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/

Doctors Use Microwave Therapy on Cushing’s Patient Too Weak to Have Surgery

Microwave therapy improved the Cushing’s syndrome of a woman whose lungs had almost failed, allowing her to have the adrenal surgery needed to control her disease, a case study showed.

Lung infections had led to her near-respiratory failure.

Cushing’s syndrome stems from the pituitary gland producing excessive amounts of adrenocorticotropic hormone. Too much of the hormone leads to the adrenal glands generating excessive amounts of another hormone, cortisol — and that overproduction results in Cushing’s. The disease’s symptoms include increasing obesity, skin problems, muscle weakness, bone loss, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and an inability to control emotions.

Doctors often remove patients’ adrenal glands to prevent cortisol production. But in this case, the patient was not in good enough condition to have the surgery. So doctors used microwave technology to reduce her cortisol levels to the point where surgeons could operate.

The case study, published in BMJ Case Reports, was titled “Ectopic ACTH syndrome complicated by multiple opportunistic infections treated with percutaneous ablation of the adrenal glands.

Excessive pituitary gland production of adrenocorticotropic hormone is the cause of 80 percent of Cushing’s cases.

In 5 to 10 percent of cases, a tumor in another part of the body also produces the hormone, leading to excessive amounts of it in the body. When a tumor is generating the hormone, the condition is called ectopic ACTH syndrome. The patient in the case study had ACTH syndrome.

The 63-year-old woman had complained to her family doctor about weight gain, headache, weakness, and flushing. When laboratory tests led to her being diagnosed with ectopic ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome, she was admitted to a hospital’s internal medicine department.

Doctors planned surgery to remove her adrenal glands, but two days before the operation was scheduled, respiratory failure sent her to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. There, physicians treated her for two infections in her lungs, plus infections in her blood and urinary tract. She experienced serious medical complications while in the Intensive Care Unit.

After a month, she was in good enough condition to leave intensive chair but too frail for surgery. Instead, doctors used microwaves to destroy as much of her adrenal glands as they could.

Within two weeks, her condition was better. She had been unable to leave her hospital bed while in intensive care. After the microwave treatment, she engaged in physiotherapy that led to her being able to use a two-wheeled walker to go short distances. She could also make short excursions outside the hospital with her family.

Six months later she returned to the hospital for surgical removal of her adrenal glands.

There were no complications from the operation, and doctors discharged her two days later. Her cortisol levels have been at acceptable levels since then.

“Our experience demonstrates that percutaneous ablation is a viable alternative in patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome in whom medical therapy has failed and surgical adrenalectomy is not feasible,” the researchers wrote. “Further research comparing the efficacy and complication rates between percutaneous ablation [microwave therapy] and surgical adrenalectomy is needed.” In addition, “research is needed to determine the optimal method of percutaneous intervention,” the team wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/12/01/case-study-shows-microwave-therapy-helped-cushings-patient-who-was-too-frail-for-surgery/

Intraoperative MRI improves complete resection of pituitary macroadenoma

A 63-year-old man was referred to the Massachusetts General Hospital Neuroendocrine & Pituitary Tumor Clinical Center for management of a pituitary macroadenoma. He experienced increasingly severe retro-orbital headaches in the past year. He reported no double vision, fatigue, orthostatic dizziness, change in beard growth or reduction in libido. An outside head CT scan showed an enlarged pituitary gland.

Imaging and laboratory tests

A pituitary MRI with magnified pituitary slices and gadolinium contrast was ordered. A well-circumscribed “snowman-shaped” sellar mass was identified, measuring 2.6 cm x 2 cm x 1.8 cm (anteroposterior x transverse x craniocaudal) with suprasellar extension (Figure 1). The lesion was heterogeneous on T1-weighted scans after enhancement with IV gadolinium contrast. An area of hypointensity in the superior margin was consistent with a small area of cystic or hemorrhagic degeneration.

Although the mass did not extend laterally into the cavernous sinus, the sellar mass extended upward into the suprasellar cistern through a hole in the dural, the diaphragma sellae, to compress the optic chiasm. The restriction of adenoma growth by the diaphragma sellae results in the snowman shape of the macroadenoma. The optic chiasm and infundibulum (pituitary stalk) could not be identified on coronal or sagittal images (Figure 1). Visual field on confrontation suggested lateral field deficits (bilateral lateral hemianopsia) that were confirmed on formal Goldmann kinetic perimetry visual fields.

Figure 1. Preoperative MRI scan. A large “snowman-shaped” pituitary adenoma (green arrow) has heterogeneous enhancement after gadolinium contrast administration. A small hypodense area in the adenoma likely represented hemorrhage/cystic degeneration (yellow arrow). The tumor does not surround the carotid siphon, an S-shaped portion of the internal carotid artery (red arrows) within the cavernous sinus located laterally from the sella turcica where the pituitary gland resides. (A) Coronal image. (B) Sagittal image. Abbreviation: SS = spenoid sinus.

Source: Stephanie L. Lee, MD, PhD, ECNU. Reprinted with permission.

Initial hormonal evaluation was normal and included morning adrenocorticotropic hormone 18 pg/mL, cortisol 13.64 µg/dL, thyroid-stimulating hormone 2.14 uIU/mL, free thyroxine 1.2 ng/dL and prolactin 12.6 ng/mL. The patient’s morning testosterone level was normal at 324 ng/dL, with follicle-stimulating hormone 2.4 mIU/mL and luteinizing hormone 1.6 mIU/mL. His insulin-like growth factor I level was normal at 124 ng/mL.

Tumor resection

The patient was treated preoperatively with stress-dose hydrocortisone 50 mg. He then underwent transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection. After the surgeon believed there was an adequate excision of the tumor, the extent of tumor resection was confirmed by an intraoperative MRI (Figure 2 on page 8).

Figure 2. Intraoperative MRI scan. The large macroadenoma is not seen after transsphenoidal surgery. The optic chiasm (yellow arrow) can be seen after removal of the tumor. (A) Coronal image. (B) Sagittal image. Abbreviation: SS = spenoid sinus.

The operation was concluded after the imaging confirmed the complete resection of the pituitary adenoma. The patient’s postoperative course was uneventful. Imaging 4 weeks after the resection confirmed complete resection of the suprasellar mass with residual enhancement of the resection bed and sphenoid sinuses (Figure 3 on page 8). The postoperative MRI revealed a normal optical chiasm and a downward tending of the infundibulum to the residual pituitary gland located inferiorly along the sella turcica (pituitary fossa) of the sphenoid bone. Pathology confirmed a pituitary adenoma. His anterior and posterior pituitary function were normal 6 weeks postoperatively, and his visual field deficit improved.

Intraoperative MRI

Imaging like that used in this case occurs in a specially designed operating room that allows MRI scans during surgery without moving the patient from the surgical table. The MRI is kept in a shielded enclosure during the procedure and then moved along a track into the operating room for imaging. Clinical indications for the use of intraoperative MRI in neurosurgery include resection of pituitary macroadenomas. In the past, these tumors underwent transsphenoidal resection, and the postoperative MRI was performed after 1 or more days after the procedure to check for complete removal. If residual tumor was found, the patients underwent watchful waiting, external radiation or repeat surgery.

The strategic advantage of an intraoperative MRI is that the imaging is performed during the operative procedure, and if there is any residual tumor, surgery can be resumed after the MRI is moved back into the shielded enclosure.

Figure 3. Four-week postoperative MRI scan. The large macroadenoma is not seen after the transsphenoidal survey. The optic chiasm and infundibulum (pituitary stalk) can be seen after resection of the tumor. The pituitary stalk is deviated to the left of the sella where the residual normal thyroid is locate along the sella turcica. The floor of the sella enhances with gadolinium infusion after surgery due to postoperative inflammation. (A) Coronal image. (B) Sagittal image. Abbreviation: SS = spenoid sinus.

It has been reported that the use of intraoperative MRI does not increase complication rates compared with conventional transsphenoidal surgery. Reports on the improvement of gross tumor resection using intraoperative MRI are variable, perhaps due to the expertise of the surgeon. Several reports suggest the use of intraoperative MRI allowed additional resection of noninvasive macroadenomas in 67% to 83% of the patients with a gross tumor resection. These results suggest that a substantial volume reduction and increased gross tumor resection of pituitary macroadenomas occurs with the use of intraoperative MRI compared with standard surgery. One study demonstrated that the gross tumor resection rates of invasive tumors was also improved with the use of intraoperative MRI compared with usual preoperative imaging and surgery (25% vs. 7%).

The use of intraoperative MRI, especially with transsphenoidal reoperations for invasive and noninvasive pituitary macroadenomas, leads to significantly higher “gross tumor resection” rates. This method prevents additional operations or treatment, such as radiation, because it reduces the number of patients with residual adenoma after surgery. This technology is usually found in specialized tertiary care hospitals but should be considered for reoperation for large pituitary macroadenomas or initial operation for large invasive pituitary macroadenomas.

Disclosures: Lee and Swearingen report no relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/print/endocrine-today/%7B23183444-4d29-477b-844f-6eb995ac74f4%7D/intraoperative-mri-improves-complete-resection-of-pituitary-macroadenoma

Osilodrostat maintained cortisol control in Cushing’s syndrome

Osilodrostat, a drug that normalized cortisol in 89% of patients with Cushing’s syndrome who took it during a phase II study, continued to exert a sustained benefit during a 31-month extension phase.

In an intent-to-treat analysis, all of the 16 patients who entered the LINC-2 extension study responded well to the medication, with no lapse in cortisol control, Rosario Pivonello, MD, said at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

“We also saw significant improvements in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and decreases in fasting plasma glucose,” said Dr. Pivonello of the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. “Surprisingly, after 31 months, we also observed declines in body mass index and weight.”

Osilodrostat, made by Novartis, is an oral inhibitor of 11 beta–hydroxylase. The enzyme catalyzes the last step of cortisol synthesis in the adrenal cortex. The drug was granted orphan status in 2014 by the European Medicines Agency.

In the LINC-2 study, 19 patients took osilodrostat at an initial dose of either 4 mg/day or 10 mg/day, if baseline urinary-free cortisol exceeded three times the upper normal limit. The dose was escalated every 2 weeks to up to 60 mg/day, until cortisol levels were at or below the upper limit of normal. In this study, the main efficacy endpoint was normalization of cortisol, or at least a 50% decrease from baseline at weeks 10 and 22.

Overall response was 89%. Osilodrostat treatment reduced urinary-free cortisol in all patients, and 79% had normal cortisol levels at week 22. The most common adverse events were asthenia, adrenal insufficiency, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, nausea, and acne. New or worsening hirsutism and/or acne were reported among four female patients, all of whom had increased testosterone levels.

The LINC-2 extension study enrolled 16 patients from the phase II cohort, all of whom had responded to the medication. They were allowed to continue on their existing effective dose through the 31-month period.

Dr. Pivonello presented response curves that tracked cortisol levels from treatment initiation in the LINC-2 study. The median baseline cortisol level was about 1,500 nmol per 24 hours. By the fourth week of treatment, this had normalized in all of the patients who entered the extension phase. The response curve showed continued, stable cortisol suppression throughout the entire 31-month period.

Four patients dropped out during the course of the study. Dr. Pivonello didn’t discuss the reasons for these dropouts. He did break down the results by response, imputing the missing data from these four patients. In this analysis, the majority (87.5%) were fully controlled, with urinary-free cortisol in the normal range. The remainder were partially controlled, experiencing at least a 50% decrease in cortisol from their baseline levels. These responses were stable, with no patient experiencing loss of control over the follow-up period.

The 12 remaining patients are still taking the medication, and they experienced other clinical improvements as well. Systolic blood pressure decreased by a mean of 2.2% (from 130 mm Hg to 127 mm Hg). Diastolic blood pressure also improved, by 6% (from 85 mm Hg to 80 mm Hg).

Fasting plasma glucose dropped from a mean of 89 mg/dL to 82 mg/dL. Weight decreased from a mean of 84 kg to 74 kg, with a corresponding decrease in body mass index, from 29.6 kg/m2 to 26.2 kg/m2.

Serum aldosterone decreased along with cortisol, dropping from a mean of 168 pmol/L to just 19 pmol/L. Adrenocorticotropic hormone increased, as did 11-deoxycortisol, 11-deoxycorticosterone, and testosterone.

Pituitary tumor size was measured in six patients. It increased in three and decreased in three. Dr. Pivonello didn’t discuss why this might have occurred.

The most common adverse events were asthenia, adrenal insufficiency, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, nausea, and acne. These moderated over time in both number and severity.

However, there were eight serious adverse events among three patients, including prolonged Q-T interval on electrocardiogram, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, headache, noncardiac chest pain, symptoms related to pituitary tumor (two patients), and uncontrolled Cushing’s syndrome.

Two patients experienced hypokalemia. Six experienced mild events related to hypocortisolism.

Novartis is pursuing the drug with two placebo-controlled phase III studies (LINC-3 and LINC-4), Dr. Pivonello said. An additional phase II study is being conducted in Japan.

Dr. Pivonello has received consulting fees and honoraria from Novartis, which sponsored the study.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pituitary Adenomas

A Review
JAMA. 2017;317(5):516-524. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.19699

Importance  Pituitary adenomas may hypersecrete hormones or cause mass effects. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

Observations  Prevalence of pituitary adenomas ranges from 1 in 865 adults to 1 in 2688 adults. Approximately 50% are microadenomas (<10 mm); the remainder are macroadenomas (≥10 mm).

Mass effects cause headache, hypopituitarism, and visual field defects. Treatments include transsphenoidal surgery, medical therapies, and radiotherapy. Prolactinomas account for 32% to 66% of adenomas and present with amenorrhea, loss of libido, galactorrhea, and infertility in women and loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and infertility in men; they are generally treated with the dopamine agonists cabergoline and bromocriptine.

Growth hormone–secreting tumors account for 8% to 16% of tumors and usually present with enlargement of the lips, tongue, nose, hands, and feet and are diagnosed by elevated insulin-like growth factor 1 levels and growth hormone levels; initial treatment is surgical. Medical therapy with somatostatin analogues, cabergoline, and pegvisomant is often also needed.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)–secreting tumors account for 2% to 6% of adenomas and are associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and other morbidity. Measurement of a late-night salivary cortisol level is the best screening test but petrosal sinus sampling for ACTH may be necessary to distinguish a pituitary from an ectopic source.

The primary treatment of Cushing disease (hypercortisolism due to ACTH-producing adenomas, which is the cause in approximately 65% of the cases of hypercortisolism) is adenoma resection and medical therapies including ketoconazole, mifepristone, and pasireotide.

Hyperthyroidism due to thyroid-stimulating hormone–secreting tumors accounts for 1% of tumors and is treated with surgery and somatostatin analogues if not surgically cured. Clinically nonfunctioning adenomas account for 15% to 54% of adenomas and present with mass effects; surgery is generally required, although incidentally found tumors can be followed if they are asymptomatic.

Conclusions and Relevance  Patients with pituitary adenomas should be identified at an early stage so that effective treatment can be implemented. For prolactinomas, initial therapy is generally dopamine agonists. For all other pituitary adenomas, initial therapy is generally transsphenoidal surgery with medical therapy being reserved for those not cured by surgery.

Read the full text here: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2600472

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