Patients With Cushing Have New Nonsurgical Treatment Option

Cushing syndrome, a rare endocrine disorder caused by abnormally excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol, has a new pharmaceutical treatment to treat cortisol overproduction.

Osilodrostat (Isturisa) is the first FDA approved drug who either can’t undergo pituitary gland surgery or have undergone the surgery but still have the disease. The oral tablet functions by blocking the enzyme responsible for cortisol synthesis, 11-beta-hydroxylase.

“Until now, patients in need of medications…have had few approved options, either with limited efficacy or with too many adverse effects. With this demonstrated effective oral treatment, we have a therapeutic option that will help address patients’ needs in this underserved patient population,” said Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of medicine and neurological surgery and director of the Pituitary Center at Oregon Health Sciences University.

Cushing disease is caused by a pituitary tumor that releases too much of the hormone that stimulates cortisol production, adrenocorticotropin. This causes excessive levels of cortisol, a hormone responsible for helping to maintain blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, assist in memory formulation, and support fetus development during pregnancy.

The condition is most common among adults aged 30-50 and affects women 3 times more than men.

Cushing disease can lead to a number of medical issues including high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, blood clots in the arms and legs, bone loss and fractures, a weakened immune system, and depression. Patients with Cushing disease may also have thin arms and legs, a round red full face, increased fat around the neck, easy bruising, striae (purple stretch marks), or weak muscles.

Side effects of osilodrostat occurring in more than 20% of patients are adrenal insufficiency, headache, nausea, fatigue, and edema. Other side effects can include vomiting, hypocortisolism (low cortisol levels), QTc prolongation (heart rhythm condition), elevations in adrenal hormone precursors (inactive substance converted into hormone), and androgens (hormone that regulated male characteristics).

Osilodrostat’s safety and effectiveness was evaluated in a study consisting of 137 patients, of which about 75% were women. After a 24-week period, about half of patients had achieved normal cortisol levels; 71 successful cases then entered an 8-week, double-blind, randomized withdrawal study where 86% of patients receiving osilodrostat maintained normal cortisol levels, compared with 30% who were taking a placebo.

In January 2020, the European Commission also granted marketing authorization for osilodrostat.

From https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/patients-with-cushing-have-new-nonsurgical-treatment-option

FDA Approves New Treatment for Adults with Cushing’s Disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Isturisa (osilodrostat) oral tablets for adults with Cushing’s disease who either cannot undergo pituitary gland surgery or have undergone the surgery but still have the disease. Cushing’s disease is a rare disease in which the adrenal glands make too much of the cortisol hormone. Isturisa is the first FDA-approved drug to directly address this cortisol overproduction by blocking the enzyme known as 11-beta-hydroxylase and preventing cortisol synthesis.

“The FDA supports the development of safe and effective treatments for rare diseases, and this new therapy can help people with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition where excessive cortisol production puts them at risk for other medical issues,” said Mary Thanh Hai, M.D., acting director of the Office of Drug Evaluation II in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “By helping patients achieve normal cortisol levels, this medication is an important treatment option for adults with Cushing’s disease.”

Cushing’s disease is caused by a pituitary tumor that releases too much of a hormone called adrenocorticotropin, which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce an excessive amount of cortisol. The disease is most common among adults between the ages of 30 to 50, and it affects women three times more often than men. Cushing’s disease can cause significant health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, blood clots in the legs and lungs, bone loss and fractures, a weakened immune system and depression. Patients may have thin arms and legs, a round red full face, increased fat around the neck, easy bruising, striae (purple stretch marks) and weak muscles.

Isturisa’s safety and effectiveness for treating Cushing’s disease among adults was evaluated in a study of 137 adult patients (about three-quarters women) with a mean age of 41 years. The majority of patients either had undergone pituitary surgery that did not cure Cushing’s disease or were not surgical candidates. In the 24-week, single-arm, open-label period, all patients received a starting dose of 2 milligrams (mg) of Isturisa twice a day that could be increased every two weeks up to 30 mg twice a day. At the end of this 24-week period, about half of patients had cortisol levels within normal limits. After this point, 71 patients who did not need further dose increases and tolerated the drug for the last 12 weeks entered an eight-week, double-blind, randomized withdrawal study where they either received Isturisa or a placebo (inactive treatment). At the end of this withdrawal period, 86% of patients receiving Isturisa maintained cortisol levels within normal limits compared to 30% of patients taking the placebo.

The most common side effects reported in the clinical trial for Isturisa were adrenal insufficiency, headache, vomiting, nausea, fatigue and edema (swelling caused by fluid retention). Hypocortisolism (low cortisol levels), QTc prolongation (a heart rhythm condition) and elevations in adrenal hormone precursors (inactive substance converted into a hormone) and androgens (hormone that regulates male characteristics) may also occur in people taking Isturisa.

Isturisa is taken by mouth twice a day, in the morning and evening as directed by a health care provider. After treatment has started, a provider may re-evaluate dosage, depending upon the patient’s response.

Isturisa received Orphan Drug Designation, which is a special status granted to a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition.

The FDA granted the approval of Isturisa to Novartis.

Media Contact: Monique Richards, 240-402-3014
Consumer InquiriesEmail, 888-INFO-FDA

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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From https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fda-approves-new-treatment-for-adults-with-cushings-disease-301019293.html

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/

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/

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