Cushing’s Disease—Monthly Injection Is Good Alternative to Surgery

Written by Kathleen Doheny with Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, and Vivien Herman-Bonert, MD

Cushing’s disease, an uncommon but hard to treat endocrine disorder, occurs when a tumor on the pituitary gland, called an adenoma—that is almost always benign—leads to an overproduction of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

Until now, surgery to remove the non-cancerous but problematic tumor has been the only effective treatment. Still, many patients will require medication to help control their serum cortisol levels, and others cannot have surgery or would prefer to avoid it.

Finally, a drug proves effective as added on or alternative to surgery in managing Cushing’s disease. Photo; 123rf

New Drug Offers Alternative to Surgery for Cushing’s Disease

Now, there is good news about long-term positive results achieved with pasireotide (Signifor)—the first medication to demonstrate effectiveness in both normalizing serum cortisol levels and either shrinking or slowing growth of tumors over the long term.1,2  These findings appear in the journal, Clinical Endocrinology, showing that patients followed for 36 months as part of an ongoing study had improved patient outcomes for Cushing’s disease.2

“What we knew before this extension study was—the drug will work in approximately half of the patients with mild Cushing’s disease,” says study author Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, director of the Northwest Pituitary Center and professor of neurological surgery and medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition at the Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Medicine.

“Pasireotide also offers good clinical benefits,” says Dr. Fleseriu who is also the president of the Pituitary Society, “which includes improvements in blood pressure, other signs and symptoms of Cushing’s symptom], and quality of life.”2

What Symptoms Are Helped by Drug for Cushing’s Disease?  

Among the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease that are lessened with treatment are:3

  • Changes in physical appearance such as wide, purple stretch marks on the skin (eg, chest, armpits, abdomen, thighs)
  • Rapid and unexplained weight gain
  • A more full, rounder face
  • Protruding abdomen from fat deposits
  • Increased fat deposits around the neck area

The accumulation of adipose tissue raises the risk of heart disease, which adds to the urgency of effective treatment. In addition, many individuals who have Cushing’s disease also complain of quality of life issues such as fatigue, depression, mood and behavioral problems, as well as poor memory.2

As good as the results appear following the longer term use of pasireotide,2 Dr. Fleseriu admits that in any extension study in which patients are asked to continue on, there are some built-in limitations, which may influence the findings. For example, patients who agree to stay on do so because they are good responders, meaning they feel better, so they’re happy to stick with the study.

“Fortunately, for the patients who have responded to pasireotide initially, this is a drug that can be  continued as there are no new safety signals with longer use,” Dr. Fleseriu tells EndocrineWeb, “and when the response at the start is good, very few patients will lose control of their urinary free cortisol over time. That’s a frequent marker used to monitor patient’s status. For those patients with large tumors, almost half of them had a significant shrinkage, and all the others had a stable tumor size.”

What Are the Reasons to Consider Drug Treatment to Manage Cushing’s Symptoms

The extension study ”was important because we didn’t have any long-term data regarding patient response to this once-a-month treatment to manage Cushing’s disease,” she says.

While selective surgical removal of the tumor is the preferred treatment choice, the success rate in patients varies, and Cushing’s symptoms persist in up to 35% of patients after surgery. In addition, recurrent rates (ie, return of disease) range from 13% to 66% after individuals experience different durations remaining in remission.1

Therefore, the availability of an effective, long-lasting drug will change the course of therapy for many patients with Cushing’s disease going forward. Not only will pasireotide benefit patients who have persistent and recurrent disease after undergoing surgery, but also this medication will be beneficial for those who are not candidates for surgery or just wish to avoid having this procedure, he said.

Examining the Safety and Tolerability of Pasireotide  

This long-acting therapy, pasireotide, which is given by injection, was approved in the US after reviewing results of a 12-month Phase 3 trial.1  In the initial study, participants had a confirmed pituitary cause of the Cushing’s disease. After that, the researchers added the optional 12-month open-label, extension study, and now patients can continue on in a separate long-term safety study.

Those eligible for the 12-month extension had to have mean urinary free cortisol not exceeding the upper limit of normal (166.5 nanomoles per 24 hour) and/or be considered by the investigator to be getting substantial clinical benefit from treatment with long-action pasireotide, and to demonstrate tolerability of pasireotide during the core study.1

Of the 150 in the initial trial, 81 participants, or 54% of the patients, entered the extension study. Of those, 39 completed the next phase, and most also enrolled in another long-term safety study—these results not yet available).2

During the core study, 1 participants were randomly assigned to 10 or 30 mg of the drug every 28 days, with doses based on effectiveness and tolerability. When they entered the extension, patients were given the same dose they received at month.1,2

Study Outcomes Offer Advantages in Cushing’s Disease

Of those who received 36 months of treatment with pasireotide, nearly three in four (72.2%) had controlled levels of urinary free cortisol at this time point.2 Equally good news for this drug was that tumors either shrank or did not grow. Of those individuals who started the trial with a measurable tumor (adenoma) as well as those with an adenoma at the two year mark (35 people), 85.7% of them experienced a reduction of 20% or more or less than a 20% change in tumor volume. No  macroadenomas present at the start of the study showed a change of more than 20% at either month 24 or 36.2

Improvements in blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference continued throughout the extension study.1  Those factors influence CVD risk, the leading cause of death in those with Cushing’s.4

As for adverse events, most of the study participants, 91.4%, did report one or more complaint during the extension study—most commonly, it was high blood sugar, which was reported by nearly 40% of participants.2. This is not surprising when you consider that most (81.5%) of the individuals participating in the extension trial entered with a diagnosis of diabetes or use of antidiabetic medication, and even more of them (88.9%) had diabetes at the last evaluation.1  

This complication indicates the need for people with Cushing’s disease to check their blood glucose, as appropriate.

Do You Have Cushing’s Disese [sic]? Here’s What You Need to Know 

Women typically develop Cushing’s disease more often than men.

What else should you be aware of if you and your doctor decide this medication will help you? Monitoring is crucial, says Dr. Fleseriu, as you will need to have your cortisol levels checked, and you should be on alert for any diabetes signals, which will require close monitoring and regular follow-up for disease management.

Another understanding gained from the results of this drug study: “This medication works on the tumor level,” she says. “If the patient has a macroadenoma (large tumor), this would be the preferred treatment.” However, it should be used with caution in those with diabetes given the increased risk of experiencing high blood sugar.

The researchers conclude that “the long-term safety profile of pasireotide was very favorable and consistent with that reported during the first 12 months of treatment. These data support the use of long-acting pasireotide as an effective long-term treatment option for some patients with Cushing’s Disease.”1

Understanding Benefits of New Drug to Treat Cushing’s Diseease [sic]

Vivien S. Herman-Bonert, MD, an endocrinologist and clinical director of the Pituitary Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, agreed to discuss the study findings, after agreeing to review the research for EndocrineWeb.

As to who might benefit most from monthly pasireotide injections? Dr. Herman-Bonert says, “any patient with Cushing’s disease that requires long-term medical therapy, which includes patients with persistent or recurrent disease after surgery.” Certainly, anyone who has had poor response to any other medical therapies for Cushing’s disease either because they didn’t work well enough or because the side effects were too much, will likely benefit a well, she adds.

Among the pluses that came out of the study, she says, is that nearly half of the patients had controlled average urinary free cortisol levels after two full years, and 72% of the participants who continued on with the drug for 36 months were able to remain in good urinary cortisol control .1

As the authors stated, tumor shrinkage was another clear benefit of taking long-term pasireotide. That makes the drug a potentially good choice for those even with large tumors or with progressive tumor growth, she says. It’s always good for anyone with Cushing’s disease to have an alterative [sic] to surgery, or a back-up option when surgery isn’t quite enough, says Dr. Herman-Bonert.

The best news for patients is that quality of life scores improved,she adds.

Dr Herman-Bonert did add a note of caution: Although the treatment in this study is described as ”long-term, patients will need to be on this for far longer than 2 to 3 years,” she says. So, the data reported in this study may or may not persist, and we don’t yet know what the impact will be 10 or 25 years out.

Also, the issue of hyperglycemia-related adverse events raises a concern, given the vast majority (81%) of patients who have both Cushing’s disease and diabetes. Most of those taking this drug had a dual diagnosis—having diabetes, a history of diabetes, or taking antidiabetic medicine.

If you are under care for diabetes and you require treatment for Cushing’s disease, you must be ver mindful that taking pasireotide will likely lead to high blood sugar spikes, so you should plan to address this with your healthcare provider.

 

Dr. Fleseriu reports research support paid to Oregon Health & Science University from Novartis and other 0companies and consultancy fees from Novartis and Strongbridge Biopharma. Dr. Herman-Bonert has no relevant disclosures.

The study was underwritten by Novartis Pharma AG, the drug maker. 

From https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/pituitary-disorders/62449-cushings-disease-monthly-injection-good-alternative-surgery

Cortisol Levels Predict Remission in Cushing’s Patients Undergoing Transsphenoidal Surgery

In patients with Cushing’s disease, removing the pituitary tumor via an endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) leads to better remission rates than microscopic TSS, according to new research.

But regardless of surgical approach, plasma cortisol levels one day after surgery are predictive of remission, researchers found.

The study, “Management of Cushing’s disease: Changing trend from microscopic to endoscopic surgery,” was published in the journal World Neurosurgery.

Because it improves visualization and accessibility, endoscopic TSS has been gaining popularity over microscopic TSS to remove pituitary tumors in Cushing’s disease patients. Yet, although this surgery has been associated with high remission rates, whether it outperforms microscopic surgery and determining the factors affecting long-term outcomes may further ease disease recurrence after TSS.

A team with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences addressed this topic in 104 patients who underwent surgery from January 2009 to June 2017. Among these patients, 47 underwent microscopic surgery and 55 endoscopic surgery. At presentation, their ages ranged from 9 to 55 (mean age of 28). Also, patients had been experiencing Cushing’s symptoms over a mean duration of 24 months.

Eighty-seven patients showed weight gain. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes mellitus were among the most common co-morbidities, found in 76 and 33 patients, respectively. Nineteen patients had osteoporosis and 12 osteopenia, which refers to lower-than-normal bone mineral density.

As assessed with magnetic resonance imaging, 68 patients had a microadenoma (a tumor diameter smaller than one centimeter) and 27 had a macroadenoma (a tumor one centimeter or larger). Only two patients had an invasive pituitary adenoma.

Two patients with larger tumors were operated on transcranially (through the skull). The surgery resulted in total tumor removal in 90 cases (86.5%). A blood loss greater than 100 milliliter was more common with endoscopic than with microscopic TSS.

Ten patients developed transient diabetes inspidus, two experienced seizures after surgery, and six of nine patients with macroadenoma and visual deterioration experienced vision improvements after TSS.

The incidence of intraoperative leak of cerebrospinal fluid — the liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord — was 23.2%, while that of post-operative leak was 7.7% and was more common in microadenoma than macroadenoma surgery (9.8% vs. 5.0%).

Seventeen patients were lost to follow-up and two died due to metabolic complications and infections. The average follow-up was shorter for endoscopic than with microscopic surgery (18 months vs. 35 months).

Among the remaining 85 cases, 65 (76.5%) experienced remission, as defined by a morning cortisol level under 5.0 μg/dL, restored circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock, typically impaired in Cushing’s patients), and suppression of serum cortisol to below 2 μg/dl after overnight dexamethasone suppression test.

The remission rate was 54.5% in pediatric patients and was higher with endoscopic than with microscopic TSS (88.2% vs. 56.6%). Also, patients with microadenoma showed a trend toward more frequent remission than those with macroadenoma (73.2% vs. 64.3%).

Ten of the remaining 20 patients experienced disease recurrence up to 28 months after surgery. Sixteen cases revealed signs of hypopituitarism, or pituitary insufficiency, which were managed with replacement therapy.

A subsequent analysis found that morning cortisol level on day one after surgery was the only significant predictor of remission. Specifically, a one-unit increase in cortisol lowered the likelihood of remission by 7%. A cortisol level lower than 10.7 μgm/dl was calculated as predicting remission.

Overall, the study showed that “postoperative plasma cortisol level is a strong independent predictor of remission,” the researchers wrote, and that “remission provided by endoscopy is significantly better than microscopic approach.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/09/24/cortisol-levels-predict-remission-cushings-patients-undergoing-transsphenoidal-surgery/

Long-acting pasireotide provides ‘sustained biochemical improvements’ in Cushing’s disease

For patients with persistent or recurring Cushing’s disease, monthly pasireotide therapy was safe and effective, leading to normal urinary free cortisol levels in 47% of patients after 2 years, according to findings published in Clinical Endocrinology.

Maria Fleseriu headshot 2019

Maria Fleseriu

“The management of Cushing’s syndrome, and particularly Cushing’s disease, remains challenging,” Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of neurological surgery and professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University and director of the OHSU Northwest Pituitary Center, told Endocrine Today. “Long-acting pasireotide provided sustained biochemical improvements and clinical benefit in a significant proportion of patients with Cushing’s disease who elected to continue in this extension study. There were many adverse events reported overall, but no new safety signals emerging over long-term treatment.”

In the last decade, medical treatment for Cushing’s disease has progressed from a few steroidogenesis inhibitors to three novel drug groups: new inhibitors for steroidogenic enzymes with possibly fewer adverse effects, pituitary-directed drugs that aim to inhibit the pathophysiological pathways of Cushing’s disease, and glucocorticoid receptor antagonists that block cortisol’s action, Fleseriu, who is also an Endocrine Today Editorial Board member, said.

In an open-label extension study, Fleseriu and colleagues analyzed data from 81 adults with confirmed Cushing’s disease with mean urinary free cortisol not exceeding the upper limit of normal, who transitioned from a 12-month, randomized controlled trial where they were assigned 10 mg or 30 mg once-monthly intramuscular pasireotide (Signifor LAR, Novartis). During the main study, researchers recruited participants with mean urinary free cortisol level concentration 1.5 to five times the upper limit of normal, normal or greater than normal plasma and confirmed pituitary source of Cushing’s disease. Participants who elected to continue in the extension were considered biochemical responders or benefited from the study drug per the clinical investigator, Fleseriu said.

“As in all extension studies, the bias is inherent that patients deemed responders tend to continue, but for any type of treatment for pituitary tumors, and particularly Cushing’s disease, long-term, robust data on efficacy and safety parameters is essential,” Fleseriu said.

Median overall exposure to pasireotide at the end of the extension study was 23.9 months, with nearly half of patients receiving at least 1 year of treatment during the extension phase. Researchers found that improvements in clinical signs of hypercortisolism were sustained throughout the study and median urinary free cortisol remained within normal range. Overall, 38 participants (47%) had controlled urinary free cortisol at month 24 (after 12 months of treatment during the extension phase), with researchers noting that the proportion of participants with controlled or partially controlled urinary free cortisol was stable throughout the extension phase.

“Interestingly, the median salivary cortisol level decreased but remained above normal (1.3 times upper limit of normal) at 3 years,” Fleseriu said.

As seen in other pasireotide studies, and expected based on the mechanism of action, researchers observed hyperglycemia-related adverse events in 39.5% of participants, with diabetes medications initiated or escalated in some patients, Fleseriu said. However, mean fasting glucose and HbA1c were stable during the extension phase, after increasing in the main study. Within the cohort, 81.5% had type 2 diabetes at baseline (entering extension phase) and 88.9% patients had type 2 diabetes at last assessment.

“Pasireotide acts at the tumor level, and tumor shrinkage is seen in many patients,” Fleseriu said. “In this study, 42% and 32.1% had a measurable microadenoma or macroadenoma, respectively, on MRI at the start of pasireotide treatment; an adenoma was not visible in almost a quarter of patients at 2 years.”

Among patients with a measurable adenoma at baseline and at month 24 (n = 35), 85.7% experienced a reduction of at least 20% or a 20% change in tumor volume between the two time points. Improvements in median systolic and diastolic blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference were sustained during the extension, Fleseriu said.

“The long-term safety profile of pasireotide was favorable and consistent with that reported during the first 12 months of treatment,” the researchers wrote. “These data support the use of long-acting pasireotide as an effective long-term treatment option for some patients with [Cushing’s disease].”

Fleseriu said individualized treatment selecting patients who will derive benefit from therapy will be crucial, balancing both efficacy and the potential risks and costs. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: Fleseriu reports she has received consultant fees and her institution has received research support from Novo Nordisk and Pfizer. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B5da4611f-34b2-4306-80b8-46babd2aad4a%7D/long-acting-pasireotide-provides-sustained-biochemical-improvements-in-cushings-disease?page=2

Corcept Therapeutics Announces Allowance of Additional Patent Covering the Use of Korlym to Treat Patients With Cushing’s Syndrome

MENLO PARK, Calif., Aug. 28, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated (NASDAQ: CORT) announced today that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a Notice of Allowance for a patent covering the administration of Korlym® with food.  The patent will expire in November 2032.

“This patent covers an important finding of our research – that for optimal effect, Korlym must be taken with food,” said Joseph K. Belanoff, MD, Corcept’s Chief Executive Officer. “Korlym’s label instructs doctors that ‘Korlym must always be taken with a meal.’”

Upon issuance, Corcept plans to list the patent, entitled “Optimizing Mifepristone Absorption” (U.S. Pat. App. 13/677,465), in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations (the “Orange Book”).  Korlym is currently protected by ten patents listed in the Orange Book.

Hypercortisolism

Hypercortisolism, often referred to as Cushing’s syndrome, is caused by excessive activity of the hormone cortisol. Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is an orphan disease that most often affects adults aged 20-50. In the United States, an estimated 20,000 patients have Cushing’s syndrome, with about 3,000 new patients diagnosed each year. Symptoms vary, but most people with Cushing’s syndrome experience one or more of the following manifestations: high blood sugar, diabetes, high blood pressure, upper-body obesity, rounded face, increased fat around the neck, thinning arms and legs, severe fatigue and weak muscles. Irritability, anxiety, cognitive disturbances and depression are also common. Hypercortisolism can affect every organ system in the body and can be lethal if not treated effectively.

About Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated

Corcept is a commercial-stage company engaged in the discovery and development of drugs that treat severe metabolic, oncologic and psychiatric disorders by modulating the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.  Korlym® (mifepristone) was the first treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for patients with Cushing’s syndrome.  Corcept has discovered a large portfolio of proprietary compounds, including relacorilant, exicorilant and miricorilant, that selectively modulate the effects of cortisol but not progesterone. Corcept owns extensive United States and foreign intellectual property covering the composition of its selective cortisol modulators and the use of cortisol modulators, including mifepristone, to treat a variety of serious disorders.

Forward-Looking Statements

Statements in this press release, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements, which are based on Corcept’s current plans and expectations and are subject to risks and uncertainties that might cause actual results to differ materially from those such statements express or imply. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, Corcept’s ability to generate sufficient revenue to fund its commercial operations and development programs; the availability of competing treatments, including generic versions of Korlym; Corcept’s ability to obtain acceptable prices or adequate insurance coverage and reimbursement for Korlym; and risks related to the development of Corcept’s product candidates, including regulatory approvals, mandates, oversight and other requirements. These and other risks are set forth in Corcept’s SEC filings, which are available at Corcept’s website and the SEC’s website. In this press release, forward-looking statements include those concerning Corcept’s plans to list the patent “Optimizing Mifepristone Absorption” in the Orange Book; Korlym’s current protection by ten patents listed in the Orange Book; and the scope and protective power of Corcept’s intellectual property. Corcept disclaims any intention or duty to update forward-looking statements made in this press release.

CONTACT:
Christopher S. James, MD
Director, Investor Relations
Corcept Therapeutics
650-684-8725
cjames@corcept.com
www.corcept.com

ACTH Levels After Surgery Help Predict Remission, Recurrence in Cushing’s

Levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in circulation after pituitary surgery may help predict which Cushing’s disease patients will achieve early remission and which will eventually see the disease return, a study shows.

Also, the earlier that patients reached their lowest peak of ACTH levels, the better their long-term outcomes.

The study, “Prognostic usefulness of ACTH in the postoperative period of Cushing’s disease,” was published in the journal Endocrine Connections.

Removing the pituitary tumor through a minimally invasive surgery called transsphenoidal surgery is still the treatment of choice for Cushing’s disease patients. But not all patients enter remission, and even among those who do, a small proportion will experience disease recurrence.

While cortisol levels have been suggested as a main predictor of remission and recurrence, there is no consensus as to which cutoff point should be used after surgery, or the best time for measuring this hormone.

Because Cushing’s disease is caused by an ACTH-producing tumor in the pituitary gland, and ACTH has a short half-life (approximately 10 minutes), it is expected that ACTH levels drop markedly within a few hours after surgery.

Thus, a group of researchers in Spain aimed to determine whether blood levels of ACTH could be useful for predicting remission of Cushing’s disease both immediately after surgery (defined as less than 72 hours) and in the long term.

Researchers analyzed 65 patients with Cushing’s disease who had undergone transsphenoidal surgery (seven required a second intervention) between 2005 and 2016. Remission within three months was seen in 56 of 65 cases; late disease recurrence was seen in 18 of 58 cases.

Investigators measured the ACTH nadir concentration (defined as the lowest concentration) and the time taken to reach nadir levels after surgery, as well as the plasma ACTH concentration before hospital discharge.

While ACTH levels had no predictive value, the team found that people who went into remission had significantly lower ACTH nadir levels and ACTH levels at discharge. On the other hand, levels of ACHT nadir and at discharge were significantly higher for people who experienced a relapse, compared to those who remained in remission.

Using artificial intelligence algorithms, the researchers further found that ACTH nadir, ACTH at discharge, and cortisol nadir values were all of great relevance to predict remission within three months.

Analysis indicated that using a cutoff point of 3.3 pmol/L of ACTH after surgery and before discharge gave the best sensitivity and specificity for predicting a patient’s prognosis.

Researchers further found that the time patients took to reach their ACTH nadir, regardless of nadir levels, also influenced their outcomes. In fact, patients reaching this nadir in less than than 46 hours more likely achieved early remission.

And taking longer than 39 hours to reach the ACTH nadir was significantly more frequent in patients who experienced recurrence. This indicates that the time to ACTH nadir is an important measure for prognosis.

“In the immediate postoperative period of patients with [Cushing’s disease], the ACTH concentration is of prognostic utility in relation to late disease remission,” the researchers said.

Overall, “we propose an ACTH value <3.3 pmol/L as a good long-term prognostic marker in the postoperative period of CD. Reaching the ACTH nadir in less time is associated to a lesser recurrence rate,” the study concluded.

Patricia holds her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She also served as a PhD student research assistant in the Laboratory of Doctor David A. Fidock, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.
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