In Memory: Edward H. Oldfield, MD, 1947–2017

Dr. Oldfield was my pituitary surgeon at NIH back in 1987.  This was back in the olden days of transsphenoidal surgery.  I honestly expected to die but this man saved my life.


Ed started as Senior Staff Fellow in the Surgical Neurology Branch at the NIH (1981). After 5 years, Ed would become the Chief of the Surgical Neurology Branch. He would stay on as Branch Chief and lead the neurosurgical effort at the NIH for the next 21 years. During his tenure, he developed clinical, research, and training programs in epilepsy, congenital malformations, syringomyelia, nervous system neoplasia, drug delivery, and vascular malformations. The strength of these programs was his leadership and their multidisciplinary nature, which incorporated physicians and scientists across the basic, translational, and clinical arenas. Research investigation was always targeted at defined clinical problems. Under his direction, these programs shaped understanding of the studied neurological disorders, as well as improving patient care.

Read the entire obituary here: Edward H. Oldfield, MD, 1947–2017

Endocrine Society Releases Guidelines on Treatment of Cushing’s Syndrome

To lessen the risk for comorbidity and death, the Endocrine Society’s newly published guidelines on the treatment of Cushing’s syndrome focus on surgical resection of the causal tumor with the goal of normalizing cortisol levels. Furthermore, there is increased emphasis on individualizing treatment options when choosing a second-line treatment.

In July 2015, the Endocrine Society published treatment guidelines to assist endocrinologists in appropriately initiating treatment or referring patients with Cushing’s syndrome to treatment. A task force of experts compiled evidence from systematic reviews and graded the strength of the recommendations.

“We hope that it will lead to improved treatment of comorbidities both before and after definitive treatment of the syndrome, and to increased individualization of patient treatment,” said chair of the task force Lynnette Nieman, MD, who is chief of the Endocrinology Consultation Service at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

“There are two new drugs that were approved in 2012, and so I think that is what prompted the review. Still, medications are not the first line of treatment, but we have some new therapeutic options, and I think the idea was to help people understand where to use them,” Julie Sharpless, MD, assistant professor and director of the UNC Multidisciplinary Pituitary Adenoma Program, told Endocrinology Advisor.

“The primary treatment is surgical resection of the causal tumor(s). If that cannot be done (because the tumor is occult or metastatic) or is not successful, then the choice of secondary treatment should be individualized to the patient. The comorbidities of Cushing’s syndrome, for example hypertension and diabetes, should be treated separately as well,” Nieman said.

For example, the guidelines recommend surgical removal of the causative lesion, with the exception of cases which are unlikely to cause a drop in glucocorticoids or in patients who are not surgical candidates.

Likewise, in patients with benign unilateral adrenal adenoma, adrenalectomy by an experienced surgeon has a high rate of cure in children and adults. Because of the poor prognosis associated with adrenal carcinoma, the guidelines highlight the need for complete resection and possibly medical treatment to stabilize cortisol levels.

Other first-line treatment options include recommending surgical resection of ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors; referring to an experienced pituitary surgeon for transsphenoidal selective adenomectomy; treatments to block hormone receptors in bilateral micronodular adrenal hyperplasia; and surgical removal in bilateral adrenal disorders.

The elevated mortality rate seen in patients with Cushing’s syndrome is due to infection, venous thrombosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Appropriately lowering cortisol levels improves hypertension, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and obesity in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. Therefore, the guidelines highlight the need for restoring cortisol levels and treating the associated comorbidities.

Nevertheless, the task force specifically recommends against treatment without an established diagnosis or when there are no signs of Cushing’s syndrome and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal laboratory studies are borderline.

In patients who are not surgical candidates or in cases of noncurative resection, the decision on whether to consider second-line treatment options such as medical therapy, radiation, bilateral adrenalectomy or repeat transsphenoidal surgery should be based on several factors. For instance, the guidelines recommend taking into consideration location and size of the tumor, patient desires, goals of treatment and level of biochemical control.

The guidelines note medical therapy should be based on cost, efficacy and individualization of treatment. Endocrinologists can approach medical therapy with a goal of establishing normal cortisol levels or reducing cortisol levels to very low levels and replacing to achieve desired levels.

Remission in Cushing’s syndrome is associated with notable improvement; however, long-term follow-up is recommended for osteoporosis, CVD and psychiatric conditions.

After treatment, patients may experience reductions in weight, blood pressure, lipids and glucose levels that may allow reduction or discontinuation of medications. Even so, patients with a history of Cushing’s syndrome tend to have higher rates of hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Likewise, rates of myocardial infarction are higher in this population, further emphasizing the need for treatment and management of diabetes and hypertension.

Sharpless highlighted that Cushing’s syndrome is rare.

“There are multiple studies that have shown that patients do better when they are treated in a specialty center where people see a lot of cases of this. So in that sense, treatment is not usually going to fall to the general practitioner,” she said.

She continued that the guidelines are helpful and provide guidance to endocrinologist who “can’t readily refer their patient to a pituitary center.”

Sharpless went on to describe the multidisciplinary care involved in Cushing’s syndrome including endocrinologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, counselors and radiation oncologist.

“When the care is complicated, you want to ensure all of your providers have reviewed your case together and figured out the best plan.”

The guidelines were co-sponsored by the European Society of Endocrinology. Nieman received salary support for her work on the manuscript from the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shiver Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Members of the task force reported multiple disclosures.


  1. Nieman LK et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(8):2807-2831.


Experts recommend tumor removal as first-line treatment for Cushing’s syndrome

The Endocrine Society today issued a Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) on strategies for treating Cushing’s syndrome, a condition caused by overexposure to the hormone cortisol.

The CPG, entitled “Treatment of Cushing’s Syndrome: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline,” was published online and will appear in the August 2015 print issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM), a publication of the Endocrine Society.

Cushing’s syndrome occurs when a person has excess cortisol in the blood for an extended period, according to the Hormone Health Network. When it is present in normal amounts, cortisol is involved in the body’s response to stress, maintains blood pressure and cardiovascular function, keeps the immune system in check, and converts fat, carbohydrates and proteins into energy. Chronic overexposure to the hormone can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, infections and blood clots in veins.

People who take cortisol-like medications such as prednisone to treat inflammatory conditions, including asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, can develop Cushing’s syndrome. The high cortisol levels return to normal when they stop taking the medication. This is called exogenous Cushing’s syndrome.

In other cases, tumors found on the adrenal or pituitary glands or elsewhere in the body cause the overproduction of cortisol and lead to the development of Cushing’s syndrome. The Clinical Practice Guidelines focus on this form of the condition, known as endogenous Cushing’s syndrome.

“People who have active Cushing’s syndrome face a greater risk of death – anywhere from nearly twice as high to nearly five times higher – than the general population,” said Lynnette K. Nieman, MD, of the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD, and chair of the task force that authored the guideline. “To reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, infections or blood clots, it is critical to identify the cause of the Cushing’s syndrome and restore cortisol levels to the normal range.”

In the CPG, the Endocrine Society recommends that the first-line treatment for endogenous Cushing’s syndrome be the removal of the tumor unless surgery is not possible or unlikely to address the excess cortisol. Surgical removal of the tumor is optimal because it leaves intact the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is integral to the body’s central stress response.

Other recommendations from the CPG include:

  • Tumors should be removed by experienced surgeons in the following situations:— A tumor has formed on one or both of the two adrenal glands.— A tumor that secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) – the hormone that signals the adrenal glands to produce cortisol – has formed somewhere in the body other than the adrenal or pituitary gland.

    — A tumor has formed on the pituitary gland itself.

  • Patients who continue to have high levels of cortisol in the blood after surgery should undergo additional treatment.
  • People who had an ACTH-producing tumor should be screened regularly for the rest of their lives for high cortisol levels to spot recurrences.
  • If patients’ cortisol levels are too low following surgery, they should receive glucocorticoid replacement medications and be educated about adrenal insufficiency, a condition where the adrenal glands produce too little cortisol. This condition often resolves in 1-2 years.
  • Morning cortisol and/or ACTH stimulation tests, or insulin-induced hypoglycemia, can be used to test for the recovery of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in people who have low cortisol levels after surgery. Once the tests results return to normal, glucocorticoid replacement can be stopped.
  • People who have undergone pituitary surgery should be re-evaluated for other pituitary hormone deficiencies during the post-operative period.
  • Patients who have a pituitary tumor and have undergone surgery to remove both adrenal glands should be regularly evaluated for tumor progression using pituitary MRIs and tests for ACTH levels.
  • Radiation therapy may be used to treat a pituitary tumor, especially if it is growing. While awaiting the effect of radiation, which may take months to years, treatment with medication is advised.
  • To assess the effect of radiation therapy, the patient’s cortisol levels should be measured at 6- to 12-month intervals.
  • Medications may be used to control cortisol levels as a second-line treatment after surgery for a pituitary gland tumor, as a primary treatment for ACTH-secreting tumors that have spread to other parts of the body or suspected ACTH-secreting tumors that cannot be detected on scans. Medications also can be used as adjunctive treatment to reduce cortisol levels in people with adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare condition where a cancerous growth develops in the adrenal gland.
  • People with Cushing’s syndrome should be treated for conditions associated with the disease, such as cardiovascular disease risk factors, osteoporosis and psychiatric symptoms.
  • Patients should be tested for recurrence throughout their lives except in cases where the person had a benign adrenal tumor removed.
  • Patients should undergo urgent treatment within 24 to 72 hours of detecting excess cortisol if life-threatening complications such as serious infection, pulmonary thromboembolism, cardiovascular complications and acute psychosis are present.

More information: The Hormone Health Network offers resources on Cushing’s syndrome at

Rare Disease Week, 2014


You are invited to join RDLA and 200 rare disease advocates in Washington, DC for Rare Disease Day (Week), February 25 – 28, 2013.  Below is an overview of the events, registration will be coming soon.

Tuesday, February 25th:
8:15 am – 4:30 pm Legislative Conference 
National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

5:30 pm – 9:30 pm 4th Annual Rare Disease Day Documentary Screening & Cocktail Reception
Carnegie Institution of Science, 1530 P Street Northwest, Washington DC

Wednesday, February 26th:
7:00am -8:30 am Lobby Training Breakfast
Top of the Hill, Reserve Officers Association, One Constitution Avenue, NE, Washington DC

9:00 am – 5 pm Capitol Hill Meetings with Members of Congress & Congressional Staff

Thursday, February 27th
9:00 am – 5 pm State Delegation Hill Meetings (Optional) Advocates drop by Congressional Offices and attend meetings on behalf of advocates who are too sick or unable to come to DC

TBD, Rare Disease Congressional Caucus Briefing

Friday, February 28th:
RDD@NIH Rare Disease Day at the National Institutes of Health – 2014 event information & registration coming soon

All events are free and open to the public, registration coming soon.

Hotel Room Block: Dupont Circle, on the Red Metro line:
Embassy Row Hotel2015 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington DC
$149/night single $169/night double + 14% DC Tax    Click Here to book your hotel ! or Call (202) 939-4208 & ask for the EveryLife Foundation Room Block
Complimentary internet in guest rooms, Complimentary breakfast
There are a limited number of rooms available at the discounted rate.  Discounted rates expire on Monday, February 3rd.

Click Here to watch the video presentations from last year’s Legislative Conference 

If you can’t join us in DC, please stay tuned for ways to share your personal story with Congress. 

Prolactin Measure Didn’t Help Localize Pituitary Adenoma

By: SHERRY BOSCHERT, Clinical Endocrinology News Digital Network

SAN FRANCISCO – Measurements of prolactin levels during inferior petrosal sinus sampling did not help localize pituitary adenomas in patients with Cushing’s disease in a study of 28 patients, contradicting findings from a previous study of 28 patients.

The value of prolactin measurements in tumor localization using inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) remains unclear and needs further study in a larger, prospective study, Dr. Susmeeta T. Sharma said at the Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting. The current and previous studies were retrospective analyses.

Although IPSS has been considered the standard test in patients with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome to differentiate between ectopic ACTH secretion and Cushing’s disease, there has been controversy about its value in localizing adenomas within the pituitary gland once a biochemical diagnosis of Cushing’s disease has been made. Various studies that used an intersinus ACTH ratio of 1.4 or greater before or after corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation have reported success rates as low as 50% and as high as 100% for tumor location.

A previous retrospective study of 28 patients with Cushing’s disease reported that adjusting the ACTH intersinus gradient by levels of prolactin before or after CRH stimulation, and combining the prolactin-adjusted ACTH intersinus ratio, improved pituitary adenoma localization. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) alone correctly localized the pituitary adenoma in 17 patients (61%), a prolactin-adjusted ACTH intersinus ratio of at least 1.4 improved the localization rate to 21 patients (75%), and combining MRI and the prolactin-adjusted ACTH intersinus ratio improved localization further to 23 patients, or 82% (Clin. Endocrinol. 2012;77:268-74).

The findings inspired the current retrospective study. The investigators looked at prolactin levels measured in stored petrosal and peripheral venous samples at baseline and at the time of peak ACTH levels after CRH stimulation for 28 patients with Cushing’s disease and ACTH-positive pituitary adenomas who underwent IPSS in 2007-2013. The investigators calculated prolactin-adjusted values by dividing each ACTH value by the concomitant ipsilateral prolactin value. They used an intersinus ACTH ratio of 1.4 or greater to predict tumor location.

At surgery, 26 patients had a single lateral tumor (meaning its epicenter was not in the midline), 1 patient had a central microadenoma, and 1 patient had a macroadenoma, reported Dr. Sharma of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Md.

MRI findings accurately identified the location of 21 of the 26 lateral tumors (81%), compared with accurate localization in 18 patients using either the unadjusted ACTH intersinus ratio or the prolactin-adjusted ACTH intersinus ratio (69% for each), she said.

Incorrect tumor localization occurred with one patient using MRI alone and seven patients using either ratio. In four patients whose tumors could not be localized by MRI, the uncorrected and prolactin-adjusted ratios localized one tumor correctly and three tumors incorrectly. Only MRI correctly localized the one central microadenoma.

“We did not find any difference in localization rates by measurement of prolactin during IPSS,” she said. The small size of the study and its retrospective design invite further research in a more robust study.

Dr. Sharma reported having no financial disclosures.

From Clinical Endocrinology News

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