Minimally Invasive Approaches Lead to High Remission Rates in Children

Minimally invasive diagnostic methods and transnasal surgery may lead to remission in nearly all children with Cushing’s disease, while avoiding more aggressive approaches such as radiation or removal of the adrenal glands, a study shows.

The study, “A personal series of 100 children operated for Cushing’s disease (CD): optimizing minimally invasive diagnosis and transnasal surgery to achieve nearly 100% remission including reoperations,” was published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Normally, the pituitary produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. When a patient has a pituitary tumor, that indirectly leads to high levels of cortisol, leading to development of Cushing’s disease (CD).

In transnasal surgery (TNS), a surgeon goes through the nose using an endoscope to remove a pituitary tumor. The approach is the first-choice treatment for children with Cushing’s disease due to ACTH-secreting adenomas — or tumors — in the pituitary gland.

Micro-adenomas, defined as less than 4 mm, are more common in children and need surgical expertise for removal. It is necessary to determine the exact location of the tumor before conducting the surgery.

Additionally, many surgeons perform radiotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy (removal of both adrenal glands) after the surgery. However, these options are not ideal as they can be detrimental to children who need to re-establish normal growth and development patterns.

Dieter K. Lüdecke, a surgeon from Germany’s University of Hamburg, has been able to achieve nearly 100% remission while minimizing the need for pituitary radiation or bilateral adrenalectomy. In this study, researchers looked at how these high remission rates can be achieved while minimizing radiotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy.

Researchers analyzed 100 patients with pediatric CD who had been referred to Lüdecke for surgery from 1980-2009. Data was published in two separate series — series 1, which covers patients from 1980-1995, and series 2, which covers 1996-2009. All the surgeries employed direct TNS.

Diagnostic methods for CD have improved significantly over the past 30 years. Advanced endocrine diagnostic investigations, such as testing for levels of salivary cortisol in the late evening and cortisol-releasing hormone tests, have made a diagnosis of CD less invasive. This is particularly important for excluding children with obesity alone from children with obesity and CD. Methods to determine the precise location of micro-adenomas have also improved.

The initial methodology to localize tumors was known as inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS), an invasive procedure in which ACTH levels are sampled from the veins that drain the pituitary gland.

In series 1, IPSS was performed in 24% of patients, among which 46% were found to have the wrong tumor location. Therefore, IPSS was deemed invasive, risky, and unreliable for this purpose.

All adenomas were removed with extensive pituitary exploration. Two patients in series 1 underwent early repeat surgery; all were successful.

Lüdecke introduced intraoperative cavernous sinus sampling (CSS), an improved way to predict location of adenomas. This was found to be very helpful in highly select cases and could also be done preoperatively for very small adenomas.

In series 2, CSS was used in only 15% of patients thanks to improved MRI and endocrinology tests. All patients who underwent CSS had correct localization of their tumors, indicating its superiority over IPSS.

In series 2, three patients underwent repeat TNS, which was successful. In these recurrences, TNS minimized the need for irradiation. The side effects of TNS were minimal. Recurrence rate in series 1 was 16% and 11% in series 2.

While Lüdecke’s patients achieved a remission rate of 98%, other studies show cure rates of 45-69%. Only 4% of patients in these two series received radiation therapy.

“Minimally invasive unilateral, microsurgical TNS is important functionally for both the nose and pituitary,” the researchers concluded. “Including early re-operations, a 98% remission rate could be achieved and the high risk of pituitary function loss with radiotherapy could be avoided.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/04/minimally-invasive-methods-yield-high-remission-in-cushings-disease-children/

ACTH test after adenomectomy may accurately predict Cushing’s disease remission

A plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone suppression test performed shortly after surgical adenomectomy may accurately predict both short- and long-term remission of Cushing’s disease, according to research published in Pituitary.

“Cushing’s disease is caused by hypersecretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by a pituitary adenoma, resulting in hypercortisolism,” Erik Uvelius, MD, of the department of clinical sciences, Skåne University Hospital, Lund University, Sweden, and colleagues wrote in the study background. “Surgical adenomectomy is the first line of treatment. Postoperative remission is reported in 43% to 95% of cases depending on factors such as adenoma size, finding of pituitary adenoma on preoperative MRI and surgeons’ experience. However, there is no consensus on what laboratory assays and biochemical thresholds should be used in determining or predicting remission over time.”

In the study, the researchers retrospectively gathered data from medical records of 28 patients who presented with Cushing’s disease to Skåne University Hospital between November 1998 and December 2011, undergoing 45 transsphenoidal adenomectomies.

On postoperative days 2 and 3, oral betamethasone was administered (1 mg at 8 a.m., 0.5 mg at 2 p.m., and 0.5 mg at 8 p.m.). Researchers assessed plasma cortisol and plasma ACTH before betamethasone administration and again at 24 and 48 hours, and measured 24-urinary free cortisol on postoperative day 3.

At 3 months postoperatively and then annually, plasma concentrations of morning cortisol and ACTH along with urinary-free cortisol and/or a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test were evaluated at the endocrinologists’ discretion. The researchers defined remission as lessening of clinical signs and symptoms of hypercortisolism, as well as laboratory confirmation through the various tests.

The researchers used Youden’s index to establish the cutoff with the highest sensitivity and specificity in predicting remission over the short term (3 months) and long term (5 years or more). Clinical accuracy of the different tests was illustrated through the area under curve.

The study population consisted of mainly women (71%), with a median age of 49.5 years. No significant disparities were seen in age, sex or surgical technique between patients who underwent a primary procedure and those who underwent reoperation. Two of the patients were diagnosed with pituitary carcinoma and 11 had a macroadenoma. ACTH positivity was identified in all adenomas and pathologists confirmed two cases of ACTH-producing carcinomas.

Of the 28 patients, 12 (43%) demonstrated long-term remission at last follow-up. Three patients were not deemed in remission after primary surgery but were not considered eligible for additional surgical intervention, whereas 13 patients underwent 17 reoperations to address remaining disease or recurrence. Four patients demonstrated long-term remission after a second or third procedure, equaling 16 patients (57%) achieving long-term remission, according to the researchers.

The researchers found that both short- and long-term remission were most effectively predicted through plasma cortisol after 24 and 48 hours with betamethasone. A short-term remission cutoff of 107 nmol/L was predicted with a sensitivity of 0.85, specificity of 0.94 and a positive predictive value of 0.96 and AUC of 0.92 (95% CI, 0.85-1). A long-term remission cutoff of 49 nmol/L was predicted with a sensitivity of 0.94, specificity of 0.93, positive predictive value of 0.88 and AUC of 0.98 (95% CI, 0.95-1). This cutoff was close to the suppression cutoff for the diagnosis of Cushing’s disease, 50 nmol/L. The cutoff of 25 nmol/L showed that the use of such a strict suppression cutoff would cause a low level of true positives and a higher occurrence of false negatives, according to the researchers.

“A 48 h 2 mg/day betamethasone suppression test day 2 and 3 after transsphenoidal surgery of Cushing’s disease could safely predict short- and long-term remission with high accuracy,” the researchers wrote. “Plasma cortisol after 24 hours of suppression showed the best accuracy in predicting 5 years’ remission. Until consensus on remission criteria, it is still the endocrinologists’ combined assessment that defines remission.” – by Jennifer Byrne

DisclosuresThe authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/in-the-journals/%7B0fdfb7b0-e418-4b53-b59d-1ffa3f7b8cd3%7D/acth-test-after-adenomectomy-may-accurately-predict-cushings-disease-remission

MEKT1 Could Be a Potential New Therapy for Treating Cushing’s Disease

MEKT1, a type of therapy called a PPAR-γ agonist, acts to reduce levels of the adrenocorticotropic hormone and could be a potential new therapy for Cushing’s disease, according to researchers.

Their study, “Inhibitory Effects of a Novel PPAR-γ Agonist MEKT1 on Pomc Expression/ACTH Secretion in AtT20 Cells,” was published in the journal PPAR Research.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland — generally a type of tumor called an adenoma that produces high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

ACTH causes the adrenal glands to make too much cortisol, leading to the classic symptoms associated with Cushing’s disease.

PPAR-gamma (PPAR-γ) is a transcription factor protein (meaning it regulates the levels of certain genes by acting through other proteins), and is seen in high levels in the normal human pituitary and in ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas.

The Pomc gene is a precursor molecule to ACTH. While it is known that PPAR-γ plays a role in regulating Pomc levels, its mechanism has not yet been clarified in pituitary cells.

PPAR-γ agonists — agents that activate PPAR-γ — include the medications rosiglitazone and pioglitazone, both of which are used to treat type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown that rosiglitazone and pioglitazone have an effect on Pomc suppression, which would lead to lower levels of ACTH and help treat patients with Cushing’s disease.

However, the benefits of PPAR-γ agonists in the treatment of Cushing’s disease are still controversial.

Researchers examined the effects of a new PPAR-γ agonist, MEKT1, on Pomc levels and ACTH secretion using a mouse pituitary tumor-derived cell line called AtT20 cells. They also compared its effects with the well-established PPAR-γ agonists rosiglitazone and pioglitazone.

AtT20 cells were treated with either MEKT1, rosiglitazone, or pioglitazone at various concentrations ranging from 1 nM to 10 μM (micrometers) for 24 hours.

Results showed that 10 μM of MEKT1 significantly inhibited Pomc gene levels compared to rosiglitazone and pioglitazone. Additionally, ACTH secretion from AtT20 cells was also significantly inhibited by the agonist.

To see if it worked to decrease Pomc levels by acting specifically on PPAR-γ, researchers eliminated the PPAR-γ protein using a technique called siRNA knockdown. In this case, the effects of MEKT1 on Pomc levels were significantly halted.

It is known that other proteins, such as Nur77, Nurr1, and Tpit activate Pomc levels by binding to the promoter region of Pomc — the area of the gene responsible for activating gene levels.

To determine whether these proteins could be targeted by MEKT1, researchers also looked at levels of Nur77, Nurr1, and Tpit. The PPAR-γ agonist was found to significantly suppress the levels of the three genes that encode these proteins.

“Although clinical trials of MEKT1 are needed to determine its drug efficacy in the future, it can be speculated that MEKT1 is much more effective than the previously recognized PPAR-γ agonists rosiglitazone, and pioglitazone for the suppression of Pomc expression/ACTH secretion from our in vitro [laboratory] research,” they added.

Results from this study suggest MEKT1 could be a potential new therapy for the treatment of Cushing’s disease.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/06/12/mekt1-could-be-potential-therapy-treatment-cushings-disease/

Health Alert: Adrenal Crisis Causes Death in Some People Who Were Treated with hGH

Doctors conducting the follow-up study of individuals treated with hGH looked at causes of death among recipients and found some disturbing news. Many more people have died from a treatable condition called adrenal crisis than from CJD (MaryO’Note: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). This risk does not affect every recipient. It can affect those who lack other hormones in addition to growth hormone. Please read on to find out if this risk applies to you. Death from adrenal crisis can be prevented.

Adrenal crisis is a serious condition that can cause death in people who lack the pituitary hormone ACTH. ACTH is responsible for regulating the adrenal gland. Often, people are unaware that they lack this hormone and therefore do not know about their risk of adrenal crisis.

Most people who were treated with hGH did not make enough of their own growth hormone. Some of them lacked growth hormone because they had birth defects, tumors or other diseases that cause the pituitary gland to malfunction or shut down. People with those problems frequently lack other key hormones made by the pituitary gland, such as ACTH, which directs the adrenal gland to make cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Having too little cortisol can be fatal if not properly treated.

Treatment with hGH does not cause adrenal crisis, but because a number of people lacking growth hormone also lack ACTH, adrenal crisis has occurred in some people who were treated with hGH. In earlier updates we have talked about how adrenal crisis can be prevented, but people continue to die from adrenal crisis, which is brought on by lack of cortisol. These deaths can be prevented. Please talk to your doctor about whether you are at risk for adrenal crisis.

  • Why should people treated with hGH know about adrenal crisis? Among the people who received hGH, those who had birth defects, tumors, and other diseases affecting the brain lacked hGH and often, other hormones made by the pituitary gland. A shortage of the hormones that regulate the adrenal glands can cause many health problems. It can also lead to death from adrenal crisis. This tragedy can be prevented.
  • What are adrenal hormones? The pituitary gland makes many hormones, including growth hormone and ACTH, a hormone which signals the adrenal glands to make cortisol, a hormone needed for life. If the adrenal gland doesn’t make enough cortisol, replacement medications must be taken. The most common medicines used for cortisol replacement are:
    • Hydrocortisone
    • Prednisone
    • Dexamethasone
  • What is adrenal crisis? Adrenal hormones are needed for life. The system that pumps blood through the body cannot work during times of physical stress, such as illness or injury, if there is a severe lack of cortisol (or its replacement). People who lack cortisol must take their cortisol replacement medication on a regular basis, and when they are sick or injured, they must take extra cortisol replacement to prevent adrenal crisis. When there is not enough cortisol, adrenal crisis can occur and may rapidly lead to death.
  • What are the symptoms of lack of adrenal hormones? If you don’t have enough cortisol or its replacement, you may have some of these problems:
    • feeling weak
    • feeling tired all the time
    • feeling sick to your stomach
    • vomiting
    • no appetite
    • weight loss

    When someone with adrenal gland problems has weakness, nausea, or vomiting, that person needs immediate emergency treatment to prevent adrenal crisis and possible death.

  • Why are adrenal hormones so important? Cortisol (or its replacement) helps the body respond to stress from infection, injury, or surgery. The normal adrenal gland responds to serious illness by making up to 10 times more cortisol than it usually makes. It automatically makes as much as the body needs. If you are taking a cortisol replacement drug because your body cannot make these hormones, you must increase the cortisol replacement drugs during times of illness, injury, or surgery. Some people make enough cortisol for times when they feel well, but not enough to meet greater needs when they are ill or injured. Those people might not need cortisol replacement every day but may need to take cortisol replacement medication when their body is under stress. Adrenal crisis is extremely serious and can cause death if not treated promptly. Discuss this problem with your doctor to help decide whether you need more medication or other treatment to protect your health.
  • How is adrenal crisis treated? People with adrenal crisis need immediate treatment. Any delay can cause death. When people with adrenal crisis are vomiting or unconscious and cannot take medicine, the hormones can be given as an injection. Getting an injection of adrenal hormones can save your life if you are in adrenal crisis. If you lack the ability to make cortisol naturally, you should carry a medical ID card and wear a Medic-Alert bracelet to tell emergency workers that you lack adrenal hormones and need treatment. This precaution can save your life if you are sick or injured.
  • How can I prevent adrenal crisis?
    • If you are always tired, feel weak, and have lost weight, ask your doctor if you might have a shortage of adrenal hormones.
    • If you take hydrocortisone, prednisone, or dexamethasone, learn how to increase the dose when you become ill.
    • If you are very ill, especially if you are vomiting and cannot take pills, seek emergency medical care immediately. Make sure you have a hydrocortisone injection with you at all times, and make sure that you and those around you (in case you’re not conscious) know how and when to administer the injection.
    • Carry a medical ID card and wear a bracelet telling emergency workers that you have adrenal insufficiency and need cortisol. This way, they can treat you right away if you are injured.

Remember: Some people who lacked growth hormone may also lack cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Lack of cortisol can cause adrenal crisis, a preventable condition that can cause death if treated improperly. Deaths from adrenal crisis can be prevented if patients and their families recognize the condition and are careful to treat it right away. Adrenal crisis is a medical emergency. Know the symptoms and how to adjust your medication when you are ill. Taking these precautions can save your life.

From https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/national-hormone-pituitary-program/health-alert-adrenal-crisis-causes-death-people-treated-hgh

Cushing’s Syndrome Eludes Treatment Paradigm or Standard Approach to Care

Results of two systematic reviews indicate that while surgery is the preferred treatment, many patients present with contraindications without an accepted management paradigm leaving clinicians to follow a patient-centric approach to care.

With commentary by Eliza B. Geer, MD

Cushing’s syndrome may arise from an endogenous glucocorticoid excess is either adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent or ACTH-independent; each variation has numerous underlying causes, including pituitary tumor, adrenal tumor, or other unknown causes.

Although rare, ectopic Cushing’s syndrome results from a non-pituitary ACTH-producing source. Cushing’s disease, a type of Cushing’s syndrome, affects an estimated 1.2 to 2.4 million people each year, and is caused by an ACTH-secreting pituitary adenoma.1

While surgery is preferred for treatment of Cushing's syndrome many patients need a medical approach instead.

Gaining insights into treatment preferences and efficacy for Cushing’s syndrome were the focus of two separate systematic reviews and meta-analyses, both published in the journal, Pituitary: one regarding medical treatments for Cushing’s syndrome,2 and the other comparing endoscopic versus microscopic transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s disease.3

Assessing Medical Management of Cushing’s Syndrome

The meta-analysis examining medical care of individuals with Cushing’s syndrome encompassed 1520 total patients across 35 studies, most of whom had Cushing’s disease.2 However, only 2 of the 35 studies were randomized trials, highlighting the lack of and clear need for controlled clinical trials on medical therapies for Cushing’s syndrome.

Surgery is typically first-line treatment—whether transsphenoidal pituitary adenomectomy for Cushing’s disease,4 removal of the ACTH-producing tumor in ectopic Cushing’s syndrome or adrenalectomy in ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome.5

However, many patients require medical therapy owing to contraindications for surgery, for recurrent disease, or to control cortisol secretion prior to surgery or radiotherapy. Results of the meta-analysis reflected wide-ranging normalization of cortisol levels depending upon the agent used– from 35.7% for cabergoline to nearly 82% for mitotane in Cushing’s disease.2 Combination therapy (medications used either together or sequentially) was shown to increase effectiveness in normalizing cortisol levels.2

In an interview with EndocrineWeb, Eliza B. Geer, MD, medical director of the Multidisciplinary Pituitary and Skull Base Tumor Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, noted that most medical therapies for Cushing’s syndrome are used off-label (in the US), and thus may lack clinical trial efficacy and safety data; consequently, this review provides useful information for treatment selection. However, Dr. Geer said there was substantial diversity of treatments reviewed in this paper – including tumor-directed therapies, cortisol synthesis inhibitors, an adrenolytic therapy, and a receptor blocker, used alone or in combination.

Further, treatments used in the studies addressed a range of Cushing’s etiologies and reflected heterogeneous study designs (for example follow-up ranged from 2 weeks to 11.5 years).2  As such, she said, “findings provided by this review should be viewed in the context of a broader clinical understanding of Cushing’s treatment.”

Specifically, Dr. Geer said, “Dr. Broersen’s analysis found that efficacy of medical therapy was improved by prior radiotherapy. But we know that radiotherapy is recommended on an individualized basis in only a fraction of Cushing’s patients, depending on tumor behavior and treatment history. Also, the fact that mitotane was shown here to have the highest efficacy of all therapies does not make this the appropriate treatment for all, or even most, Cushing’s patients; mitotane is adrenolytic and has a high rate of significant adverse effects.”

Too Many Questions Persist, Necessitating Focus on Attaining Management Paradigm

Dr. Geer also highlighted the need for answers to basic questions when investigating Cushing’s treatments: How do we define ‘successful’ treatment? What goals of care can patients expect? Which cortisol measurements and cut-offs can be used? How do we define clinical remission—resolution of which symptoms and comorbidities? She said Cushing’s syndrome is one of the most challenging endocrine diseases to treat because of the lack of an accepted, universal treatment or management paradigm.

Treatment is often multimodal and always multidisciplinary, with patient-specific decision trees that must consider many factors, including goals of care, treatment history, disease etiology and severity, tumor behavior, and individual responses to medical therapies, she told EndocrineWeb.

She concluded, “While Broersen et al’s study provides a useful review of available medical therapies, it reinforces something we already know about the treatment of Cushing’s: Expertise is required.”

Pituitary surgery is first-line treatment for Cushing’s disease. Currently, there are two main techniques for transsphenoidal pituitary surgery: microscopic and endoscopic. The operating microscope provides three-dimensional vision and may be advantageous in identifying small tumors; the broader field of vision afforded by the endoscope may be advantageous for complete resection of large tumors.3  Generally, despite an absence of studies directly comparing relative remission and complication rates between microscopic versus endoscopic approaches, most surgical centers choose to use one or the other; few have both.3

Examining the Surgical Options to Manage Cushing’s Disease

The second systematic review is the first to compare remission and recurrence rates, and mortality after microscopic versus endoscopic transsphenoidal pituitary surgery for Cushing’s disease.3 The review included 97 studies of 6695 patients: 5711 individuals having the microscopic procedure and 984 undergoing endoscopic surgery.

Results of the meta-analysis found no clear difference between the two techniques in overall remission (80%) or recurrence (10%).3 Short-term mortality for both techniques was < 0.5%. However, endoscopic surgery was associated with a greater occurrence of cerebrospinal fluid leak (12.9 vs 4.0%) but a lesser occurrence of transient diabetes insipidus (11.3 vs 21.7%).3

The authors reported a higher percentage of patients in remission (76.3 vs. 59.9%) and lower percentage recurrence rates (1.5 vs 17.0%) among patients undergoing endoscopic surgery for macroadenomas.3

When interviewed regarding the second meta-analysis,3 Dr. Geer said that the potential benefit of endoscopy over microscopy has been questioned for ACTH-secreting tumors specifically since most are microadenomas.

“With the caveat that few studies (four of the 97 reviewed) compared techniques directly, Broersen et al3 found that endoscopic surgery was associated with higher remission rates compared to microscopic surgery for large tumors, but the two techniques were comparable for small tumors,” said Dr. Geer, however, “one limitation of these data is the lack of standardized criteria to define diagnosis and remission of Cushing’s among the studies reviewed.”

Need for Consistency in Clinical Trials and Surgical Expertise

The study investigators concluded, “endoscopic surgery for patients with Cushing’s disease reaches comparable results for microadenomas, and probably better results for macroadenomas than microscopic surgery,” despite the greater learning curve associated with endoscopic surgery.3 As such, based on their findings, the authors concluded that “endoscopic surgery may thus be considered the current standard of care. Microscopic surgery can be used based on neurosurgeon’s preference.” They did not respond to EndocrineWeb for a request for comment.

As more neurosurgeons receiving training with the endoscope, the preferred technique for pituitary surgery is changing. Dr. Geer said, “Broersen’s review provides reassurance that the newer endoscopic technique is at least equal to the microscope for microadenomas and may be preferred for macroadenomas.”

“However, [conclusions based on the systematic review] do not change our role as endocrinologists treating Cushing’s disease, which is to refer, when indicated, to the available neurosurgeon with the most favorable outcomes and lowest rate of complications, both of which depend directly on level of experience with the procedure and the instrument being used, whether endoscope or microscope,” she said.

The authors had no financial conflicts to declare.

From https://www.endocrineweb.com/professional/cushings/cushings-syndrome-eludes-treatment-paradigm-standard-approach-care

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