Mortality rate in Cushing’s syndrome ‘unacceptably high’

A large study of mortality in Cushing’s syndrome calculated a threefold higher mortality rate for these patients, with cerebrovascular and atherosclerotic vascular diseases and infection accounting for 50% of deaths, researchers reported.

“[We have seen] improvement in outcome since 2000, but mortality is still unacceptably high,” Padiporn Limumpornpetch, MD, an endocrinologist at Prince of Songkla University in Thailand and PhD student at the University of Leeds, U.K., told Healio during the ENDO annual meeting. “The mortality outcome has shown an unacceptable standardized mortality rate of 3:1, with poorer outcomes in patients with adrenal Cushing’s [and] active and larger tumors in Cushing’s disease.”

Atherosclerotic vascular disease was the top cause of death in Cushing’s disease, with infection coming in as the second-highest cause of death. Data were derived from Limumpornpetch P. OR04-4. Presented at: ENDO annual meeting; March 20-23, 2021 (virtual meeting).

For a meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of cause of death among patients with benign endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, Limumpornpetch and colleagues reviewed data published from 1952 to January 2021 from 92 study cohorts with 19,181 patients that reported mortality rates, including 66 studies that reported causes of death.

The researchers calculated the standardized mortality rate (SMR) for Cushing’s syndrome at 3 (95% CI, 2.3-3.9). For patients with adrenal Cushing’s syndrome, SMR was 3.3 (95% CI, 0.5-6.6) — higher than for those with Cushing’s disease, with an SMR of 2.8 (95% CI, 2.1-3.7). Rates were similar by sex and by type of adrenal tumor.

Deaths occurring within 30 days of surgery for Cushing’s syndrome fell to 3% after 2000 from 10% before that date (P < .005). During the entire study period, atherosclerotic vascular disease accounted for 27.4% of deaths in Cushing’s syndrome, and 12.7% were attributable to infection, 11.7% to cerebrovascular diseases, 10.6% to malignancy, 4.4% to thromboembolism, 2.9% to active disease, 3% to adrenal insufficiency and 2.2% to suicide.

“We look forward to the day when our interdisciplinary approach to managing these challenging patients can deliver outcomes similar to the background population,” Limumpornpetch said.

From https://www.healio.com/news/endocrinology/20210322/mortality-rate-in-cushings-syndrome-unacceptably-high

Largest-ever analysis of its kind finds Cushing’s syndrome triples risk of death

WASHINGTON–Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, a rare hormonal disorder, is associated with a threefold increase in death, primarily due to cardiovascular disease and infection, according to a study whose results will be presented at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

The research, according to the study authors, is the largest systematic review and meta-analysis to date of studies of endogenous (meaning “inside your body”) Cushing’s syndrome. Whereas Cushing’s syndrome most often results from external factors–taking cortisol-like medications such as prednisone–the endogenous type occurs when the body overproduces the hormone cortisol, affecting multiple bodily systems.

Accurate data on the mortality and specific causes of death in people with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome are lacking, said the study’s lead author, Padiporn Limumpornpetch, M.D., an endocrinologist from Prince of Songkla University, Thailand and Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds in Leeds, U.K. The study analyzed death data from more than 19,000 patients in 92 studies published through January 2021.

“Our results found that death rates have fallen since 2000 but are still unacceptably high,” Limumpornpetch said.

Cushing’s syndrome affects many parts of the body because cortisol responds to stress, maintains blood pressure and cardiovascular function, regulates blood sugar and keeps the immune system in check. The most common cause of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is a tumor of the pituitary gland called Cushing’s disease, but another cause is a usually benign tumor of the adrenal glands called adrenal Cushing’s syndrome. All patients in this study had noncancerous tumors, according to Limumpornpetch.

Overall, the proportion of death from all study cohorts was 5 percent, the researchers reported. The standardized mortality ratio–the ratio of observed deaths in the study group to expected deaths in the general population matched by age and sex–was 3:1, indicating a threefold increase in deaths, she stated.

This mortality ratio was reportedly higher in patients with adrenal Cushing’s syndrome versus Cushing’s disease and in patients who had active disease versus those in remission. The standardized mortality ratio also was worse in patients with Cushing’s disease with larger tumors versus very small tumors (macroadenomas versus microadenomas).

On the positive side, mortality rates were lower after 2000 versus before then, which Limumpornpetch attributed to advances in diagnosis, operative techniques and medico-surgical care.

More than half of observed deaths were due to heart disease (24.7 percent), infections (14.4 percent), cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke or aneurysm (9.4 percent) or blood clots in a vein, known as thromboembolism (4.2 percent).

“The causes of death highlight the need for aggressive management of cardiovascular risk, prevention of thromboembolism and good infection control and emphasize the need to achieve disease remission, normalizing cortisol levels,” she said.

Surgery is the mainstay of initial treatment of Cushing’s syndrome. If an operation to remove the tumor fails to put the disease in remission, other treatments are available, such as medications.

Study co-author Victoria Nyaga, Ph.D., of the Belgian Cancer Centre in Brussels, Belgium, developed the Metapreg statistical analysis program used in this study.

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From https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/tes-lao031621.php

Cushing’s Disease Caused by a Pituitary Microadenoma Coexistent with a Meningioma

Yu Wang, Zhixiang Sun, Zhiquan Jiang

Department of Neurosurgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Bengbu Medical College, Bengbu, Anhui, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence: Zhiquan Jiang
Department of Neurosurgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Bengbu Medical College, 287 Changhuai Road, Bengbu, Anhui 233004, People’s Republic of China
Tel +86-13966075971
Email bbjiangzhq@163.com

Abstract: Cushing’s disease (CD), also known as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent pituitary Cushing’s syndrome, is a rare and serious chronic endocrine disease that is usually caused by a pituitary adenoma (especially a pituitary microadenoma). Meningioma is the most common type of primary intracranial tumor and is usually benign. The patient in this case report presented with CD coexisting with pituitary microadenoma and meningioma, which is an extremely rare comorbidity. The pathogenesis of CD associated with meningioma remains unclear. Here, we describe the case of bilateral lower extremity edema, lower limb pain, abdominal purplish striae, and abdominal distension for 9 months in a 47-year-old woman. Two years ago, the patient underwent a hysterectomy at a local hospital for hysteromyoma. She had no previous radiotherapeutic treatment or other medical history. Magnetic resonance imaging of her head revealed a sellar lesion (7.8 mm × 6.4 mm) and a spherical mass (3.0 cm × 3.0 cm) in the right frontal convexity. Her level of serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) was 169 pg/mL, and her cortisol levels were 933 nmol/mL and 778 nmol/mL at 8 am and 4 pm, respectively. Preoperatively, she was diagnosed with ACTH-secreting pituitary microadenoma and meningioma. Excision of the meningioma was performed through a craniotomy, while an endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal approach was used to remove the pituitary adenoma. Meningioma and pituitary adenoma were confirmed by postoperative pathology. On the basis of this unusual case, the relevant literature was reviewed to illustrate the diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s disease and to explore the pathogenesis of pituitary adenoma associated with meningioma.

Keywords: Cushing’s disease, pituitary adenoma, meningioma

Introduction

Cushing’s disease (CD) is a severe condition caused by an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary tumor that accounts for approximately 70% of all cases of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome. It has a total incidence of 1–2 cases per million per year and a prevalence rate of approximately 30 patients per million per year, making it an uncommon disease.1 Meningiomas account for 15–25% of all intracranial tumors, with an annual incidence of 6 cases per 100,000 persons.2 CD combined with meningioma is a rare condition, and even rarer in patients who have no previously known risk factors for either tumor. To the best of our knowledge, its pathogenesis have not been clearly described to date.

Case Presentation

Clinical History and Laboratory Findings

A 47-year-old woman was admitted to the endocrinology department of our hospital with chief complaints of bilateral lower extremity edema, left lower limb pain, abdominal purplish striae, and abdominal distension for 9 months. Two years ago, the patient had a hysterectomy at a local hospital for hysteromyoma. She had no previous radiotherapeutic treatment or other medical history. She weighed 90 kg and was 165 cm tall with a body mass index (BMI) of 33. Physical examination showed typical features of Cushing’s syndrome, including centripetal obesity, moon face, pedal edema, and buffalo hump. Her skin was thin and dry, with acne and hirsutism. On admission, her blood pressure was 146/115 mmHg and routine biochemical blood tests confirmed comorbidity with diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and hypokalemia.

Endocrine measurements showed that her serum ACTH was 169 pg/mL (reference value: 5–50 pg/mL), cortisol (8 am) was 933 nmol/L (reference value: 138–690 nmol/L), and cortisol (4 pm) was 778 nmol/L (reference value: 69–345 nmol/L), indicating that her ACTH and cortisol levels were dramatically increased. Cortisol secretion was increased and had lost its circadian rhythm. The low-dose dexamethasone suppression test showed that cortisol suppression was < 50%, while a >50% suppression of cortisol was found in the high-dose dexamethasone suppression test. Serum prolactin, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, testosterone, free thyroid hormone (FT3 and FT4), and thyrotropin values were normal. Endocrinological evaluation suspected that pituitary lesions caused Cushing syndrome.

Imaging Analysis

The patient underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to image her head. T1-weighted MRI with contrast enhancement showed a spherical enhancing mass (3.0 cm × 3.0 cm) in the right frontal convexity and a dural tail sign (Figure 1A). In the sellar area, the enhancement degree of the lesion (7.8 mm × 6.4 mm) was significantly lower than that of the surrounding pituitary tissue, and the pituitary stalk was displaced to the right (Figure 1A and B). No abnormalities were found on plain or enhanced adrenal computed tomography scans.

Figure 1 Enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the patient’s head: (A) Coronal view of the gadolinium-enhanced T1-weighted image showing a spherical enhancing mass in the right frontal convexity and a dural tail sign. A round low-intensity lesion can be seen on the right side of the pituitary gland, and the pituitary stalk is displaced to the right. (B) Sagittal T1-weighted sequence with contrast showing the degree of enhancement is lower than that of the pituitary in the sellar region.

 

Treatment and Pathological Examination

Physical examination, endocrine examination, and head MRI successfully proved that pituitary microadenoma caused Cushing’s syndrome (specifically CD) comorbid with asymptomatic meningioma.

In order to receive surgical treatment, the patient was referred from the endocrinology department to neurosurgery. She underwent neuroendoscopic transsphenoidal surgery and the pituitary microadenoma was removed. The sellar floor was reconstructed with artificial dura mater, and after this reconstruction, no cerebrospinal fluid leakage was observed. The pathological specimen was examined and was determined to be consistent with a pituitary microadenoma (Figure 2A). One month later, excision of the meningioma was performed through a right frontal trephine craniotomy. Histological examination revealed a WHO grade I meningioma (Figure 2B).

Figure 2 (A) Histopathologic examination revealed a pituitary adenoma (Hematoxylin and eosin staining, 100×). (B) Histopathologic examination revealed a meningioma (Hematoxylin and eosin staining, 100×).

 

Outcome and Follow Up

On the second day after the operation, her cortisol level dropped below the normal range in the morning. Hydrocortisone replacement therapy was started on the same day. In addition, she had developed transient diabetes insipidus, which was treated with desmopressin. Three months postoperatively, after hydrocortisone replacement therapy, the symptoms of Cushing’s disease were alleviated, and the cortisol level returned to normal, which was 249nmol/L (reference value: 138~690nmol/L).

At the 1-year follow-up, no lesions were observed on the MRI scan and the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome were in remission. The use of hydrocortisone supplements were discontinued and hormone levels remained normal, indicating recovery of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. The patient had lost 30 kg and her BMI had dropped to 22, while her blood glucose, triglyceride level, and blood pressure had all returned to normal. Physical changes in the patient pre- and post-treatment are shown in Figure 3A and B.

Figure 3 Abdominal appearance with striae (A) preoperation and (B) 4 months postoperation.

 

Discussion

Cushing’s Disease

CD is a serious clinical condition caused by a pituitary adenoma secreting a high level of ACTH, leading to hypercortisolism. The proportion of ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas (corresponding to CD) among hormone-secreting pituitary adenomas is 4.8%–10%, which affects women three times more frequently than men, mainly occurs in those 40–60 years old.3,4 Exposure to excessive cortisol can lead to various manifestations of Cushing’s syndrome and increases in morbidity and mortality.5 Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of CD are very important.

The diagnosis and differential diagnosis of CD is very complicated, and these have always been challenging problems in clinical endocrinology. Once Cushing’s syndrome is diagnosed, its etiology should be determined. A diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is made based on a biochemical examination confirming the pituitary origin of the condition and exclude other sources (namely, ectopic ACTH secretion and adrenocortical tumors).3 High-dose dexamethasone suppression and corticotropin-releasing-hormone stimulation tests may be used to distinguish high-secretion sources of pituitary and ectopic ACTH. More than 90% of the pituitary adenomas that cause CD are microadenomas (≤10 mm in diameter), and 40% of the cases cannot be located by radiological examination.5 Examination with bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS) is necessary for CD patients in whom noninvasive biochemical and imaging examinations do not lead to a definitive diagnosis.6

The first-line treatment for CD is transsphenoidal selective tumor resection (TSS) with approximately 78% of the patients in remission after the operation, and 13% of patients relapse within 10 years after surgery. Therefore, there are a considerable number of patients who have experienced long-term surgical failure and require additional second-line treatment, such as radiotherapy, bilateral adrenalectomy, or medication.4

The pathogenesis of CD is unclear, but recent studies have confirmed that there are somatic activation mutations of multiple genes in adrenocorticotropin adenomas, while ubiquitin specific peptidase 8 (USP8) is the most common, accounting for about 50% of the mutations in these adenomas.7

Pituitary Adenoma Associated with Meningioma

Radiotherapy used to treat pituitary tumors is a well-known reason for the development of meningiomas. Gene mutations are a common molecular characteristic of meningiomas, with inactivation of the neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor gene found in 55% of meningiomas, and a further 25% of meningiomas accounted for by recently described mutations in other genes.8

Simultaneous occurrence of pituitary adenoma and meningioma without a history of radiotherapy is a rare condition clinically, having only been described in 49 cases before 2019,9 while ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas (CD) comorbid with meningioma have been reported even less frequently. In the reported cases, the most common site of meningioma is parasellar, accounting for 44.9%, while meningioma located in the distant part of the adenoma is rare.9,10

A number of clinicians have suggested that the coexistence of meningiomas and pituitary adenomas is incidental, with no relationship between the two diseases.2,11

Genetic imbalances have been found in pituitary adenomas, including in particular the chromosomal deletions of 1p, 2q, 4, 5, 6, 11q, 12q, 13q, and 18q, and the overexpression of 9q, 16p, 17p, 19, and 20q. Functional adenomas have more such imbalances than nonfunctional adenomas, corresponding in particular to deletions of chromosomes 4 and 18q, and the overexpression of chromosomes 17 and 19.12 Meanwhile, estrogen receptor positive de novo meningiomas significantly involve chromosomes 14 and 22.13

The study by Hwang et al14 reported that the expression levels of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) family proteins were significantly higher in pituitary adenomas and meningiomas than that in normal brain tissues. Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptor 5 (LGR5) and its downstream signaling pathways play an pivotal role in pituitary tumor, meningioma, and other brain tumors. Zhu et al15 reported that multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) plays an important role in pituitary adenoma associated with meningioma by upregulating the mammalian target of rapamycin signaling pathway. They found that rapamycin treatment promotes apoptosis in primary cells of the pituitary adenoma and meningioma in cases of pituitary adenoma associated with meningioma. Recurrence of pituitary adenoma, younger age, and larger size of meningioma have been shown to be significantly associated with MEN1 mutation.16

Mathuriya et al17 suggested that hormones may contribute to the occurrence of meningiomas.

de Vries et al9 reported that compared with other types of adenomas, the proportion of growth hormone adenomas is higher, accounting for about one third of cases. Meanwhile, Friend et al18 demonstrated that activation of GH/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis clearly increased the growth rate of meningiomas. However, in the present case, we observed the coexistence of ACTH-secreting adenoma and meningioma. Further studies are required to understand whether ACTH or cortisol are related to the occurrence and development of meningioma.

In our case, pituitary microadenoma was the cause of Cushing’s syndrome, while the meningioma was an incidental imaging observation. With the popularity and technological progress of high-resolution imaging technology, the reported prevalence of intracranial lesions related to dominant pathology has increased.2 However, when imaging examinations are limited to specific regions, the diagnosis of lesions in other locations is likely to be omitted. For example, in our case, performing MRI of the sellar region alone may have meant that the meningioma was missed.

Conclusion

Cushing’s disease is the most common cause of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome and is caused by ACTH-secreting pituitary adenoma.It is associated with severe complications and reduced quality of life, so early diagnosis and treatment are critical. The coexistence of CD, pituitary adenoma, and meningioma is very rare, and the exact mechanisms underlying such comorbidity are currently unclear and need further study.

Data Sharing Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author, Zhiquan Jiang.

Ethics and Consent Statement

Based on the regulations of the department of research of the Bengbu Medical College, institutional review board approval is not required for case reports.

Consent for Publication

Written informed consent has been provided by the patient to have the case details and any accompanying images published.

Author Contributions

All authors made substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; took part in drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; agreed to submit to the current journal; gave final approval of the version to be published; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Funding

The authors declared that this case has received no financial support.

Disclosure

The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

References

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2. Curto L, Squadrito S, Almoto B, et al. MRI finding of simultaneous coexistence of growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma with intracranial meningioma and carotid artery aneurysms: report of a case. Pituitary. 2007;10(3):299–305. doi:10.1007/s11102-007-0011-4

3. Mehta GU, Lonser RR. Management of hormone-secreting pituitary adenomas. Neuro Oncol. 2017;19(6):762–773. doi:10.1093/neuonc/now130

4. Pivonello R, De Leo M, Cozzolino A, Colao A. The treatment of Cushing’s disease. Endocr Rev. 2015;36(4):385–486. doi:10.1210/er.2013-1048

5. Tritos NA, Biller BMK. Current management of Cushing’s disease. J Intern Med. 2019;286(5):526–541. doi:10.1111/joim.12975

6. Fan C, Zhang C, Shi X, et al. Assessing the value of bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling in the diagnosis and treatment of a complex case of Cushing’s disease. Intractable Rare Dis Res. 2013;2(1):24–29. doi:10.5582/irdr.2013.v2.1.24

7. Sbiera S, Kunz M, Weigand I, Deutschbein T, Dandekar T, Fassnacht M. The new genetic landscape of Cushing’s disease: deubiquitinases in the spotlight. Cancers. 2019;11(11):1761. doi:10.3390/cancers11111761

8. Apra C, Peyre M, Kalamarides M. Current treatment options for meningioma. Expert Rev Neurother. 2018;18(3):241–249. doi:10.1080/14737175.2018.1429920

9. de Vries F, Lobatto DJ, Zamanipoor Najafabadi AH, et al. Unexpected concomitant pituitary adenoma and suprasellar meningioma: a case report and review of the literature. Br J Neurosurg. 2019:1–5. doi:10.1080/02688697.2018.1556782.

10. Gosal JS, Shukla K, Praneeth K, et al. Coexistent pituitary adenoma and frontal convexity meningioma with frontal sinus invasion: a rare association. Surg Neurol Int. 2020;11:270. doi:10.25259/SNI_164_2020

11. Cannavo S, Curto L, Fazio R, et al. Coexistence of growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma and intracranial meningioma: a case report and review of the literature. J Endocrinol Invest. 1993;16(9):703–708. doi:10.1007/BF03348915

12. Szymas J, Schluens K, Liebert W, Petersen I. Genomic instability in pituitary adenomas. Pituitary. 2002;5(4):211–219. doi:10.1023/a:1025313214951

13. Pravdenkova S, Al-Mefty O, Sawyer J, Husain M. Progesterone and estrogen receptors: opposing prognostic indicators in meningiomas. J Neurosurg. 2006;105(2):163–173. doi:10.3171/jns.2006.105.2.163

14. Hwang M, Han MH, Park HH, et al. LGR5 and downstream intracellular signaling proteins play critical roles in the cell proliferation of neuroblastoma, meningioma and pituitary adenoma. Exp Neurobiol. 2019;28(5):628–641. doi:10.5607/en.2019.28.5.628

15. Zhu H, Miao Y, Shen Y, et al. The clinical characteristics and molecular mechanism of pituitary adenoma associated with meningioma. J Transl Med. 2019;17(1):354. doi:10.1186/s12967-019-2103-0

16. Zhu H, Miao Y, Shen Y, et al. Germline mutations in MEN1 are associated with the tumorigenesis of pituitary adenoma associated with meningioma. Oncol Lett. 2020;20(1):561–568. doi:10.3892/ol.2020.11601

17. Mathuriya SN, Vasishta RK, Dash RJ, Kak VK. Pituitary adenoma and parasagittal meningioma: an unusual association. Neurol India. 2000;48(1):72.

18. Friend KE, Radinsky R, McCutcheon IE. Growth hormone receptor expression and function in meningiomas: effect of a specific receptor antagonist. J Neurosurg. 1999;91(1):93–99. doi:10.3171/jns.1999.91.1.0093

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From https://www.dovepress.com/cushingrsquos-disease-caused-by-a-pituitary-microadenoma-coexistent-wi-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-IJGM

Cushing’s Found to Cause ‘Persistent Mental Health Problems’ in Patients

For years before and after their diagnosis, people with Cushing’s disease use more psychotropic medications — those that affect mood, thoughts, or perception — for mental health problems than their healthy peers, a study in Sweden found.

Notably, patients experiencing long-term disease remission still showed higher use of antidepressants and sleeping pills than healthy individuals.

These findings highlight Cushing’s persistent negative effects on mental health, according to researchers.

Additionally, the results of this study, based on prescribed medication dispenses in Sweden, support the importance of earlier diagnoses of Cushing’s disease — and the need for close and long-term monitoring of neuropsychiatric symptoms in this patient population, the researchers said.

The study, “Psychotropic drugs in patients with Cushing’s disease before diagnosis and at long-term follow-up — a nationwide study,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and cognitive impairments are part of the wide range of symptoms caused by the abnormally high levels of the cortisol hormone that characterize Cushing’s syndrome. Of note, Cushing’s disease is a form of Cushing’s syndrome caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland.

A “few” studies have reported the elimination or partial lessening of neuropsychiatric symptoms after successful Cushing’s treatment, according to the researchers.

But others noted that “impaired cognitive function and quality of life seemed to persist for a long time after biochemical [cortisol level-based] remission had been achieved,” the team wrote.

Now, these researchers, from several universities in Sweden, have assessed the use of psychotropic medications — reflecting mental health burden — in 372 people with Cushing’s disease. The use of such medications was assessed five years before diagnosis, at the time of diagnosis, and at five and 10 years post-diagnosis.

The patients, diagnosed between 1990 and 2018, were identified through the Swedish Pituitary Register, which covers 95% of all people with Cushing’s disease in the country. Most of the patients (76%) were women. Altogether, the patients’ mean age at diagnosis was 44 years.

For each individual with Cushing’s, four sex-, age-, and residential area-matched healthy individuals were used as controls for comparative analyses.

Data on each individual’s dispenses of medications commonly used for neuropsychiatric issues were obtained from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register. This register, which fully covers all prescribed medications given throughout the country, also was used to determine each patient’s dispenses of other medications for Cushing’s disease symptoms, such as high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and diabetes.

The results showed that the use of antidepressants, anxiolytics — medications to lessen anxiety — and sleeping pills was at least twofold higher in Cushing’s patients than in healthy individuals during the five-year period before diagnosis, and at the time of diagnosis.

Five years after diagnosis, the proportion of patients using antidepressants (26%) and sleeping pills (22%) remained unchanged, and even individuals in remission showed significantly higher use of such medications than did controls (20–26% vs. 8.6–12%).

According to the results, one-third of the patients on antidepressants since their diagnosis were able to discontinue treatment before the five-year assessment — most having achieved disease remission. However, 47% of those receiving antidepressants at five years had initiated such treatment at a median of 2.4 years after diagnosis.

During the five-year follow-up, older age and being a woman appeared to increase the risk of antidepressant use among Cushing’s disease patients.

At 10 years of follow-up, the use of antidepressants and sleeping pills was not significantly different between groups, despite the fact that antidepressants use remained about the same among patients.

Notably, researchers conducted an analysis of 76 patients with sustained remission for a median of 9.3 years, and 292 matching controls. That analysis showed that the use of antidepressants and sleeping pills was significantly higher among patients.

The use of other medications, such as those for hypertension and diabetes, also was significantly more common among Cushing’s disease patients before, at diagnosis, and at five years post-diagnosis — although the post-diagnosis numbers dropped by half during that period.

After 10 years, only the use of anti-diabetic medications remained significantly higher in patients as compared with controls.

These findings suggest that other conditions associated with Cushing’s disease, such as hypertension and diabetes, are effectively lessened with treatment. However, they also highlight that “many patients with CD [Cushing’s disease] will have persistent mental health problems,” the researchers wrote.

In addition, visits to a psychiatrist and hospital admissions for treatment of psychiatric disorders tended to be more common among Cushing’s disease patients, even before diagnosis, the team noted.

“This nationwide register-based study shows that use of psychotropic drugs in CD patients is increased from several years before diagnosis,” the researchers wrote, adding that this use “remained elevated regardless of remission status, suggesting persisting negative effects on mental health,” the researchers wrote.

These findings highlight the importance of early diagnosis of Cushing’s disease and of considering neuropsychiatric symptoms “as an important part of the disease,” they concluded.

There is a “need for long-term monitoring of mental health” in Cushing’s, they wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2021/02/24/cushings-found-to-cause-persistent-negative-mental-health-effects-swedish-study/

Treatment for Rare Cancer May Help Cushing’s Patients

The cancer medicine bexarotene may hold promise for treating Cushing’s disease, a study suggests.

The study, “Targeting the TR4 nuclear receptor with antagonist bexarotene can suppress the proopiomelanocortin signalling in AtT‐20 cells,” was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, leading this gland to produce too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Excess ACTH causes the adrenal glands to release too much of the stress hormone cortisol; abnormally high cortisol levels are primarily responsible for the symptoms of Cushing’s.

Typically, first-line treatment is surgical removal of the pituitary tumor. But surgery, while effective in the majority of cases, does not help all. Additional treatment with medications or radiation therapy (radiotherapy) works for some, but not others, and these treatments often have substantial side effects.

“Thus, the development of new drugs for CD [Cushing’s disease] treatment is extremely urgent especially for patients who have low tolerance for surgery and radiotherapy,” the researchers wrote.

Recent research has shown that a protein called testicular receptor 4 (TR4) helps to drive ACTH production in pituitary cancers. Thus, blocking the activity of TR4 could be therapeutic in Cushing’s disease.

Researchers conducted computer simulations to screen for compounds that could block TR4. This revealed bexarotene as a potential inhibitor. Further biochemical tests confirmed that bexarotene could bind to, and block the activity of, TR4.

Bexarotene is a type of medication called a retinoid. It is approved to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a rare cancer that affects the skin, and available under the brand name Targretin.

When pituitary cancer cells in dishes were treated with bexarotene, the cells’ growth was impaired, and apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death) was triggered. Bexarotene treatment also reduced the secretion of ACTH from these cells.

In mice with ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors, bexarotene’s use significantly reduced tumor size, and lowered levels of ACTH and cortisol. Cushing’s-like symptoms also eased; for example, bexarotene treatment reduced the accumulation of fat around the abdomen in these mice.

Additional cellular experiments suggested that bexarotene specifically works on TR4 by changing the location of the protein. Normally, TR4 is present in the nucleus — the cellular compartment that houses DNA — where it helps to control the production of ACTH.

But with bexarotene treatment, TR4 tended to go outside of the nucleus, leading to lower ACTH production. The researchers noted that other mechanisms may also be involved in the observed effects of bexarotene.

“In summary, our work demonstrates that bexarotene is a potential inhibitor for TR4. Importantly, bexarotene may represent a new drug candidate to treat CD,” the researchers concluded.

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