Common Cushing’s Treatment, Somatostatin Analogs, May Sometimes Worsen Disease Course

Doctors often prescribe somatostatin analogs to manage the hormonal imbalance that characterizes Cushing’s syndrome. However, in rare situations these medicines have paradoxically made patients worse than better.

This recently happened with a 48-year-old Spanish woman whose Cushing’s syndrome was caused by an adrenal gland tumor that was producing excess adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Her case was recently reported in the study “Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome: Paradoxical effect of somatostatin analogs,” and published in the journal Endocrinología, Diabetes y Nutrición.

Cushing’s syndrome occurs when the body produces too much cortisol. This can happen for many reasons, including an oversupply of ACTH, the hormone responsible for cortisol production, due to a tumor in the pituitary gland.

But sometimes, tumors growing elsewhere can also produce ACTH. This feature, known as ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS), may also cause ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome.

Two-thirds of EAS tumors are located in the thorax, and 8 to 15 percent are in the abdominal cavity. Only 5 percent of EAS tumors are located in the adrenal gland, and up to 15 percent of EAS tumors are never detected.

Doctors usually use cortisol synthesis inhibitors such as ketoconazole or Metopirone (metyrapone) to control EAS, due to their efficacy and safety profiles. But somatostatin analogs (SSAs) such as Somatuline (lanreotide) have also been used to treat these tumors. However, these drugs produce mixed results.

The woman in the case study, reported by researchers at the University Hospital Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona, Spain, had an EAS tumor on the adrenal gland. She experienced s life-threatening cortisol and ACTH increase after receiving high-dose Somatuline.

The patient had been recently diagnosed with hypertension, and complained of intense fatigue, muscular weakness, easy bruising and an absence of menstruation. Laboratory analysis revealed that she had triple the normal levels of free cortisol in the urine, elevated levels of plasma cortisol, and high ACTH levels. In addition, her cortisol levels remained unchanged after receiving dexamethasone. The patient was therefore diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome.

To determine the origin of her high cortisol levels, the team conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They found no tumors on the most common places, including the pituitary gland, neck, thorax or abdomen. However, additional evaluation detected a small alteration on the left adrenal gland, suggesting that was the source of ectopic ACTH production.

The team initiated treatment with 120 mg of Somatuline, but a week later, her condition had worsened and become life-threatening. Doctors started Ketoconazole treatment immediately, three times daily. The affected adrenal gland was surgically removed, and tissue analysis confirmed the diagnosis. The patient’s clinical condition improved significantly over the follow-up period.

“We highlight the need to be aware of this rare presentation of EAS, and we remark the difficulties of EAS diagnosis and treatment,”  researchers wrote.

The team could not rule out the possibility that the patient’s clinical development was due to the natural course of the disease. However, they believe “she had a paradoxical response on the basis of her dramatical worsening just after the SSAs administration, associated to an important rise in ACTH and UFC levels.”

For that reason, researchers think a new version of SSAs, such as Signifor (pasireotide) — which has improved receptor affinity — could provide better therapeutic response.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/11/09/paradoxical-effects-of-somatostatin-analogs-on-adrenal-ectopic-acth-tumor/

ACTH-producing Lung Tumors Hard to Detect, But May Be Cured with Surgery

Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome can be challenging to diagnose, especially when it comes identifying the problem source. But appropriate hormone management protocols, used in combination with advanced imaging methods, may help physicians identify ectopic ACTH-producing tumors.

The findings in a case report of a young man with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome were published in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, under the title “Case report: Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome in a young male with hidden lung carcinoid tumor.”

Cushing’s syndrome is caused by high amounts of glucocoticosteroids in the blood. The most common cause is a malfunction of the glands that produce these hormones. In some cases, however, the disease may be caused by tumors elsewhere in the body that have the ability to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

In half of all Cushing’s patients, ectopic ACTH is produced by small lung cell carcinomas or lung carcinoids (a type of slow-growing lung cancer). But some tumors in the thymus and pancreas also have been found to produce ACTH.

Researchers at Damascus University Hospital in Syria presented the case of a 26-year-old man who had ectopic Cushing’s syndrome due to lung carcinoids.

The patient presented with increased appetite and rapid weight gain for more than a year. These were associated with headache, fatigue, proximal muscle weakness, and easy bruising. He had no family history of hormonal disorder.

Based on the initial physical and symptom evaluation, the clinical team suspected Cushing’s syndrome. Blood analysis revealed high levels of cortisol and ACTH hormones, which supported the diagnosis.

Administration of dexamethasone, a treatment used to inhibit the production of glucocoticosteroids by the pituitary gland, reduced cortisol levels within normal range, but not ACTH levels. This led to the diagnosis of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome.

The next step was to identify the tumor causing the syndrome. The team conducted imaging studies of the brain, chest, and abdomen, but found no tumor.

Because ectopic ACTH is commonly produced by lung cancers, the team then analyzed the patient’s lungs. Again, they failed to detect a tumor.

The patient was discharged with prescription of 200 mg of Nizoral (ketoconazole) once-daily, calcium, and vitamin D. After three months of treatment, he remained stable, with no evidence of symptom improvement.

At this point, the team decided to surgically remove both adrenal glands in an attempt to reduce the hormone levels. Treatment with prednisolone 5 mg and fludrocortisone 0.1 mg once daily was initiated, along with calcium and vitamin D.

Eighteen months later, the patient’s condition worsened and he required hospitalization.

Imaging tests targeting the neck, chest, and abdomen were conducted again. This time, physicians detected a 2 cm mass in the middle lobe of the right lung, which was removed surgically. Detailed analysis of the small tumor confirmed that it was the source of the excessive ACTH.

“ACTH secreting tumors can be very hard to detect,” the researchers stated. “Initial failed localization is common in ectopic ACTH syndrome and it is usually due to carcinoid.”

Cases where the ectopic ACTH production is caused by a carcinoid tumor can be challenging to diagnose because tumors are small and relatively slow-growing. Imaging data is often hard to analyze and the tumors can be confused with pulmonary vessels, the researchers explained.

“In such cases we should first aim to lower blood cortisol medically or through bilateral adrenalectomy to avoid Cushing’s complications,” which should then “be followed up through imaging studies (CT, MRI, scintigraphy or PET) to detect the tumor and resect it, which is the definitive treatment of these patients,” the researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/12/12/case-report-ectopic-acth-producing-lung-tumors-can-hard-detect/

Resolution of the physical features of Cushing’s syndrome in a patient with a cortisol secreting adrenocortical adenoma after unilateral adrenalectomy

A 37-year-old woman developed clinical manifestations of Cushing’s syndrome over a span of 2 years. Physical examination revealed features that best describe Cushing’s syndrome, such as wide purple striae (>1 cm) over the abdomen, facial plethora and easy bruisability.1  Other features observed were hypertension, moon facies, acne, a dorsocervical fat pad, central obesity and dyslipidaemia.

The diagnosis of hypercortisolism was confirmed using a 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test (19.7 ng/dL, N: <1.8) and 24 h urine free cortisol (185.9 μg/24 h, N: 3.5–45). A suppressed adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) level (4 pg/mL, N: 5–20) and a lack of hyperpigmentation suggested ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome. Further work up using CT with contrast of the adrenals showed a 2.4×2.3×2.4 cm right adrenal mass. The patient then underwent laparoscopic adrenalectomy of the right adrenal gland. Steroids was started postoperatively and tapered over time. Histopathology results were consistent with an adrenocortical adenoma (2.5 cm widest dimension). Six months after surgery, there was resolution of the physical features, weight loss and improvement in blood pressure.

Figure 1 is a serial photograph of the physical features seen in Cushing’s syndrome, such as moon facies, a dorsocervical fat pad and wide purple striae, taken preoperatively, and at 3 and 6 months after surgery. With treatment, physical and biochemical changes of Cushing’s syndrome both resolve through time.2 The time course of the resolution of these changes, however, is varied.2 ,3 We observed that the physical features were ameliorated at 3 months and resolved at 6 months.

Learning points

  • Physicians as well as patients should be aware that improvement of the features of Cushing’s syndrome after treatment does not occur immediately.

  • Dramatic resolution of the physical features of Cushing’s syndrome, however, can be observed as early as 6 months after surgery.

Figure 1

Physical features of Cushing’s syndrome (top to bottom: moon facies, a dorsocervical fat pad and wide purple striae (>1 cm) over the abdomen) documented before surgery, and at 3 and 6 months after surgery.

Footnotes

  • Twitter Follow John Paul Quisumbing at @jpquisumbingmd

  • Contributors JPMQ worked up the case and wrote the case report. MASS reviewed the case report and critically appraised it. JPMQ incorporated his suggestions.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

References

From http://casereports.bmj.com/content/2016/bcr-2016-215693.short?rss=1

Cushing’s Awareness Challenge: Day 9

cushings-women

Another of Robin’s fine awareness graphics.  I had all these symptoms except Type 2 Diabetes.

After my pituitary surgery, I had diabetes mellitus for a while but that went away.

It was the easy bruising that finally got me diagnosed.

In 1986 I started bruising incredibly easily. I could touch my skin and get a bruise.

On New Year’s Day of 1987 I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker, like the rings of a tree. When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.

Fortunately, the Hematologist/Oncologist ran a twenty-four hour urine test and really looked at me. Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s. Of course, he was sure that he did the diagnosis. No matter that I had been pursuing this with other doctors for 3 years.

However, he couldn’t help me any further so the Hematologist referred me to an Endocrinologist and I was finally on the way to my diagnosis.

 

maryo colorful zebra

 

What would Harvey Cushing say about Cushing’s disease today?

harvey-book

(BPT) – More than 80 years ago renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Harvey Cushing, discovered a tumor on the pituitary gland as the cause of a serious, hormone disorder that leads to dramatic physical changes in the body in addition to life-threatening health concerns. The discovery was so profound it came to be known as Cushing’s disease. While much has been learned about Cushing’s disease since the 1930s, awareness of this rare pituitary condition is still low and people often struggle for years before finding the right diagnosis.

Read on to meet the man behind the discovery and get his perspective on the present state of Cushing’s disease.

* What would Harvey Cushing say about the time it takes for people with Cushing’s disease to receive an accurate diagnosis?

Cushing’s disease still takes too long to diagnose!

Despite advances in modern technology, the time to diagnosis for a person with Cushing’s disease is on average six years. This is partly due to the fact that symptoms, which may include facial rounding, thin skin and easy bruising, excess body and facial hair and central obesity, can be easily mistaken for other conditions. Further awareness of the disease is needed as early diagnosis has the potential to lead to a more favorable outcome for people with the condition.

* What would Harvey Cushing say about the advances made in how the disease is diagnosed?

Significant progress has been made as several options are now available for physicians to use in diagnosing Cushing’s disease.

In addition to routine blood work and urine testing, health care professionals are now also able to test for biochemical markers – molecules that are found in certain parts of the body including blood and urine and can help to identify the presence of a disease or condition.

* What would Harvey Cushing say about disease management for those with Cushing’s disease today?

Patients now have choices but more research is still needed.

There are a variety of disease management options for those living with Cushing’s disease today. The first line and most common management approach for Cushing’s disease is the surgical removal of the tumor. However, there are other management options, such as medication and radiation that may be considered for patients when surgery is not appropriate or effective.

* What would Harvey Cushing say about the importance of ongoing monitoring in patients with Cushing’s disease?

Routine check-ups and ongoing monitoring are key to successfully managing Cushing’s disease.

The same tests used in diagnosing Cushing’s disease, along with imaging tests and clinical suspicion, are used to assess patients’ hormone levels and monitor for signs and symptoms of a relapse. Unfortunately, more than a third of patients experience a relapse in the condition so even patients who have been surgically treated require careful long-term follow up.

* What would Harvey Cushing say about Cushing’s disease patient care?

Cushing’s disease is complex and the best approach for patients is a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals working together guiding patient care.

Whereas years ago patients may have only worked with a neurosurgeon, today patients are typically treated by a variety of health care professionals including endocrinologists, neurologists, radiologists, mental health professionals and nurses. We are much more aware of the psychosocial impact of Cushing’s disease and patients now have access to mental health professionals, literature, patient advocacy groups and support groups to help them manage the emotional aspects of the disease.

Learn More

Novartis is committed to helping transform the care of rare pituitary conditions and bringing meaningful solutions to people living with Cushing’s disease. Recognizing the need for increased awareness, Novartis developed the “What Would Harvey Cushing Say?” educational initiative that provides hypothetical responses from Dr. Cushing about various aspects of Cushing’s disease management based on the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Guidelines.

For more information about Cushing’s disease, visit www.CushingsDisease.com or watch educational Cushing’s disease videos on the Novartis YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/Novartis.

 

From http://www.jsonline.com/sponsoredarticles/health-wellness/what-would-harvey-cushing-say-about-cushings-disease-today8087390508-253383751.html

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