Measuring TSH Levels Could Improve Diagnosis for Cushing’s Syndrome

Measuring the variation in thyroid stimulating hormone blood levels between midnight and morning may be better for diagnosing Cushing’s syndrome than current approaches, a study suggests. 

The study, “TSH ratio as a novel diagnostic method for Cushing’s syndrome,” was published in the Endocrine Journal

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is a condition characterized by excess cortisol in the blood, which can lead to a variety of issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal lipid levels, osteoporosis, depression, and cognitive impairments.

In some cases, patients have high cortisol levels, but lack the typical physical features of Cushing’s syndrome. These patients are considered to have subclinical Cushing’s syndrome (SCS), and are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Being able to properly diagnose CS and SCS is of utmost importance for proper intervention and treatment of these patients.

Current methods of diagnosis rely on dexamethasone suppressing tests or late-night salivary and blood cortisol tests, as well as measurements of cortisol in urine. However, because cortisol is a stress-hormone, it can be elevated in cases of mental or physical stress, leading to false positive results on these tests. 

Researchers in this study examined if another hormone, called the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), could be used to diagnose Cushing’s syndrome with better accuracy.

TSH is a hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland and whose secretion is affected by the body’s circadian rhythm. Its highest levels in the blood are usually seen in the late evening or early morning. However, patients with CS or SCS lack this nocturnal increase in TSH levels, which could be useful as a new diagnostic approach.

The study recruited 142 patients with suspected CS and SCS, and 21 patients with depression, being treated at the Osaka University Hospital in Japan.

Patients received the ordinal screening tests for Cushing’s syndrome, along with measurements of their midnight-to-morning TSH levels.

After taking the tests, only 20 patients were diagnosed as having Cushing’s, including 12 with over (normal) Cushing’s syndrome and 10 with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome.

Patients with Cushing’s had significantly lower midnight TSH levels than non-Cushing’s patients. No differences were seen in morning levels between the groups. Of note, TSH ratio was maintained in patients with depression, suggesting TSH levels could be used to diagnose Cushing’s in patients with depression.

Researchers observed that serum TSH ratio had powerful diagnostic accuracy. Among patients identified as having Cushing’s, 90% actually had the disease. And among patients excluded for Cushing’s, 95% did not have the condition. These sensitivity and specificity rates were better than with current diagnostic approaches.

However, when considering this test, patients with a severe TSH deficiency must be taken into account.

Overall, these results suggest that the midnight-to-morning serum TSH ratio is a potential new way to diagnose both CS and SCS with a higher specificity than the current diagnostic methods

“The strength of our current survey is its prospective design and the evaluation of not only overt CS but also SCS. The limitation is the relatively small number of CS group patients, especially overt CD,” the researchers wrote.

“New prospective studies will be needed with a larger number of patients in order to further clarify the optimal TSH ratio in the diagnosis of CS,” the study concluded. 

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/06/28/measuring-tsh-levels-may-improve-cushings-syndrome-diagnosis-study/

Study Describes 6 Common Surgical Failures in Cushing’s Disease Treatment

To help improve the effectiveness of surgical treatment of Cushing’s disease, researchers conducted a study to determine common failures. They classified these failures into six different categories.

Results were reported in the study, “Root cause analysis of diagnostic and surgical failures in the treatment of suspected Cushing’s disease,” published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

The surgical removal of lesions that secrete excess adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is the first line of treatment for patients with Cushing’s disease. But while this approach is effective in reducing cortisol levels, up to 31 percent of patients fail to achieve remission.

When initial surgery is ineffective, additional surgical procedures may help to improve patient outcomes. Medications also are used for those who do not see results from surgery.

Recognizing the factors that contribute to the failure of surgical treatment is crucial to avoiding a deterioration of patient health and to improving long-term outcomes.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School examined the clinical records of 51 patients suspected of having Cushing’s disease. These patients were followed and surgically treated at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, from April 2008 to July 2017.

In more than 82 percent of the cases, tissue removed during surgery confirmed that the patients had excess ACTH caused by benign tumors in the adrenal gland. Among the remaining patients, two had additional ACTH-secreting tumors, four had no obvious tumor or abnormal tissue, one had a pituitary mass without ACTH secretion, and one had no evidence of tissue changes despite the detection of a tumor during exploratory surgery.

They were followed for an average of 18.3 months, during which 42 patients achieved remission as confirmed by blood tests. Of these, 34 patients did not require additional treatment; four patients needed additional surgeries to achieve control over cortisol levels; and four patients required additional radiosurgery.

Based on long-term patient outcomes, researchers were able to identify six categories of common diagnostic and surgical failures. They include:

  • persistently high cortisol levels despite the successful removal of lesions
  • the failure of tumor resection
  • recurrence of disease
  • a failure to identify the source of ACTH secretion
  • the absence of identifiable lesions during exploratory surgery
  • concurrent tumors.

While the first three are common among patients with a visible lesion on imaging scans, the latter three are characteristic of patients in whom physicians fail to detect a lesion.

Investigators believe that anticipating and recognizing these common failures may help to improve the effectiveness of surgery, symptom management, and overall treatment outcomes.

“The success of surgical intervention can be enhanced greatly by improving patient selection and surgical management by anticipating and subsequently deterring the six common failures described above,” the team concluded. They added that better imaging methods also might improve outcomes for Cushing’s disease patients.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/05/15/cushings-disease-surgery-6-common-failures-found-retrospective-study/

Blood Lipid Levels Linked to High Blood Pressure in Cushing’s Disease Patients

High lipid levels in the blood may lead to elevated blood pressure in patients with Cushing’s disease, a Chinese study shows.

The study, “Evaluation of Lipid Profile and Its Relationship with Blood Pressure in Patients with Cushing’s Disease,” appeared in the journal Endocrine Connections.

Patients with Cushing’s disease often have chronic hypertension, or high blood pressure, a condition that puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease. While the mechanisms of Cushing’s-related high blood pressure are not fully understood, researchers believe that high levels of cortisol lead to chronic hypertension through increased cardiac output, vascular resistance, and reactivity to blood vessel constrictors.

In children and adults with Cushing’s syndrome, the relationship between increased cortisol levels and higher blood pressure has also been reported. Patients with Cushing’s syndrome may remain hypertensive even after surgery to lower their cortisol levels, suggesting their hypertension is caused by changes in blood vessels.

Studies have shown that Cushing’s patients have certain changes, such as increased wall thickness, in small arteries. The renin-angiotensin system, which can be activated by glucocorticoids like cortisol, is a possible factor contributing to vascular changes by increasing the uptake of LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) — the “bad” cholesterol — in vascular cells.

Prior research showed that lowering cholesterol levels could benefit patients with hypertension and normal lipid levels by decreasing the stiffness of large arteries. However, the link between blood lipids and hypertension in Cushing’s disease patients is largely unexplored.

The study included 84 patients (70 women) referred to a hospital in China for evaluation and diagnosis of Cushing’s disease. For each patient, researchers measured body mass index, blood pressure, lipid profile, and several other biomarkers of disease.

Patients with high LDL-cholesterol had higher body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoproteinB (apoB), a potential indicator of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

Data further revealed an association between blood pressure and lipid profile, including cholesterol, triglycerides, apoB and LDL-c. “The results strongly suggested that CHO (cholesterol), LDL-c and apoB might predict hypertension more precisely in [Cushing’s disease],” the scientists wrote.

They further add that high cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and apoB might be contributing to high blood pressure by increasing vessel stiffness.

Additional analysis showed that patients with higher levels of “bad” cholesterol — 3.37 mmol/L or higher — had higher blood pressure. This finding remained true, even when patients were receiving statins to lower their cholesterol levels.

No association was found between blood pressure and plasma cortisol, UFC, adrenocorticotropic hormone, or glucose levels in Cushing’s disease patients.

These findings raise some questions on whether lipid-lowering treatment for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease would be beneficial for Cushing’s disease patients. Further studies addressing this question are warranted.

Adapted from https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/04/24/blood-pressure-linked-lipid-levels-cushings-disease-study/

SteroTherapeutics Receives FDA Orphan-Drug Designation

PHILADELPHIA, April 04, 2018 — SteroTherapeutics, a privately held biopharmaceutical company developing therapies focused on metabolic diseases including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation for ST-002 in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatosis and hyperglycemia in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.

“We are pursuing a drug that has a very real potential to become the optimal agent of choice and a standard of care for these Cushing’s patients,” said Manohar Katakam Ph. D., CEO of SteroTherapeutics. “Our clinical trial will target multiple critical metabolic-related outcomes including the reduction of triglycerides, insulin resistance, weight loss, and the prevention and/or abrogation of hepatic steatosis and fibrosis.”

“The FDA’s orphan-drug designation for Fluasterone highlights the significant unmet and underserved needs for treatment in these individuals,” added Dr. Katakam. “We look forward to realizing the benefits and promise of this potential for Fluasterone in Cushing’s syndrome patients.”

The Orphan Drug Act became law in 1983. Fewer than 5,000 applicants have received this designation, according to the FDA website. Rare conditions are often described as orphan diseases or disorders when there are few or no treatment options. There are approximately 7,000 known orphan diseases.

The FDA’s Orphan Drug Designation program provides orphan status to drugs and biologics which are defined as those intended for the safe and effective treatment, diagnosis or prevention of rare diseases or disorders that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.

The designation allows the sponsor of the drug to be eligible for various incentives, including a seven-year period of U.S. marketing exclusivity upon regulatory approval of the drug, as well as tax credits for clinical research costs, annual grant funding, clinical trial design assistance, and the waiver of Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) filing fees.

Cushing syndrome occurs when a patient’s body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol over a long period of time (chronic hypercortisolemia) . Cushing syndrome, sometimes called hypercortisolism, affects 15,000 to 20,000 patients in the United States.

Too much cortisol can produce some of the hallmark signs of Cushing syndrome — a fatty hump between a patient’s shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on the skin. Cushing syndrome can also result in high blood pressure, bone loss and upper body obesity, increased fat around the neck, and relatively slender arms and legs. Diabetes is frequently a complication found in Cushing’s syndrome patients. These patients also develop nonalcoholic fatty disease and steatosis as a result of the chronic hypercortisolism.

About SteroTherapeutics

SteroTherapeutics, a Philadelphia, PA area based company, is focused on developing novel therapies for significant unmet needs in metabolic disease including liver diseases.

SteroTherapeutics lead products have been proven in previous human studies to possess a strong safety profile and established mechanisms of action. The company’s strategic intent is to focus on understanding disease pathways and how to safely treat and restore an optimal quality of life.  SteroTherapeutics is managed by a veteran team that has significant experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. The team has specific experiences in the development, manufacturing and commercialization of small molecule and biologics based products.

INVESTOR RELATIONS CONTACT:
Tony Schor, Investor Awareness, Inc. on behalf of
SteroTherapeutics, LLC
tschor@sterotx.com/ (847) 945-2222 ext. 221

From https://www.econotimes.com/SteroTherapeutics-Receives-FDA-Orphan-Drug-Designation-1236099

Preoperative medical treatment in Cushing’s syndrome.

European Journal of Endocrinology — | February 14, 2018

Valassi E, et al. – This study was performed to assess how frequently preoperative medical treatment (PMT) was given to Cushing’s syndrome (CS) patients across Europe and to investigate differences in preoperative characteristics of patients who receive PMT and those who undergo primary surgery. In addition, the physicians determined if PMT influenced the postoperative outcome in pituitary-dependent CS (PIT-CS). In contrast with adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS), CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS) and PIT-CS exhibited greater likelihood of receiving PMT. Data reported more severe clinical features at the diagnosis and poorer quality of life in PIT-CS patients treated with PMT. The interpretation of immediate postoperative outcome could be confounded with PMT. They recommended follow-up to definitely evaluate surgical results.

Methods

  • A total of 1,143 CS patients entered into the ERCUSYN database from 57 centres in 26 countries.
  • During this study, 69% patients presented with PIT-CS, 25% adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS), 5% CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS), and 1% were classified as having CS from other causes (OTH-CS).

Results

  • In this study, 20% of patients took PMT.
  • PMT was offered more frequently in ECT-CS and PIT-CS compared to ADR-CS (p < 0.001).
  • Ketoconazole (62%), metyrapone (16%), and a combination of both (12%) were the most commonly used drugs.
  • The median (interquartile range) duration of PMT was 109 (98) days.
  • More severe clinical features at diagnosis and poorer quality of life were noted in PIT-CS patients treated with PMT compared to those undergoing primary surgery (SX) (p < 0.05).
  • PIT-CS patients treated with PMT were more likely to have normal cortisol (p < 0.01) and a lower remission rate (p < 0.01) within 7 days of surgery.
  • Between SX and PMT groups, no differences in morbidity or remission rates were observed within 6 months of surgery.

Read the full article on European Journal of Endocrinology

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