Largest-ever analysis of its kind finds Cushing’s syndrome triples risk of death

WASHINGTON–Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, a rare hormonal disorder, is associated with a threefold increase in death, primarily due to cardiovascular disease and infection, according to a study whose results will be presented at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

The research, according to the study authors, is the largest systematic review and meta-analysis to date of studies of endogenous (meaning “inside your body”) Cushing’s syndrome. Whereas Cushing’s syndrome most often results from external factors–taking cortisol-like medications such as prednisone–the endogenous type occurs when the body overproduces the hormone cortisol, affecting multiple bodily systems.

Accurate data on the mortality and specific causes of death in people with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome are lacking, said the study’s lead author, Padiporn Limumpornpetch, M.D., an endocrinologist from Prince of Songkla University, Thailand and Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds in Leeds, U.K. The study analyzed death data from more than 19,000 patients in 92 studies published through January 2021.

“Our results found that death rates have fallen since 2000 but are still unacceptably high,” Limumpornpetch said.

Cushing’s syndrome affects many parts of the body because cortisol responds to stress, maintains blood pressure and cardiovascular function, regulates blood sugar and keeps the immune system in check. The most common cause of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is a tumor of the pituitary gland called Cushing’s disease, but another cause is a usually benign tumor of the adrenal glands called adrenal Cushing’s syndrome. All patients in this study had noncancerous tumors, according to Limumpornpetch.

Overall, the proportion of death from all study cohorts was 5 percent, the researchers reported. The standardized mortality ratio–the ratio of observed deaths in the study group to expected deaths in the general population matched by age and sex–was 3:1, indicating a threefold increase in deaths, she stated.

This mortality ratio was reportedly higher in patients with adrenal Cushing’s syndrome versus Cushing’s disease and in patients who had active disease versus those in remission. The standardized mortality ratio also was worse in patients with Cushing’s disease with larger tumors versus very small tumors (macroadenomas versus microadenomas).

On the positive side, mortality rates were lower after 2000 versus before then, which Limumpornpetch attributed to advances in diagnosis, operative techniques and medico-surgical care.

More than half of observed deaths were due to heart disease (24.7 percent), infections (14.4 percent), cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke or aneurysm (9.4 percent) or blood clots in a vein, known as thromboembolism (4.2 percent).

“The causes of death highlight the need for aggressive management of cardiovascular risk, prevention of thromboembolism and good infection control and emphasize the need to achieve disease remission, normalizing cortisol levels,” she said.

Surgery is the mainstay of initial treatment of Cushing’s syndrome. If an operation to remove the tumor fails to put the disease in remission, other treatments are available, such as medications.

Study co-author Victoria Nyaga, Ph.D., of the Belgian Cancer Centre in Brussels, Belgium, developed the Metapreg statistical analysis program used in this study.

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From https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/tes-lao031621.php

High Cortisol Levels in Urine May Be Linked to Changes in Blood Sugar Metabolism

Abnormally high levels of cortisol in the urine — one of the hallmarks of Cushing’s syndrome — seem to be associated with alterations in blood sugar metabolism in obese patients, a study found.

The study, “Hypercortisolism and altered glucose homeostasis in obese patients in the pre-bariatric surgery assessment,” was published in the journal Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews.

Cushing’s Syndrome and Skin Problems

By Afsaneh Khetrapal, BSc (Hons)

Cushing’s Syndrome (sometimes called hypercortisolism) is a hormonal disease caused by an abnormally high level of the hormone cortisol in the body. This may arise because of an endogenous or exogenous source of cortisol. Endogenous causes include the elevated production of cortisol by the adrenal glands, while exogenous causes include the excessive use of cortisol or other similar steroid (glucocorticoid) hormones over a prolonged period of time.

The adrenal glands are situated just above each kidney, and form part of the endocrine system. They have numerous functions such as the production of hormones called catecholamines, which includes epinephrine and norepinephrine. Interestingly, the outer layer (cortex) of the adrenal glands has the distinct responsibility of producing cortisol. This hormone is best known for its crucial role in the bodily response to stress.

At physiologically appropriate levels, cortisol is vital in maintaining normal sleep-wake cycles, and acts to increase blood sugar levels. It suppresses the immune system, regulates the effect of insulin on the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and help with the homeostasis of water in the body.

Exogenous corticosteroids can also lead to Cushing’s syndrome, when they are used as a form of long-term treatment for various medical conditions. In fact, the long-term use of steroid medication is the most common reason for the development of Cushing’s syndrome.

Prednisolone is the most commonly prescribed steroid medicine. It belongs to a class of medicine that is sometimes used to treat conditions such as certain forms of arthritis and cancer. Other uses include the rapid and effective reduction of inflammation in conditions such as asthma and multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as the treatment of autoimmune conditions such as lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Overall, Cushing’s syndrome is quite uncommon and affects approximately 1 in 50,000 people. Most of them are adults between the ages of 20 and 50.  Women are 3 times more commonly affected than men. Additionally, patients who are obese, or those who have type 2 diabetes with poorly controlled blood sugar and blood pressure show a greater predisposition to the disorder.

Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome

There are numerous symptoms associated with Cushing’s syndrome, which range from muscle weakness, hypertension, curvature of the spine (kyphosis), osteoporosis, and depression, to fatigue Specific symptoms which pertain to the skin are as follows:

  • Thinning of the skin and other mucous membranes: the skin becomes dry and bruises easily. Cortisol causes the breakdown of some dermal proteins along with the weakening of small blood vessels. In fact, the skin may become so weak as to develop a shiny, paper-thin quality which allows it to be torn easily.
  • Increased susceptibility of skin to infections
  • Poor wound healing  of bruises, cuts, and scratches
  • Spots appear on the upper body, that is, on the face, chest or shoulders
  • Darkened skin which is seen on the neck
  • Wide, red-purple streaks (at least half an inch wide) called striae which are most common on the sides of the torso, the lower abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts, or in areas of weight gain. The accumulation of fat caused by Cushing’s syndrome stretches the skin which is already thin and weakened due to cortisol action, causing it to hemorrhage and stretch permanently, healing by fibrosis.
  • Acne: this can develop in patients of all ages.
  • Swollen ankles: this is caused by the accumulation of fluid, called edema.
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

Reviewed by Dr Liji Thomas, MD

From http://www.news-medical.net/health/Cushings-Syndrome-and-Skin-Problems.aspx

Higher Doses of ‘Abortion Pill’ Safe in Cushing’s?

Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

LAS VEGAS — Higher doses of mifepristone for Cushing’s disease (Korlym) weren’t associated with increases in serious adverse events, researchers reported here.

Korlym is a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist better known as RU-486, or the “abortion pill.” It was approved for treating hyperglycemia associated with Cushing’s disease in 2012.

In an analysis of data from the SEISMIC trial, Dat Nguyen, MD, and colleagues found that similar percentages of patients had serious adverse events across all doses of the drug, reported.

They also reported at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists meeting here, that the proportion of the four most common adverse events — headache, fatigue, nausea, and hypokalemia — fell off after 10 weeks of the 24-week trial.

“Recent prescription data indicate that many physicians are not titrating beyond 300 mg per day, potentially limiting patients’ clinical response,” the researchers said.

The 2012 approval was based on the SEISMIC study, which followed 50 Cushing’s disease patients over 24-weeks in an open-label format. It found that daily doses improved blood sugar control and reduced insulin requirements.

Clinicians participating in the trial were told they could titrate beyond the starting dose of 300 mg a day. To look at the relationship between dose and safety, as well as response, Nguyen and colleagues looked at data on 40 of the patients who responded to therapy.

Most of them (90%) were taking at least 600 mg a day, 68% were taking at least 900 mg per day, and 44% took 1,200 mg daily.

Most of the responders (85%) had their initial clinical response at a dose of at least 600 mg daily.

Overall, there were 26 serious adverse events:

  • 10 at the 300 mg dose
  • 8 at the 600 mg dose
  • 3 at the 900 mg dose
  • 3 at the 1200 mg dose
  • 2 while off drug

 

When the researchers adjusted for the number of patients who had ever reached a given dose, the frequency of serious adverse events was similar across doses:

  • 10% of patients at 300 mg
  • 16% of patients at 600 mg
  • 15% of patients at 900 mg
  • 14% of patients at 1200 mg

 

The four most common adverse events decreased after week 10 – although that tracked an increase in dose (mean 588 mg/day before week 10 versus 895 mg/day thereafter).

Nguyen and colleagues concluded that higher doses of mifepristone weren’t associated with increases in serious adverse events or in the most common adverse events – and that better response was seen with higher doses.

Korlym was developed by Corcept Therapeutics of Menlo Park, Calif., as an orphan drug given that it is is believed only 5,000 patients are eligible for treatment. That gave the company 7 years of exclusive rights to market the agent for Cushing’s disease.

The label limits the drug’s indication to patients with endogenous Cushing’s disease who have type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance and aren’t candidates for surgery, or failed to respond to surgical intervention.

The drug doesn’t reduce cortisol production but prevents it from binding to its receptor – an action separate from its blockade of the progesterone receptor, which makes it an effective agent in abortion.

Since the daily doses are in the same range as those used to induce abortion, the drug is contraindicated in pregnant women. It also carries a boxed warning that the drug will terminate a pregnancy.

From http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AACE/45790

Suspected case of Cushing’s Syndrome with history of taking medicines prescribed by registered Chinese medicine practitioner

The Department of Health (DH) today (February 18) alerted clients who have consulted a registered Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP) Mr Chan Kong-kin (CMP Chan), practising at G/F, No.25, Leung Tin Village in Tuen Mun, should consult health-care professionals for advice if they have been supplied with medicines suspected to be Western medicines.

The appeal followed the DH’s investigation into two public complaints. The first complaint involved a 23-year-old woman who consulted CMP Chan for management of eczema. She was given a type of green pills, two types of yellow pills and a type of red-yellow capsules for treatment of her disease for about one year.

She developed round face and increased facial hair which are features compatible with Cushing’s syndrome and steroid overdose can cause the syndrome. The patient was admitted to a public hospital on February 5 for investigation and was discharged on February 7.

The second complaint involved a 24-year-old woman who was recommended by the first complainant to consult CMP Chan for management of allergic rhinitis and eczema. She was given similar medicines as those for the first complainant for three days.

Her condition was stable.

Today, chemical analysis by the Government Laboratory on the patients’ drug samples showed that Western medicine Dexamethasone was detected in the red-yellow capsule.

Dexamethasone is a potent steroid. Taking dexamethasone for a long time, especially when in substantial dosage, can cause side effects such as moon face, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle atrophy, peptic ulcer and even osteoporosis.

DH has set up a hotline 2125 1133 for public enquiries related to the medicines prescribed by the CMP.

It will operate from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday.

“Preliminary investigation by the DH revealed that pills and capsules were found in the CMP’s premises and all have been seized for further investigation,” the spokesman said.

“In December 31, 2012, the DH announced that CMP Chan was found in possession of Part I poisons and unregistered pharmaceutical products in the same clinic which also involved medicines with steroid. The DH subsequently took enforcement action and the relevant legal proceeding is in progress.

The case has also been referred to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for follow-up action,” the spokesman added

“On completion of our investigation, the DH will seek advice from the Department of Justice regarding possible contravention of the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap 138) for the illegal sale or possession of Part I poisons. According to the Ordinance, the maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years’ imprisonment. Besides, the DH will also refer this case to the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong for possible disciplinary action”, the spokesman remarked.

People who have been supplied with medicines by the concerned CMP and are in doubt should consult health-care professionals as soon as possible.

They should submit the medicines to the Chinese Medicine Division of DH at 16/F, AIA Kowloon Tower, Landmark East, 100 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, during office hours for disposal.

Source: HKSAR Government

From http://7thspace.com/headlines/453015/suspected_case_of_cushings_syndrome_with_history_of_taking_medicines_prescribed_by_registered_chinese_medicine_practitioner.html

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