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

Basal Cortisol Elevated in Patients with ACTH-Staining Pituitary Macroadenoma

Preoperative identification of patients with silent adrenocorticotrophic hormone-secreting tumors could potentially change the approach to management. A new study aimed to determine whether a preoperative adrenocorticotrophic hormone stimulation test for evaluation of nonfunctional pituitary macroadenoma could aid in identifying adrenocorticotrophic hormone-staining pathology yielded large variability and did not allow clinical utility.

Thus, researchers concluded that larger, multicenter research is needed to determine whether this test can be useful.

“As ACTH stimulation tests are performed routinely when evaluating macroadenoma when there is no suspicion for a state of endogenous hypercortisolism, we sought to determine if the test could reliably identify these pathologies during the preoperative evaluation. We hypothesized that patients with subclinical Cushing’s disease or silent ACTH-secreting tumors would have a higher delta cortisol on the ACTH stimulation tests vs. other types of macroadenoma pathologies,” Kevin Pantalone, DO, ECNU, FACE, staff endocrinologist and director of clinical research in the department of endocrinology at Cleveland Clinic, told Endocrine Today.

Pantalone and colleagues performed a retrospective chart review of 148 patients with pituitary macroadenoma who underwent preoperative ACTH stimulation tests, with the goal of determining whether the test can aid in the identification of ACTH-staining pathology.

Overall, 9.5% of patients showed diffuse staining, 50.6% showed other-staining (diffuse staining for anterior pituitary hormones other than ACTH) and 39.9% showed no staining (no staining for any anterior pituitary hormones).

The researchers calculated delta total cortisol at 30 and 60 minutes from baseline and reviewed preoperative ACTH stimulation tests. Additionally, Pantalone and colleagues compared the basal and maximal delta cortisol between the ACTH-staining pituitary macroadenoma and the non-ACTH staining (n = 134), other staining (n = 75) and non-staining (n = 59) tumors.

According to data reported at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress, the ACTH-staining group had higher mean basal cortisol levels compared with the non-ACTH-staining (P = .012), other staining (P = .018) and the non-staining (P = .012) tumors. The researchers found no significant differences in maximal delta cortisol between the groups.

“While we found basal cortisol levels were higher in patients with ACTH-staining pituitary microadenoma vs. non-ACTH-staining macroadenoma, the large variability in cortisol values did not allow for clinical utility,” Pantalone told Endocrine Today.

“Unfortunately, in the end, our study was limited by the number of cases with ACTH-staining pathology. Thus, we were unable to determine if the ACTH stimulation test could reliably assist clinicians in potentially identifying ACTH-staining pathology in the preoperative setting,” he said. “A multicenter study, affording a large number of ACTH-staining tumors, is needed. This may allow for us to determine if the ACTH-stimulation test can really be clinically useful in preoperatively identifying ACTH-staining pathology.” – by Amber Cox

Cushing’s appears to begin its cardiovascular effects during childhood

– Cushing’s disease may begin to exert its harmful cardiovascular effects quite early, a small pediatric study has found.

Children as young as 6 years old with the disorder already may show signs of cardiovascular remodeling, with stiffer aortas and higher aortic pulse-wave velocity than do age-matched controls, Hailey Blain and Maya Lodish, MD, said at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

“The study, which included 10 patients, is small, but we continue to add new patients,” said Dr. Lodish, director of the pediatric endocrinology fellowship program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Ten more children are being added to the cohort now, and she and Ms. Blain, a former research fellow at NIH, intend to grow the group and follow patients longitudinally.

Cushing’s disease has long been linked with increased cardiovascular risk in adults, but the study by Dr. Lodish and Ms. Blain is one of the first to examine the link in children. Their findings suggest that early cardiovascular risk factor management should be a routine part of these patients’ care, Dr. Lodish said in an interview.

“It’s very important to make sure that there is recognition of the cardiovascular risk factors that go along with this disease. Elevated levels of cholesterol, hypertension, and other risk factors that are in these individuals should be ameliorated as soon as possible from an early age and, most importantly, physicians should be diagnosing and treating children early, once they are identified as having Cushing’s disease. And, given that we are not sure whether these changes are reversible, we need to make sure these children are followed very closely.”

Indeed, Dr. Lodish has reason to believe that the changes may be long lasting or even permanent.

“We are looking at these children longitudinally and have 3-year data on some patients already. We want to see if they return to normal pulse wave velocity after surgical cure, or whether this is permanent remodeling. There is an implication already that it may be in a subset of individuals,” she said, citing her own 2009 study on hypertension in pediatric Cushing’s patients. “We looked at blood pressure at presentation, after surgical cure, and 1 year later. A significant portion of the kids still had hypertension at 1 year. This leads us to wonder if they will continue to be at risk for cardiovascular morbidity as adults.”

Ms. Blaine, an undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, worked on the study during a summer internship with Dr. Lodish and presented its results in a poster forum during meeting. She examined two indicators of cardiovascular remodeling – aortic pulse wave velocity and aortic distensibility – in 10 patients who were a mean of 13 years old. All of the children came to NIH for diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s; as part of that, all underwent a cardiac MRI.

The patients had a mean 2.5-year history of Cushing’s disease Their mean midnight cortisol level was 18.8 mcg/dL and mean plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone level, 77.3 pg/mL. Five patients were taking antihypertensive medications. Low- and high-density lipoprotein levels were acceptable in all patients.

The cardiovascular measures were compared to an age-matched historical control group. In this comparison, patients had significantly higher pulse wave velocity compared with controls (mean 4 vs. 3.4 m/s). Pulse wave velocity positively correlated with both midnight plasma cortisol and 24-hour urinary free cortisol collections. In the three patients with long-term follow-up after surgical cure of Cushing’s, the pulse wave velocity did not improve, either at 6 months or 1 year after surgery. This finding echoes those of Dr. Lodish’s 2009 paper, suggesting that once cardiovascular remodeling sets in, the changes may be long lasting.

“The link between Cushing’s and cardiovascular remodeling is related to the other things that go along with the disease,” Dr. Lodish said. “The hypertension, the adiposity, and the high cholesterol all may contribute to arterial rigidity. It’s also thought to be due to an increase in connective tissue. The bioelastic function of the aorta may be affected by having Cushing’s.”

That connection also suggests that certain antihypertensives may be more beneficial to patients with Cushing’s disease, she added. “It might have an implication in what blood pressure drug you use. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors increase vascular distensibility and inhibit collagen formation and fibrosis. It is a pilot study and needs longitudinal follow up and additional patient accrual, however, finding signs of cardiovascular remodeling in young children with Cushing’s is intriguing and deserves further study.”

Neither Ms. Blain nor Dr. Lodish had any financial disclosures.

Corcept Therapeutics Announces Presentations on Mifepristone for the Treatment of Patients with Hypercortisolism

MENLO PARK, CA — (Marketwired) — 05/04/17 — Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated (NASDAQ: CORT), a pharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery, development and commercialization of drugs that treat severe metabolic, oncologic and psychiatric disorders by modulating the effects of cortisol, today announced that presentations about hypercortisolism and mifepristone’s role in treating that disorder will be presented at the 26th Annual Congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) being held at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

“There is growing awareness that even less severe degrees of hypercortisolism are harmful,” said Joseph K. Belanoff, M.D., Corcept’s Chief Executive Officer. “As a result, physicians are increasingly screening patients whose metabolic and cardiovascular symptoms have not responded to conventional therapy and finding cases of previously undetected Cushing’s syndrome.”

In addition to viewing the posters described below, AACE attendees may attend “Evolving Paradigms of Hypercortisolism,” a product theater talk by Ty Carroll, M.D. Corcept is a sponsor of the talk.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            Thursday, May 4, 2017
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Poster #124
 Screening of Diabetic Patients Using
                U500
Insulin Uncovers a High Percentage of     Joseph W. Mathews, M.D., FACE
     Undiagnosed Hypercortisolism              James J. Smith, PhD
             Consistent
        with Cushing Syndrome
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    Friday, May 5, 2017, 12:45 - 1:30pm
                              Product Theater B
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Evolving Paradigms of
           Hypercortisolism                      Ty Carroll, M.D.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             Friday, May 5, 2017
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Poster #131
      Medical Management of Mild
     Hypercortisolism and Primary
   Aldosteronism in a Patient with            Sandi-Jo Galati, M.D.
    ACTH-Independent Macronodular         Michele Lamerson, RN, MS, CPNP
             Hyperplasia
      Presenting with Resistant
            Hypertension
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Adriana G. Ioachimescu, M.D., PhD, FACE
             Poster #608                  Jonathan G. Ownby, M.D., FACE
   Improving Glycemic Control with       Nicole G. Greyshock, M.D., FACE
            Mifepristone                   Thomas C. Jones, M.D., FACE
in Cushing Syndrome Patients May Lead     Gary S. Wand, M.D., PhD, FACE
     to Significant Weight-loss                James J. Smith, PhD
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Poster #725
  Successful Medical Management with           Saima Farghani, M.D.
Mifepristone in a Patient with Occult     Michele Lamerson, RN, MS, CPNP
      Ectopic Cushing Syndrome
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Poster #836
  Mifepristone Therapy Significantly
              Improved
Insulin Resistance, Glycemic Control,     Jonathan G. Ownby, M.D., FACE
  and Weight Loss in a Patient with            James J. Smith, PhD
           Cushing Disease
 Previously Treated with Pasireotide
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Poster #839
  Mifepristone Reduced U500 Insulin
   Usage in a Patient with Cushing       Kimberley A. Bourne, M.D., FACE
  Disease and Normalized Concomitant           James J. Smith, PhD
 Fatty Liver Disease and Retinopathy
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

About Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated
Corcept is a pharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery, development and commercialization of drugs that treat severe metabolic, oncologic and psychiatric disorders by modulating the effects of cortisol. Korlym®, a first-generation cortisol modulator, is the company’s first FDA-approved medication. The company has a portfolio of proprietary compounds that modulate the effects of cortisol but not progesterone. Corcept owns extensive intellectual property covering the use of cortisol modulators, including mifepristone, in the treatment of a wide variety of serious disorders, including Cushing’s syndrome. It also holds composition of matter patents covering its selective cortisol modulators.

From http://news.sys-con.com/node/4073068

Topical Steroid Use in Psoriasis Patient Leads to Severe Adrenal Insufficiency

This article is written live from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 2017 Annual Meeting in Austin, TX. MPR will be reporting news on the latest findings from leading experts in endocrinology. Check back for more news from AACE 2017.

 

At the AACE 2017 Annual Meeting, lead study author Kaitlyn Steffensmeier, MS III, of the Dayton Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Dayton, OH, presented a case study describing a patient “who developed secondary adrenal insufficiency secondary to long-term topical steroid use and who with decreased topical steroid use recovered.”

The patient was a 63-year-old white male with a 23-year history of psoriasis. For 18 years, the patient had been applying Clobetasol Propionate 0.05% topically on several areas of his body every day. Upon presentation to the endocrine clinic for evaluation of his low serum cortisol, the patient complained of a 24-pound weight gain over a 2-year period, feeling fatigued, as well as facial puffiness.

Laboratory analysis found that the patient’s random serum cortisol and ACTH levels were low (0.2µg/dL and <1.1pg/mL, respectively). According to the study authors, “the labs were indicative of secondary adrenal insufficiency.” Additionally, a pituitary MRI “showed a 2mm hypoenhancing lesion within the midline of the pituitary gland consistent with Rathke’s cleft cyst versus pituitary microadenoma.”

The patient was initiated on 10mg of hydrocortisone in the morning and 5mg in the evening and was instructed to decrease the use of his topical steroid to one time per month. For the treatment of his psoriasis, the patient was started on apremilast, a phosphodiesterase-4 enzyme (PDE4) inhibitor, and phototherapy.

After 2.5 years, the patient had a subnormal response to the cosyntropin stimulation test. However, after 3 years, a normal response with an increase in serum cortisol to 18.7µg/dL at 60 minutes was obtained; the patient was then discontinued on hydrocortisone. Additionally, a stable pituitary tumor was shown via a repeat pituitary MRI.

The study authors explained that, although secondary adrenal insufficiency is not commonly reported, “one study showed 40% of patients with abnormal cortisol response to exogenous ACTH after two weeks of topical glucocorticoids usage.” Another meta-analysis of 15 studies (n=320) revealed 4.7% of patients developing adrenal insufficiency after using topical steroids. Because of this, “clinicians need to be aware of potential side effects of prolong topical steroid use,” added the study authors.

For continuous endocrine news coverage from the AACE 2017 Annual Meeting, check back to MPR’s AACE page for the latest updates.

From http://www.empr.com/aace-2017/topical-steroid-psoriasis-clobestasol-propionate/article/654335/

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