Common Cushing’s Treatment, Somatostatin Analogs, May Sometimes Worsen Disease Course

Doctors often prescribe somatostatin analogs to manage the hormonal imbalance that characterizes Cushing’s syndrome. However, in rare situations these medicines have paradoxically made patients worse than better.

This recently happened with a 48-year-old Spanish woman whose Cushing’s syndrome was caused by an adrenal gland tumor that was producing excess adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Her case was recently reported in the study “Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome: Paradoxical effect of somatostatin analogs,” and published in the journal Endocrinología, Diabetes y Nutrición.

Cushing’s syndrome occurs when the body produces too much cortisol. This can happen for many reasons, including an oversupply of ACTH, the hormone responsible for cortisol production, due to a tumor in the pituitary gland.

But sometimes, tumors growing elsewhere can also produce ACTH. This feature, known as ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS), may also cause ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome.

Two-thirds of EAS tumors are located in the thorax, and 8 to 15 percent are in the abdominal cavity. Only 5 percent of EAS tumors are located in the adrenal gland, and up to 15 percent of EAS tumors are never detected.

Doctors usually use cortisol synthesis inhibitors such as ketoconazole or Metopirone (metyrapone) to control EAS, due to their efficacy and safety profiles. But somatostatin analogs (SSAs) such as Somatuline (lanreotide) have also been used to treat these tumors. However, these drugs produce mixed results.

The woman in the case study, reported by researchers at the University Hospital Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona, Spain, had an EAS tumor on the adrenal gland. She experienced s life-threatening cortisol and ACTH increase after receiving high-dose Somatuline.

The patient had been recently diagnosed with hypertension, and complained of intense fatigue, muscular weakness, easy bruising and an absence of menstruation. Laboratory analysis revealed that she had triple the normal levels of free cortisol in the urine, elevated levels of plasma cortisol, and high ACTH levels. In addition, her cortisol levels remained unchanged after receiving dexamethasone. The patient was therefore diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome.

To determine the origin of her high cortisol levels, the team conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They found no tumors on the most common places, including the pituitary gland, neck, thorax or abdomen. However, additional evaluation detected a small alteration on the left adrenal gland, suggesting that was the source of ectopic ACTH production.

The team initiated treatment with 120 mg of Somatuline, but a week later, her condition had worsened and become life-threatening. Doctors started Ketoconazole treatment immediately, three times daily. The affected adrenal gland was surgically removed, and tissue analysis confirmed the diagnosis. The patient’s clinical condition improved significantly over the follow-up period.

“We highlight the need to be aware of this rare presentation of EAS, and we remark the difficulties of EAS diagnosis and treatment,”  researchers wrote.

The team could not rule out the possibility that the patient’s clinical development was due to the natural course of the disease. However, they believe “she had a paradoxical response on the basis of her dramatical worsening just after the SSAs administration, associated to an important rise in ACTH and UFC levels.”

For that reason, researchers think a new version of SSAs, such as Signifor (pasireotide) — which has improved receptor affinity — could provide better therapeutic response.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/11/09/paradoxical-effects-of-somatostatin-analogs-on-adrenal-ectopic-acth-tumor/

Pregnant Women with Hypertension and Hypercortisolism May Have Cushing’s

Pregnant woman with hypertension and significant signs of hypercortisolism (high cortisol levels) may have Cushing’s disease, according to a new case report.

The report, titled “A Case of Cushing’s Syndrome in Pregnancy,” was published in the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences.

While Cushing’s rarely occurs in women during pregnancy, high cortisol levels can lead to major complications for both the mother and the fetus, such as premature birth and high fetal mortality.

However, it can be difficult to diagnose pathological hypercortisolism in these women as the symptoms might resemble other diseases that commonly occur during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and gestational diabetes.

Unfortunately, there are no effective long-term medical therapies for Cushing’s. The most definitive therapy is the surgical removal of the pituitary or adrenal adenoma, if that is the case of hypercortisolism.

The case report details that a 29-year old women in the 27th week of pregnancy presented to the Ghaem Hospital clinic in Mashhad, Iran, with edema, weakness, and hypertension. Her symptoms also included truncal obesity, moon face (her face had a rounded appearance), purple steria on her upper and lower limbs and abdomen, excessive edema, and wet skin.

At first, she was hospitalized for suspected preeclampsia, but the diagnosis was later excluded.

The patient’s hormonal profile showed high levels of 24-hour urine cortisol. There were also low levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which results from a negative feedback due to excessive cortisol. However, plasma cortisol is generally elevated during pregnancy, and therefore may not be the best method for diagnosis.

An abdominal ultrasonography revealed a well-defined mass in the right adrenal gland.

While hospitalized, the patient experienced two crises of blood pressure, and while preeclampsia was ruled out, the physicians could find no more plausible explanation than eclampsia (the onset of seizures in a women with preeclampsia).

Since eclampsia was suspected, the physicians terminated the pregnancy at 28th week of gestation using misoprostol. The woman delivered a male infant weighing 1.94 pounds.

Two days after birth, the physicians conducted a computed tomography (CT) scan and again found a mass in the right adrenal gland.

As a result, the patient underwent a laparoscopic right adrenalectomy to remove the mass one week after giving birth. The patient’s blood pressure normalized and cortisol levels declined. Her condition remained stable after surgery.

“Cushing’s syndrome should be considered in hypertensive pregnant patients with remarkable signs of hypercortisolism,” the researchers concluded. “The best results would be achieved through a collaboration between obstetricians, endocrinologists, and surgeons.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/12/19/pregnant-women-hypertension-hypercortisolism-may-have-cushings-disease/

Oral Test for Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency Approved in US

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an orally available ghrelin agonistmacimorelin (Macrilen, Aeterna Zentaris), to be used in the diagnosis of patients with adult growth-hormone deficiency (AGHD).

Macimorelin stimulates the secretion of growth hormone from the pituitary gland into the circulatory system. Stimulated growth-hormone levels are measured in four blood samples over 90 minutes after oral administration of the agent for the assessment of growth-hormone deficiency.

Prior to the approval of macimorelin, the historical gold standard for evaluation of adult growth-hormone deficiency was the insulin tolerance test (ITT), an intravenous test requiring many blood draws over several hours.

The ITT procedure is inconvenient for patients and medical practitioners and is contraindicated in some patients, such as those with coronary heart disease or seizure disorder, because it requires the patient to experience hypoglycemia to obtain an accurate result.

Adult growth-hormone deficiency is a rare disorder characterized by the inadequate secretion of growth hormone from the pituitary gland. It can be hereditary; acquired as a result of trauma, infection, radiation therapy, or brain tumor growth; or can even emerge without a diagnosable cause. Currently, it is treated with once-daily injections of subcutaneous growth hormone.

“Clinical studies have demonstrated that growth-hormone stimulation testing for adult growth-hormone deficiency with oral…macimorelin is reliable, well-tolerated, reproducible, and safe and a much simpler test to conduct than currently available options,” said Kevin Yuen, MD, clinical investigator and neuroendocrinologist, Barrow Neurological Institute, and medical director of the Barrow Neuroendocrinology Clinic, Phoenix, Arizona, in a press release issued by Aeterna Zentaris.

“The availability of…macimorelin will greatly relieve the burden of endocrinologists in reliably and accurately diagnosing adult growth-hormone deficiency,” he added.

Aeterna Zentaris estimates that approximately 60,000 tests for suspected adult growth-hormone deficiency are conducted each year across the United States, Canada, and Europe.

“In the absence of an FDA-approved diagnostic test for adult growth-hormone deficiency, Macrilen fills an important gap and addresses a medical need for a convenient test that will better serve patients and health providers,” said Michael V Ward, chief executive officer, Aeterna Zentaris.

Macrilen is expected to be launched in the United States during the first quarter of 2018.

It is also awaiting approval in the European Union.

Follow Lisa Nainggolan on Twitter: @lisanainggolan1. For more diabetes and endocrinology news, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

From https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/890457

Pituitary Gland Resection May Help Manage Presumed Cushing’s Patients

 

The surgical removal of two-thirds of the pituitary gland is associated with high initial remission rates and low operative morbidity in patients with suspected Cushing’s disease, when no tumor is found on the gland during surgical exploration.

Cushing’s disease (CD) is caused by increased levels of glucocoticosteroids, such as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), circulating in the blood.

In nearly 70 percent of cases this happens as a result of benign tumors on the pituitary gland, which produce excess ACTH. In these patients, the most effective and first-line treatment is surgical removal of the pituitary gland tumor.

During the diagnostic stage, clinicians use several methods to identify and localize the source of excessive ACTH. But these methods can fail, and the presence of a tumor in the pituitary is not always confirmed. If the tumor remains unidentified during surgical exploration, it falls to the surgeon’s discretion about how to manage their patients.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine provided an overview of their experience on the management of patients with presumed Cushing’s disease who underwent surgical treatment.

The study, “Negative surgical exploration in patients with Cushing’s disease: benefit of two-thirds gland resection on remission rate and a review of the literature,” was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

“The diagnosis and treatment of CD is one of the most challenging entities that pituitary neurosurgeons, endocrinologists, and pathologists face,” the researchers wrote. “The ability to make a correct diagnosis and deliver a high likelihood of remission after surgery relies heavily on the performance of a meticulous workup and rational surgical strategy.”

The team retrospectively analyzed all cases that had been referred to the Department of Neurosurgery of CU School of Medicine between 1989 and 2011 for a potential ACTH-secreting pituitary tumor.

During this period, 161 cases of Cushing’s patients who underwent surgical tumor resection were reported. In 22 patients, the surgeon was unable to detect a tumor.

In these cases the surgical team decided to remove two-thirds of the gland, with resection of the lateral and inferior portions of the pituitary. All 22 patients were treated using a consistent technique performed by a single surgeon.

Posterior tissue analysis confirmed that six of these patients had pituitary ACTH-secreting tumors. In the remaining 16 patients, no tumor was identified. In three patients the team believed that overproduction of ACTH could be due to an overgrowth of ACTH-secreting cells rather than expansion.

The team believes that these findings underscore the difficulty of accurately diagnosing very small pituitary tumors pre- and post-operatively.

The 22 patients were followed for a mean time of 98.9 months, or 8.2 years. No remissions were observed in the six patients who had ACTH-secreting tumors or in 12 of the remaining patients. Blood analysis in follow-up exams confirmed these patients had normal levels of glucocoticosteroids.

Four patients continued to show persistent elevated amounts of ACTH. Additional clinical evaluations revealed that two patients had ACTH-secreting lung tumors, and one patient was suspected of having an ACTH-secreting tumor on a brain region close to the pituitary. There was one case where the clinical team was unable to identify the origin of elevated ACTH.

Only three patients required hormone replacement after the two-thirds gland removal to overcome a newly detected hormone deficit. The approach used by the surgical team was, overall, found to be safe with no severe side effects reported.

“Currently, when the neurosurgeon is faced with the inability to identify a discrete adenoma intraoperatively, there is little uniformity in the literature as to how to proceed,” the team wrote. “We believe this [pituitary resection] approach will be useful to help guide surgeons in the operative treatment of this particularly difficult group of patients.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/12/14/pituitary-gland-resection-may-help-presumed-cushings-disease-patients/

2 Health Conditions That Can Cause Hyperpigmentation

Addison’s disease: Hyperpigmentation is a classic symptom of Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands fails to produce steroid hormone. The disease causes darkening of the skin in certain areas.

Cushing’s syndrome: The abnormal amount of cortisol in the human body causes a condition known as the Cushing’s syndrome. And one of the symptoms of the disorder is hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Adapted from http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/health-conditions-that-can-cause-hyperpigmentation/

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