Metoclopramide Can Mask Adrenal Insufficiency After Gland Removal in BMAH Patients

Metoclopramide, a gastrointestinal medicine, can increase cortisol levels after unilateral adrenalectomy — the surgical removal of one adrenal gland — and conceal adrenal insufficiency in bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (BMAH) patients, a case report suggests.

The study, “Retention of aberrant cortisol secretion in a patient with bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia after unilateral adrenalectomy,” was published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

BMAH is a subtype of adrenal Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by the formation of nodules and enlargement of both adrenal glands.

In this condition, the production of cortisol does not depend on adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation, as usually is the case. Instead, cortisol production is triggered by a variety of stimuli, such as maintaining an upright posture, eating mixed meals — those that contain fats, proteins, and carbohydrates — or exposure to certain substances.

A possible treatment for this condition is unilateral adrenalectomy. However, after the procedure, some patients cannot produce adequate amounts of cortisol. That makes it important for clinicians to closely monitor the changes in cortisol levels after surgery.

Metoclopramide, a medicine that alleviates gastrointestinal symptoms and is often used during the postoperative period, has been reported to increase the cortisol levels of BMAH patients. However, the effects of metoclopramide on BMAH patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy are not clear.

Researchers in Japan described the case of a 61-year-old postmenopausal woman whose levels of cortisol remained high after surgery due to metoclopramide ingestion.

The patient was first examined because she had experienced high blood pressure, abnormal lipid levels in the blood, and osteoporosis for ten years. She also was pre-obese.

She was given medication to control blood pressure with no results. The lab tests showed high serum cortisol and undetectable levels of ACTH, suggesting adrenal Cushing’s syndrome.

Patients who have increased cortisol levels, but low levels of ACTH, often have poor communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenal glands. These three glands — together known as the HPA axis — control the levels of cortisol in healthy people.

Imaging of the adrenal glands revealed they were both enlarged and presented nodules. The patient’s cortisol levels peaked after taking metoclopramide, and her serum cortisol varied significantly during the day while ACTH remained undetectable. These results led to the BMAH diagnosis.

The doctors performed unilateral adrenalectomy to control cortisol levels. The surgery was successful, and the doctors reduced the dose of glucocorticoid replacement therapy on day 6.

Eight days after the surgery, however, the patient showed decreased levels of fasting serum cortisol, which indicated adrenal insufficiency — when the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough cortisol.

The doctors noticed that metoclopramide was causing an increase in serum cortisol levels, which made them appear normal and masked the adrenal insufficiency.

They stopped metoclopramide treatment and started replacement therapy (hydrocortisone) to control the adrenal insufficiency. The patient was discharged 10 days after the surgery.

The serum cortisol levels were monitored on days 72 and 109 after surgery, and they remained lower than average. Therefore she could not stop hydrocortisone treatment.

The levels of ACTH remained undetectable, suggesting that the communication between the HPA axis had not been restored.

“Habitual use of metoclopramide might suppress the hypothalamus and pituitary via negative feedback due to cortisol excess, and lead to a delayed recovery of the HPA axis,” the researchers said.

Meanwhile, the patient’s weight decreased, and high blood pressure was controlled.

“Detailed surveillance of aberrant cortisol secretion responses on a challenge with exogenous stimuli […] is clinically important in BMAH patients,” the study concluded. “Caution is thus required for assessing the actual status of the HPA axis.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/05/07/metoclopramide-conceals-adrenal-insufficiency-after-gland-removal-bmah-patients-case-report/

New discoveries offer possible Cushing’s disease cure

LOS ANGELES — More than a century has passed since the neurosurgeon and pathologist Harvey Cushing first discovered the disease that would eventually bear his name, but only recently have several key discoveries offered patients with the condition real hope for a cure, according to a speaker here.

There are several challenges clinicians confront in the diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s disease, Shlomo Melmed, MB, ChB, FRCP, MACP, dean, executive vice president and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said during a plenary presentation. Patients who present with Cushing’s disease typically have depression, impaired mental function and hypertension and are at high risk for stroke, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, dyslipidemia and other metabolic disorders, Melmed said. Available therapies, which range from surgery and radiation to the somatostatin analogue pasireotide (Signifor LAR, Novartis), are often followed by disease recurrence. Cushing’s disease is fatal without treatment; the median survival if uncontrolled is about 4.5 years, Melmed said.

“This truly is a metabolic, malignant disorder,” Melmed said. “The life expectancy today in patients who are not controlled is apparently no different from 1930.”

The outlook for Cushing’s disease is now beginning to change, Melmed said. New targets are emerging for treatment, and newly discovered molecules show promise in reducing the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and pituitary tumor size.

“Now, we are seeing the glimmers of opportunity and optimism, that we can identify specific tumor drivers — SST5, [epidermal growth factor] receptor, cyclin inhibitors — and we can start thinking about personalized, precision treatment for these patients with a higher degree of efficacy and optimism than we could have even a year or 2 ago,” Melmed said. “This will be an opportunity for us to broaden the horizons of our investigations into this debilitating disorder.”

Challenges in diagnosis, treatment

Overall, about 10% of the U.S. population harbors a pituitary adenoma, the most common type of pituitary disorder, although the average size is only about 6 mm and 40% of them are not visible, Melmed said. In patients with Cushing’s disease, surgery is effective in only about 60% to 70% of patients for initial remission, and overall, there is about a 60% chance of recurrence depending on the surgery center, Melmed said. Radiation typically leads to hypopituitarism, whereas surgical or biochemical adrenalectomy is associated with adverse effects and morbidity. Additionally, the clinical features of hypercortisolemia overlap with many common illnesses, such as obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

“There are thousands of those patients for every patient with Cushing’s disease who we will encounter,” Melmed said.

The challenge for the treating clinician, Melmed said, is to normalize cortisol and ACTH with minimal morbidity, to resect the tumor mass or control tumor growth, preserve pituitary function, improve quality of life and achieve long-term control without recurrence.

“This is a difficult challenge to meet for all of us,” Melmed said.

Available options

Pituitary surgery is typically the first-line option offered to patients with Cushing’s disease, Melmed said, and there are several advantages, including rapid initial remission, a one-time cost and potentially curing the disease. However, there are several disadvantages with surgery; patients undergoing surgery are at risk for postoperative venous thromboembolism, persistent hypersecretion of ACTH, adenoma persistence or recurrence, and surgical complications.

Second-line options are repeat surgery, radiation, adrenalectomy or medical therapy, each with its own sets of pros and cons, Melmed said.

“The reality of Cushing’s disease — these patients undergo first surgery and then recur, second surgery and then recur, then maybe radiation and then recur, and then they develop a chronic illness, and this chronic illness is what leads to their demise,” Melmed said. “Medical therapy is appropriate at every step of the spectrum.”

Zebrafish clues

Searching for new options, Melmed and colleagues introduced a pituitary tumor transforming gene discovered in his lab into zebrafish, which caused the fish to develop the hallmark features of Cushing’s disease: high cortisol levels, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the fish models, researchers observed that cyclin E activity, which drives the production of ACTH, was high.

Melmed and colleagues then screened zebrafish larvae in a search for cyclin E inhibitors to derive a therapeutic molecule and discovered R-roscovitine, shown to repress the expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC), the pituitary precursor of ACTH.

In fish, mouse and in vitro human cell models, treatment with R-roscovitine was associated with suppressed corticotroph tumor signaling and blocked ACTH production, Melmed said.

“Furthermore, we asked whether or not roscovitine would actually block transcription of the POMC gene,” Melmed said. “It does. We had this molecule (that) suppressed cyclin E and also blocks transcription of POMC leading to blocked production of ACTH.”

In a small, open-label, proof-of-principal study, four patients with Cushing’s disease who received roscovitine for 4 weeks developed normalized urinary free cortisol, Melmed said.

Currently, the FDA Office of Orphan Products Development is funding a multicenter, phase 2, open-label clinical trial that will evaluate the safety and efficacy of two of three potential doses of oral roscovitine (seliciclib) in patients with newly diagnosed, persistent or recurrent Cushing disease. Up to 29 participants will be treated with up to 800 mg per day of oral seliciclib for 4 days each week for 4 weeks and enrolled in sequential cohorts based on efficacy outcomes.

“Given the rarity of the disorder, it will probably take us 2 to 3 years to recruit patients to give us a robust answer,” Melmed said. “This zebrafish model was published in 2011, and we are now in 2019. It has taken us 8 years from publication of the data to, today, going into humans with Cushing’s. Hopefully, this will light the pathway for a phase 2 trial.”

 Offering optimism’

Practitioners face a unique paradigm when treating patients with Cushing’s disease, Melmed said. Available first- and second-line therapy options often are not a cure for many patients, who develop multimorbidity and report a low quality of life.

“Then, we are kept in this difficult cycle of what to do next and, eventually, running out of options,” Melmed said. “Now, we can look at novel, targeted molecules and add those to our armamentarium and at least offer our patients the opportunity to participate in trials, or at least offer the optimism that, over the coming years, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel for their disorder.”

Melmed compared the work to Lucas Cranach’s Fons Juventutis (The Fountain of Youth). The painting, completed in 1446, shows sick people brought by horse-drawn ambulance to a pool of water, only to emerge happy and healthy.

“He was imagining this ‘elixir of youth’ (that) we could offer patients who are very ill and, in fact, that is what we as endocrinologists do,” Melmed said. “We offer our patients these elixirs. These Cushing’s patients are extremely ill. We are trying with all of our molecular work and our understanding of pathogenesis and signaling to create this pool of water for them, where they can emerge with at least an improved quality of life and, hopefully, a normalized mortality. That is our challenge.” – by Regina Schaffer

Reference:

Melmed S. From zebrafish to humans: translating discoveries for the treatment of Cushing’s disease. Presented at: AACE Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress; April 24-28, 2019; Los Angeles.

Disclosure: Melmed reports no relevant financial disclosures.

 

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B585002ad-640f-49e5-8d62-d1853154d7e2%7D/new-discoveries-offer-possible-cushings-disease-cure

Osilodrostat Continues to Show Promise for Cushing’s Disease

NEW ORLEANS — The investigational drug osilodrostat (Novartis) continues to show promise for treating Cushing’s disease, now with new phase 3 trial data.

The data from the phase 3, multicenter, double-blind randomized withdrawal study (LINC-3) of osilodrostat in 137 patients with Cushing’s disease were presented here at ENDO 2019: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting by Beverly M.K. Biller, MD, of the Neuroendocrine & Pituitary Tumor Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

“Osilodrostat was effective and shows promise for the treatment of patients with Cushing’s disease,” Biller said.

Osilodrostat is an oral 11β-hydroxylase inhibitor, the enzyme that catalyzes the last step of cortisol biosynthesis in the adrenal cortex. Its mechanism of action is similar to that of the older Cushing’s drug metyrapone, but osilodrostat has a longer plasma half-life and is more potent against 11β-hydroxylase.

Significantly more patients randomized to osilodrostat maintained a mean urinary free cortisol (mUFC) response versus placebo at 34 weeks following a 24-week open-label period plus 8-week randomized phase, with rapid and sustained mUFC reduction in most patients.

Patients also experienced improvements in clinical signs of hypercortisolism and quality of life. The drug was generally well-tolerated and had no unexpected side effects.

Asked to comment, session comoderator Julia Kharlip, MD, associate medical director of the Pituitary Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, told Medscape Medical News, “This drug is incredibly exciting because over 80% of people were controlled fairly rapidly. People could get symptom relief but also a reliable response. You don’t have to wonder when you’re treating a severely affected patient if it’s going to work. It’s likely going to work.”

However, Kharlip cautioned that it remains to be seen whether osilodrostat continues to work long-term, given that the older drug metyrapone — which must be given four times a day versus twice daily for osilodrostat — is known to become ineffective over time because the pituitary tumor eventually overrides the enzyme blockade.

“Based on how osilodrostat is so much more effective at smaller doses, there’s more hope that it will be effective long term…If the effectiveness and safety profile that we’re observing now continues to show the same performance years in a row, then we’ve got our drug.”

Osilodrostat Potentially Addresses an Unmet Medical Need

Cushing’s disease is a rare disorder of chronic hypercortisolism with significant burden, increased mortality, and decreased quality of life. Pituitary surgery is the recommended first-line treatment for most patients, but not all patients remit with surgery and some require additional treatment.

Pasireotide (Signifor, Novartis), an orphan drug approved in the United States and Europe for the treatment of Cushing’s disease in patients who fail or are ineligible for surgical therapy, is also only effective in a minority of patients.

“There hasn’t been a medicine effective for long-term treatment, so a lot of patients end up getting bilateral adrenalectomy, thereby exchanging one chronic medical disease for another,” Kharlip explained.

Biller commented during the question-and-answer period, “I think because not all patients are placed in remission with surgery initially and because other patients subsequently recur — a problem that is more common than we used to believe — we do need medical therapies.”

She continued, “I think it’s important to have a large choice of medical therapies that work in different places in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

“Even though surgery is the right initial therapy for everyone, I think in terms of subsequent medical therapy we have to tailor that to the individual circumstances of the patient in terms of the goals of treatment, and perhaps what other medicines they’re on, the degree of cortisol excess [and other factors].”

Highly Significant Normalization in Mean UFC Versus Placebo

In a prior 22-week phase 2 study (LINC-2), osilodrostat normalized mUFC in most patients. Results of the extension phase were reported by Medscape Medical News 2 years ago.

The current phase 3 study, LINC-3, was conducted on the basis of that proof-of-concept study, Biller said.

The trial was conducted in 19 countries across four continents in patients with persistent or recurrent Cushing’s disease screened for mUFC > 1.5 times the upper limit of normal and other entry criteria. In total, 137 patients were enrolled and randomized.

Participants were a median age of 40 years, 77% were female, and 88% had undergone prior pituitary surgery. Nearly all (96%) had received at least one previous treatment for Cushing’s.

At baseline, patients’ mean mUFC (364 µg/24 hours) was 7.3 times the upper limit of normal, which is “quite significant hypercortisolemia,” Biller noted.

All patients initially received osilodrostat, with a rapid dose uptitration every 2 weeks from 2 to 30 mg orally twice daily until they achieved a normal UFC.

They continued on open-label medication until week 24, when urine samples were collected. Patients who had an mUFC less than the upper limit of normal and had not had a dose increase in the prior 12 weeks were eligible for the double-blind phase. Those who were ineligible continued taking open-label drug.

The 70 eligible patients were randomized to continue taking osilodrostat (n = 36) or were switched to placebo (n = 34) for another 8 weeks. After that, the patients taking placebo were switched back to osilodrostat until week 48. A total of 113 patients completed the 48 weeks.

The primary efficacy endpoint was mUFC at 34 weeks (the end of the 8-week randomized phase).

For those randomized to continue on the drug, mUFC remained in the normal range in 86.1% of patients versus just 29.4% of those who had been switched to placebo for the 8 weeks. The difference was highly significant (odds ratio, 13.7; P < .001), Biller reported.

A key secondary endpoint, proportion of patients with an mUFC at or below the ULN at 24 weeks without up-titration after week 12, was achieved in 53%.

The mean dose at 48 weeks was 11.0 mg/day, “a fairly low dose,” she noted.

Clinical features were also improved at week 48, including systolic and diastolic blood pressure (percentage change –6.8 and –6.6, respectively), weight (–4.6), waist circumference (–4.2), fasting plasma glucose (–7.1), and HbA1c (–5.4).

Scores on the Cushing Quality of Life scale improved by 52.4 points, and Beck Depression Inventory scores dropped by 31.8 points.

Most Adverse Events Temporary, Manageable

The most commonly reported adverse events were nausea (41.6%), headache (33.6%), fatigue (28.5%), and adrenal insufficiency (27.7%), and 10.9% of patients overall discontinued because of an adverse event.

Adverse events related to hypocortisolism occurred in 51.1% of patients overall, with 10.2% being grade 3 or 4.  However, most of these were single episodes of mild-to-moderate intensity and mainly occurred during the initial 12-week titration period. Most patients responded to dose reduction or glucocorticoid supplementation.

Adverse events related to accumulation of adrenal hormone precursors occurred in 42.3% of patients overall, with the most common being hypokalemia (13.1%) and hypertension (12.4%).

No male patients had signs or symptoms related to increased androgens or estrogens. However, 12 female patients experienced hirsutism, most of those patients also had acne, and one had hypertrichosis. None discontinued because of those symptoms.

Kharlip commented, “What’s really inspiring was that even though half of the patients had symptoms related to adrenal insufficiency, it sounded as if they were quickly resolved with treatment and none discontinued because of it.”

“And it may have been related to study design where the medication was titrated very rapidly. There is probably a way to do this more gently and get the good results without the side effects.”

Kharlip also praised the international consortium that devised the protocol and collaborated in the research effort.

“It’s incredibly exciting and gratifying to see the world come together to get these data. It’s such a rare disease. To be able to have something like that in the field is a dream, to have a working consortium. The protocol was effective in demonstrating efficacy. It’s just a win on so many levels for a disease that currently doesn’t have a good therapy…I struggle with these patients all the time so I’m thrilled that there is hope.”

An ongoing confirmatory phase 3 study, LINC-4, is evaluating patients up to 48 weeks.

Biller is a consultant for and has received grants from Novartis and Strongbridge. Kharlip has  reported no relevant financial relationships.

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From https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/910864#vp_1

Even in Remission, Cushing’s Patients Have Excess Mortality

Cushing’s disease patients in Sweden have a higher risk of death than the general Swedish population, particularly of cardiovascular complications, and that increased risk persists even in patients in remission, a large nationwide study shows.

The study, “Overall and disease-specific mortality in patients with Cushing’s disease: a Swedish nationwide study,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The outcomes of Cushing’s disease patients have improved with the introduction of several therapeutic approaches, such as minimally invasive surgery and cortisol-lowering therapies. However, mortality is still high, especially among those who do not achieve remission.

While currently patients in remission are thought to have a better prognosis, it is still unclear whether these patients still have a higher mortality than the general population. Understanding whether these patients are more likely to die and what risk factors are associated with increased mortality is critical to reduce death rates among Cushing’s patients.

A team of Swedish researchers thus performed a retrospective study that included patients diagnosed with Cushing’s disease who were part of the Swedish National Patient Registry between 1987 and 2013.

A total of 502 patients with Cushing’s disease were included in the study, 419 of whom were confirmed to be in remission. Most patients (77%) were women; the mean age at diagnosis was 43 years, and the median follow-up time was 13 years.

During the follow-up, 133 Cushing’s patients died, compared to 54 expected deaths in the general population — a mortality rate 2.5 times higher, researchers said.

The most common causes of death among Cushing’s patients were cardiovascular diseases, particularly ischemic heart disease and cerebral infarctions. However, infectious and respiratory diseases (including pneumonia), as well as diseases of the digestive system, also contributed to the increased mortality among Cushing’s patients.

Of those in remission, 21% died, compared to 55% among those not in remission. While these patients had a lower risk of death, their mortality rate was still 90% higher than that of the general population. For patients who did not achieve remission, the mortality rate was 6.9 times higher.

The mortality associated with cardiovascular diseases was increased for both patients in remission and not in remission. Also, older age at the start of the study and time in remission were associated with mortality risk.

“A more aggressive treatment of hypertension, dyslipidemia [abnormal amount of fat in the blood], and other cardiovascular risk factors might be warranted in patients with CS in remission,” researchers said.

Of the 419 patients in remission, 315 had undergone pituitary surgery, 102 had had their adrenal glands removed, and 116 had received radiation therapy.

Surgical removal of the adrenal glands and chronic glucocorticoid replacement therapy were associated with a worse prognosis. In fact, glucocorticoid replacement therapy more than twice increased the mortality risk. Growth hormone replacement was linked with better outcomes.

In remission patients, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure had no impact on mortality risk.

Overall, “this large nationwide study shows that patients with [Cushing’s disease] continue to have excess mortality even after remission,” researchers stated. The highest mortality rates, however, were seen in “patients with persistent disease, those who were treated with bilateral adrenalectomy and those who required glucocorticoid replacement.”

“Further studies need to focus on identifying best approaches to obtaining remission, active surveillance, adequate hormone replacement and long-term management of cardiovascular and mental health in these patients,” the study concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/02/28/even-in-remission-cushings-patients-have-excess-mortality-swedish-study-says/

Laparoscopic Removal of Adrenal Glands Safe for Obese Cushing’s Patients

Laparoscopic adrenalectomy — a minimally invasive procedure that removes the adrenal glands through a tiny hole in the abdomen — can be safely performed in obese patients with Cushing’s syndrome, a retrospective study reports.

The surgery resolved symptoms in 95% of cases, reducing cortisol levels, lowering blood pressure, and leading to a significant loss of weight in morbidly obese patients.

The study, “Minimally invasive approach to the adrenal gland in obese patients with Cushing’s syndrome,” was published in the journal Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies.

Cushing’s syndrome results from the prolonged secretion of excess cortisol, the major glucocorticoid hormone. While most cases are caused by tumors in the pituitary gland, up to 27% result from tumors in the adrenal glands.

In these cases, the standard therapeutic strategy is to remove one or both adrenal glands, a surgical procedure called adrenalectomy. However, because glucocorticoids are key hormones regulating fat metabolism, Cushing’s syndrome patients are known to be prone to obesity, a feature that is often associated with post-operative complications.

In this study, researchers aimed to compare the outcomes of morbidly obese patients versus the mildly obese and non-obese who underwent a minimally invasive procedure to remove their adrenal glands.

The approach, called laparoscopic adrenalectomy, inserts tiny surgical tools through a small hole in the abdomen, along with a camera that helps guide the surgeon.

The study included 228 patients (mean age 53.4 years). Of them, 62 were non-obese, 87 were moderately obese, and 79 were considered morbidly obese. There were 121 patients with tumors in the right adrenal gland, 96 in the left gland, and 11 in both glands.

High blood pressure was the most common symptom, affecting 66.7% of the participants.

Surgery lasted 101 minutes on average, and patients remained in the hospital for a median 4.3 days afterward. Six patients had to be converted into an open surgery because of uncontrollable loss of blood or difficulties in the procedure. Post-surgery complications, most of which were minor, were seen in seven patients.

One patient had blood in the peritoneal cavity and had to have surgery again; another patient had inflammation of the pancreas that required a longer admission.

The analysis showed no statistical differences among the three groups regarding the length of surgery, length of stay in the hospital, or the rate of conversion into open surgery.

However, in obese women, surgeons chose a different surgical incision when removing the left adrenal gland, “suggesting that the distribution of visceral fat in these patients could constitute a drawback for the [standard] approach,” researchers said.

After the surgery, 95% of patients saw their symptoms resolve, including cortisol levels, high blood pressure, and glucose metabolism, and none had a worsening of symptoms in the 6.3 years of follow-up. Obese patients also showed a significant reduction in their weight — 2 kg by 18 months, and 5 kg by the end of follow-up.

Overall, “laparoscopic adrenalectomy is safe and feasible in obese patients affected with Cushing’s disease and it can lead to the resolution of the related symptoms,” researchers said.

The benefits of the surgery in patients with Cushing’s syndrome “could be extended to the improvements and in some cases to the resolution of hypercortisolism related symptoms (i.e. hypertension or even morbid obesity),” the study concluded.

Adapted from https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/02/07/laparoscopic-removal-of-adrenal-glands-safe-for-obese-cushings-patients/

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