Rare Prostate Cancer Associated with Cushing’s Syndrome

A patient with depression developed Cushing’s syndrome (CS) because of a rare ACTH-secreting small cell cancer of the prostate, a case study reports.

The case report, “An unusual cause of depression in an older man: Cushing’s syndrome resulting from metastatic small cell cancer of the prostate,” was published in the “Lesson of the Month” section of Clinical Medicine.

Ectopic CS is a condition caused by an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting tumor outside the pituitary or adrenal glands. The excess ACTH then acts on the adrenal glands, causing them to produce too much cortisol.

Small cell cancer is more common in older men, those in their 60s or 70s. Sources of ectopic ACTH synthesis arising in the pelvis are rare; nonetheless, ACTH overproduction has been linked to tumors in the gonads and genitourinary organs, including the prostate.

Still, evidence suggests there are less than 30 published cases reporting ectopic CS caused by prostate cancer.

Researchers from the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network and the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia described the case of an 84-year-old man who complained of fatigue, back pain, and lack of appetite.

Blood tests revealed mildly elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and creatinine levels, which could indicate the presence of prostate cancer and impaired kidney function, respectively.

The patient had a history of locally invasive prostate cancer even though he didn’t experience any symptoms of this disease.

Ultrasound examination showed an enlarged prostate plus obstructed ureters — the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder. To remove the obstruction, doctors inserted a thin tube into both ureters and restored urine flow.

After the procedure, the man had low levels of calcium, a depressed mood, and back pain, all of which compromised his recovery. Imaging of his back showed no obvious reason for his complaints, and he was discharged.

Eight days later, the patient went to the emergency room of a large public hospital because of back pain radiating to his left buttock. The man also had mild proximal weakness on both sides. He was thinner, and had low levels of calcium, high blood pressure and serum bicarbonate levels, plus elevated blood sugar. In addition, his depression was much worse.

A psychiatrist prescribed him an antidepressant called mirtazapine, and regular follow-up showed that his mood did improve with therapy.

A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed a 10.5 cm tumor on the prostate and metastasis on the lungs and liver. Further testing showed high serum cortisol and ACTH levels, consistent with a diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome.

But researchers could not identify the ACTH source, and three weeks later, the patient died of a generalized bacterial infection, despite treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

An autopsy revealed that the cancer had spread to the pelvic sidewalls and to one of the adrenal glands. Tissue analysis revealed that the patient had two types of cancer: acinar adenocarcinoma and small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma — which could explain the excess ACTH.

Cause of death was bronchopneumonia, a severe inflammation of the lungs, triggered by an invasive fungal infection.

Investigators believe there are things to be learned from this case, saying, “Neither the visceral metastases nor aggressive growth of the pelvic mass noted on imaging were typical of prostatic adenocarcinoma. [Plus], an incomplete diagnosis at death was the precipitant for a post-mortem examination. The autopsy findings were beneficial to the patient’s family and treating team. The case was discussed at a regular teaching meeting at a large tertiary hospital and, thus, was beneficial to a wide medical audience.”

Although a rare cause of ectopic ACTH synthesis, small cell prostate cancer should be considered in men presenting with Cushing’s syndrome, especially in those with a “mystery” source of ACTH overproduction.

“This case highlights the importance of multidisciplinary evaluation of clinical cases both [before and after death], and is a fine example of how autopsy findings can be used to benefit a wide audience,” the researchers concluded.

https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/10/16/rare-prostate-cancer-prostate-associated-cushings-syndrome-case-report/

Etomidate Found Effective in Severe Cushing’s Syndrome

Etomidate — a steroid synthesis blocker — is an effective treatment for patients with severe Cushing’s syndrome who do not respond to ketoconazole, according to a new case report from Mexico.

The report, “Etomidate in the control of severe Cushing’s syndrome by neuroendocrine carcinoma,” appeared in the journal Clinical Case Reports.

The investigators reported the case of a 51-year-old woman with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome caused by a pancreatic tumor. Ectopic Cushing’s refers to cases of excess secretion of adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) outside the pituitary or adrenal glands.

The patient underwent distal pancreatectomy — the surgical removal of the bottom half of the pancreas — in 2015 due to an ACTH-secreting tumor. Although she had a good initial response, liver metastasis was evident by 2016.

Compared to measurements in 2016, morning blood cortisol, 24-hour urinary-free cortisol, and ACTH levels significantly increased in 2017. The patient also showed low levels of the luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, which the scientists attributed to her severe hypercortisolism (excess cortisol levels).

The woman was being treated with ketoconazole to lower her cortisol values and later received chemoembolization — a method to reduce blood supply and deliver chemotherapy directly to a tumor — for her liver metastasis.

Although ketoconazole is generally the treatment of choice for the control of hormone production in the adrenal glands, its effectiveness is often limited and is associated with side effects, clinicians noted.

In April 2017, the patient arrived at the emergency room with sepsis — a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection — that originated in the gut.

Because ketoconazole had failed to lower cortisol levels, the patient started receiving infused etomidate, an inhibitor of the enzyme 11‐beta‐hydroxylase that prevents cortisol synthesis.

This treatment was stopped one day before the bilateral removal of the adrenal glands as a definitive treatment for the elevated production of cortisol.

While the patient experienced decreased levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium with an initial dose of 0.04 mg per kg body weight an hour of etomidate, a gradual decrease of etomidate — depending on her cortisol levels — corrected these alterations.

After surgery, the patient showed a significant improvement in her general health, including control of her sepsis. She is currently taking hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, with treatment for liver metastasis pending.

“Etomidate is a very effective drug in severe Cushing’s syndrome that is refractory to ketoconazole,” the researchers wrote.

“Control of the serum cortisol levels in ectopic Cushing’s syndrome can be obtained with infusion rates much lower than those used in anesthesia, without respiratory side effects,” they added.

The authors recommend an initial dose of etomidate of 0.04 mg/kg per hour, daily monitoring of 24-hour urinary cortisol and cortisol levels, and a gradual decrease of the etomidate dose according to daily measurements of metabolites.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/05/17/severe-cushings-syndrome-case-study-finds-etomidate-effective-therapy/

Cushing’s Patients at Risk for Autoimmune Diseases After Condition Is Resolved

Children with Cushing’s syndrome are at risk of developing new autoimmune and related disorders after being cured of the disease, a new study shows.

The study, “Incidence of Autoimmune and Related Disorders After Resolution of Endogenous Cushing Syndrome in Children,” was published in Hormone and Metabolic Research.

Patients with Cushing’s syndrome have excess levels of the hormone cortisol, a corticosteroid that inhibits the effects of the immune system. As a result, these patients are protected from autoimmune and related diseases. But it is not known if the risk rises after their disease is resolved.

To address this, researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) examined 127 children with Cushing’s syndrome at the National Institutes of Health from 1997 until 2017.

Among the participants, 77.5 percent had a pituitary tumor causing the disease, 21.7 percent had ACTH-independent disease, and one patient had ectopic Cushing’s syndrome. All patients underwent surgery to treat their symptoms.

After a mean follow-up of 31.2 months, 7.8 percent of patients developed a new autoimmune or related disorder.

Researchers found no significant differences in age at diagnosis, gender, cortisol levels, and urinary-free cortisol at diagnosis, when comparing those who developed autoimmune disorders with those who didn’t. However, those who developed an immune disorder had a significantly shorter symptom duration of Cushing’s syndrome.

This suggests that increased cortisol levels, even for a short period of time, may contribute to more reactivity of the immune system after treatment.

The new disorder was diagnosed, on average, 9.8 months after Cushing’s treatment. The disorders reported were celiac disease, psoriasis, Hashimoto thyroiditis, Graves disease, optic nerve inflammation, skin hypopigmentation/vitiligo, allergic rhinitis/asthma, and nerve cell damage of unknown origin responsive to glucocorticoids.

“Although the size of our cohort did not allow for comparison of the frequency with the general population, it seems that there was a higher frequency of optic neuritis than expected,” the researchers stated.

It is still unclear why autoimmune disorders tend to develop after Cushing’s resolution, but the researchers hypothesized it could be a consequence of the impact of glucocorticoids on the immune system.

Overall, the study shows that children with Cushing’s syndrome are at risk for autoimmune and related disorders after their condition is managed. “The presentation of new autoimmune diseases or recurrence of previously known autoimmune conditions should be considered when concerning symptoms arise,” the researchers stated.

Additional studies are warranted to further explore this link and improve care of this specific population.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/03/06/after-cushings-cured-autoimmune-disease-risk-looms-study/

Benefits of Medication Before Surgery for Cushing’s Syndrome Still Unclear

In Europe, nearly 20 percent of patients with Cushing’s syndrome receive some sort of medication for the disease before undergoing surgery, a new study shows.

Six months after surgery, these patients had remission and mortality rates similar to those who received surgery as a first-line treatment, despite having worse disease manifestations when the study began. However, preoperative medication may limit doctors’ ability to determine the immediate success of surgery, researchers said.

A randomized clinical trial is needed to conclusively address if preoperative medication is a good option for Cushing’s patients waiting for surgery, they stated.

The study, “Preoperative medical treatment in Cushing’s syndrome. Frequency of use and its impact on postoperative assessment. Data from ERCUSYN,” was published in the European Journal of Endocrinology. 

Surgery usually is the first-line treatment in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. But patients also may receive preoperative medication to improve cortisol excess and correct severe diseases occurring simultaneously with Cushing’s.

Multiple studies have hypothesized that preoperative medication can have a beneficial effect on patients who undergo surgery. However, data on the beneficial impact of medication on morbidity, and the immediate surgical and long-term outcomes in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, are limited and inconclusive.

So, researchers made use of the European Registry on Cushing’s Syndrome (ERCUSYN), the largest database that collects information on diagnosis, management, and long-term follow-up in Cushing’s patients.

The team set out to collect information of the prevalence of preoperative medication in Cushing’s patients throughout Europe, and whether it influences patients’ outcomes after surgery. It also aimed to determine the differences between patients who receive preoperative medication versus those who undergo surgery directly.

Researchers analyzed 1,143 patients in the ERCUSYN database from 57 centers in 26 countries. Depending on what was causing the disease, patients were included in four major groups: pituitary-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (68%), adrenal-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (25%), Cushing’s syndrome from an ectopic source (5%), and Cushing’s syndrome from other causes (1%).

Overall, 20 percent of patients received medication – ketoconazole, metyrapone, or a combination of both – before surgery. Patients with ectopic and pituitary disease were more likely to receive medication compared to patients whose disease stemmed from the adrenal glands. Preoperative treatment lasted for a median of 109 days.

Patients in the pituitary group who were prescribed preoperative medication had more severe clinical features at diagnosis and poorer quality of life compared to those who received surgery as first-line treatment. No differences were found in the other groups.

But patients with pituitary-dependent disease receiving medication were more likely to have normal cortisol within seven days of surgery, or the immediate postoperative period, compared to patients who had surgery without prior medication. These patients also had a lower remission rate.

Within six months of surgery, however, there were no differences in morbidity or remission rates observed between each group. Also, no differences were seen in perioperative mortality rates – within one month of surgery.

Interestingly, researchers noted that patients who took medication prior to surgery were less likely to be in remission immediately after surgery. The reason, they suggest, might be because the medication already had begun to improve the clinical and biochemical signs of the disease, “so changes that take place in the first week after surgery may be less dramatic.”

“A randomized trial assessing simple endpoints, such as length of hospital stay, surgical impression and adverse effects of surgery, is needed to conclusively demonstrate that [preoperative medication] is a valid option in patients waiting for surgical correction of hypercortisolism,” the team concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/02/22/benefits-cushings-syndrome-pre-surgery-medication-unclear-study/

Cushing Patients Could Be Diagnosed, Subtyped Using Plasma Steroid Levels

Patients with different subtypes of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) have distinct plasma steroid profiles. This could be used as a test for diagnosis and classification, a German study says.

The study, “Plasma Steroid Metabolome for Diagnosis and Subtyping Patients with Cushing Syndrome,” appeared in the journal Clinical Chemistry.

A quick diagnosis of CS is crucial so that doctors can promptly give therapy. However, diagnosing CS is often complicated by the multiple tests necessary not just to diagnose the disease but also to determine its particular subtype.

Cortisol, which leads to CS when produced at high levels, is a steroid hormone. But while earlier studies were conducted to determine whether patients with different subtypes of CS had distinct steroid profiles, the methods researchers used were cumbersome and have been discontinued for routine use.

Recently, a technique called LC-MS/MS has emerged for multi-steroid profiling in patients with adrenocortical dysfunction such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, adrenal insufficiency and primary aldosteronism.

Researchers at Germany’s Technische Universität in Dresden used that method to determine whether patients with the three main subtypes of CS (pituitary, ectopic and adrenal) showed differences in plasma steroid profiles. They measured levels of 15 steroids produced by the adrenal glands in single plasma samples collected from 84 patients with confirmed CS and 227 age-matched controls.

They found that CS patients saw huge increases in the plasma steroid levels of 11-deoxycortisol (289%), 21-deoxycortisol (150%), 11-deoxycorticosterone (133%), corticosterone (124%) and cortisol (122%), compared to patients without the disease.

Patients with the ectopic subtype had the biggest jumps in levels of these steroids. However, plasma 18-oxocortisol levels were particularly low in ectopic disease. Other steroids demonstrated considerable variation.

Patients with the adrenal subtype had the lowest concentration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-SO4, which are androgens. Patients with the ectopic and pituitary subtype had the lowest concentration of aldosterone.

Through the use of 10 selected steroids, patients with different subtypes of CS could be identified almost as closely as with other tests, including the salivary and urinary free cortisol test, the dexamethasone-suppressed cortisol test, and plasma adrenocorticotropin levels. The misclassification rate using steroid levels was 9.5 percent, compared to 5.8 percent in other tests.

“This study using simultaneous LC-MS/MS measurements of 15 adrenal steroids in plasma establishes distinct steroid metabolome profiles that might be useful as a test for CS,” the team concluded, adding that using LC-MS/MS is advantageous, as specimen preparation is simple and the entire panel takes 12 minutes to run. This means it could be offered as a single test for both identification and subtype classification.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/01/02/plasma-steroid-levels-used-screen-diagnosis-subtyping-patients-cushing-syndrome/

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