Rare Prostate Cancer Associated with Cushing’s Syndrome

A patient with depression developed Cushing’s syndrome (CS) because of a rare ACTH-secreting small cell cancer of the prostate, a case study reports.

The case report, “An unusual cause of depression in an older man: Cushing’s syndrome resulting from metastatic small cell cancer of the prostate,” was published in the “Lesson of the Month” section of Clinical Medicine.

Ectopic CS is a condition caused by an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting tumor outside the pituitary or adrenal glands. The excess ACTH then acts on the adrenal glands, causing them to produce too much cortisol.

Small cell cancer is more common in older men, those in their 60s or 70s. Sources of ectopic ACTH synthesis arising in the pelvis are rare; nonetheless, ACTH overproduction has been linked to tumors in the gonads and genitourinary organs, including the prostate.

Still, evidence suggests there are less than 30 published cases reporting ectopic CS caused by prostate cancer.

Researchers from the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network and the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia described the case of an 84-year-old man who complained of fatigue, back pain, and lack of appetite.

Blood tests revealed mildly elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and creatinine levels, which could indicate the presence of prostate cancer and impaired kidney function, respectively.

The patient had a history of locally invasive prostate cancer even though he didn’t experience any symptoms of this disease.

Ultrasound examination showed an enlarged prostate plus obstructed ureters — the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder. To remove the obstruction, doctors inserted a thin tube into both ureters and restored urine flow.

After the procedure, the man had low levels of calcium, a depressed mood, and back pain, all of which compromised his recovery. Imaging of his back showed no obvious reason for his complaints, and he was discharged.

Eight days later, the patient went to the emergency room of a large public hospital because of back pain radiating to his left buttock. The man also had mild proximal weakness on both sides. He was thinner, and had low levels of calcium, high blood pressure and serum bicarbonate levels, plus elevated blood sugar. In addition, his depression was much worse.

A psychiatrist prescribed him an antidepressant called mirtazapine, and regular follow-up showed that his mood did improve with therapy.

A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed a 10.5 cm tumor on the prostate and metastasis on the lungs and liver. Further testing showed high serum cortisol and ACTH levels, consistent with a diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome.

But researchers could not identify the ACTH source, and three weeks later, the patient died of a generalized bacterial infection, despite treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics.

An autopsy revealed that the cancer had spread to the pelvic sidewalls and to one of the adrenal glands. Tissue analysis revealed that the patient had two types of cancer: acinar adenocarcinoma and small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma — which could explain the excess ACTH.

Cause of death was bronchopneumonia, a severe inflammation of the lungs, triggered by an invasive fungal infection.

Investigators believe there are things to be learned from this case, saying, “Neither the visceral metastases nor aggressive growth of the pelvic mass noted on imaging were typical of prostatic adenocarcinoma. [Plus], an incomplete diagnosis at death was the precipitant for a post-mortem examination. The autopsy findings were beneficial to the patient’s family and treating team. The case was discussed at a regular teaching meeting at a large tertiary hospital and, thus, was beneficial to a wide medical audience.”

Although a rare cause of ectopic ACTH synthesis, small cell prostate cancer should be considered in men presenting with Cushing’s syndrome, especially in those with a “mystery” source of ACTH overproduction.

“This case highlights the importance of multidisciplinary evaluation of clinical cases both [before and after death], and is a fine example of how autopsy findings can be used to benefit a wide audience,” the researchers concluded.

https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/10/16/rare-prostate-cancer-prostate-associated-cushings-syndrome-case-report/

Cushing’s Syndrome, Prostate Cancer and Adrenocortical Carcinoma

Orphagen has identified and characterized small molecule antagonists to steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1). SF-1 binds to and regulates DNA promoter elements in the major transporters and enzymes required for adrenal steroid synthesis. It is also required for development of the adrenal gland. SF-1 antagonists inhibit cortisol secretion in adrenal cells and have potential application in two orphan indications, Cushing’s syndrome and adrenocortical carcinoma. In addition, SF-1 appears to have an important role in the progression of advanced prostate cancer.

 

cushings-adrenocortical-crop

 

Cushing’s syndrome:
An estimated 20,000 people in the US have Cushing’s, with more than 3,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The incidence is similar in Europe. Cushing’s syndrome disproportionately affects females, who make up about 75% of the diagnosed cases. Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome can include obesity, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, osteoporosis and immune suppression. Cushing’s syndrome is caused by elevated secretion of cortisol from the adrenal gland, in association with pituitary, adrenal or other cancers.

Orphagen has identified small molecule antagonists to SF-1 that have the potential to suppress cortisol levels in all Cushing’s patients without serious side effects.

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC):
ACC is a rare malignancy with an extremely poor prognosis (5-year overall survival: 37-47%). Complete surgical resection offers hope for long-term survival but surgery is not an option in up to two-thirds of patients because metastasis has usually occurred by the time of diagnosis.

SF-1 is recognized as a potential mechanism-based therapeutic target for control of ACC and an SF-1 antagonist could be used in the treatment of ACC.

Pediatric ACC:
Pediatric ACC is a very rare but aggressive cancer with a long-term survival rate of about 50%. Approximately 60% of children with adrenocortical tumors are diagnosed before the age of four. The SF-1 gene is amplified and SF-1 protein is overexpressed in the vast majority of childhood adrenocortical tumors strongly implicating SF-1 in pediatric adrenocortical tumorigenesis.

Castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC):
CRPC is the most common cancer in males. Surgery is not an option if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland, at which point patients typically receive hormonal therapy, essentially chemical castration. This course of therapy usually fails within two years, resulting in castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Most patients eventually succumb to CRPC, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
SF-1 antagonists may: (1) block the adrenal androgens that circumvent chemical castration, and are a primary cause of CRPC; and (2) inhibit synthesis of androgens within the prostate tumor itself, where SF-1 may control induction of enzymes for de novo androgen synthesis in treatment-resistant cancers.

From http://www.orphagen.com/research_cushings.html

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