Cushing’s Disease—Monthly Injection Is Good Alternative to Surgery

Written by Kathleen Doheny with Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, and Vivien Herman-Bonert, MD

Cushing’s disease, an uncommon but hard to treat endocrine disorder, occurs when a tumor on the pituitary gland, called an adenoma—that is almost always benign—leads to an overproduction of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

Until now, surgery to remove the non-cancerous but problematic tumor has been the only effective treatment. Still, many patients will require medication to help control their serum cortisol levels, and others cannot have surgery or would prefer to avoid it.

Finally, a drug proves effective as added on or alternative to surgery in managing Cushing’s disease. Photo; 123rf

New Drug Offers Alternative to Surgery for Cushing’s Disease

Now, there is good news about long-term positive results achieved with pasireotide (Signifor)—the first medication to demonstrate effectiveness in both normalizing serum cortisol levels and either shrinking or slowing growth of tumors over the long term.1,2  These findings appear in the journal, Clinical Endocrinology, showing that patients followed for 36 months as part of an ongoing study had improved patient outcomes for Cushing’s disease.2

“What we knew before this extension study was—the drug will work in approximately half of the patients with mild Cushing’s disease,” says study author Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, director of the Northwest Pituitary Center and professor of neurological surgery and medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition at the Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Medicine.

“Pasireotide also offers good clinical benefits,” says Dr. Fleseriu who is also the president of the Pituitary Society, “which includes improvements in blood pressure, other signs and symptoms of Cushing’s symptom], and quality of life.”2

What Symptoms Are Helped by Drug for Cushing’s Disease?  

Among the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease that are lessened with treatment are:3

  • Changes in physical appearance such as wide, purple stretch marks on the skin (eg, chest, armpits, abdomen, thighs)
  • Rapid and unexplained weight gain
  • A more full, rounder face
  • Protruding abdomen from fat deposits
  • Increased fat deposits around the neck area

The accumulation of adipose tissue raises the risk of heart disease, which adds to the urgency of effective treatment. In addition, many individuals who have Cushing’s disease also complain of quality of life issues such as fatigue, depression, mood and behavioral problems, as well as poor memory.2

As good as the results appear following the longer term use of pasireotide,2 Dr. Fleseriu admits that in any extension study in which patients are asked to continue on, there are some built-in limitations, which may influence the findings. For example, patients who agree to stay on do so because they are good responders, meaning they feel better, so they’re happy to stick with the study.

“Fortunately, for the patients who have responded to pasireotide initially, this is a drug that can be  continued as there are no new safety signals with longer use,” Dr. Fleseriu tells EndocrineWeb, “and when the response at the start is good, very few patients will lose control of their urinary free cortisol over time. That’s a frequent marker used to monitor patient’s status. For those patients with large tumors, almost half of them had a significant shrinkage, and all the others had a stable tumor size.”

What Are the Reasons to Consider Drug Treatment to Manage Cushing’s Symptoms

The extension study ”was important because we didn’t have any long-term data regarding patient response to this once-a-month treatment to manage Cushing’s disease,” she says.

While selective surgical removal of the tumor is the preferred treatment choice, the success rate in patients varies, and Cushing’s symptoms persist in up to 35% of patients after surgery. In addition, recurrent rates (ie, return of disease) range from 13% to 66% after individuals experience different durations remaining in remission.1

Therefore, the availability of an effective, long-lasting drug will change the course of therapy for many patients with Cushing’s disease going forward. Not only will pasireotide benefit patients who have persistent and recurrent disease after undergoing surgery, but also this medication will be beneficial for those who are not candidates for surgery or just wish to avoid having this procedure, he said.

Examining the Safety and Tolerability of Pasireotide  

This long-acting therapy, pasireotide, which is given by injection, was approved in the US after reviewing results of a 12-month Phase 3 trial.1  In the initial study, participants had a confirmed pituitary cause of the Cushing’s disease. After that, the researchers added the optional 12-month open-label, extension study, and now patients can continue on in a separate long-term safety study.

Those eligible for the 12-month extension had to have mean urinary free cortisol not exceeding the upper limit of normal (166.5 nanomoles per 24 hour) and/or be considered by the investigator to be getting substantial clinical benefit from treatment with long-action pasireotide, and to demonstrate tolerability of pasireotide during the core study.1

Of the 150 in the initial trial, 81 participants, or 54% of the patients, entered the extension study. Of those, 39 completed the next phase, and most also enrolled in another long-term safety study—these results not yet available).2

During the core study, 1 participants were randomly assigned to 10 or 30 mg of the drug every 28 days, with doses based on effectiveness and tolerability. When they entered the extension, patients were given the same dose they received at month.1,2

Study Outcomes Offer Advantages in Cushing’s Disease

Of those who received 36 months of treatment with pasireotide, nearly three in four (72.2%) had controlled levels of urinary free cortisol at this time point.2 Equally good news for this drug was that tumors either shrank or did not grow. Of those individuals who started the trial with a measurable tumor (adenoma) as well as those with an adenoma at the two year mark (35 people), 85.7% of them experienced a reduction of 20% or more or less than a 20% change in tumor volume. No  macroadenomas present at the start of the study showed a change of more than 20% at either month 24 or 36.2

Improvements in blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference continued throughout the extension study.1  Those factors influence CVD risk, the leading cause of death in those with Cushing’s.4

As for adverse events, most of the study participants, 91.4%, did report one or more complaint during the extension study—most commonly, it was high blood sugar, which was reported by nearly 40% of participants.2. This is not surprising when you consider that most (81.5%) of the individuals participating in the extension trial entered with a diagnosis of diabetes or use of antidiabetic medication, and even more of them (88.9%) had diabetes at the last evaluation.1  

This complication indicates the need for people with Cushing’s disease to check their blood glucose, as appropriate.

Do You Have Cushing’s Disese [sic]? Here’s What You Need to Know 

Women typically develop Cushing’s disease more often than men.

What else should you be aware of if you and your doctor decide this medication will help you? Monitoring is crucial, says Dr. Fleseriu, as you will need to have your cortisol levels checked, and you should be on alert for any diabetes signals, which will require close monitoring and regular follow-up for disease management.

Another understanding gained from the results of this drug study: “This medication works on the tumor level,” she says. “If the patient has a macroadenoma (large tumor), this would be the preferred treatment.” However, it should be used with caution in those with diabetes given the increased risk of experiencing high blood sugar.

The researchers conclude that “the long-term safety profile of pasireotide was very favorable and consistent with that reported during the first 12 months of treatment. These data support the use of long-acting pasireotide as an effective long-term treatment option for some patients with Cushing’s Disease.”1

Understanding Benefits of New Drug to Treat Cushing’s Diseease [sic]

Vivien S. Herman-Bonert, MD, an endocrinologist and clinical director of the Pituitary Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, agreed to discuss the study findings, after agreeing to review the research for EndocrineWeb.

As to who might benefit most from monthly pasireotide injections? Dr. Herman-Bonert says, “any patient with Cushing’s disease that requires long-term medical therapy, which includes patients with persistent or recurrent disease after surgery.” Certainly, anyone who has had poor response to any other medical therapies for Cushing’s disease either because they didn’t work well enough or because the side effects were too much, will likely benefit a well, she adds.

Among the pluses that came out of the study, she says, is that nearly half of the patients had controlled average urinary free cortisol levels after two full years, and 72% of the participants who continued on with the drug for 36 months were able to remain in good urinary cortisol control .1

As the authors stated, tumor shrinkage was another clear benefit of taking long-term pasireotide. That makes the drug a potentially good choice for those even with large tumors or with progressive tumor growth, she says. It’s always good for anyone with Cushing’s disease to have an alterative [sic] to surgery, or a back-up option when surgery isn’t quite enough, says Dr. Herman-Bonert.

The best news for patients is that quality of life scores improved,she adds.

Dr Herman-Bonert did add a note of caution: Although the treatment in this study is described as ”long-term, patients will need to be on this for far longer than 2 to 3 years,” she says. So, the data reported in this study may or may not persist, and we don’t yet know what the impact will be 10 or 25 years out.

Also, the issue of hyperglycemia-related adverse events raises a concern, given the vast majority (81%) of patients who have both Cushing’s disease and diabetes. Most of those taking this drug had a dual diagnosis—having diabetes, a history of diabetes, or taking antidiabetic medicine.

If you are under care for diabetes and you require treatment for Cushing’s disease, you must be ver mindful that taking pasireotide will likely lead to high blood sugar spikes, so you should plan to address this with your healthcare provider.

 

Dr. Fleseriu reports research support paid to Oregon Health & Science University from Novartis and other 0companies and consultancy fees from Novartis and Strongbridge Biopharma. Dr. Herman-Bonert has no relevant disclosures.

The study was underwritten by Novartis Pharma AG, the drug maker. 

From https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/pituitary-disorders/62449-cushings-disease-monthly-injection-good-alternative-surgery

Long-acting pasireotide provides ‘sustained biochemical improvements’ in Cushing’s disease

For patients with persistent or recurring Cushing’s disease, monthly pasireotide therapy was safe and effective, leading to normal urinary free cortisol levels in 47% of patients after 2 years, according to findings published in Clinical Endocrinology.

Maria Fleseriu headshot 2019

Maria Fleseriu

“The management of Cushing’s syndrome, and particularly Cushing’s disease, remains challenging,” Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of neurological surgery and professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University and director of the OHSU Northwest Pituitary Center, told Endocrine Today. “Long-acting pasireotide provided sustained biochemical improvements and clinical benefit in a significant proportion of patients with Cushing’s disease who elected to continue in this extension study. There were many adverse events reported overall, but no new safety signals emerging over long-term treatment.”

In the last decade, medical treatment for Cushing’s disease has progressed from a few steroidogenesis inhibitors to three novel drug groups: new inhibitors for steroidogenic enzymes with possibly fewer adverse effects, pituitary-directed drugs that aim to inhibit the pathophysiological pathways of Cushing’s disease, and glucocorticoid receptor antagonists that block cortisol’s action, Fleseriu, who is also an Endocrine Today Editorial Board member, said.

In an open-label extension study, Fleseriu and colleagues analyzed data from 81 adults with confirmed Cushing’s disease with mean urinary free cortisol not exceeding the upper limit of normal, who transitioned from a 12-month, randomized controlled trial where they were assigned 10 mg or 30 mg once-monthly intramuscular pasireotide (Signifor LAR, Novartis). During the main study, researchers recruited participants with mean urinary free cortisol level concentration 1.5 to five times the upper limit of normal, normal or greater than normal plasma and confirmed pituitary source of Cushing’s disease. Participants who elected to continue in the extension were considered biochemical responders or benefited from the study drug per the clinical investigator, Fleseriu said.

“As in all extension studies, the bias is inherent that patients deemed responders tend to continue, but for any type of treatment for pituitary tumors, and particularly Cushing’s disease, long-term, robust data on efficacy and safety parameters is essential,” Fleseriu said.

Median overall exposure to pasireotide at the end of the extension study was 23.9 months, with nearly half of patients receiving at least 1 year of treatment during the extension phase. Researchers found that improvements in clinical signs of hypercortisolism were sustained throughout the study and median urinary free cortisol remained within normal range. Overall, 38 participants (47%) had controlled urinary free cortisol at month 24 (after 12 months of treatment during the extension phase), with researchers noting that the proportion of participants with controlled or partially controlled urinary free cortisol was stable throughout the extension phase.

“Interestingly, the median salivary cortisol level decreased but remained above normal (1.3 times upper limit of normal) at 3 years,” Fleseriu said.

As seen in other pasireotide studies, and expected based on the mechanism of action, researchers observed hyperglycemia-related adverse events in 39.5% of participants, with diabetes medications initiated or escalated in some patients, Fleseriu said. However, mean fasting glucose and HbA1c were stable during the extension phase, after increasing in the main study. Within the cohort, 81.5% had type 2 diabetes at baseline (entering extension phase) and 88.9% patients had type 2 diabetes at last assessment.

“Pasireotide acts at the tumor level, and tumor shrinkage is seen in many patients,” Fleseriu said. “In this study, 42% and 32.1% had a measurable microadenoma or macroadenoma, respectively, on MRI at the start of pasireotide treatment; an adenoma was not visible in almost a quarter of patients at 2 years.”

Among patients with a measurable adenoma at baseline and at month 24 (n = 35), 85.7% experienced a reduction of at least 20% or a 20% change in tumor volume between the two time points. Improvements in median systolic and diastolic blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference were sustained during the extension, Fleseriu said.

“The long-term safety profile of pasireotide was favorable and consistent with that reported during the first 12 months of treatment,” the researchers wrote. “These data support the use of long-acting pasireotide as an effective long-term treatment option for some patients with [Cushing’s disease].”

Fleseriu said individualized treatment selecting patients who will derive benefit from therapy will be crucial, balancing both efficacy and the potential risks and costs. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosures: Fleseriu reports she has received consultant fees and her institution has received research support from Novo Nordisk and Pfizer. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B5da4611f-34b2-4306-80b8-46babd2aad4a%7D/long-acting-pasireotide-provides-sustained-biochemical-improvements-in-cushings-disease?page=2

New discoveries offer possible Cushing’s disease cure

LOS ANGELES — More than a century has passed since the neurosurgeon and pathologist Harvey Cushing first discovered the disease that would eventually bear his name, but only recently have several key discoveries offered patients with the condition real hope for a cure, according to a speaker here.

There are several challenges clinicians confront in the diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s disease, Shlomo Melmed, MB, ChB, FRCP, MACP, dean, executive vice president and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said during a plenary presentation. Patients who present with Cushing’s disease typically have depression, impaired mental function and hypertension and are at high risk for stroke, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, dyslipidemia and other metabolic disorders, Melmed said. Available therapies, which range from surgery and radiation to the somatostatin analogue pasireotide (Signifor LAR, Novartis), are often followed by disease recurrence. Cushing’s disease is fatal without treatment; the median survival if uncontrolled is about 4.5 years, Melmed said.

“This truly is a metabolic, malignant disorder,” Melmed said. “The life expectancy today in patients who are not controlled is apparently no different from 1930.”

The outlook for Cushing’s disease is now beginning to change, Melmed said. New targets are emerging for treatment, and newly discovered molecules show promise in reducing the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and pituitary tumor size.

“Now, we are seeing the glimmers of opportunity and optimism, that we can identify specific tumor drivers — SST5, [epidermal growth factor] receptor, cyclin inhibitors — and we can start thinking about personalized, precision treatment for these patients with a higher degree of efficacy and optimism than we could have even a year or 2 ago,” Melmed said. “This will be an opportunity for us to broaden the horizons of our investigations into this debilitating disorder.”

Challenges in diagnosis, treatment

Overall, about 10% of the U.S. population harbors a pituitary adenoma, the most common type of pituitary disorder, although the average size is only about 6 mm and 40% of them are not visible, Melmed said. In patients with Cushing’s disease, surgery is effective in only about 60% to 70% of patients for initial remission, and overall, there is about a 60% chance of recurrence depending on the surgery center, Melmed said. Radiation typically leads to hypopituitarism, whereas surgical or biochemical adrenalectomy is associated with adverse effects and morbidity. Additionally, the clinical features of hypercortisolemia overlap with many common illnesses, such as obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

“There are thousands of those patients for every patient with Cushing’s disease who we will encounter,” Melmed said.

The challenge for the treating clinician, Melmed said, is to normalize cortisol and ACTH with minimal morbidity, to resect the tumor mass or control tumor growth, preserve pituitary function, improve quality of life and achieve long-term control without recurrence.

“This is a difficult challenge to meet for all of us,” Melmed said.

Available options

Pituitary surgery is typically the first-line option offered to patients with Cushing’s disease, Melmed said, and there are several advantages, including rapid initial remission, a one-time cost and potentially curing the disease. However, there are several disadvantages with surgery; patients undergoing surgery are at risk for postoperative venous thromboembolism, persistent hypersecretion of ACTH, adenoma persistence or recurrence, and surgical complications.

Second-line options are repeat surgery, radiation, adrenalectomy or medical therapy, each with its own sets of pros and cons, Melmed said.

“The reality of Cushing’s disease — these patients undergo first surgery and then recur, second surgery and then recur, then maybe radiation and then recur, and then they develop a chronic illness, and this chronic illness is what leads to their demise,” Melmed said. “Medical therapy is appropriate at every step of the spectrum.”

Zebrafish clues

Searching for new options, Melmed and colleagues introduced a pituitary tumor transforming gene discovered in his lab into zebrafish, which caused the fish to develop the hallmark features of Cushing’s disease: high cortisol levels, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the fish models, researchers observed that cyclin E activity, which drives the production of ACTH, was high.

Melmed and colleagues then screened zebrafish larvae in a search for cyclin E inhibitors to derive a therapeutic molecule and discovered R-roscovitine, shown to repress the expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC), the pituitary precursor of ACTH.

In fish, mouse and in vitro human cell models, treatment with R-roscovitine was associated with suppressed corticotroph tumor signaling and blocked ACTH production, Melmed said.

“Furthermore, we asked whether or not roscovitine would actually block transcription of the POMC gene,” Melmed said. “It does. We had this molecule (that) suppressed cyclin E and also blocks transcription of POMC leading to blocked production of ACTH.”

In a small, open-label, proof-of-principal study, four patients with Cushing’s disease who received roscovitine for 4 weeks developed normalized urinary free cortisol, Melmed said.

Currently, the FDA Office of Orphan Products Development is funding a multicenter, phase 2, open-label clinical trial that will evaluate the safety and efficacy of two of three potential doses of oral roscovitine (seliciclib) in patients with newly diagnosed, persistent or recurrent Cushing disease. Up to 29 participants will be treated with up to 800 mg per day of oral seliciclib for 4 days each week for 4 weeks and enrolled in sequential cohorts based on efficacy outcomes.

“Given the rarity of the disorder, it will probably take us 2 to 3 years to recruit patients to give us a robust answer,” Melmed said. “This zebrafish model was published in 2011, and we are now in 2019. It has taken us 8 years from publication of the data to, today, going into humans with Cushing’s. Hopefully, this will light the pathway for a phase 2 trial.”

 Offering optimism’

Practitioners face a unique paradigm when treating patients with Cushing’s disease, Melmed said. Available first- and second-line therapy options often are not a cure for many patients, who develop multimorbidity and report a low quality of life.

“Then, we are kept in this difficult cycle of what to do next and, eventually, running out of options,” Melmed said. “Now, we can look at novel, targeted molecules and add those to our armamentarium and at least offer our patients the opportunity to participate in trials, or at least offer the optimism that, over the coming years, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel for their disorder.”

Melmed compared the work to Lucas Cranach’s Fons Juventutis (The Fountain of Youth). The painting, completed in 1446, shows sick people brought by horse-drawn ambulance to a pool of water, only to emerge happy and healthy.

“He was imagining this ‘elixir of youth’ (that) we could offer patients who are very ill and, in fact, that is what we as endocrinologists do,” Melmed said. “We offer our patients these elixirs. These Cushing’s patients are extremely ill. We are trying with all of our molecular work and our understanding of pathogenesis and signaling to create this pool of water for them, where they can emerge with at least an improved quality of life and, hopefully, a normalized mortality. That is our challenge.” – by Regina Schaffer

Reference:

Melmed S. From zebrafish to humans: translating discoveries for the treatment of Cushing’s disease. Presented at: AACE Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress; April 24-28, 2019; Los Angeles.

Disclosure: Melmed reports no relevant financial disclosures.

 

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B585002ad-640f-49e5-8d62-d1853154d7e2%7D/new-discoveries-offer-possible-cushings-disease-cure

Medical therapy ‘reasonable option’ vs. surgery in Cushing’s disease

In a large percentage of patients with Cushing’s disease, medical therapy effectively induces cortisol normalization, suggesting the choice may serve as a useful first-line treatment vs. surgery for some, according to findings from a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Pituitary.

Cushing’s syndrome is generally approached by removal of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing tumor in ectopic disease and by adrenalectomy in ACTH-independent disease, Leonie H. A. Broersen, MD, of the department of medicine at Leiden University Medical Centre in Leiden, Netherlands, wrote in the study background. However, medical therapy can be used to control cortisol secretion preoperatively and as a “bridge” until control of hypercortisolism is achieved by radiotherapy, whereas use of medical therapy as a first-line treatment is increasing, they noted.

“Medical treatment is a reasonable treatment option for Cushing’s disease patients in case of a contraindication for surgery, a recurrence, or in patients choosing not to have surgery,” Broersen told Endocrine Today. “In case of side effects or no treatment effect, an alternate medical therapy or combination therapy can be considered.”

Broersen and colleagues analyzed data from 35 studies with 1,520 patients reporting on six medical therapies for Cushing’s disease, including studies assessing pasireotide (n = 2; Signifor LAR, Novartis), mitotane (n = 5; Lysodren, Bristol-Myers Squibb), cabergoline (n = 3), ketoconazole (n = 8), metyrapone (n = 5; Metopirone, HRA Pharma), mifepristone (n = 2; Korlym, Corcept Therapeutics) and multiple medical agents (n = 10), all published between 1971 and 2017. Studies included 11 single-arm trials, two randomized controlled trials with two treatment arms, and 22 cohort studies. In 28 studies, normalization of cortisol was measured by urinary free cortisol, midnight salivary cortisol or a low-dose dexamethasone test, with 25 studies reporting on clinical improvement and three studies reporting on quality of life.

Across studies, medical treatment was effective in normalizing cortisol levels in Cushing’s disease in 35.7% (cabergoline) to 81.8% (mitotane) of patients, according to the researchers. In seven studies reporting data separately for medical therapy as primary (n = 4) or secondary therapy (n = 5), researchers found medication as primary therapy normalized cortisol levels in 58.1% of patients (95% CI, 49.7-66.2), similar to the effect of medication as a secondary therapy (57.8%; 95% CI, 41.3-73.6). In studies in which at least 80% of patients with Cushing’s disease were pretreated with medication before surgery, researchers observed a preoperative normalization of cortisol levels in 32.3% of patients (95% CI, 20-45.8). Patients using medical monotherapy experienced a lower percentage of cortisol normalization vs. patients using multiple agents (49.4% vs. 65.7%), according to researchers, with normalization rates higher among patients with concurrent or previous radiotherapy.

Across studies, 39.9% of patients experienced mild adverse effects, and 15.2% experienced severe adverse effects.

“Importantly, medical agents for hypercortisolism can cause severe side effects, leading to therapy adjustment or withdrawal in 4.8% (cabergoline) to 28.4% (mitotane) of patients,” the researchers wrote. “These results suggest that medical therapy can be considered a reasonable treatment alternative to the first-choice surgical treatment when regarding treatment effectiveness and side effects.” – by Regina Schaffer

For more information: Leonie H. A. Broersen, MD, can be reached at l.h.aA.broersen@lumc.nl.

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/in-the-journals/%7B294187ce-3f5e-4d3f-b02e-5023515c3b0b%7D/medical-therapy-reasonable-option-vs-surgery-in-cushings-disease

Temozolomide May Partially Improve Aggressive Pituitary Tumors Causing Cushing’s Disease

The chemotherapy temozolomide partially improved a case of an aggressive pituitary tumor that caused symptoms of Cushing’s disease (CD), according to a new study in Poland. However, after tumor mass and cortisol levels were stabilized for a few months, the patient experienced rapid progression, suggesting that new methods for extending the effects of temozolomide are needed.

The study, “Temozolomide therapy for aggressive pituitary Crooke’s cells corticotropinoma causing Cushing’s Disease: A case report with literature review,” appeared in the journal Endokrynologia Polska.

Aggressive pituitary tumors are usually invasive macroadenomas, or benign tumors larger than 10 mm.

A very rare subset of pituitary adenoma — particularly corticotropinoma, or tumors with excessive secretion of corticotropin (ACTH) — exhibit Crooke’s cells. These tumors are highly invasive, have a high recurrence rate, and are often resistant to treatment.

Information is not widely available about the effectiveness of treating aggressive pituitary tumors, particularly those that cause Cushing’s disease. The management of these tumors usually requires neurosurgery, followed by radiotherapy, and pharmacotherapy. However, the chemotherapy medication temozolomide has been increasingly used as a first-line treatment after initial evidence of its effectiveness in treating glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer.

In this study, researchers at the Jagiellonian University, in Poland, discussed the case of a 61-year-old man with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome caused by Crooke’s cell corticotropinoma.

The patient first presented with symptoms of severe hypercorticoidism — the excessive secretion of steroid hormones from the adrenal cortex — in December 2011. He also showed advanced heart failure, severe headaches, and impaired vision, which had started two or three years before diagnosis. Examinations revealed osteoporosis and a fracture in the Th5 vertebra.

His morning ACTH levels were high. The same was observed for mean cortisol levels even after dexamethasone treatment, which was suggestive of a pituitary tumor secreting ACTH. MRIs showed the existence of a tumor mass, later identified as a macroadenoma with high cell polymorphism, the presence of Crooke’s cells, and ACTH secretion.

The patient was referred for transsphenoidal nonradical neurosurgery, performed through the nose and the sphenoid sinus, and bilateral adrenalectomy, or the surgical removal of the adrenal glands, in 2012-2013. However, he developed fast, postoperative recurrence of hypercorticoidism and tumor regrowth. This led to three additional transsphenoidal neurosurgeries and radiotherapy.

The patient’s clinical status worsened as he developed severe cardiac insufficiency. Doctors began temozolomide treatment in April 2015, which did not result in adverse effects throughout treatment.

The initial standard dose (150–200 mg/m2) was given once daily in the morning for five consecutive days, in a 28-day cycle. The patient also received 600 mg of ketoconazole, an antifungal medication. Ondansetron was administered to prevent nausea and vomiting.

Subsequent examinations revealed clinical and biochemical improvements, including a reduction in ACTH and cortisol levels. In addition, the patient also showed reduced cardiac insufficiency, less frequent and less severe headaches, visual field improvements, and better physical fitness and mood.

However, clinical symptoms worsened after the eighth temozolomide cycle. The tumor size also suddenly increased after the ninth cycle, reaching the inner ear. Temozolomide was then discontinued and ACTH levels increased by 28 percent one month later. The patient also demonstrated deteriorated vision, hearing loss, and strong headaches.

Clinicians then decided to start treatment with the Cushing’s disease therapy Signifor (pasireotide), but a worsening of diabetes was observed, and the patient died in February 2016.

“The most probable reason for death was compression of the brainstem, which had been observed in the last MRI of the pituitary,” the researchers wrote, adding that “due to the very short duration of treatment, any conclusions on the treatment with Signifor cannot be drawn.”

Overall, “the results of the presented case suggest that [temozolomide] treatment monotherapy could have only partial response in aggressive corticotroph adenoma causing Cushing’s disease, followed by sudden progression,” the investigators wrote. This contrasts with mostly responsive cases reported in research literature, they noted.

“Therefore, further research on the factors of responsiveness and on novel methods to extend the duration of the effect of [temozolomide] should be carried out,” they wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/02/08/cushings-disease-case-study-poland-shows-temozolomide-temporarily-effective-treating-aggressive-pituitary-tumor/

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