43 patients with confirmed endogenous Cushing’s syndrome and 35 patients with suspected Cushing’s syndrome in whom diagnosis was excluded after testing (patient controls), all evaluated between 2009 and 2016 at an endocrinology outpatient clinic at Erasmus MC. Adults from a previously published validation study served as healthy controls (n = 174). Researchers measured scalp hair samples, 24-hour urinary free cortisol, serum cortisol and salivary cortisol, and used Pearson’s correlation to determine associations between hair cortisol content and first-line screening tests for Cushing’s syndrome.

Hair cortisol content was highest in patients with Cushing’s syndrome (geometric mean, 106.9 pg/mg; 95% CI, 77.1-147.9) and higher compared with both healthy controls (mean, 8.4 pg/mg; 95% CI, 7-10) and patient controls (mean, 12.7 pg/mg; 95% CI, 8.6-18.6). Using healthy controls as the reference population, researchers found that the optimal cutoff for diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome via hair cortisol content was 31.1 pg/mg; sensitivity and specificity were 93% and 90%, respectively (area under the curve = 0.958). Results were similar when using patient controls as the reference population, according to the researchers.

Hair cortisol content was correlated with urinary free cortisol (P < .001), serum cortisol (P < .001) and late-night salivary cortisol (P < .001). In addition, in two patients with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome, researchers observed a gradual rise in hair cortisol content in the 3 to 6 months before disease diagnosis.

“Together with a straightforward sample collection procedure, this method may prove to be a convenient noninvasive screening test for [Cushing’s syndrome],” the researchers wrote. “Additionally, our results indicate that hair cortisol measurements provide clinicians a tool to retrospectively assess cortisol secretion in patients with [Cushing’s syndrome], months to years back in time. This also offers the opportunity to estimate the onset of hypercortisolism and thus the duration of the disease before diagnosis.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.


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