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

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/

Hormonal Imbalance – Indication of Pituitary Gland Tumors

Patna: Improper functioning of the Pituitary gland usually results in excess or under production of hormones that leads to a formation of mass called tumor, which can be benign or malignant. Such tumors in this gland can create numerous serious medical conditions by interfering with the normal functioning of the endocrine system and pituitary gland.

 

“Though the occurrence of tumor is more likely after the age of 30 years, it still can impact at an early age. The survival rates of tumor due to its complicated location also depend on other factors like the patient’s age, type and size of tumor. Mostly, pituitary gland tumors are non cancerous but the exact causes are unknown. Some of them are hereditary and some are caused by a rare genetic disorder called as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1. This disorder can also lead to over-activity or enlargement of 3 different endocrine-related glands, which also includes the pituitary gland. “Dr Aditya Gupta, Director, Neurosurgery, Agrim institute for neuro sciences, Artemis Hospital

 

Diagnosis at an early stage can help the treatment procedure to be totally non-invasive with the use of advances technology called as Cyberknife. Cyberknife which is the most advanced radiation therapy is completely non-invasive therapy available for the treatment of benign as well as malignant tumors. This therapy works the best for some pituitary tumors that are upto 2 cm in size and is a very powerful and effective technique for treating patients suffering from early stage primary and medically inoperable tumors. The treatment is safe to administer and also offers a new option in patients with recurrent disease or a single disease in the body.

 

“Highlights of the therapy being ease of access to any complex location without the need to use the surgical knife, precision of the beam with high dose radiation to the tumor location, and the safety. It is a day care procedure without pain and risk, and the patient can get back to daily chores as soon as the session gets over which depends on the tumor typically (30 minutes) and hence eliminates the requirement of any hospital stay.” Added Dr Gupta

 

Depending upon the hormonal variations in the body, there can be a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms include Headaches, vision problem, tiredness, mood changes, irritability, changes in menstrual cycle in women, impotence, infertility, Inappropriate breast growth or production of breast milk, Cushing’s syndrome which is a combination of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and easy bruising, the enlargement of the extremities or limbs, thickening of the skull and jaw caused by too much growth hormone.

 

Pituitary gland, which is also known as the master gland has the most important function of producing hormones that regulates the critical organs of the body including thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. It is a small pea-size gland located behind the eyes and below the front of the brain. Some tumors produce hormones known as functional tumors, and others can cause the glands to secrete too few or too many hormones. Also if the tumor pressed on the nearby structure, for instance the optic nerve, can also limit a person’s vision.

 

Moreover the procedure makes use of the most sophisticated image guidance technique to focus high doses of radiation directly to the tumor spot which eliminates the chances to damage the healthy cells as in any other methods of treatment.

 

“Each session of treatment usually lasts for about 30 -50 min and is cost effective with a success rate of 98% in such complicated tumors. Patients with pituitary adenomas receive stereotactic radio surgery with CyberKnife and are followed up for more than 12 months. After 2-3 weeks of therapy patients are monitored for positive responses and ensure there is no recurrence of any mass. Stereotactic radio surgery with the CyberKnife is effective and safe against pituitary adenomas.” Said Dr Gupta

From https://www.apnnews.com/hormonal-imbalance-indication-of-pituitary-gland-tumors-2/

3D-Printing Technology Improves Outcomes In Pituitary Adenoma Surgery

Huang X, et al. Pituitary. 2019;doi:10.1007/s11102-018-0927-x.

March 3, 2019

The use of 3D-printed models could lead to less operation time and blood loss and fewer postoperative complications in adults who undergo endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas and other conditions, according to findings published in Pituitary.

“Several factors influence the outcome of endoscopic endonasal surgery, including the tumor volume, patient age, lesion location and sphenoid pneumatolysis,” Xiaobing Jiang, of the department of neurosurgery at Union Hospital of Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei, China, and colleagues wrote. “An accurate model of the target tumor structure is a major prerequisite for a successful [pituitary adenoma] resection, especially for macroadenomas, as this may avoid disastrous complications due to suboptimal treatment.”

Jiang and colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis of 20 adults who underwent endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery at Union Hospital in Wuhan. Participants were included based on similar tumor sizes, the presence of no other diseases and nonintuitive tumor identification. All surgeries in the cohort occurred between January and August 2017, with 10 participants (mean age, 44.4 years; 50% women) receiving CT and MRI before surgery; the remaining 10 also received an operation with 3D printing (mean age, 41.2 years; 50% women).

To create the 3D models, images from CT and MRIs were combined. The 3D printer then used this information to create the model, which took between 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 4 hours, 32 minutes, to design and 10 hours, 12 minutes, and 22 hours, 34 minutes, to print.

After surgery, the researchers found that mean operation time was lower in participants who had 3D models compared with participants who did not (127 minutes vs. 143.4 minutes; P = .007). In addition, there was less blood loss in participants with 3D printing compared with participants without (159.9 mL vs. 170 mL; P = .009). The researchers noted that there were postoperative complications in 20% of the 3D-printing group and 40% of the CT and MRI alone group.

“As it is highly precise and allows personalization, 3D-printing technology has started to be applied in medicine in recent years. In neurosurgery, 3D-printing technology can provide models for the patients’ disease characteristics, such as skull defects, brain tumors, intracranial aneurysms and intracranial vascular malformations,” the researchers wrote. “We believe that with its continuous development, 3D-printing technology will be applied in clinical practice in the near future.” – by Phil Neuffer

DisclosuresThe authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B582c6512-708a-4900-ad20-f0adb5a79390%7D/3d-printing-technology-improves-outcomes-in-pituitary-adenoma-surgery

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