Osilodrostat normalizes urinary free cortisol in Cushing’s disease for most at 72 weeks

More than 80% of adults with Cushing’s disease receiving osilodrostat had normalized mean urinary free cortisol levels at 72 weeks of treatment, according to findings from the LINC 3 study extension.

“Cushing’s disease is a chronic condition, and many patients require prolonged pharmacological treatment. Therefore, evaluating long-term efficacy and safety of drug therapies in clinical trials is essential,” Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of medicine and neurological surgery and director of the Pituitary Center at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a Healio | Endocrine Today co-editor, told Healio. “Our findings build on the positive results of the LINC 3 study core phase, and it was reassuring to see that continued treatment with osilodrostat for over 72 weeks provided long-term normalization of cortisol levels. Furthermore, continued treatment with osilodrostat also led to sustained improvements in clinical signs and physical manifestations of hypercortisolism, as well as health-related quality of life, which are all important factors in the management of these patients.”

Fleseriu and colleagues enrolled 106 adults with Cushing’s disease who were responders to osilodrostat (Isturisa, Recordati) at 48 weeks during the LINC 3 core study to enter the extension phase of the trial. Participants continued to receive open-label osilodrostat until 72 weeks or treatment discontinuation. Mean urinary free cortisol was collected every 12 weeks. Physical manifestations of hypercortisolism were rated at 48 and 72 weeks. Participants completed the Cushing’s Quality of Life questionnaire and Beck Depression Inventory II at 48 and 72 weeks. Adults were deemed to have completely responded to treatment if mean urinary free cortisol was less than the upper limit of normal and partially responded to treatment if mean urinary free cortisol was above the upper limit of normal but decreased more than 50% from baseline.

The findings were published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

Of the 106 participants in the extension study, 98 completed 72 weeks of treatment. At 72 weeks, 81.1% of participants were complete responders to treatment, and reductions in mean urinary free cortisol from the core phase were maintained during the extension.

Improvements in most cardiovascular and metabolic-related parameters from the core study were maintained or improved in the extension phase. The cohort also had increases in quality of life score and improvements in Beck Depression Inventory II scores.

The proportion of participants with improvements in physical manifestation of hypercortisolism were maintained or improved in all areas at 72 weeks. For hirsutism in women, 86.4% had an improved or stable severe score at 72 weeks. Improved scores were observed in participants with mild, moderate and severe physical manifestations at baseline with few adults experiencing worse manifestations at the end of the extension study.

There were no new safety signals reported in the extension study. Of the extension study participants, 11.3% discontinued osilodrostat due to adverse events, a similar percentage to the 10.9% discontinuation rate during the core phase of the study.

Several hormone concentrations, including mean adrenocorticotropic hormone, 11-deoxycortisol and plasma aldosterone, stabilized during the extension phase after changes were observed in the core study compared with baseline. Mean testosterone in women decreased from 2.6 nmol/L at 48 weeks to 2.1 nmol/L at 72 weeks. There were no changes observed in mean testosterone levels for men.

“Patients should be regularly monitored and osilodrostat dose titrated as necessary, alongside adjustment of concomitant medications, to optimize outcomes,” the researchers wrote. “Taken together, these findings support osilodrostat as an effective and well-tolerated long-term treatment option for patients with Cushing’s disease.”

For more information:

Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, can be reached at fleseriu@ohsu.edu.

From https://www.healio.com/news/endocrinology/20220914/osilodrostat-normalizes-urinary-free-cortisol-in-cushings-disease-for-most-at-72-weeks

Unmet needs in Cushing’s Syndrome: the Patients

Abstract

Background

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is a rare condition of chronically elevated cortisol levels resulting in diverse comorbidities, many of which endure beyond successful treatment affecting the quality of life. Few data are available concerning patients’ experiences of diagnosis, care and persistent comorbidities.

Objective

To assess CS patients’ perspectives on the diagnostic and care journey to identify unmet therapeutic needs.

Methods

A 12-item questionnaire was circulated in 2019 by the World Association for Pituitary Organisations. A parallel, 13-item questionnaire assessing physician perceptions on CS patient experiences was performed.

Results

Three hundred twenty CS patients from 30 countries completed the questionnaire; 54% were aged 35–54 and 88% were female; 41% were in disease remission. The most burdensome symptom was obesity/weight gain (75%). For 49% of patients, time to diagnosis was over 2 years. Following treatment, 88.4% of patients reported ongoing symptoms including, fatigue (66.3%), muscle weakness (48.8%) and obesity/weight gain (41.9%). Comparisons with delay in diagnosis were significant for weight gain (P = 0.008) and decreased libido (P = 0.03). Forty physicians completed the parallel questionnaire which showed that generally, physicians poorly estimated the prevalence of comorbidities, particularly initial and persistent cognitive impairment. Only a minority of persistent comorbidities (occurrence in 1.3–66.3%; specialist treatment in 1.3–29.4%) were managed by specialists other than endocrinologists. 63% of patients were satisfied with treatment.

Conclusion

This study confirms the delay in diagnosing CS. The high prevalence of persistent comorbidities following remission and differences in perceptions of health between patients and physicians highlight a probable deficiency in effective multidisciplinary management for CS comorbidities.

Introduction

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is a morbid endocrine condition due to prolonged exposure to high circulating cortisol levels (123). Hypercortisolism may cause irreversible physical and psychological changes in several tissues, leading to debilitating morbidities which persist over the long term after the resolution of excessive hormone levels, such as cardiovascular complications, metabolic and skeletal disorders, infections and neuropsychiatric disturbances (34). Even patients who have been biochemically ‘cured’ for over 10 years have a residual overall higher risk of mortality, mostly from circulatory disease and diabetes (5). Moreover, people with a history of CS suffer from impaired quality of life (QoL) (6). Several studies suggest that the prevalence of persistent comorbidities is correlated with the duration of exposure to cortisol excess (78). However, as the signs and symptoms of CS overlap with common diseases such as the metabolic syndrome and depression, the time taken to diagnose CS is often long, resulting in a significant number of patients with persistent sequelae and impairments in QoL (69).

Given the burden of the disease, ideal CS treatment would include early diagnosis, curative surgery and multidisciplinary care of comorbidities both pre- and post-cure of CS, including the psychological dimension of the patient’s disease experience (10). Few data are available about patients’ perceptions of the medical journey from first symptoms to diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. The aim of this study was, therefore, to explore CS patients’ experiences of symptoms, diagnosis, care and treatment satisfaction around the world and to compare patients’ perceptions of CS with those of physicians.

Methods

Patient questionnaire design

A 12-item patient questionnaire was developed based on the generally understood clinical characteristics and symptomology of CS, aiming to assess patients’ experiences of symptoms, diagnosis, care and treatment satisfaction (12) (Supplementary File 1, see section on supplementary materials given at the end of this article). The questionnaire was initially offered in English and made available via the SurveyMonkey online platform from March to May 2019. The survey was completed anonymously and required no specific participant identification or any details that could be used to identify individual participants. In addition to basic demographics (i.e. country of residence, sex, age and highest educational level attained), the questionnaire asked ten multiple-choice and two open questions. The survey was shared by the World Association for Pituitary Organisations (WAPO), Adrenal Net, Cushing’s Support & Research Foundation and the Pituitary Foundation, as well as being distributed to local patient associations. As a second step, the questionnaire was translated into eight additional languages (French, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian and German) and was recirculated by the WAPO, Adrenal Net and China Hypercortisolism Patient Alliance to the different local patient associations for distribution in November 2019. As this was a non-interventional, anonymous patient survey, distributed by the patient associations themselves, and not initiated or funded by a research or educational institution, no ethical review was required. Written consent was obtained from each respondent after full explanation of the purpose and nature of the survey.

Comparative physician survey

In addition, a 13-item physician questionnaire was developed to assess physicians’ perspectives on CS symptoms and comorbidities. This physician questionnaire was conducted by HRA Pharma Rare Diseases at the 2019 European Congress of Endocrinology, in Lyon, France. This anonymous questionnaire was completed by 40 qualified physicians. The responses from the patient survey were compared for context with the physicians’ estimates of the prevalence of CS symptoms and comorbidities. Although the physician questionnaire was conducted independently of the patient questionnaire, and used a different question structure, the comparison with the current patient questionnaire is included to further enrich and contextualise the patient responses.

Data analysis

All responses and answers were collected, coded and analysed using Microsoft Excel. Data preparation involved removing duplicate answers, or where possible analysing and reclassifying qualitative responses reported as ‘other’, based on the accompanying details to new or existing response options.

Statistical methodology

Complementary statistical analyses using SAS software were performed using the chi-square and Fisher tests, depending on the cell counts, to compare (i) the time between first symptoms and diagnosis and the persistence of symptoms and (ii) persistence of symptoms, with the specialities of the physicians currently treating the respondents. Frequency distribution of a particular variable was displayed and compared with the frequency distribution of the comparator variable. A significance level of 0.05 was applied.

Results

Demographic characteristics

Three hundred twenty patients from 30 countries completed the patient questionnaire, with 27% (n  = 87) coming from the United Kingdom and 14% (n  = 44) from the United States of America. More than half (53.7%, n = 172) of the patients were aged between 35 and 54 years, and 88.4% (n  = 283) were female. The majority of patients (53.1%, n = 170) had undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications (Table 1).

Table 1Patient demographics.

Sex N = 319a
 Female 283 (88.4%)
 Male 36 (11.3%)
Age group N = 320
 18–24 years 16
 25–34 years 49
 35–44 years 71
 45–54 years 101
 55–64 years 54
 65–74 years 24
 ≥75 years 5
Regionb N = 320
 Western Europe 222
 North America 60
 China 16
 Australasia 14
 South America 5
 Africa 3
Education N = 320
 High school graduate/secondary education diploma 35%
 Undergraduate degree 25.6%
 Post-graduate degree 27.5%
 Prefer not to say 10.6%
Time from first symptoms to diagnosis N = 320
 0–6 months 18.4%
 6–12 months 15.6%
 1–2 years 14.4%
 2–3 years 18.4%
 3–5 years 11.6%
 5–10 years 8.4%
 10–15 years 7.5%
 15–20 years 0.9%
 20+ years 1.9%
 Unknown 2.8%

aOne patient responded ‘non-binary’. bWestern Europe: United Kingdom (n  = 87), the Netherlands (n  = 38), France (n  = 37), Spain (n  = 12), Denmark (n  = 10), Norway (n  = 9), Germany (n  = 6), Italy (n  = 5), Ireland (n  = 4), Belgium (n  = 4), Poland (n  = 4), Sweden (n  = 2), Malta (n  = 2), Switzerland (n  = 1), Czech Republic (n  = 1); Africa: South Africa (n  = 1), Gabon (n  = 1), Zimbabwe (n  = 1); Australasia: Australia (n  = 8), New Zealand (n  = 6); South America: Colombia (n  = 2), Bolivia (n  = 1), Argentina (n  = 1), Brazil (n  = 1); North America: United States of America (n  = 44), Canada (n  = 13), Costa Rica (n  = 1), Mexico (n  = 1), Dominican Republic (n  = 1).

Time to diagnosis

The time to diagnosis from first reporting of CS symptoms was declared to be within 2 years for 48.4% (n  = 155) (Table 1) and was over 2 years in 48.7% (n  = 156) and over 3 years in 30.3% (n  = 97).

Initial symptoms

A broad range of signs and symptoms were initially noticed by patients, with weight gain, hirsutism or acne, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, muscle weakness, anxiety and hypertension all being reported in over 50% of patients (Table 2). Obesity/weight gain was most commonly cited (75%, n = 240) as being burdensome. Fatigue, feelings of depression or mood problems, sleep disturbances, muscle weakness and hirsutism were also very commonly (>40%) mentioned as being burdensome. Burdensome symptoms classified as ‘other’ were rare (<1%) and included issues such as hormonal problems and dental problems.

Table 2Patient-reported symptoms (multiple answers were possible).

Symptoms first noticed (%) Most burdensome perceived symptoms before diagnosis (%)
Weight gain 85.0 75.0
Hirsutism/acne 76.3 42.8
Fatigue 66.3 54.1
Sleep disturbances 64.4 41.9
Skin problems 64.7 21.3
Depression/mood problems 58.8 48.1
Muscle weakness 57.8 43.4
Anxiety 54.1 39.1
Hypertension 52.5 22.2
Loss of concentration 45.0 28.4
Memory problems 41.9 30.3
Menstrual disturbances 35.6 12.5
Decreased libido 32.5 12.5
Bone problems 23.1 14.4
Infections 23.8 10.3
Glucose intolerance 17.2 8.4
Blood clot 5.3
Pain(s) 3.1
Vision problems 2.8
Headache 2.5
Cravings 1.6
Other 8.4 1.9

Person who made the initial CS diagnosis

In 53.8% (n  = 172) of cases, an endocrinologist made the initial diagnosis of CS or prescribed the first screening tests, Table 3. General practitioners made 18.1% of diagnoses (n  = 58), in the remaining cases a diversity of other physicians directly or indirectly contributed to make the diagnosis, as indicated in Table 3. A small but noticeable number (5.6%, n = 18) of patients self-diagnosed and then convinced their physician to order the diagnostic tests.

Table 3Patient perception of physician specialty.

Specialty Person who made the initial diagnosis or suspected Cushing’s syndrome (%) (n = 320) Physicians involved in the management of Cushing’s syndrome (%) (n = 320)
Endocrinologist 53.8 97.8
General practitioner/family doctor 18.1 56.3
Self-diagnosed 5.6
Hospital/emergency doctor 3.8
Internist 2.5 0.9
Gynecologist 1.9 14.1
Cardiologist 1.9 13.4
Bone specialist 1.9 14.1
Dermatologist 1.6 11.6
Haematologist 0.9 3.8
Ophthalmologist 0.9 3.1
Nurse 0.9 2.5
Radiologist 0.9 0.6
Family or friend 0.9
Psychiatrist or psycologist 0.9 23.4
Healer 0.6 2.2
Surgeon 0.6
Oncologist 0.3 6.6
Gastroenterologist 0.3 1.3
Neurologist 0.3 4.1
Others 1.6
Physiotherapist 14.4
Dietician 9.7
Neurosurgeon 8.1
Social worker 4.1
Ear, nose and throat specialist 1.6
Sports physician 1.3
Sleep specialist 0.9
Urologist 0.6
Orthopaedic surgeon 0.3

Response to treatment

At the time of answering the questionnaire, 55.8% (n  = 178) of patients were not in remission. 40.8% of patients (n  = 130) were in true biochemical remission (Fig. 1). This latter group was a composite including patients who responded: ‘In remission (no treatment)’ (16.3%, n = 52), ‘Received an operation to remove adrenal glands’ (22.9%, n = 73) and ‘Treated with hydrocortisone’ (1.6%, n = 5). Thirteen percent of the patients (n  = 41) were on cortisol-lowering treatment and 6.6% of the patients (n  = 21) had not had or were awaiting surgery. Following treatment for CS, 11.6% of the patients (n  = 37) reported having no further symptoms related to the condition, with 88.4% (n  = 283) still symptomatic. Of the total population (n  = 320), the most bothersome symptoms were fatigue (66.3%, n = 212), muscle weakness (48.8%, n = 156) and obesity/weight gain (41.9%, n = 134) (Table 4).

Figure 1View Full Size
Figure 1
Patient description of their current clinical situation (n = 319). The category ‘Disease in true remission’ combines scores for ‘In remission (no treatment)’ (16.3%), ‘Received an operation to remove adrenal glands’ (22.9%) and ‘Treated with hydrocortisone’ (1.6%). One person did not complete the question.

Citation: Endocrine Connections 11, 7; 10.1530/EC-22-0027

Table 4Persistent symptoms.

Symptom Persistent bothersome symptomsa (%) (n = 320) Treatment received for symptoms (%) (n = 320)
Fatigue 66.3 15.9
Muscle weakness 48.8 17.2
Weight gain 41.9 8.4
Depression, mood problems 36.9 28.8
Poor concentration 35.9 4.1
Memory problems 33.8 5.6
Sleep problems 33.1 14.1
Anxiety 30.6 14.7
Decreased libido 25.3 4.1
Bone problems 19.1 21.9
Hypertension 18.4 29.4
Hirsutism 17.5 4.1
Skin problems 16.6 6.9
Glucose intolerance 8.8 10
Menstrual problems 9.1 4.7
Infections 7.2 4.7
Blood clot 3.8 2.2
Acne 2.8 1.3
Other 4.4 5.3
No treatment 1.3 8.1
Only hydrocortisone 1.6

aUp to five answers were possible.

Comparison of time to diagnosis and persistence of symptoms

To compare the time to diagnosis and the persistence of symptoms following treatment, an analysis of a number of variables was performed comparing the group with persistent symptoms after treatment (n  = 283) with those who did not (n  = 37) in terms of time to diagnosis. Patients with a longer time to diagnosis reported significantly more frequent weight gain (P = 0.008), and more frequent reduced libido (P = 0.03) after treatment. Although not statistically significant, there was a strong trend towards patients reporting a longer time to diagnosis and a greater frequency of persistent perceived bone issues after treatment (P = 0.053), as well anxiety (P = 0.07) and depression/mood concerns (P = 0.08).

Physicians involved in follow-up

Once diagnosed, almost all patients (97.8%, n = 313) were managed by an endocrinologist, followed by a GP/family doctor (56.3%, n = 180). A psychiatrist/psychologist was involved in 23.4% (n  = 75), followed by a physiotherapist (14.4%, n = 46), rheumatologist (14.4%, n = 46), gynecologist (14.1%, n = 45), cardiologist (13.4%, n = 43), dermatologist (11.6%, n = 37) and a dietician (9.7%, n = 31) (Table 3).

Treatment of persistent symptoms

Table 4 shows the prevalence of persistent symptoms after treatment, common ongoing comorbidities included fatigue, muscle weakness and weight gain. The percentage of patients who were treated for comorbidities is also shown. Noticeable undertreatment occurred for many symptoms, for example, fatigue was a consistent symptom for 66.3% (n  = 212), whereas only 15.9% (n  = 51) were receiving ongoing care for fatigue and persistent muscle weakness was reported in 48.8% (n  = 156) with 17.2% (n  = 55) of patients being treated for this (Table 4).

The high frequency of persistent symptoms suggests that patients were not followed-up by specific specialists, for example of the 212 patients with persistent fatigue, only 60 (28.2%) were seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist (Table 4). Enduring poor concentration and memory problems were relatively frequent (35.9%, 33.8%) but were rarely treated by a specialist (4.1 and 5.6%, respectively).

Three-quarters of patients reported that their work life had been affected (75%, n = 240). Social life (65.3%, n = 209), family life (57.8%, n = 185), interpersonal relationships (51.6%, n = 165), and sexual life (48.8%, n = 155) had also been significantly affected by their illness. Thirty-seven percent of the patients (n  = 118) reported that their economic situation had been negatively affected. ‘Other’ responses for this question included reductions in self-esteem, self-image and self-confidence. Sixty-three percent of patients (193/305) were satisfied with their treatment and 36.7% (n  = 112) were not.

Comparative analysis physician questionnaire

In the complementary physician questionnaire (n  = 40), unlike the patient questionnaire where most respondents were from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Netherlands and France, most of the physicians surveyed were from Western Europe, although there were representatives from other parts of the world. In the physician questionnaire, 83% (n  = 33) were endocrinologists, 13% (n  = 5) internal medicine specialists and 5% (n  = 2) other disciplines. Sixty percent (n  = 24) had over 10 years clinical experience, and 93% (n  = 37) were experienced in the treatment of CS, seeing an average of 10 patients per year. Of the specialities involved in the care of CS, 96% of physicians (n  = 38) considered endocrinologists to be involved, 48% (n  = 19) included family doctors/GPs, 20% (n  = 8) cardiologists, 28% (n  = 11) psychiatrists/psychologists and 28% (n  = 11) included dieticians. These results are consistent with the patients’ perceptions, with the exception of dieticians, who only 10% of patients reported seeing (Table 3).

Figure 2A compares the frequency of common symptoms that patients found to be most burdensome during the active phase of the disease, with what physicians thought were the most common symptoms. Although for methodological reasons a statistical comparison was not possible and the comparisons are approximate, these findings suggest that physicians’ perceptions of the prevalence of symptoms were different from those reported by patients. A majority of physicians (Fig. 2A) inadequately estimated (both underestimated and overestimated) the presence of depression, muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, hypertension, bone problems and glucose intolerance. Figure 2B compares the physician’s perception of the frequency of persistent symptoms with the patients’ experience of persistent symptoms. A majority of physicians differently estimated the prevalence of persistent cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, depressive symptoms and weight gain.

Figure 2View Full Size
Figure 2
(A) Physician (n = 40) perception of patient comorbidities (left) and patient reports of the most burdensome symptoms during active CS (right). (B) Physician (n = 40) perception of CS symptoms after cure (right) and patient reports of persistent burdensome symptoms after treatment (left). Only the relevant common results from the physician and patient surveys are shown above. The physician survey included categories ‘insulin resistance’, ‘dyslipidaemia’, ‘cardiovascular complications’ and ‘psychosis’, which are not shown because these same categories were not reported in the patient survey. In the patient survey, responses for the categories: ‘anxiety’ were regrouped with ‘depressive symptoms’ and ‘memory problems’ and ‘poor concentration’ were regrouped into the ‘cognitive impairment’ category for easier comparison with the physician survey.

Citation: Endocrine Connections 11, 7; 10.1530/EC-22-0027

Discussion

This large, international CS patient survey confirms previous findings that despite complaining of multiple symptoms, there is a mean 34-month delay in diagnosis (9). In addition, despite treatment resulting in biochemical remission, patients report persistent comorbidities with associated psychological and social impacts that negatively affect the QoL (1112). In the present survey a majority of patients reported that they are not being managed by the appropriate specialists, suggesting an absence in multidisciplinary care that may be secondary to an underestimation of the sequelae of CS by endocrinologists.

The present survey confirmed that no specific symptom initiated a diagnosis, but rather a range of burdensome symptoms occurring with similar frequency to those reported in previous surveys (12), with the notable difference in that in a USA-German survey, cognitive and psychological symptoms were bothersome for 61% of US and 66% of German patients (13), whereas in the present survey 38% considered depression/mood problems burdensome. Such differences may be a result of different terms being used to describe depression or mood symptoms as well as cultural differences between populations.

The distribution of time to diagnosis, with around 50% diagnosed after 2 years of symptoms and approximately 30% still undiagnosed after 3 years is of a similar magnitude to previous surveys, where 67% of patients waited at least 3 years until diagnosis (14). In the CSFR study in 2014, patients waited a median of 5 years until diagnosis (15). Even though the estimated time to diagnosis may be similar to those in previous studies – 34 months a recent meta-analysis (9) and 2 years in the ERCUSYN database (16) – there is clearly still room for improvement, especially as delayed diagnosis is associated with persistent comorbidities (9171819). Physicians should consider that in patients with diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis hypercortisolism may be hidden (20). Due to the elevated incidence of mood and cognitive dysfunction at CS diagnosis, questioning the patient whether they feel that ‘something unusual is happening’ such as mood swings and sleeping disorders may be helpful, as a not insignificant proportion of patients self-diagnose CS (15).

Awareness of the clinical presentation patterns of CS should be increased among general practitioners but also in specialists other than endocrinologists. In the current survey, the low proportions of physiotherapists, neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons and psychiatrists identifying CS represent an educational opportunity to improve early diagnosis. It is for instance not widely known that venous thromboembolic events or fragility fractures can be a presenting symptom of CS (2021). It is encouraging that rheumatologists already recommend excluding occult endogenous hypercortisolism as a first cause of muscle weakness (22).

Multidisciplinary care is recommended for the ongoing management of patients after biochemical cure, with a particular emphasis on the QoL, depressive symptoms and anxiety (11). Specialist care is recommended for specific comorbidities, for example physiotherapists are required to help revert musculoskeletal impairment and prevent further deterioration (23), and bone specialists are required to manage the individual patient fracture risk according to the patient’s age and evolution of bone status after surgery (24). In the present survey, almost all patients were treated by endocrinologists and the role of specialists treating particular comorbidities was limited despite the ongoing complaints in patients. This is particularly evident in the high prevalence of muscle weakness, which was rarely managed by physiotherapists. This failure to provide multidisciplinary care may account for why nearly 40% of CS patients were dissatisfied with their treatment.

The exact number of patients with controlled hypercortisolism cannot be evaluated from the questionnaire. The degree of control of hypercortisolism remains debatable in patients treated with cortisol-lowering agents and may not be equivalent to remission following surgery (2526). In the present survey, the vast majority reported persistent and burdensome symptoms despite treatment, which is in line with previous reports of persistent low body satisfaction and high rates of depression and anxiety (27). When compared with longer time to diagnosis, the only comparisons that reached statistical significance were weight gain and decreased libido; whereas, there was a trend towards extended time to diagnosis and worsening of depressive symptoms and anxiety. These findings confirm the need for early diagnosis and treatment as the duration of exposure to hypercortisolism is a predictor of persistent morbidities and long-term impairments in the QoL (15).

Although the parallel physician perception questionnaire was limited by small size and methodological differences in comparison to the patient survey, the results suggest that physicians’ perceptions contrast with patients’ experiences. Physicians tended to underestimate weight gain and cognitive impairment during the active phase of the disease, and underestimate the prevalence of cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms and muscle weakness following treatment. A recent survey on physician vs patient perspectives on postsurgical recovery also highlighted important differences in perceptions, suggestive of poor communication (28). However, these comparisons are limited in that physicians’ estimations may be influenced by the clinical importance of certain symptoms, whereas for patients these may or may not be particularly onerous. Nevertheless, these findings do suggest that some symptoms do not receive enough attention, possibly due to insufficient awareness of these symptoms as real clinical problems.

The strength of this survey is that it includes a large and international population, whereas previous surveys tended to be carried out in individual countries. It informs the quantitative and qualitative understanding of CS patients’ experiences with their treatment journeys and highlights some important lacunae in the management of CS, as well as identifying some differences in physician and patient perceptions about the burden of CS comorbidities.

A limitation in the study design was the inability of the questionnaire to clearly distinguish a subgroup who were biochemically cured and had ongoing symptoms. Indeed, remission was based on patients’ declarations instead of an objective hormone assessment, which is an unavoidable limitation of online surveys. On the other hand, the survey was precisely designed to capture patients’ perceptions about their health status, regardless of having received a diagnosis of “remission” or not from their endocrinologist. Patients who had pituitary surgery were not considered as being “in remission” in order to mitigate the impact of this limitation on the final analysis. The major limitations of this survey also include its cross-sectional design, depending upon an individual assessment at a single time point and relying on patients’ memories. The comparison of the patient and doctor cohorts was limited by having different questionnaire methodologies and the lack of matching of patients and their endocrinologists. The questionnaire results could also not be corroborated against clinical records and no matched control group was assessed. Selection basis was another potential limitation, as patients were recruited through patient associations, which may have skewed the population towards patients with a higher disease burden; moreover, patients with chronic conditions who respond to questionnaires tend to have a low QoL (15).

Conclusion

This international cross-sectional study confirms that symptoms experienced by patients with CS are diverse, burdensome and endure beyond treatment (20). Delays in diagnosis may contribute to persistent symptoms after treatment. Care of patients with persistent comorbidities affecting the QoL (e.g. obesity, cognitive impairment, depression and muscle weakness) could be improved through more frequent multidisciplinary collaboration with healthcare professionals outside of endocrinology.

Supplementary materials

This is linked to the online version of the paper at https://doi.org/10.1530/EC-22-0027.

Declaration of interest

A T participated in research studies, received research grants and honorarium for talks at symposia and boards from HRA Pharma Rare Diseases, Pfizer, Novartis and Recordati Rare Diseases. C A participated in research studies and received honoraria for talks at symposia and participation in advisory boards from HRA Pharma Rare Diseases. E V participated in research studies and received honoraria for talks at symposia and participation in advisory boards from HRA Pharma Rare Diseases and Recordati Rare Diseases. I C is an investigator in studies using relacorilant (Corcept Therapeutics) in patients with hypercortisolism and has received consulting fees from Corcept Therapeutics and HRA Pharma Rare Diseases. R F has received research grants from Strongbridge and Recordati Rare Diseases and honoraria for talks at symposia and for participating in advisory boards from HRA Pharma Rare Diseases, Corcept, Ipsen, Novartis and Recordati Rare Diseases. M A H and S I are employees of HRA Pharma Rare Diseases. R A F is a member of the editorial board of Endocrine Connections. He was not involved in the editorial or review process of this paper, on which he is listed as an authors.

Funding

This work did not receive any specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sector.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all the patients involved who responded and the World Association for Pituitary Organisations (WAPO), Adrenal Net, China Hypercortisolism Patient Alliance, the Cushing’s Support & Research Foundation (CSRF) and the Pituitary Foundation for assisting with the distribution of the patient questionnaires. The authors would also like to gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the ApotheCom communications agency for helping to conduct this survey.

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Persistent vs Recurrent Cushing’s Disease Diagnosed Four Weeks Postpartum

Abstract

Background. Cushing’s disease (CD) recurrence in pregnancy is thought to be associated with estradiol fluctuations during gestation. CD recurrence in the immediate postpartum period in a patient with a documented dormant disease during pregnancy has never been reported. Case Report. A 30-year-old woman with CD had improvement of her symptoms after transsphenoidal resection (TSA) of her pituitary lesion. She conceived unexpectedly 3 months postsurgery and had no symptoms or biochemical evidence of recurrence during pregnancy. After delivering a healthy boy, she developed CD 4 weeks postpartum and underwent a repeat TSA. Despite repeat TSA, she continued to have elevated cortisol levels that were not well controlled with medical management. She eventually had a bilateral adrenalectomy. Discussion. CD recurrence may be higher in the peripartum period, but the link between pregnancy and CD recurrence and/or persistence is not well studied. Potential mechanisms of CD recurrence in the postpartum period are discussed below. Conclusion. We describe the first report of recurrent CD that was quiescent during pregnancy and diagnosed in the immediate postpartum period. Understanding the risk and mechanisms of CD recurrence in pregnancy allows us to counsel these otherwise healthy, reproductive-age women in the context of additional family planning.

1. Introduction

Despite a relatively high prevalence of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) in women of reproductive age, it is rare for pregnancy to occur in patients with active disease [1]. Hypercortisolism leads to infertility through impairment of the hypothalamic gonadal axis. Additionally, while Cushing’s disease (CD) is the leading etiology of CS in nonpregnant adults, it is less common in pregnancy, accounting for only 30–40% of the CS cases in pregnant women [2]. It has been suggested that in CD there is hypersecretion of both cortisol and androgens, impairing fertility to a greater extent, while in CS of an adrenal origin, hypersecretion is almost exclusively of cortisol with minimal androgen production [3]. Regardless of the cause, active CS in pregnancy is associated with a higher maternal and fetal morbidity, hence, prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential.

Pregnancy is considered a physiological state of hypercortisolism, and the peripartum period is a common time for women to develop CD [34]. A recent study reported that 27% of reproductive-age women with CD had onset associated with pregnancy [4]. The high rate of pregnancy-associated CD suggests that the stress of pregnancy and peripartum pituitary corticotroph hyperstimulation may promote or accelerate pituitary tumorigenesis [46]. During pregnancy, the circulating levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in the plasma increase exponentially as a result of CRH production by the placenta, decidua, and fetal membranes rather than by the hypothalamus. Unbound circulating placental CRH stimulates pituitary ACTH secretion and causes maternal plasma ACTH levels to rise [4]. A review of the literature reveals many studies of CD onset during the peripartum period, but CD recurrence in the peripartum period has only been reported a handful of times [710]. Of these, most cases recurred during pregnancy. CD recurrence in the immediate postpartum period has only been reported once [7]. Below, we report for the first time a case of CD recurrence that occurred 4 weeks postpartum, with a documented dormant disease throughout pregnancy.

2. Case Presentation

A 30-year-old woman initially presented with prediabetes, weight gain, dorsal hump, abdominal striae, depression, lower extremity weakness, and oligomenorrhea with a recent miscarriage 10 months ago. Diagnostic tests were consistent with CD. Results included the following: three elevated midnight salivary cortisols: 0.33, 1.38, and 1.10 μg/dL (<0.010–0.090); 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) with cortisol 14 μg/dL (<1.8); elevated 24 hr urine cortisol (UFC) measuring 825 μg/24 hr (6–42); ACTH 35 pg/mL (7.2–63.3). MRI of the pituitary gland revealed a left 4 mm focal lesion (Figure 1(a)). After transsphenoidal resection (TSA), day 1, 2, and 3 morning cortisol values were 18, 5, and 2 μg/dL, respectively. Pathology did not show a definitive pituitary neoplasm. She was rapidly titrated off hydrocortisone (HC) by six weeks postresection. Her symptoms steadily improved, including improved energy levels, improved mood, and resolution of striae. She resumed normal menses and conceived unexpectedly around 3 months post-TSA. Hormonal evaluation completed a few weeks prior to her pregnancy indicated no recurrence: morning ACTH level, 27.8 pg/mL; UFC, 5 μg/24 hr; midnight salivary cortisol, 0.085 and 0.014 μg/dL. Her postop MRI at that time did not show a definitive adenoma (Figure 1(b)). During pregnancy, she had a normal oral glucose tolerance test at 20 weeks and no other sequela of CD. Every 8 weeks, she had 24-hour urine cortisol measurements. Of these, the highest was 93 μg/24 hr at 17 weeks and none were in the range of CD (Table 1). Towards the end of her 2nd trimester, she started to complain of severe fatigue. Given her low 24 hr urine cortisol level of 15 μg/24 hr at 36 weeks gestation, she was started on HC. She underwent a cesarean section at 40 weeks gestation for oligohydramnios and she subsequently delivered a healthy baby boy weighing 7.6 pounds with APGAR scores at 1 and 5 minutes being 9 and 9. HC was discontinued immediately after delivery. Around four weeks postpartum she developed symptoms suggestive for CD. Diagnostic tests showed an elevated midnight salivary cortisol of 0.206 and 0.723 μg/dL, and 24-hour urine cortisol of 400 μg/24 hr. MRI pituitary illustrated a 3 mm adenoma in the left posterior region of the gland, which was thought to represent a recurrent tumor (Figure 1(c)). A discrete lesion was found and resected during repeat TSA. Pathology confirmed corticotroph adenoma with MIB-1 < 3%. On postoperative days 1, 2, and 3, the cortisol levels were 26, 10, and 2.8 μg/dL, respectively. She was tapered off HC within one month. Her symptoms improved only slightly and she continued to report weight gain, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Three months after repeat TSA, biochemical data showed 1 out of 2 midnight salivary cortisols elevated at 0.124 μg/dL and elevated urine cortisol of 76 μg/24 hr. MRI pituitary demonstrated a 3 × 5 mm left enhancement, concerning for residual or enlarged persistent tumor. Subsequent lab work continued to show a biochemical excess of cortisol, and the patient was started on metyrapone but reported no significant improvement of her symptoms and only mild improvement of excess cortisol. After a multidisciplinary discussion, the patient made the decision to pursue bilateral adrenalectomy, as she refused further medical management and opted against radiation given the risk of hypogonadism.

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Figure 1 
(a) Initial: MRI pituitary with and without contrast showing a coronal T1 postcontrast image immediately prior to our patient’s pituitary surgery. The red arrow points to a 3 × 3 × 5 mm hypoenhancing focus representing a pituitary microadenoma. (b) Postsurgical: MRI pituitary with and without contrast showing a coronal T1 postcontrast image obtained three months after transsphenoidal pituitary surgery. The red arrow shows that a hypoenhancing focus is no longer seen and has been resected. (c) Postpartum: MRI pituitary with and without contrast showing a coronal T1 postcontrast image obtained four weeks postpartum. The red arrow points to a 3 mm relatively hypoenhancing lesion representing a recurrent pituitary adenoma.
Table 1 
24-hour urine-free cortisol measurements collected approximately every 8 weeks throughout our patient’s pregnancy.

3. Discussion

The symptoms and signs of Cushing’s syndrome overlap with those seen in normal pregnancy, making diagnosis of Cushing’s disease during pregnancy challenging [1]. Potential mechanisms of gestational hypercortisolemia include increased systemic cortisol resistance during pregnancy, decreased sensitivity of plasma ACTH to negative feedback causing an altered pituitary ACTH setpoint, and noncircadian secretion of placental CRH during pregnancy causing stimulation of the maternal HPA axis [5]. Consequently, both urinary excretion of cortisol and late-night salivary cortisol undergo a gradual increase during normal pregnancy, beginning at the 11th week of gestation [2]. Cushing’s disease is suggested by 24-hour urinary-free cortisol levels greater than 3-fold of the upper limit of normal [2]. It has also been suggested that nocturnal salivary cortisol be used to diagnose Cushing’s disease by using the following specific trimester thresholds: first trimester, 0.25 μg/dL; second trimester, 0.26 μg/dL; third trimester 0.33, μg/dL [11]. By these criteria, our patient had no signs or biochemical evidence of CD during pregnancy but developed CD 4 weeks postpartum.

A recent study by Tang et al. proposed that there may be a higher risk of developing CD in the peripartum period, but did not test for CD during pregnancy, and therefore was not able to definitively say exactly when CD onset occurred in relation to pregnancy [4]. Previous literature suggests that there may be a higher risk of ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas following pregnancy as there is a significant surge of ACTH and cortisol hormones at the time of labor. This increased stimulation of the pituitary corticotrophs in the immediate postpartum period may promote tumorigenesis [6]. It has also been suggested that the hormonal milieu during pregnancy may cause accelerated growth of otherwise dormant or small slow-growing pituitary corticotroph adenomas [45]. However, the underlying mechanisms of CD development in the postpartum period have yet to be clarified. We highlight the need for more research to investigate not only the development, but also the risk of CD recurrence in the postpartum period. Such research would be helpful for family planning.

4. Conclusion

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period may result in higher rates of CD recurrence in the postpartum period, as seen in our patient. In general, more testing for CS in all reproductive-age females with symptoms suggesting CS, especially during and after childbirth, is necessary. Such testing can also help us determine when CD occurred in relation to pregnancy, so that we can further understand the link between pregnancy and CD occurrence, recurrence, and/or persistence. Learning about the potential mechanisms of CD development and recurrence in pregnancy will help us to counsel these reproductive-age women who desire pregnancy.

Abbreviations

CD: Cushing’s disease
TSA: Transsphenoidal resection
DST: Dexamethasone suppression test
ACTH: Adrenocorticotropic hormone
MRI: Magnetic-resonance imaging
HC: Hydrocortisone
CTH: Corticotroph-releasing hormone
HPA: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal.

Data Availability

The data used to support the findings of this study are included within the article.

Additional Points

Note. Peripartum refers to the period immediately before, during, or after pregnancy and postpartum refers to any period after pregnancy up until 1 year postdelivery.

Disclosure

This case report is a follow up to an abstract that was presented in ENDO 2020 Abstracts. https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvaa046.2128.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Dr. Puneet Pawha for his help in reviewing MRI images and his suggestions.

References

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Copyright © 2022 Leena Shah et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

From https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crie/2022/9236711/

Pasireotide-Induced Shrinkage in GH and ACTH Secreting Pituitary Adenoma

Introduction: Pasireotide (PAS) is a novel somatostatin receptor ligands (SRL), used in controlling hormonal hypersecretion in both acromegaly and Cushing’s Disease (CD). In previous studies and meta-analysis, first-generation SRLs were reported to be able to induce significant tumor shrinkage only in somatotroph adenomas. This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to summarize the effect of PAS on the shrinkage of the pituitary adenomas in patients with acromegaly or CD.

Materials and methods: We searched the Medline database for original studies in patients with acromegaly or CD receiving PAS as monotherapy, that assessed the proportion of significant tumor shrinkage in their series. After data extraction and analysis, a random-effect model was used to estimate pooled effects. Quality assessment was performed with a modified Joanna Briggs’s Institute tool and the risk of publication bias was addressed through Egger’s regression and the three-parameter selection model.

Results: The electronic search identified 179 and 122 articles respectively for acromegaly and CD. After study selection, six studies considering patients with acromegaly and three with CD fulfilled the eligibility criteria. Overall, 37.7% (95%CI: [18.7%; 61.5%]) of acromegalic patients and 41.2% (95%CI: [22.9%; 62.3%]) of CD patients achieved significant tumor shrinkage. We identified high heterogeneity, especially in acromegaly (I2 of 90% for acromegaly and 47% for CD), according to the low number of studies included.

Discussion: PAS treatment is effective in reducing tumor size, especially in acromegalic patients. This result strengthens the role of PAS treatment in pituitary adenomas, particularly in those with an invasive behavior, with progressive growth and/or extrasellar extension, with a low likelihood of surgical gross-total removal, or with large postoperative residual tissue.

Systematic Review Registration: https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42022328152, identifier CRD42022328152

Introduction

Pasireotide (PAS) is a novel somatostatin receptor ligand (SRL) with a high affinity for the somatostatin receptor (SSR) type 5 (12). Somatotroph adenomas are usually responsive to first-generation SRLs (octreotide and lanreotide), as they are able to reduce growth hormone (GH) secretion through SSR type 2 (3). In the flow-chart of acromegaly treatment, PAS is suggested in case of resistance to first-generation SRLs, as SSR type 5 is also abundantly expressed in GH-secreting adenomas (3). A phase III study with PAS long-acting release (LAR) proved its efficacy in first-generation SRLs-resistant acromegalic patients after 6 months (4). In the extension study (Colao A et al.), 37% of patients achieved normalization of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and/or GH levels <1 µg/L, considering both those performing the extension treatment and those crossing over from the first-generation SRL-control group to the PAS LAR group. Nearly two-thirds of responses were achieved after at least 6 months of treatment. Up-titration of the dose from 40 to 60 mg monthly enriched the number of responders, suggesting that the PAS LAR effect may be both time- and dose-dependent (5). Concomitant improvement in signs and symptoms has also been confirmed in other series (69).

SSR type 5 is the predominant isoform in human corticotroph adenomas, since it is not down-regulated by high cortisol levels, as SSR type 2 does. Therefore, PAS is the only SRL available in patients with Cushing’s Disease (CD) (2). In a phase III study, subcutaneous (s.c.) PAS proved to be effective in normalizing urinary free cortisol (respectively in 13% and 25% of patients taking 600 µg or 900 µg bis-in-die for 12 months) (10), achieving significant clinical improvement (11). In the same clinical setting, PAS LAR showed similar efficacy and safety profiles (12). These benefits could be maintained for up to 5 years in an extension study (1314). In a recent meta-analysis, PAS treatment provided disease control in 44% of 522 patients with CD (15). Patients harbouring USP-8 mutations demonstrated an increased SSR type 5 expression in the corticotroph adenoma, increasing the likelihood of a positive response to PAS therapy (16). The safety profile of PAS is similar to that of first-generation SRLs, except for a significant worsening in glucose homeostasis (17).

Despite the normalization of hormonal excess, another goal of the medical treatment in GH-secreting pituitary adenomas is the reduction of the size of the adenoma (18). First-generation SRLs proved to be effective in achieving tumor shrinkage in acromegaly: Endocrine Society clinical practice guidelines suggested their role as primary therapy in poor surgical candidates and in those with extrasellar extension without chiasmal compression (18). Cozzi et al. reported in a large prospective cohort of acromegalic patients a significant Octreotide-induced tumor shrinkage in 82% of those receiving SRL as first-line treatment; most of them exhibited an early shrinkage with a progressive trend in reduction later on (19). A meta-analysis of 41 studies reported a significant tumor shrinkage in 50% of included patients (20). Data from the primary treatment with once-monthly lanreotide in surgical naïve patients demonstrated its efficacy in reducing tumor volume, achieving significant tumor shrinkage in 63% of them (21). Hypo-intensity on T2-weighted sequences at baseline magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) seems to predict tumor volume reduction during first-generation SRLs treatment (22). Regarding patients with CD, most patients presented a microadenoma, usually not aggressive or invasive: only in selected cases tumor shrinkage is an aim to achieve in patients with corticotropinoma.

As available data are scarce (or limited to selected studies), and the issue of pituitary adenoma shrinkage is of primary importance in the management of tumors that cannot be addressed through surgery, the aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to summarize available data regarding the effect of PAS on tumor size.

Materials and Methods

We used the Population-Intervention-Comparison-Outcome (PICO) model to formulate the research questions for the systematic review (23), as summarised in Figure 1. The systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted and are reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis of Diagnostic Test Accuracy Studies (PRISMA-DTA) statement (24). We registered the protocol on the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews database (PROSPERO, https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO, number CRD42022328152).

Figure 1
www.frontiersin.orgFIGURE 1 PICO (Population-Intervention-Comparison-Outcome) model design to our study.

Search Strategy

An extensive Medline search was performed for the research question by two of the authors (F.C. and A.M.) independently, discrepancies were resolved by discussion. The literature search was performed up to January 2022, no language restriction was applied. Research included the following keywords: 1) (“acromegalies” [All Fields] OR “acromegaly”[MeSH Terms] OR “acromegaly”[All Fields]) AND (“pasireotide”[Supplementary Concept] OR “pasireotide”[All Fields]); 2) (“pituitary ACTH hypersecretion”[MeSH Terms] OR (“pituitary”[All Fields] AND “ACTH”[All Fields] AND “hypersecretion”[All Fields]) OR “pituitary ACTH hypersecretion”[All Fields]) AND (“pasireotide”[Supplementary Concept] OR “pasireotide”[All Fields]).

Inclusion and exclusion criteria were specified in advance and protocol-defined, in order to avoid methodological bias for post-hoc analysis. The searches were designed to select all types of studies (retrospective, observational, controlled, randomized, and non-randomized) conducted in patients with acromegaly or CD treated with PAS as monotherapy; the assessment of the proportion of significant tumor shrinkage was an inclusion criterion. Search terms were linked to Medical Subject Headings when possible. Keywords and free words were used simultaneously. Additional articles were identified with manual searches and included a thorough review of other meta-analyses, review articles, and relevant references. Consolidation of studies was performed with Mendeley Desktop 1.19.8.

Study Selection

We included all original research studies conducted in adult patients that underwent PAS treatment used as monotherapy (s.c. bis-in-die and intramuscular once/monthly), that provided sufficient information about tumor size reduction during treatment. In case of overlapping cohorts of patients (as clinical trials with core and extension phases), we included only the extension study, in order to select those patients with measurable tumor shrinkage after long-term treatment. Local reports regarding patients involved in multicenter trials were excluded from the analysis, as they had been already considered in the larger series. Reviewers were not blinded to the authors or journals when screening articles.

Data Extraction and Quality Assessment

Two authors (F.C. and A.M.) read the included papers and extracted independently relevant data, any disagreements were resolved by discussion. If data were not clear from the original manuscript, the authors of the primary study were contacted to clarify the doubts.

Contents of data extraction in the selected paper included: name of the first author, year of publication, setting (referral centre, academic hospital, mono- or multi-centric collection), type of treatment, its dose schedule and duration, pituitary imaging method during follow- up, the endpoint type regarding adenoma size analysis (i.e. primary vs exploratory). When data were reported for each patient or for subgroups, a global percentage of significant tumor shrinkage was calculated considering all subjects involved in the study.

To assess the risk of bias in the included studies, the critical appraisal tool from Joanna Briggs’s Institute (JBI) was adapted to evaluate those considered in our metanalysis (25). Among the items proposed, we selected the most appropriate to our setting: 1. Were the inclusion criteria clearly identified? 2. Were diagnostic criteria for acromegaly or CD well defined? 3. Were valid methods applied to evaluate tumor shrinkage? 4. Was the inclusion of participants consecutive and complete? 5. Was the reporting of baseline participants’ features (demographic and clinical) complete? 6. Was the report of the outcomes clear? 7. Was the report of demographics of the involved sites complete? 8. Was statistical analysis appropriate? For each aspect we assigned as possible choices of answer: yes, no or unclear.

Data Synthesis and Analysis

A qualitative synthesis was performed summarizing the study design and population characteristics (age, male to female ratio, macro- to micro-adenoma ratio, prior treatments).

A random-effect model was used to estimate pooled effects. Forest plots for percentages of significant tumor size reduction were generated to visualize heterogeneity among the studies. In order to assess publication bias, despite the low number of articles considered, we performed funnel plot and asymmetry analysis adjusted for the low number of studies (an Egger’s regression test and a three-parameter selection model where two tailed p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant). The I2 test was conducted to analyze the heterogeneity between studies: an I2 >50% indicated a between-study heterogeneity.

Statistical analyses were performed with R: R-4.1.2 for Windows 10 (32/64 bit) released 2021-11-01 and R studio desktop RStudio Desktop 1.4.1717 for Windows 10 64 bit (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria, URL https://www.R-project.org/).

Results

Study Selection

The study selection process for acromegaly is depicted in Figure 2. The electronic search revealed 179 articles, with one duplicate (N = 178). After the first screening, 141 articles did not meet the eligibility criteria and were discarded. The full-text examination of the remaining studies excluded additional 31 articles: 27 did not provide adequate data about tumor size, two represented the core phase of an extension study, another one referred to a subset of patients from a larger study, and the last one did not provide sufficient data about the percentage of tumor size reduction. Thus, six studies fulfilling eligibility criteria (reported in Tables 12), were selected for data extraction and analysis.

Figure 2
www.frontiersin.orgFIGURE 2 Search strategy for acromegaly. * Petersenn S, 2010 (PAS sc, phase II) and Colao A, 2014 (PAS LAR). ** Shimon I, 2015 (PAS LAR). *** Tahara S, 2019 (PAS LAR, phase II). PAS, pasireotide, sc, subcutaneous, LAR, long-acting release.

Table 1
www.frontiersin.orgTABLE 1 Studies considered for the metanalysis in acromegaly.

Table 2
www.frontiersin.orgTABLE 2 Studies considered for the metanalysis in acromegaly.

The study selection process for CD is depicted in Figure 3. The electronic search revealed 122 articles; an additional one had been included post-hoc, through reference analysis of selected articles (N = 123). After the first screening, 91 articles did not meet the eligibility criteria and were discarded. The full-text examination of the remaining studies excluded 29 more articles: 23 did not provide sufficient data on tumor shrinkage, two of them represented the core phase of extension studies, two referred to subsets of patients included in a larger study and two did not provide sufficient data regarding the percentage of tumor size reduction. Thus, three studies fulfilling eligibility criteria (reported in Tables 34) were selected for data extraction and analysis.

Figure 3
www.frontiersin.orgFIGURE 3 Search strategy for Cushing’s Disease. * Lacroix A, 2018 (PAS LAR, phase III) and Lacroix A, 2020 (PAS sc, phase III post-hoc analysis). ** Simeoli C, 2014 (PAS sc) and Colao A 2012 (PAS sc, phase III). *** Daniel E, 2018 (PAS sc and LAR) and Trementino L, 2016 (PAS sc). PAS, pasireotide, sc, subcutaneous, LAR, long acting release.

Table 3
www.frontiersin.orgTABLE 3 Studies considered for the metanalysis in Cushing’s Disease.

Table 4
www.frontiersin.orgTABLE 4 Studies considered for the metanalysis in Cushing’s Disease.

Study Characteristics

Four multi- and two mono-centric studies in patients with acromegaly were considered and analyzed, all presenting a prospective design. Tumor size analysis was not one of the primary endpoints in any of the considered studies; from an initial overall recruitment of 358 patients, only 265 were included for tumor size reduction analysis. Most patients had previously undergone different treatments (Table 1). All studies, except one, used PAS LAR, dose titration was allowed in all trials. Median follow-up ranged from 6 to 25 months; MRI was performed to evaluate tumor size reduction and the criteria for considering it significant was mainly based on tumor volume analysis, except for Lasolle H et al. which considered median height reduction (26). Data from the PAOLA study provided separate percentages of significant tumor shrinkage for PAS at 40 mg or 60 mg once monthly; considering that respectively 12 and 7 patients showed a reduction >25%, a significant shrinkage was reported in 19 out of 79 considered cases (24%) (4). Stelmachowska-Banás et al. described one patient with McCune-Albright’s syndrome presenting with pituitary hyperplasia, without a visible adenoma at MRI; as its pituitary volume decreased during treatment, the patient was included in the group with significant tumor shrinkage (27). No study provided information about macro- to micro-adenoma ratio. Data regarding age and male to female ratio are also reported in Table 2.

Three studies including patients with CD met the eligibility criteria (Tables 34); all of them presented a multicentre prospective design, recruiting 139 patients, most of them assuming PAS as a second-line treatment, after a surgical failure. For tumor shrinkage analysis, a subgroup of 34 patients was considered, taking s.c. PAS bis-in-die in two studies and PAS LAR in the third; in all cases titration was admitted. Tumor size analysis was a secondary endpoint in all three studies. Follow-up ranged from 6 to 60 months; tumor size assessment was performed with pituitary MRI. Only Pivonello et al. evaluated maximum diameter, instead of tumor volume changes (28). The population analyzed for tumor shrinkage mainly presented with a microadenoma. Data regarding age and gender are reported in Table 4. In the trial reported by Petersenn S et al., we arbitrarily fixed the criterion to define a significant tumor volume reduction (at least 25% of the baseline size of the pituitary adenoma), and the proportion of responders was calculated from the supplementary materials accordingly (3/6 = 50%) (13). Pivonello et al. separated patients exhibiting mild-moderate from those with severe hypercortisolism; we considered them together for tumor size analysis obtaining an overall proportion of significant size reduction of 21.4% (3 out of 14 subjects) (28).

Risk of Bias

The evaluation of the risk of bias performed with the adapted JBI tool is reported in Table 5. All studies presented clear diagnostic and inclusion criteria, except that of Lasolle H et al. (26). Although all papers reported a valid tool for tumor shrinkage analysis (MRI), two of them did not analyse tumor volume and did not provide a clear definition of significant size reduction (2628). Regarding other items, the majority of the considered studies did not appear to present a clear source of bias.

Table 5
www.frontiersin.orgTABLE 5 Evaluation of the risk of bias performed with the adapted Joanna Briggs’s Institute (JBI) tool.

Meta-Analysis

In the six studies considered for acromegaly, 37.7% (95%CI: [18.7%; 61.5%]) of patients demonstrated a significant tumor size reduction (Figure 4). As expected, heterogeneity in tumor reduction between studies was high (I2 = 90%). We attempted to address publication bias despite the low-number of studies (Figure 6A): Egger’s regression test did not indicate the presence of funnel plot asymmetry (intercept = -3.15 with 95%CI: [-10.17; 3.85], t = -0.883, p = 0.427) and the three-parameter selection model performed for p < 0.05 (and p < 0.1 as a sensitivity analysis) suggested absence of publication bias (28).

Figure 4
www.frontiersin.orgFIGURE 4 Pooled effect for the proportion of responders (i.e. presenting significant tumor shrinkage) in acromegaly. CI, confidence interval.

In the three studies considered for CD, 41,2% (95%CI: [22.9%; 62.3%]) of patients overall demonstrated a significant tumor size reduction (Figure 5). The heterogeneity in tumor reduction between the studies represented by I2 amounted to 47%. Publication bias analysis (Figure 6B) was performed using Egger’s regression test (intercept = -1.828 with 95%CI: [-14.53; 10.88], t = -0.282, p = 0.825) without evidence of asymmetry. The three-parameter selection model on the contrary could not be performed due to the small number of studies.

Figure 5
www.frontiersin.orgFIGURE 5 Pooled effect for the proportion of responders (i.e. presenting significant tumor shrinkage) in Cushing’s Disease. CI, confidence interval.

Figure 6
www.frontiersin.orgFIGURE 6 (A) Funnel plot assessing publication bias for Acromegaly. (B) Funnel plot assessing publication bias for Cushing’s Disease.

Discussion

The biochemical efficacy of medical treatment with PAS in GH- or ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas has been described in previous metanalyses for acromegaly (2930) and CD (15), the latter also exploring the clinical benefit. In addition to these reports, this meta-analysis shows that PAS treatment can induce an additional clinically significant tumor shrinkage in approximately 40% of patients.

Acromegaly

Overall, PAS treatment provided tumor shrinkage in 37.7% of the considered patients. A previous metanalysis on octreotide in acromegaly provided a higher percentage of tumor size reduction (over 50%) (20). Nevertheless, since PAS treatment is usually considered as a second- or third-line treatment in the therapeutic flow-chart of acromegaly, the population recruited is mainly composed of patients with first-generation SRL-resistant somatotroph adenomas. This bias in recruited populations of acromegalic patients may explain this difference in the outcome. In a direct comparison, although PAS LAR seemed more effective in achieving biochemical control, both the SRLs, the first- and the second-generation types, achieved similar percentages of tumor shrinkage (67). Moreover, in the crossover extension, the switch from octreotide to PAS was more effective than the reverse schedule, achieving a slightly higher percentage of further significant tumor shrinkage (8). Lasolle et al. reported that the expression of SSR type 5 and the granulation pattern are of limited value for the prediction of PAS responsiveness: 5 out of 9 somatotropinomas in their series were densely granulated (two did not respond to PAS), and the expression of SSR type 5 was modest in one controlled patient (26).

Other than SRLs, a further therapeutic option targeting the somatotroph adenoma is cabergoline, either as monotherapy in mild cases or as an add-on treatment for resistant adenomas (18). In a previous metanalysis, cabergoline in monotherapy resulted less effective than SRLs, achieving tumor shrinkage in about one third of the enrolled patients (31). It should also be mentioned that some studies reported an escape phenomenon from its treatment efficacy (32).

Data coming from the combination of PAS LAR and pegvisomant in acromegaly were not considered in our metanalysis, due to inclusion criteria and variable combination therapy of the two drugs (33). Since some cases of adenoma growth had been reported during pegvisomant use (3435), this combination therapy represents a rational approach, but tumor volume analysis is less reliable, given the purpose of our study. Despite concerns regarding tumor growth, pegvisomant effectiveness in acromegaly is well documented (1829), although the cost of this combination treatment can limit its applicability in real-life practice. Moreover, it is worth mentioning Coopmans and collaborators’ follow-up analysis, suggesting a PAS mediated anti-tumoral effect in acromegaly. During treatment, patients exhibited a significant increase in T2-weighted sequences signal at MRI; moreover, patients exhibiting this MRI characteristic in their adenomas showed a more evident decrease in IGF-1 levels, but not a similar pattern in reduction of pituitary adenoma size (36). This finding may be related to cell degeneration or tumor cell necrosis, without necessarily determining significant tumor size reduction. Further studies, probably with more data coming from histological reports, may be necessary to better understand these findings.

Cushing’s Disease

Overall, PAS treatment provided significant tumor shrinkage in 41.2% of CD patients. Regarding pituitary-directed drugs, at this moment available for CD treatment, the efficacy of cabergoline has been proven in vitro studies, but its efficacy in clinical trials is still debated (1537). In a previous prospective study, cabergoline induced significant tumor shrinkage (defined as tumor volume reduction >20%) in 4 out of 20 (20%) of the patients recruited after 24 months (38). PAS is the only pituitary-directed treatment for this condition approved by Drug Agencies. Although few studies have been considered in this metanalysis, due to the strict inclusion criteria, PAS appears more effective in tumor size reduction versus cabergoline, resulting in a better choice in CD therapy when aiming to control the pituitary adenoma.

In contrast to acromegaly, the majority of CD patients present a microadenoma, suggesting that tumor size might be a less relevant issue during medical treatment, even if the “cure” of the disease may forecast the resolution of the adenoma. Besides, up to 30% of CD patients, depending also on MRI accuracy and neuro-radiologist’s expertise, may present with negative imaging that prevents any evaluation of tumor shrinkage (39). In spite of that, endocrinologists, not so infrequently, deal with aggressive corticotroph adenomas, characterized by invasive local growth and/or resistance to conventional therapies. This challenging entity often requires multidisciplinary expertise to suggest different approaches, including PAS treatment (40). It should be mentioned that some non-pituitary targeting drugs, as inhibitors of cortisol synthesis, have been associated with tumor growth, due to cortisol-ACTH negative feedback. In particular, during osilodrostat treatment in a phase III study, four recruited patients discontinued osilodrostat after a significant increase in tumor volume (two with micro- and two with macro-adenomas 41), and this growth had also been described during ketoconazole and mitotane treatments (42). Thus, it may be speculated that PAS could provide a rational approach as an combination treatment with steroidogenesis inhibitors. Moreover, after bilateral adrenalectomy, pituitary adenoma tumor size is of the utmost importance, as patients may be at risk of developing a progression of the adenoma, the so-called Nelson’s syndrome. In a prospective study from Daniel E et al., PAS proved to be also effective in this setting, reducing ACTH levels and stabilizing the residual tumor over a treatment period of 7 months (43). Further studies, with longer treatment observation, may reveal whether PAS may achieve significant tumor shrinkage in these patients, as suggested by previous case reports in literature (4445).

Conclusion

The main limitation of our study resides in the scarce literature provided up to now (260 patients with acromegaly and 34 with CD), in the different therapy schedules and different criteria for tumor shrinkage in the selected study (largest tumor diameter vs a selected percentage of reduction). Moreover, in none of the study tumor reduction was one of the primary endpoints, and surgery was performed before PAS in most patients (78-88% of CD and 43-96% of acromegaly).

PAS is a novel compound, with a rising role in the treatment of secreting pituitary adenomas. Thus, this topic might be amplified with more data coming from further clinical studies, as real-life studies, possibly also addressing markers predictive of response to this treatment (e.g., expression of SSR type 2 and type 5 or somatic mutations in USP8 at tissue level of ACTH-secreting adenomas). Nevertheless, we can already state that PAS treatment is effective in reducing tumor size, especially in acromegaly. Our results strengthen the role of PAS treatment in somatotroph and corticotroph adenomas, especially when tumor volume is a relevant issue (i.e. tumor progression, extrasellar invasion) (1839), as a neoadjuvant treatment before surgery or as tailored treatment, alone or in combination, in persistent disease or when surgery is not feasible. Future research aiming to characterize markers predictive of response could help to identify optimal candidates for this treatment.

Data Availability Statement

The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article. Further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author.

Ethics Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects participating in the studies analyzed.

Author Contributions

Authors involved contributed to research as reported: literature search (FC, AM), preparation of original draft (FC, AM, MB, LD), literature review (CS, FC, AM, MF), manuscript editing (CS, FC, AM, MB, LD, MF) and supervision (RM, CS). All authors approved the final version of the paper.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords: pasireotide, cushing, acromegaly, tumor volume, tumor size

Citation: Mondin A, Manara R, Voltan G, Tizianel I, Denaro L, Ferrari M, Barbot M, Scaroni C and Ceccato F (2022) Pasireotide-Induced Shrinkage in GH and ACTH Secreting Pituitary Adenoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front. Endocrinol. 13:935759. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.935759

Received: 04 May 2022; Accepted: 06 June 2022;
Published: 01 July 2022.

Edited by:

Mohammad E. Khamseh, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Iran

Reviewed by:

Rosa Paragliola, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy
Marek Bolanowski, Wroclaw Medical University, Poland
Adriana G Ioachimescu, Emory University, United States

Copyright © 2022 Mondin, Manara, Voltan, Tizianel, Denaro, Ferrari, Barbot, Scaroni and Ceccato. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Filippo Ceccato, filippo.ceccato@unipd.it

ORCID: Alessandro Mondin, orcid.org/0000-0002-6046-5198
Renzo Manara, orcid.org/0000-0002-5130-3971
Giacomo Voltan, orcid.org/0000-0002-3628-0492
Irene Tizianel, orcid.org/0000-0003-4092-5107
Luca Denaro, orcid.org/0000-0002-2529-6149
Marco Ferrari, orcid.org/0000-0002-4023-0121
Mattia Barbot, orcid.org/0000-0002-1081-5727
Carla Scaroni, orcid.org/0000-0001-9396-3815
Filippo Ceccato, orcid.org/0000-0003-1456-8716

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

From https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2022.935759/full

MRI-negative Cushing’s Disease

Background

Cushing’s disease (CD) is among the most common etiologies of hypercortisolism. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often utilized in the diagnosis of CD, however, up to 64% of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing pituitary microadenomas are undetectable on MRI. We report 15 cases of MRI negative CD who underwent surgical resection utilizing a purely endoscopic endonasal approach.

Methods

Endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery (EETS) was performed on 134 CD cases by a single surgeon. Fifteen cases met inclusion criteria: no conclusive MRI studies and no previous surgical treatment. Data collected included signs/symptoms, pre- and post-operative hormone levels, and complications resulting from surgical or medical management. Data regarding tumor diameter, location, and tumor residue/recurrence was obtained from both pre- and post-operative MRI. Immunohistochemistry was performed to assess for tumor hormone secretion.

Results

Aside from a statistically significant difference (P = 0.001) in histopathological results between patients with negative and positive MRI, there were no statistically significant difference between these two groups in any other demographic or clinical data point. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) with desmopressin (DDAVP®) administration was performed on the 15 patients with inconclusive MRIs to identify the origin of ACTH hypersecretion via a central/peripheral (C/P) ratio. IPSS in seven, five and three patients showed right, left, and central side lateralization, respectively. With a mean follow-up of 5.5 years, among MRI-negative patients, 14 (93%) and 12 patients (80%) achieved early and long-term remission, respectively. In the MRI-positive cohort, over a mean follow-up of 4.8 years, 113 patients (94.9%) and 102 patients (85.7%) achieved initial and long-term remission, respectively.

Conclusions

Surgical management of MRI-negative/inconclusive Cushing’s disease is challenging scenario requiring a multidisciplinary approach. An experienced neurosurgeon, in collaboration with a dedicated endocrinologist, should identify the most likely location of the adenoma utilizing IPSS findings, followed by careful surgical exploration of the pituitary to identify the adenoma.

Peer Review reports

Introduction

Cushing’s disease (CD) is the most common cause of hypercortisolism [1]. Left untreated, CD can result in multiple complications, most often cardiovascular disease or infection, and has a mortality rate 1.7–4.8-times higher than the general population [2,3,4]. Although MRI is the imaging modality of choice for identifying these tumors, imaging is often inconclusive [5].

Prior studies have shown that adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing pituitary microadenomas are undetectable on MRI in 36–64% of cases [5]. However, the development and widespread utilization of 3-T MRI (3TMRI) has led to much higher tumor detection rates [67]. With a negative predictive value of approximately 19–94% and variable sensitivity and specificity, anywhere from 4 to 54% of MRIs are incorrectly reported, especially in the setting of ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas [89]. With such variation in radiographic appearance, reliance on imaging for the management of CD patients can cause significant uncertainty for neurosurgeons and endocrinologists alike.

The choice approach in the surgical management of these adenomas is via an endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery (EETS) [21011], resulting in overall post-operative remission rates of 64–93% globally and 50–71% for cases without a conclusive MRI [12,13,14,15]. Inconclusive MRIs pose a significant challenge in the surgical management of CD, with the decision to pursue surgery for MRI-negative CD remaining highly controversial [8101416]. In this study, we report 15 cases of CD without positive MRIs who underwent adenoma resection via EETS.

Patients, materials and methods

Patients population

Between January 2005 and December 2018, EETS was performed in 134 CD cases by a single surgeon at Loghman hakim and Erfan hospitals. Of those patients, 15 cases met inclusion criteria: inconclusive MRI studies and no prior surgical treatment. The population consisted of 12 women (mean age 32.5 years; range 14–65 years) and 3 men (mean age 35 years; range 22–60 years). Data collected included signs/symptoms, pre- and post-operative hormone levels, and complications resulting from surgical or medical management. Data regarding tumor diameter, location, and tumor residue/recurrence was obtained from both pre- and post-operative MRIs. Immunohistochemistry was performed to assess for tumor hormone secretion.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards and approved by the Shahid Beheshti Medical University (SBMU) Ethical Committee and the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Also, a written informed consent was obtained from all subjects (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16).

Imaging

All patients underwent pre- and post-operative dynamic pituitary MRI via a superconducting 1.5-T scanner. Prior to gadolinium injection, T1-weighted Spin Echo (SE) and T2-weighted turbo SE images, followed by coronal dynamic acquisition (T1-weighted turbo SE), were obtained in the coronal plane using the following protocol: TR/TE, 400/20 ms; 288 · 192 matrix; two excitations; 18 · 18 cm field of view (FOV); 3 mm in thickness with 0.3-mm intersection gap. Afterwards, with simultaneous gadolinium injection, coronal and sagittal T1-weighted SE images were obtained 2 minutes following injection. All images were independently reviewed by both a radiologist and a neurosurgeon.

MRIs studies were categorized into direct and indirect signs of CD. Direct signs consisted of any inhomogeneity found in the pituitary, such as a lesions with diminished enhancement. Indirect signs included pituitary stalk deviation and bulging or erosion of the sellar contour. MRI studies were considered negative (normal) if no direct or indirect signs were identified.

In some cases, small lesions with diameters under 6 mm may be seen on MRI however are not considered indicative of CD due to the high prevalence of incidentalomas in this region. MRIs in which these lesions were present were classified as inconclusive.

Any uncertainty in interpreting the MRIs by any of the reviewers resulted in exclusion of the image from this study.

Pre-operative endocrine examination

All cases were ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome showing clinical features including weight gain, proximal myopathy, and wide base purple striae. Furthermore, all cases demonstrated laboratory abnormalities consistent with CD, including increased 24-hour urinary free cortisol (UFC) excretion, loss of the cortisol circadian rhythm, high basal ACTH level, failure of low-dose dexamethasone to suppress cortisol secretion in addition to serum suppression or 24-hour UFC after high-dose dexamethasone. Additionally, pre- and post-operative levels of anterior pituitary hormone including prolactin, growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free/total Triiodothyronine (T3)/ Thyroxine (T4), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Luteinizing hormone (LH), and free/total testosterone (men) or estradiol (premenopausal women) were measured.

The 15 cases of MRI negative CD were diagnosed and categorized according to their endocrine profile in order to distinguish the ACTH-dependent CD from pseudo-cushing syndrome.

Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS)

All 15 cases of MRI-negative ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome underwent bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS). To confirm that the elevated ACTH secretion originated from the pituitary, BIPSS was simultaneously performed with central/peripheral (C/P) ACTH gradient measurement, utilizing the calculations described by Oldfield et al. [17].

No significant complications occurred in performing the procedures. A petrosal to peripheral ACTH ratio ≥ 2.0 in the basal state, a peak ratio ≥ 3.0 after desmopressin (DDAVP®) administration, or a normalized IPS:P ratio > 0.8 were considered diagnostic of CD. Additionally, tumor lateralization was specified when the interpetrosal gradient ratio of ACTH was ≥1.4 [18].

Endoscopic Endonasal Transsphenoidal surgical approach

All patients underwent surgery by a single neurosurgeon and otolaryngologist (ENT) with extensive experience in pituitary tumor excision via EETS. Exposure to the sellar floor was provided by an ENT surgeon while drilling of the sella was performed by the neurosurgeon. Extensive drilling of the sellar floor laterally up to the carotid artery bilaterally provided a wide view of the medial wall of the cavernous sinus as well as exposure of the anterior and posterior intercavernous sinuses was performed in all cases. The dura was then opened to expose the pituitary gland. Following tumor identification, adenomectomy was performed with selective removal of a rim of normal pituitary tissue. In cases where a tumor was not visualized on initial exposure of the pituitary, the pituitary gland was explored laterally via a horizontal paramedian incision on the IPSS suggesting side. If a tumor was not visualized at this stage, a vertical paramedian incision was then performed. In some cases, a cream-like substance was drained from the pituitary incision. Although this was suspicious of a tumor and tissue biopsy was obtained, it was not considered a definite tumor diagnosis and thus surgical exploration (EXP) was done in the same manner on the other side of the pituitary. In the scenario where no distinct adenoma was found, both sides of the pituitary gland underwent EXP with emphasis on lateralizing sides distinguished by IPSS. However, we did not rely solely on IPSS lateralization, as whole gland EXP was performed in all cases. Although ACTH secreting pituitary adenomas are the most common cause of Cushing syndrome, pituitary adenomas can also be ectopic, forming outside of the sella turcica with no direct connection to the pituitary gland [19]. After EXP of each side of the gland, ipsilateral periglandular inspection with visualization of the medial wall of the cavernous sinus and diaphragm was performed to identify a potential ectopic microadenoma in the periglandular region. Although the exact origin of ectopic ACTH-producing pituitary adenomas is unclear, they likely emerge from remnants of Rathke’s pouch during its development course [20]. As a result, these tumors can be discovered in the nasopharynx, sphenoid sinus, cavernous sinus, clivus, or suprasellar area [21]. Detecting an adenoma at this stage may prevent further unnecessary EXP of pituitary gland. If a visible tumor was still not detected, a vertical medial incision was made on the pituitary gland adjacent to the pituitary stalk and neurohypophysis. If a tumor could not be reliably identified by extensive EXP of the entire pituitary gland or BIPSS failed to localize a pituitary adenoma, we did not progress to performing incomplete or complete hypophysectomy. Figures 1 and 2, respectively, demonstrate the surgical management algorithm and pituitary incisions for MRI-negative CD.

Fig. 1

figure 1

Eight-step MRI negative Cushing’s disease surgical management

Fig. 2

figure 2

Schematic illustration of 8 steps in endoscopic endonasal approach to MRI inconclusive Cushing’s disease (Resembling half Georgia flag)

If an ectopic ACTH-secreting adenoma is not easily found, permanent destructive or ablative surgeries such as bilateral adrenalectomy and hypophysectomy may be required [20]. Despite the danger of Nelson syndrome, bilateral adrenalectomy remains a feasible option in the management of refractory CD [2223].

Histological examination

All intraoperative tissue specimens obtained underwent histological examination by a pathologist. Pituitary specimens were fixed in buffered 10% formalin and embedded in paraffin wax. All specimens were first examined by Hematoxylin and Eosin (H&E) staining to detect regions which had loss of acinar organization. Additionally, reticulin and periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) staining was implemented for a more accurate histopathologic diagnosis. Immunohistochemistry staining was used to identify cytokeratin and anterior pituitary hormones, including ACTH, in the case of a pituitary adenoma not being detected by H&E staining. The presence of ACTH-secreting cells was examined via immunocytochemistry using specific anti-ACTH antibodies.

Post-operative endocrinologic assessment and follow up

Serum cortisol and ACTH levels were monitored for 2–5 days following surgery. Initial follow-up occurred 2 weeks post-operatively with a subsequent visit occurring 3 months postoperatively, during each visit a complete pituitary hormonal evaluation was performed. This evaluation was repeated every 3 months for up to 2 years and every 6 months after that. An initial postoperative pituitary MRI was typically performed within 3 months after surgery. For patients to be considered to be in initial post-operation remission, a basal plasma cortisol level lower than 140 nmol/L (5 μg/dL) or adequate suppression of plasma cortisol (≤56 nmol/L) (≤1.8 μg/dL) following the 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test was necessary during the first month following surgery. Long term remission was defined as a plasma cortisol lower than 84 nmol/L (3 μg/dL) after a 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test at the final visit. Recurrence was defined as a recurring case of hypercortisolism with insufficient suppression of plasma cortisol (> 140 nmol/L) after a 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test. Clinical criteria for remission included significant symptomatic improvement or resolution without additional therapy (radiotherapy, adrenalectomy). Patients achieving remission had to meet both laboratory and clinical criteria to be classified as such. Glucocorticoids were not given postoperatively except when there was laboratory evidence of hypercortisolism and/or clinical manifestations of glucocorticoid insufficiency. Additionally, 4 to 6 weeks post-operatively, thyroid and gonadal axis function was assessed by measuring free T4, TSH, FSH, and LH levels in addition to end-organ hormones (estradiol in women and testosterone in men).

Statistical analysis

SPSS software (version 26, Chicago, IL) was used to analyze the data. For continuous data, we calculated descriptive statistics, mean and standard deviation (SD), and for categorical variables, frequency and percentages were calculated. The chi-square or Fisher’s exact test was used to analyze categorical data, while the student’s t-test or Mann- Whitney U test was used to analyze continuous variables’ means, depending on the distribution’s normality. Statistical significance was defined by a p value of < 0.05.

Results

Demographic and clinical data of 134 patients with CD who underwent EETS are shown in Table 1. Fifteen (11.2%) of the 134 CD patients who underwent EETS were MRI-negative and 119 patients (88.8%) were MRI positive. The female/male ratio in the MRI-negative group was four to one while this ratio in the MRI-positive cohort was 2.6. With regards to sex distribution, Fisher’s exact test found no statistically significant difference between these two groups (P = 0.565). All patients had clinical manifestation of Cushing’s syndrome including obesity, hirsutism, glucose intolerance, and hypertension. As shown in Table 1, pre-operative ACTH level was 134.02 ± 21.78 ng/l and 151.76 ± 44.17 ng/l in MRI-negative and MRI-positive patients, respectively, and no statistically significant difference was observed between these two groups (P = 0.781). As demonstrated in Table 1, UFC was 462.3 ± 43.98 μg/24 h and 478.4 ± 73.02 in MRI-negative and MRI-positive patients, respectively, and no statistically significant difference was observed between these two groups (P = 0.832).

Table 1 Demographic and clinical data

IPSS with DDAVP® administration was performed on the 15 MRI-negative patients to identify the origin of ACTH hypersecretion via the C/P ratio. Seven patients showed right-sided lateralization and five patients showed left-sided lateralization. In remaining three patients, IPSS did not show an ACTH interpetrosal gradient ratio greater than the cutoff point, which was interpreted as an ACTH hypersecretion with central origin. On EXP, adenomas were found in 2 of the 3 patients, with no adenoma being found in the 3rd. The IPSS results were in concordance with our observations during EXPs in 60% of patients. However, in 13% of patients, no adenoma was detected, and in 26% an adenoma was found on the opposite side of the pituitary where pre-operative IPSS results initially reported a tumor or was suggestive of one being present. In 60% of MRI-negative patients, histological examination demonstrated an adrenocorticotropic pituitary adenoma, but in 40% no adenoma was found after pathological examinations. In MRI-positive patients, positive histology was observed in 112 patients (94.1%), while in 7 patients (5.9%) histopathological studies were negative. Fisher’s exact test revealed that the difference between MRI-negative and MRI-positive patients in terms of histopathological result was statistically significant (P = 0.001).

In all four patients who had discordant IPSS results as well as the patients who had negative or inconclusive findings on EXP, tissue samples were obtained from suspicious sites during EXP and were sent for histopathological examination. Histopathology demonstrated adrenocorticotropic adenoma tissues in 3 of them on the opposite side of the IPSS suggested region, while in 1 of them the histological results were inconclusive. This patient (case 10) achieved initial remission, however she experienced recurrence after 25 months, and similarly to her initial presentation, MRI findings were negative and IPSS suggested right sided lateralization. She underwent revision surgery, and a distinct adenoma was detected on the right side, which was confirmed by histological examination, after which she went into remission following selective adenectomy (Table 2).

Table 2 Presents summary of patients’ demographics, IPSS and surgical exploration results

Among the patients with inconclusive MRI, 14 (93%) achieved initial remission, 12 of which (80%) went on to long term remission with a mean follow up of 5.5 years. Two patients (cases 10 and 11) developed recurrence following initial remission; according to the IPSS suggested side, partial hypophysectomy was performed in both cases however neither was able to achieve remission afterwards. One patient (case 13) was unable to achieve initial remission following the initial surgery and thus required continued medical management. With a mean follow-up of 4.8 years among the 119 patients with positive MRI, 113 patients (94.9%) and 102 patients (85.7%) achieved initial and long-term remission, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences between these two groups in terms of either initial (P = 0.767) or long-term remission (P = 0.457). Among the 102 patients who achieved long-term remission, 12 patients (11.7%) experienced disease recurrence. With regards to recurrence rate, there was no statistically significant difference between patients with either positive or negative MRI (P = 0.542).

In two patients (cases 2 and 6) the adenoma was not found during EXP, however tissue samples obtained from the IPSS suggested side demonstrated adrenocorticotropic pituitary adenoma in both patients on histopathological examination.

Diabetes insipidus (DI) was the most frequent complication associated with CD. Transient DI occurred in seven cases with resolution prior to discharge. There was one case of permanent DI diagnosed in follow-up. Additionally, one patient developed symptomatic adrenal insufficiency requiring glucocorticoid replacement. Two patients developed hypothyroidism requiring hormone replacement. Panhypopituitarism was not seen following the initial surgeries however occurred in one case following revision surgery (partial hypophysectomy) which required hormone replacement therapy. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak resulting in meningitis was seen in one patient, however no other complications occurred during the post-operative period. None of our patients demonstrated clinical or endocrinological signs of gonadal insufficiency in follow-up aside from the aforementioned case of panhypopituitarism following revision partial hypophysectomy. In the MRI-positive cohort, 51 patients showed transients DI (42.8%), with 4 of the patients (3.4%) experiencing DI till last follow-up. Partial anterior pituitary insufficiency and complete anterior pituitary insufficiency was observed in one (0.8%) and two (1.6%) patients, respectively. Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH) secretion was observed in 3 patients (2.5%).

Discussion

In this study we present the outcomes of pure endoscopic endonasal surgical treatment of fifteen patients with MRI-negative Cushing’s disease. Due to the arduous nature of treatment in this patient population, we used a precise method of EXP as described above, resulting in initial remission in 93% of patients post-operatively. Based on the work of Bansal et al., patients with a definite adenoma on MRI who underwent microscopic transsphenoidal surgery had a statistically significant greater rate of early remission and lower rates of persistent disease than those with negative/equivocal findings [24]. However, in terms of late remission and recurrence, there was no statistically significant difference between these two groups [24]. Negative/equivocal MRI results and the incidence of macroadenoma, particularly in patients with cavernous sinus invasion, were found to predict poor remission rates [24]. According to some investigations, MRI-negative CD patients had a poorer remission rate [2526]. In other studies, however, there was no statistically significant difference in remission between those who had MRI-negative CD and those who had a MRI-positive CD, which is consistent with our result [1427,28,29,30,31,32]. Recurrence occurred in 2 patients, while 12 patients showed no clinical or endocrinological signs of recurrence during the mean follow-up of 5 years, and one patient did not go to remission. Aside from one CSF leak leading to meningitis and one case of permanent DI, there were no major surgery related complications. Pituitary CD is a common and potentially lethal condition that, if left untreated, can lead to sequelae such as morbid obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Diagnosis and treatment of CD is more challenging than other functional pituitary adenomas. Currently, trans-sphenoidal pituitary EXP is considered the standard of care for CD [33,34,35]. CD is typically diagnosed by endocrinologist through clinical symptoms, and supported by laboratory tests such as the 8 AM blood or saliva cortisol level, 24 hours urinary free cortisol level, low- and high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests, and the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulating test [36,37,38]. When ACTH-dependent CD is diagnosed, or clinical signs and symptoms are highly suggestive of it, MRI imaging of the pituitary is often the next step to identify the causative agent i.e., a pituitary adenoma. With regards to pituitary lesions, MRI is considered the most sensitive imaging modality, however reported sensitivity varies significantly between studies, with reported rates ranging from 22 to 92% [39,40,41].

The rate of MRI-negative microadenomas is reported to be between 36 to 63% [5]. Hofmann et al. reported no identified tumor in 49.3% of 270 MRIs [29]. Yamada et al. reported a lower frequency (17%) of MRI-negative CD in their series [42]. In our series, only 15 out of 134 (11.19%) CD patients were MRI-negative. In general, negative-MRIs could be explained by several factors such as field strength, technique (the correct pulse sequence and parameters), radiologist interpretation errors, or tumor size. Identifying tumors smaller than 3 mm in diameter is difficult in MRIs with 2.5- to 3-mm-thick image sections [29]. Dynamic MRI and 3-TMRI can result in a higher sensitivity in identifying ACTH-secreting microadenomas [6743]. In addition, spoiled gradient-recalled echo sequence (SPGR) view can help to increase sensitivity [44]. The relatively low number of negative-MRIs in our study can be attributed to the more extensive review of MRI images, utilization of high-field strength MRI (1.5 T), as well as the implementation of SPGR dynamic studies with 1.5- to 2.0-mm-thick sections, in addition to standard methods. Additionally, assessment of images by experienced pituitary neuroradiologists may have reduced the negative-MRI rate in our series. Although small tumor size is a likely factor in MRI-negative CD, prior studies have reported examples of MRI-negative microadenomas 4-6 mm in size, typically large enough to be easily identified on EXP [42].

If MRI is unable to identify the tumor definitively, the next best step is venous sampling to confirm CD. There are various indication for BIPSS, including patients who have clinical and laboratory findings of CD but normal or inconclusive MRI results [45], cases that do not have a clear hormone test response, or cases where there are inconsistencies between laboratory and imaging results [46]. BIPSS is also recommended by some as standard for any case of confirmed ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome [4748]. In our institution, BIPSS is reserved for MRI-negative Cushing’s patients. Newell-Price et al. reviewed 21 studies with 569 total patients, and found that BIPSS with CRH stimulation had a 96% sensitivity and 100% specificity in separating CD from pseudo-Cushing’s states [49]. Most studies report a 90–100% sensitivity and specificity for BIPSS [50,51,52]. In the majority of cases of CD, a pituitary microadenoma can be found eccentric to one side of the pituitary, having venous drainage directly into the ipsilateral inferior petrosal sinus (IPS) [53].

This phenomenon is the basis for utilizing BIPSS as a means of lateralizing ACTH secreting pituitary tumors. There are many instances where EXP fails to detect a pituitary adenoma, despite conformation of pituitary origin of ACTH secretion via BIPSS. Evidence of lateralization prior to surgery can convince the surgeon to perform a guided hemi hypophysectomy. In our series, the accuracy of BIPSS for lateralizing adenomas was 60%, similar to the reported accuracy in the literature of approximately 70% [17]. Inaccurate lateralization from BIPSS has been attributed to asymmetrical venous drainage with shunting of blood toward the dominant side. Thus, BIPSS appears to be a superior diagnostic tool compared to other means of lateralization, and neurosurgeons should be wary of making operative decisions solely from BIPSS data [49].

The standard of care for MRI-negative CD is highly disputed. There is evidence suggesting surgical exploration is more problematic than watchful waiting [8], or that it is not indicated in MRI-negative CD [54]. Many advancements have led to the widespread adoption of transsphenoidal approach during the last three decades, especially the endoscope [31]. Regardless of the width or depth of access, the endoscopic approach allows the surgeon to have a large panoramic view. Many cases in the literature have reported successfully treating functional pituitary tumors via endoscopic surgery [273155,56,57,58]. The results suggest that they are on par with, if not superior to, traditional microscopic approaches. When patients were operated on utilizing a microscopic technique assisted by a pre-operative ACTH gradient, the overall rate of partial adenomectomy (partial hypophysectomy) was 30%, including 19% in patients with positive MRIs and 40% in those with negative MRIs [28]. However, endoscopic visualization of pituitary adenomas has allowed for the need for partial adenomectomy to be reduced to less than 2%, limiting the damage to the normal pituitary gland during operation [28]. A recently published meta-analysis demonstrated that although there was no statistically significant differences between EETS and microscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery in the sub-analysis with regards to recurrence rate, remission rate, and persistence rate, the recurrence rate in the microscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery group was almost three times higher than in the EETS group [11]. As a result, EETS appears to be a possible suggested therapeutic method, while more studies are needed to establish the therapeutic method of choice [59].

In general, pituitary surgery is not advisable in cases of MRI-negative CD where IPSS is not able to prove a central origin of ACTH secretion [42]. However, when IPSS demonstrates central ACTH secretion, surgical intervention has been proposed as a first line treatment in MRI-negative CD [25324260]. The outcome of surgical intervention in MRI-negative patients is variable in the literature. Some reports indicated lower remission rate in these patients [4261], while others have concluded that EXP results in greater complications in this population [815]. Additionally, several studies have shown no significant difference in outcomes of pituitary surgery between MRI-negative and MRI-positive patients [142532]. Pivonello et al. found the lack of tumor detection on pre-operative MRI operation to be a negative prognostic factor in surgical management [62]. In the present study, surgery was performed for all MRI-negative Cushing’s patients with positive IPSS results. We achieved 93% initial remission and 80% long term remission rates, comparable to mean remission rates in patients with preoperative identification of tumor, as reported in the literature, ranging from 52.6–100% [62].

Failure to identify an adenoma on EXP or in histologic examination is not uncommon in the surgical management of CD. Intraoperative detection of the adenoma has been shown to be a factor of favorable prognosis [63,64,65]. Similarly, failure to identify an adenoma on histopathology has been found to be a negative prognostic indicator. Specifically, remission rates were significantly lower in cases where no histological tumor identification could be provided [146366]. In our study, two cases revealed no adenoma on EXP, however the tissue samples subsequently obtained from the IPSS suggesting side were consistent with pituitary adenoma on histologic examinations. In six cases, a cream-like substance was identified within the pituitary following incision, however histologic examination failed to demonstrate adrenocorticotropic adenoma in any of them. Nonetheless, 5 of the 6 patients went into remission following surgery, potentially due to the small size of tissue samples obtained which in turn made accurate histopathological assessment more difficult [1467].

In cases where EXP does not result in localization of an adenoma, surgical decision making becomes complicated. Generally, total hypophysectomy is not advisable due to high rates of endocrine complications as well as failing to provide significantly increased remission rates over partial hypophysectomy [6268]. In this scenario, multiple studies have recommended partial hypophysectomy based on IPSS lateralization as the next best step in management [6369]. Carr et al. suggested the advantage of 2/3 gland resection on remission rate in MRI-negative CD [60], but as previously discussed, IPSS may incorrectly lateralize adenomas, and thus surgeons should be hesitant when making decisions regarding tumor lateralization based solely on BIPSS data [1749]. Moreover, both adenomectomy and hypophysectomy are not without risks and potential complications. Surgical aggressiveness is correlated with increased likelihood of pituitary loss-of-function, supported by literature showing that the larger the amount of resection, the higher the rate of hypopituitarism. It has been reported that patients undergoing adenomectomy, hemi-hypophysectomy, and-total hypophysectomy had mean rates of hypopituitarism of 6.6, 20.2, and 80.2%, respectively [637071]. As most CD patients are females of reproductive age, preserving child-bearing capacity is an important consideration, one which results in reluctance to perform hemi-hypophysectomy. In our series, we performed selective adenectomy when distinct adenomas were found, and in the cases where no adenoma was detected, meticulous EXP of pituitary gland bilaterally was performed. Subsequently, if EXP was inconclusive, a vertical median incision was made near the pituitary stalk to explore central part of the gland, which is believed to be the nest for adrenocorticotropic cells. Although an important step in localizing the adenoma, this also likely explains the high rate of postoperative DI in our study. No additional hemi-hypophysectomy was performed during the initial surgery in our study. With this technique, we achieved acceptable results with regards to remission rates, and none of our patients experienced panhypopituitarism in postoperative follow-ups. In one patient where CD recurred 2 years post-operatively, inadequate bony exposure and limited visualization of the medial wall of the right cavernous sinus resulted in failure to identify the adenoma during the initial surgery, further supporting the strategy of creating extensive exposure of the operative field in MRI-negative CD. Another possible reason for recurrence in this patient would be growth of a previously undetected microadenoma.

Conclusion

Surgical treatment of MRI-negative Cushing’s disease is a demanding scenario necessitating multidisciplinary management. An experienced neurosurgeon working in collaboration with an endocrinologist should specify the most likely region of the tumor via IPSS. Additionally, surgical exploration of the pituitary is an invaluable tool in identifying adenomas while reducing the need for aggressive hypophysectomy, thus decreasing the likelihood of complications. Although MRI-negative Cushing’s disease presents significant challenges to neurosurgeons, surgical management remains essential in achieving remission.

Availability of data and materials

The authors confirm that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to all those who have helped us to accomplish and fulfil this project.

Funding

None.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

  1. Department of Neurosurgery, Loghman Hakim Hospital, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

    Guive Sharifi, Amir Arsalan Amin & Seyed Ali Mousavinejad

  2. Skull Base Research Center, Loghman Hakim Hospital, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

    Guive Sharifi, Amir Arsalan Amin, Nader Akbari Dilmaghani & Seyed Ali Mousavinejad

  3. Neurosurgery Research Group (NRG), Student Research Committee, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran

    Mohammadmahdi Sabahi

  4. Department of Neurosurgery, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, USA

    Nikolas B. Echeverry

  5. Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Loghman Hakim Hospital, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

    Nader Akbari Dilmaghani

  6. Obesity Research Center, Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

    Majid Valizadeh

  7. Department of Endocrinology, Loghman Hakim Hospital, Shahid Beheshti Medical University, Tehran, Iran

    Zahra Davoudi

  8. Department of Neurological Surgery, Pauline Braathen Neurological Center, Cleveland Clinic Florida, Weston, Florida, USA

    Badih Adada & Hamid Borghei-Razavi

  9. Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, Director of Minimally Invasive Cranial and Pituitary Surgery Program, Research Director of Neuroscience Institute, Cleveland Clinic Florida Region, 2950 Cleveland Clinic Blvd. Weston, Cleveland, FL, 33331, USA

    Hamid Borghei-Razavi

Contributions

Guive Sharifi, Mohammadmahdi Sabahi and Amirarsalan Amin have given substantial contributions to the conception and the design of the manuscript, Mohammadmahdi Sabahi, Nikolas B. Echeverry, Nader Akbari Dilmaghani, Ali Mousavi Nejad, and Zahra Davoudi to the acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of the data. All authors have participated in drafting the manuscript. Mohammadmahdi Sabahi, Majid Valizadeh, and Badih Adada revised it critically. Hamid Borghei-Razavi supervised this project. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript. All authors contributed equally to the manuscript and read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hamid Borghei-Razavi.

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Ethics approval and consent to participate

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards and approved by the Shahid Beheshti Medical University (SBMU) Ethical Committee and the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Also, informed consent to participate in this study was obtained from participants included in the (or their parent or legal guardian in the case of children under 16).

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Not applicable.

Competing interests

All authors certify that they have no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest (such as honoraria; educational grants; participation in speakers’ bureaus; membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, or other equity interest; and expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements), or non-financial interest (such as personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge or beliefs) in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.

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Sharifi, G., Amin, A.A., Sabahi, M. et al. MRI-negative Cushing’s Disease: Management Strategy and Outcomes in 15 Cases Utilizing a Pure Endoscopic Endonasal Approach. BMC Endocr Disord 22, 154 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12902-022-01069-5

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