Study links genetic mutations, Cushing syndrome

Researchers have determined mutations in the gene CABLES1 may lead to Cushing syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body overproduces the stress hormone cortisol.

The National Institutes of Health study findings published in Endocrine-Related Cancer found four of the 181 children and adult patient examined had mutant forms of CABLES1 that do not respond to cortisol.

The determination proved significant because normal functioning CABLES1 protein, expressed by the CABLES1 gene, slows the division and growth of pituitary cells that produce the hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH).

Researchers at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) joined scientists from other institutions in the United States, France and Canada, in the evaluation.

“The mutations we identified impair the tumor suppressor function in the pituitary gland,” Constantine A. Stratakis, the study’s senior author and director of the NICHD Division of Intramural Research, said. “This discovery could lead to the development of treatment strategies that simulate the function of the CABLES1 protein and prevent recurrence of pituitary tumors in people with Cushing syndrome.”

Cushing syndrome symptoms include obesity, muscle weakness, fatigue, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, depression and anxiety, officials said, adding excess cortisol found in the disorder can result from certain steroid medications or from tumors of the pituitary or adrenal glands.

Researchers maintain that more studies are needed to fully understand how CABLES1 suppresses tumor formation in the pituitary gland.



Cushing’s Syndrome Masquerading as Treatment Resistant Depression

Indian J Psychol Med. 2016 May-Jun; 38(3): 246–248.
PMCID: PMC4904762


Treatment resistant depression (TRD) is a common clinical occurrence among patients treated for major depressive disorder. A significant proportion of patients remain significantly depressed in spite of aggressive pharmacological and psychotherapeutic approaches. Management of patient with treatment resistant depression requires thorough evaluation for physical causes. We report a case of recurrent depressive disorder, who presented with severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms, not responding to multiple adequate trials of antidepressants, who on investigation was found to have Cushing’s syndrome and responded well to Ketoconazole.

Keywords: Antiglucocorticoid drugs, Cushing’s syndrome, treatment-resistant depression


The main aim of management of depression is remission of the episode. However, in a proportion of the patients with major depression, despite the use of adequate antidepressant doses for the adequate duration, clinical remission is not achieved. Although there is no consensus, but in general it is accepted that those patients with major depression who do not respond to 2-3 adequate trials of antidepressants are considered to have treatment-resistant depression (TRD).[1] Some of the authors[2] have suggested staging for TRD and based on the level of nonresponse the patient is allocated to different stages of TRD. The prevalence of TRD varies depending on the stage.[1] It is suggested that whenever a patient present’s with TRD, a thorough evaluation needs to be done to evaluate the underlying organic and psychosocial causes.[1] We here, report a case of recurrent depressive disorder, current episode severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms, who did not respond to adequate trials of antidepressants and showed minimal response to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In view of the lack of remission, on investigation she was found to have adrenal adenoma and raised cortisol levels. She was managed with ketoconazole 400 mg/day along with the continuation of antidepressants with which she achieved remission.


Mrs. A, 40-year-old, known case of recurrent depressive disorder, with first episode occurring at the age of 36 years, with two episodes in the past which responded to antidepressant treatment, presented with severe depressive episode without psychotic symptoms of 18 months duration. For the current episode, the onset was insidious with the evolution of symptoms over the period of 1-month, without any precipitating event and the course was continuous for the current episode. Her clinical presentation was characterized by persistent sadness of mood with morning worsening, poor interaction, anhedonia, lethargy, psychomotor retardation, sleep disturbance in the form of difficulty in falling asleep with frequent midnight awakenings, reduced appetite associated with weight loss of 3 kg, reduced libido, ideas of guilt, suicidal ideations, suicidal planning with one unsuccessful attempt and off and on anxiety symptoms. Her treatment history revealed that during the current episode she was treated with tablet paroxetine 12.5-37.5 mg/day for 4 months, tablet mirtazapine 15-30 mg/day for 3 months, tablet imipramine up to 175 mg/day for 5 months, C. venlafaxine up to 300 mg/day for 2 months with no response. Later she was treated with C. venlafaxine 300 mg/day along with thyroxine 75 µg/day (for 2 months) and C. venlafaxine 300 mg/day and lithium 600 mg/day for a period of 2 months but with minimal improvement. Her compliance with the medication throughout was satisfactory.

Her general physical examination and systemic examination were normal. On mental status examination, she had sadness of mood, psychomotor retardation, ideas of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, and suicidal ideas. Investigations in the form of hemogram, liver function test, renal function test, serum electrolytes, thyroid function test, serum vitamin B12 levels were did not reveal any abnormality. Her magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain did not show any abnormality. Her psychosocial history did not reveal any evidence of chronic stressors and her family was very supportive. There was no history suggestive of mania, psychotic symptoms, alcohol or drug abuse, seizure, head injury, and cognitive decline. Her Hamilton Depression Rating scale (HDRS) score was 35.

She was continued on C. venlafaxine 300 mg/day along with tablet lithium carbonate 300 mg/day (with serum levels in the therapeutic range). In addition, due to lack of response to adequate doses of antidepressants she was treated with 14 sessions of modified ECT over the period of 6 weeks with minimal improvement (HDRS score reduced to 32). In view of the lack of response to ECT, further investigations were done for Cushing’s syndrome although her physical examination was not suggestive of the same. Workup for Cushing’s syndrome revealed raised plasma cortisol level (722.7 nmol/L [normal range 193-634 nmol/L]), dexamethasone nonsuppression and reduced plasma adreno corticotrophin hormone. MRI scan of the abdomen revealed small homogenous, well-defined lesion measuring 2 cm in the adrenal cortex with clear margins suggestive of an adrenal adenoma. She was advised surgical intervention for the same. However, she was reluctant for the same. As a result, she was started on tablet ketoconazole 200 mg/day and increased to 400 mg/day over next 15 days along with the continuation of C. venlafaxine 300 mg/day. Patient improvement was monitored clinically and using HAM-D score. Over a period of next 4 weeks, the patient showed significant improvement in her depressive symptoms with no associated side effects. Her HDRS score reduced from 32 to 5. After remission she was clinically monitored. She has been maintaining well on tablet ketoconazole 400 mg/day and of C. venlafaxine 225 mg/day for the last 4 years. Her adrenal mass has been monitored with no increase in the size of the tumor.


According to the staging of TRD by Thase and Rush,[2] the index case can be considered as stage-5 TRD, that is, patient who has not responded to antidepressants of two different classes, tricyclic antidepressants and ECT. In addition, the patient had also not responded to augmentation with thyroxine and lithium. It is suggested that whenever a patient presents with TRD, first there is a need to evaluate the patient for pseudo-resistance. The factors that contribute to pseudo-resistance include poor compliance, inadequate dosing, and discontinuation of antidepressant before adequate duration.[3] The history of the index case did not reveal the same. In view of the stage-5 nonresponse, she was empirically evaluated for Cushing’s syndrome and was found to have positive evidence for the same. Addition of ketoconazole led to remission of the episode.

Due to the role of stress and involvement of cortisol in understanding the etiopathogenesis of depression, researchers have used antiglucocorticoid drugs such as metyrapone, aminoglutethimide, ketoconazole, and Mifepristone in the management of TRD. In a review, which included 11 studies, authors reported that 67-77% of the patients show at least a partial antidepressant response and largest two series documenting response rates of 70-73%.[4]

Our case highlights the fact that while dealing with patients with TRD, psychiatrists should look into all possible medical causes for depression. Further, our case suggests that antiglucocorticoid medications can be considered in patients with TRD who do not respond to conventional treatments.


Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: None.


1. Nemeroff CB. Prevalence and management of treatment-resistant depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68(Suppl 8):17–25. [PubMed]
2. Thase ME, Rush AJ. When at first you don’t succeed: Sequential strategies for antidepressant nonresponders. J Clin Psychiatry. 1997;58(Suppl 13):23–9. [PubMed]
3. Souery D, Papakostas GI, Trivedi MH. Treatment-resistant depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;67(Suppl 6):16–22. [PubMed]
4. Wolkowitz OM, Reus VI. Treatment of depression with antiglucocorticoid drugs. Psychosom Med.1999;61:698–711. [PubMed]

Articles from Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine are provided here courtesy of Medknow Publications

What a Hoot! Healing Cushing’s Syndrome Naturally

This guy must be nuts!

Healing Cushing’s Syndrome Naturally

by Dr. Paul Haider, Spiritual Teacher and Master Herbalist

Cushing’s Syndrome is the over production of cortisol by the adrenals glands and the resulting obesity, high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, glucose intolerance, and more… are all part of the syndrome.

But there is hope, here are a few great herbs and other processes that can heal Cushing’s Syndrome naturally.

Read more of how you, too, can “Heal Your Cushing’s here:

Day 29, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

People sometimes ask me how I found out I had Cushing’s Disease.  Theoretically, it was easy.  In practice, it was very difficult.

Ladies Home Journal, 1983In 1983 I came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal which said “If you have these symptoms…”

I found the row with my symptoms and the answer read “…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”.

After that article, I started reading everything I could on Cushing’s, I bought books that mentioned Cushing’s. I asked and asked my doctors for many years and all of them said that I couldn’t have it.  It was too rare.  I was rejected each time.

Due to all my reading at the library, I was sure I had Cushing’s but no one would believe me. My doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare, that I was making this up and that I couldn’t have it.

In med school, student doctors are told “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras“.

According to Wikipedia: “Zebra is a medical slang term for a surprising diagnosis. Although rare diseases are, in general, surprising when they are encountered, other diseases can be surprising in a particular person and time, and so “zebra” is the broader concept.

The term derives from the aphorism “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra”, which was coined in a slightly modified form in the late 1940s by Dr. Theodore Woodward, a former professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Since horses are the most commonly encountered hoofed animal and zebras are very rare, logically you could confidently guess that the animal making the hoofbeats is probably a horse. By 1960, the aphorism was widely known in medical circles.”

So, doctors typically go for the easily diagnosed, common diseases.  Just because something is rare doesn’t mean that no one gets it.  We shouldn’t be dismissed because we’re too hard to diagnose.

When I was finally diagnosed in 1987, 4 years later, it was only because I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker so my leg looked like a cut log with rings.

When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size of the rings. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.

Fortunately, that new doctor ran a twenty-four hour urine test and really looked at me and listened to me.  Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s but, of course, couldn’t do anything further with me.  They packed me off to an endo where the process started again.

My final diagnosis was in October, 1987.  Quite a long time to simply  “…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”.

Looking back, I can see Cushing’s symptoms much earlier than 1983.  But, that ‘s for a different post.


Young people with Cushing syndrome may be at higher risk for suicide, depression

Children with Cushing syndrome may be at higher risk for suicide as well as for depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions long after their disease has been successfully treated, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

Cushing syndrome results from high levels of the hormone cortisol. Long-term complications of the syndrome include obesity, diabetes, bone fractures, high blood pressure, kidney stones and serious infections. Cushing’s syndrome may be caused by tumors of the adrenal glands or other parts of the body that produce excess cortisol. It also may be caused by a pituitary tumor that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce high cortisol levels. Treatment usually involves stopping excess cortisol production by removing the tumor.

“Our results indicate that physicians who care for young people with Cushing syndrome should screen their patients for depression-related mental illness after the underlying disease has been successfully treated,” said the study’s senior author, Constantine Stratakis, D(med)Sci, director of the Division of Intramural Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Patients may not tell their doctors that they’re feeling depressed, so it’s a good idea for physicians to screen their patients proactively for depression and related conditions.”

Cushing syndrome may affect both adults and children. A recent study estimated that in the United States, there are 8 cases of Cushing syndrome per 1 million people per year.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Pediatrics. They reviewed the case histories of all children and youth treated for Cushing syndrome at NIH from 2003 to 2014, a total of 149 patients. The researchers found that, months after treatment, 9 children (roughly 6 percent) had thoughts of suicide and experienced outbursts of anger and rage, depression, irritability and anxiety. Of these, 7 experienced symptoms within 7 months of their treatment.

Two others began experiencing symptoms at least 48 months after treatment.

The authors noted that children with Cushing syndrome often develop compulsive behaviors and tend to become over-achievers in school. After treatment, however, they then become depressed and anxious. This is in direct contrast to adults with Cushing syndrome, who tend to become depressed and anxious before treatment and gradually overcome these symptoms after treatment.

The authors stated that health care providers might try to prepare children with Cushing syndrome before they undergo treatment, letting them know that their mood may change after surgery and may not improve for months or years. Similarly, providers should consider screening their patients periodically for suicide risk in the years following their treatment.

Source: NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
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