Even in Remission, Cushing’s Patients Have Excess Mortality

Cushing’s disease patients in Sweden have a higher risk of death than the general Swedish population, particularly of cardiovascular complications, and that increased risk persists even in patients in remission, a large nationwide study shows.

The study, “Overall and disease-specific mortality in patients with Cushing’s disease: a Swedish nationwide study,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The outcomes of Cushing’s disease patients have improved with the introduction of several therapeutic approaches, such as minimally invasive surgery and cortisol-lowering therapies. However, mortality is still high, especially among those who do not achieve remission.

While currently patients in remission are thought to have a better prognosis, it is still unclear whether these patients still have a higher mortality than the general population. Understanding whether these patients are more likely to die and what risk factors are associated with increased mortality is critical to reduce death rates among Cushing’s patients.

A team of Swedish researchers thus performed a retrospective study that included patients diagnosed with Cushing’s disease who were part of the Swedish National Patient Registry between 1987 and 2013.

A total of 502 patients with Cushing’s disease were included in the study, 419 of whom were confirmed to be in remission. Most patients (77%) were women; the mean age at diagnosis was 43 years, and the median follow-up time was 13 years.

During the follow-up, 133 Cushing’s patients died, compared to 54 expected deaths in the general population — a mortality rate 2.5 times higher, researchers said.

The most common causes of death among Cushing’s patients were cardiovascular diseases, particularly ischemic heart disease and cerebral infarctions. However, infectious and respiratory diseases (including pneumonia), as well as diseases of the digestive system, also contributed to the increased mortality among Cushing’s patients.

Of those in remission, 21% died, compared to 55% among those not in remission. While these patients had a lower risk of death, their mortality rate was still 90% higher than that of the general population. For patients who did not achieve remission, the mortality rate was 6.9 times higher.

The mortality associated with cardiovascular diseases was increased for both patients in remission and not in remission. Also, older age at the start of the study and time in remission were associated with mortality risk.

“A more aggressive treatment of hypertension, dyslipidemia [abnormal amount of fat in the blood], and other cardiovascular risk factors might be warranted in patients with CS in remission,” researchers said.

Of the 419 patients in remission, 315 had undergone pituitary surgery, 102 had had their adrenal glands removed, and 116 had received radiation therapy.

Surgical removal of the adrenal glands and chronic glucocorticoid replacement therapy were associated with a worse prognosis. In fact, glucocorticoid replacement therapy more than twice increased the mortality risk. Growth hormone replacement was linked with better outcomes.

In remission patients, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure had no impact on mortality risk.

Overall, “this large nationwide study shows that patients with [Cushing’s disease] continue to have excess mortality even after remission,” researchers stated. The highest mortality rates, however, were seen in “patients with persistent disease, those who were treated with bilateral adrenalectomy and those who required glucocorticoid replacement.”

“Further studies need to focus on identifying best approaches to obtaining remission, active surveillance, adequate hormone replacement and long-term management of cardiovascular and mental health in these patients,” the study concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/02/28/even-in-remission-cushings-patients-have-excess-mortality-swedish-study-says/

Faster Adrenal Recovery May Predict Cushing’s Disease Recurrence

A shorter duration of adrenal insufficiency — when the adrenal gland is not working properly — after surgical removal of a pituitary tumor may predict recurrence in Cushing’s disease patients, a new study suggests.

The study, “Recovery of the adrenal function after pituitary surgery in patients with Cushing Disease: persistent remission or recurrence?,” was published in the journal Neuroendocrinology.

Cushing’s disease is a condition characterized by excess cortisol in circulation due to a tumor in the pituitary gland that produces too much of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone acts on the adrenal glands, telling them to produce cortisol.

The first-line treatment for these patients is pituitary surgery to remove the tumor, but while success rates are high, most patients experience adrenal insufficiency and some will see their disease return.

Adrenal insufficiency happens when the adrenal glands cannot make enough cortisol — because the source of ACTH was suddenly removed — and may last from months to years. In these cases, patients require replacement hormone therapy until normal ACTH and cortisol production resumes.

However, the recovery of adrenal gland function may mean one of two things: either patients have their hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis — a feedback loop that regulates ACTH and cortisol production — functioning normally, or their disease returned.

So, a team of researchers in Italy sought to compare the recovery of adrenal gland function in patients with a lasting remission to those whose disease recurred.

The study included 61 patients treated and followed at the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan between 1990 and 2017. Patients had been followed for a median of six years (minimum three years) and 10 (16.3%) saw their disease return during follow-up.

Overall, the median time to recovery of adrenal function was 19 months, but while most patients in remission (67%) had not yet recovered their adrenal function after a median of six years, all patients whose disease recurred experienced adrenal recovery within 22 months.

Among those with disease recurrence, the interval from adrenal recovery to recurrence lasted a median of 1.1 years, but in one patient, signs of disease recurrence were not seen for 15.5 years.

Statistical analysis revealed that the time needed for adrenal recovery was negatively associated with disease recurrence, suggesting that patients with sorter adrenal insufficiency intervals were at an increased risk for recurrence.

“In conclusion, our study shows that the duration of adrenal insufficiency after pituitary surgery in patients with CD is significantly shorter in recurrent CD than in the persistent remission group,” researchers wrote.

“The duration of AI may be a useful predictor for CD [Cushing’s disease] recurrence and those patients who show a normal pituitary-adrenal axis within 2 years after surgery should be strictly monitored being more at risk of disease relapse,” they concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/29/faster-adrenal-recovery-may-predict-recurrence-cushings-disease/

Transsphenoidal Surgery Leads to Remission in Children with Cushing’s Disease

Transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive surgery for removing pituitary tumors in Cushing’s disease patients — is also effective in children and adolescents with the condition, leading to remission with a low rate of complications, a study reports.

The research, “Neurosurgical treatment of Cushing disease in pediatric patients: case series and review of literature,” was published in the journal Child’s Nervous System.

Transsphenoidal (through the nose) pituitary surgery is the main treatment option for children with Cushing’s disease. It allows the removal of pituitary adenomas without requiring long-term replacement therapy, but negative effects on growth and puberty have been reported.

In the study, a team from Turkey shared its findings on 10 children and adolescents (7 females) with the condition, who underwent microsurgery (TSMS) or endoscopic surgery (ETSS, which is less invasive) — the two types of transsphenoidal surgery.

At the time of surgery, the patients’ mean age was 14.8 years, and they had been experiencing symptoms for a mean average of 24.2 months. All but one had gained weight, with a mean body mass index of 29.97.

Their symptoms included excessive body hair, high blood pressure, stretch marks, headaches, acne, “moon face,” and the absence of menstruation.

The patients were diagnosed with Cushing’s after their plasma cortisol levels were measured, and there was a lack of cortical level suppression after they took a low-dose suppression treatment. Measurements of their adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone levels then revealed the cause of their disease was likely pituitary tumors.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, however, only enabled tumor localization in seven patients: three with a microadenoma (a tumor smaller than 10 millimeters), and four showed a macroadenoma.

CD diagnosis was confirmed by surgery and the presence of characteristic pituitary changes. The three patients with no sign of adenoma on their MRIs showed evidence of ACTH-containing adenomas on tissue evaluation.

Eight patients underwent TSMS, and 2 patients had ETSS, with no surgical complications. The patients were considered in remission if they showed clinical adrenal insufficiency and serum cortisol levels under 2.5 μg/dl 48 hours after surgery, or a cortisol level lower than 1.8 μg/dl with a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test at three months post-surgery. Restoration of normal plasma cortisol variation, eased symptoms, and no sign of adenoma in MRI were also requirements for remission.

Eight patients (80%) achieved remission, 4 of them after TSMS. Two patients underwent additional TSMS for remission. Also, 1 patient had ETSS twice after TSMS to gain remission, while another met the criteria after the first endoscopic surgery.

The data further showed that clinical recovery and normalized biochemical parameters were achieved after the initial operation in 5 patients (50%). Three patients (30%) were considered cured after additional operations.

The mean cortisol level decreased to 8.71 μg/dl post-surgery from 23.435 μg/dl pre-surgery. All patients were regularly evaluated in an outpatient clinic, with a mean follow-up period of 11 years.

Two patients showed pituitary insufficiency. Also, 2 had persistent hypocortisolism — too little cortisol — one of whom also had diabetes insipidus, a disorder that causes an imbalance of water in the body. Radiotherapy was not considered in any case.

“Transsphenoidal surgery remains the mainstay therapy for CD [Cushing’s disease] in pediatric patients as well as adults,” the scientists wrote. “It is an effective treatment option with low rate of complications.”

 

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/15/transsphenoidal-surgery-enables-cushings-disease-remission-pediatric-patients-study/

Fluconazole Found to Be Safe Alternative for Patient with Recurrent Cushing’s

Treatment with fluconazole after cabergoline eased symptoms and normalized cortisol levels in a patient with recurrent Cushing’s disease who failed to respond to ketoconazole, a case study reports.

The case report, “Fluconazole as a Safe and Effective Alternative to Ketoconazole in Controlling Hypercortisolism of Recurrent Cushing’s Disease: A Case Report,” was published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism.

Ketoconazole, (brand name Nizoral, among others) is an anti-fungal treatment used off-label for Cushing’s disease to prevent excess cortisol production, a distinct symptom of the disease. However, severe side effects associated with its use often result in treatment discontinuation and have led to its unavailability or restriction in many countries.

Consequently, there is a need for alternative medications that help manage disease activity and clinical symptoms without causing adverse reactions, and that could be given to patients who do not respond to ketoconazole treatment.

In this case report, researchers in Malaysia reported on a 50-year-old woman who fared well with fluconazole treatment after experiencing severe side effects with ketoconazole.

The woman had been in remission for 16 years after a transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor — but went to the clinic with a three-year history of high blood pressure and gradual weight gain.

She also showed classic symptoms of Cushing’s disease: moon face, fragile skin that bruised easily, and purple stretch marks on her thighs.

Blood and urine analysis confirmed high cortisol levels, consistent with a relapse of the pituitary tumor. Accordingly, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of her brain showed the presence of a small tumor on the right side of the pituitary gland, confirming the diagnosis of recurrent Cushing’s disease.

Doctors performed another transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor, and a brain MRI then confirmed the success of the surgery. However, her blood and urine cortisol levels remained markedly high, indicating persistent disease activity.

The patient refused radiation therapy or adrenal gland removal surgery, and was thus prescribed ketoconazole twice daily for managing the disease. But after one month on ketoconazole, she experienced low cortisol levels.

Hydrocortisone — a synthetic cortisol hormone — was administered to maintain steady cortisol levels. However, she developed severe skin itching and peeling, which are known side effects of ketoconazole. She also suffered a brain bleeding episode, for which she had to have a craniotomy to remove the blood clot.

Since she experienced adverse effects on ketoconazole, which also hadn’t decreased her disease activity, the doctors switched her to cabergoline. Cabergoline (marketed as Dostinex, among others) is a dopamine receptor agonist that has been shown to be effective in managing Cushing’s disease.

But cabergoline treatment also did not lower the disease activity, and her symptoms persisted.

The doctors then added fluconazole (marketed as Diflucan, among others), an anti-fungal medication, based on studies that showed promising results in managing Cushing’s syndrome. Three months after the addition of fluconazole to her treatment plan, the patient’s clinical symptoms and cortisol levels had responded favorably.

At her next clinical visit 15 months later, her condition remained stable with no adverse events.

“This case demonstrates the long-term efficacy of fluconazole in tandem with cabergoline for the control of recurrent Cushing’s disease,” the researchers wrote.

The favorable outcome in this case also “supports the notion that fluconazole is a viable substitute for ketoconazole in the medical management of this rare but serious condition,” they concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/27/fluconazole-safe-effective-alternative-recurrent-cushings-patient-case-report/

Minimally Invasive Approaches Lead to High Remission Rates in Children

Minimally invasive diagnostic methods and transnasal surgery may lead to remission in nearly all children with Cushing’s disease, while avoiding more aggressive approaches such as radiation or removal of the adrenal glands, a study shows.

The study, “A personal series of 100 children operated for Cushing’s disease (CD): optimizing minimally invasive diagnosis and transnasal surgery to achieve nearly 100% remission including reoperations,” was published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Normally, the pituitary produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. When a patient has a pituitary tumor, that indirectly leads to high levels of cortisol, leading to development of Cushing’s disease (CD).

In transnasal surgery (TNS), a surgeon goes through the nose using an endoscope to remove a pituitary tumor. The approach is the first-choice treatment for children with Cushing’s disease due to ACTH-secreting adenomas — or tumors — in the pituitary gland.

Micro-adenomas, defined as less than 4 mm, are more common in children and need surgical expertise for removal. It is necessary to determine the exact location of the tumor before conducting the surgery.

Additionally, many surgeons perform radiotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy (removal of both adrenal glands) after the surgery. However, these options are not ideal as they can be detrimental to children who need to re-establish normal growth and development patterns.

Dieter K. Lüdecke, a surgeon from Germany’s University of Hamburg, has been able to achieve nearly 100% remission while minimizing the need for pituitary radiation or bilateral adrenalectomy. In this study, researchers looked at how these high remission rates can be achieved while minimizing radiotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy.

Researchers analyzed 100 patients with pediatric CD who had been referred to Lüdecke for surgery from 1980-2009. Data was published in two separate series — series 1, which covers patients from 1980-1995, and series 2, which covers 1996-2009. All the surgeries employed direct TNS.

Diagnostic methods for CD have improved significantly over the past 30 years. Advanced endocrine diagnostic investigations, such as testing for levels of salivary cortisol in the late evening and cortisol-releasing hormone tests, have made a diagnosis of CD less invasive. This is particularly important for excluding children with obesity alone from children with obesity and CD. Methods to determine the precise location of micro-adenomas have also improved.

The initial methodology to localize tumors was known as inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS), an invasive procedure in which ACTH levels are sampled from the veins that drain the pituitary gland.

In series 1, IPSS was performed in 24% of patients, among which 46% were found to have the wrong tumor location. Therefore, IPSS was deemed invasive, risky, and unreliable for this purpose.

All adenomas were removed with extensive pituitary exploration. Two patients in series 1 underwent early repeat surgery; all were successful.

Lüdecke introduced intraoperative cavernous sinus sampling (CSS), an improved way to predict location of adenomas. This was found to be very helpful in highly select cases and could also be done preoperatively for very small adenomas.

In series 2, CSS was used in only 15% of patients thanks to improved MRI and endocrinology tests. All patients who underwent CSS had correct localization of their tumors, indicating its superiority over IPSS.

In series 2, three patients underwent repeat TNS, which was successful. In these recurrences, TNS minimized the need for irradiation. The side effects of TNS were minimal. Recurrence rate in series 1 was 16% and 11% in series 2.

While Lüdecke’s patients achieved a remission rate of 98%, other studies show cure rates of 45-69%. Only 4% of patients in these two series received radiation therapy.

“Minimally invasive unilateral, microsurgical TNS is important functionally for both the nose and pituitary,” the researchers concluded. “Including early re-operations, a 98% remission rate could be achieved and the high risk of pituitary function loss with radiotherapy could be avoided.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/04/minimally-invasive-methods-yield-high-remission-in-cushings-disease-children/

%d bloggers like this: