Cushing Death Rate ‘Unacceptable,’ Triple That of General Population

Excess mortality among people with endogenous Cushing syndrome (CS) has declined in the past 20 years yet remains three times higher than in the general population, new research finds.

Among more than 90,000 individuals with endogenous CS, the overall proportion of mortality ― defined as the ratio of the number of deaths from CS divided by the total number of CS patients ― was 0.05, and the standardized mortality rate was an “unacceptable” three times that of the general population, Padiporn Limumpornpetch, MD, reported on March 20 at ENDO 2021: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting.

Excess deaths were higher among those with adrenal CS compared to those with Cushing disease. The most common causes of death among those with CS were cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular accident, infection, and malignancy, noted Limumpornpetch, of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand, who is also a PhD student at the University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.

“While mortality has improved since 2000, it is still significantly compromised compared to the background population…. The causes of death highlight the need for aggressive management of cardiovascular risk, prevention of thromboembolism, infection control, and a normalized cortisol level,” she said.

Asked to comment, Maria Fleseriu, MD, told Medscape Medical News that the new data show “we are making improvements in the care of patients with CS and thus outcomes, but we are not there yet…. This meta-analysis highlights the whole spectrum of acute and life-threatening complications in CS and their high prevalence, even before disease diagnosis and after successful surgery.”

She noted that although she wasn’t surprised by the overall results, “the improvement over time was indeed lower than I expected. However, interestingly here, the risk of mortality in adrenal Cushing was unexpectedly high despite patients with adrenal cancer being excluded.”

Fleseriu, who is director of the Pituitary Center at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, advised, “Management of hyperglycemia and diabetes, hypertension, hypokalemia, hyperlipidemia, and other cardiovascular risk factors is generally undertaken in accordance with standard of clinical care.

“But we should focus more on optimizing more aggressively this care in addition to the specific Cushing treatment,” she stressed.

In addition, she noted, “Medical therapy for CS may be needed even prior to surgery in severe and/or prolonged hypercortisolism to decrease complications…. We definitely need a multidisciplinary approach to address complications and etiologic treatment as well as the reduced long-term quality of life in patients with CS.”

Largest Study in Scale and Scope of Cushing Syndrome Mortality

Endogenous Cushing syndrome occurs when the body overproduces cortisol. The most common cause of the latter is a tumor of the pituitary gland (Cushing disease), but another cause is a usually benign tumor of the adrenal glands (adrenal Cushing syndrome). Surgery is the mainstay of initial treatment of Cushing syndrome. If an operation to remove the tumor fails to cause remission, medications are available.

Prior to this new meta-analysis, there had been limited data on mortality among patients with endogenous CS. Research has mostly been limited to single-cohort studies. A previous systematic review/meta-analysis comprised only seven articles with 780 patients. All the studies were conducted prior to 2012, and most were limited to Cushing disease.

“In 2021, we lacked a detailed understanding of patient outcomes and mortality because of the rarity of Cushing syndrome,” Limumpornpetch noted.

The current meta-analysis included 91 articles that reported mortality among patients with endogenous CS. There was a total of 19,181 patients from 92 study cohorts, including 49 studies on CD (n = 14,971), 24 studies on adrenal CS (n = 2304), and 19 studies that included both CS types (n = 1906).

Among 21 studies that reported standardized mortality rate (SMR) data, including 13 CD studies (n = 2160) and seven on adrenal CS (n = 1531), the overall increase in mortality compared to the background population was a significant 3.00 (range, 1.15 – 7.84).

This SMR was higher among patients with adrenal Cushing syndrome (3.3) vs Cushing disease (2.8) (= .003) and among patients who had active disease (5.7) vs those whose disease was in remission (2.3) (< .001).

The SMR also was worse among patients with Cushing disease with larger tumors (macroadenomas), at 7.4, than among patients with very small tumors (microadenomas), at 1.9 (= .004).

The proportion of death was 0.05 for CS overall, with 0.04 for CD and 0.02 for adrenal adenomas.

Compared to studies published prior to the year 2000, more recent studies seem to reflect advances in treatment and care. The overall proportion of death for all CS cohorts dropped from 0.10 to 0.03 (P < .001); for all CD cohorts, it dropped from 0.14 to 0.03; and for adrenal CS cohorts, it dropped from 0.09 to 0.03 (P = .04).

Causes of death were cardiovascular diseases (29.5% of cases), cerebrovascular accident (11.5%), infection (10.5%), and malignancy (10.1%). Less common causes of death were gastrointestinal bleeding and acute pancreatitis (3.7%), active CS (3.5%), adrenal insufficiency (2.5%), suicide (2.5%), and surgery (1.6%).

Overall, in the CS groups, the proportion of deaths within 30 days of surgery dropped from 0.04 prior to 2000 to 0.01 since (P = .07). For CD, the proportion dropped from 0.02 to 0.01 (P = .25).

Preventing Perioperative Mortality: Consider Thromboprophylaxis

Fleseriu told Medscape Medical News that she believes hypercoagulability is “the least recognized complication with a big role in mortality.” Because most of the perioperative mortality is due to venous thromboembolism and infections, “thromboprophylaxis should be considered for CS patients with severe hypercortisolism and/or postoperatively, based on individual risk factors of thromboembolism and bleeding.”

Recently, Fleseriu’s group showed in a single retrospective study that the risk for arterial and venous thromboembolic events among patients with CS was approximately 20%. Many patients experienced more than one event. Risk was higher 30 to 60 days postoperatively.

The odds ratio of venous thromoboembolism among patients with CS was 18 times higher than in the normal population.

“Due to the additional thrombotic risk of surgery or any invasive procedure, anticoagulation prophylaxis should be at least considered in all patients with Cushing syndrome and balanced with individual bleeding risk,” Fleseriu advised.

A recent Pituitary Society workshop discussed the management of complications of CS at length; proceedings will be published soon, she noted.

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

Limumpornpetch has disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Fleseriu has been a scientific consultant to Recordati, Sparrow, and Strongbridge and has received grants (inst) from Novartis and Strongbridge.

ENDO 2021: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting: Presented March 20, 2021

Miriam E. Tucker is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, DC, area. She is a regular contributor to Medscape. Other work of hers has appeared in the Washington Post, NPR’s Shots blog, and Diabetes Forecast magazine. She can be found on Twitter @MiriamETucker.

From https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/949257

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.

The Effect Of Biochemical Remission on Bone Metabolism in Cushing’s Syndrome

Braun LT, Fazel J, Zopp S
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research

|
May 22, 2020

This study was attempted to assess bone mineral density and fracture rates in 89 patients with confirmed Cushing’s syndrome at the time of diagnosis and 2 years after successful tumor resection.

Researchers ascertained five bone turnover markers at the time of diagnosis, 1 and 2 years postoperatively. Via chemiluminescent immunoassays, they assessed bone turnover markers osteocalcin, intact procollagen‐IN‐propeptide, alkaline bone phosphatase, CrossLaps, and TrAcP 5b in plasma or serum. For comparison, they studied 71 gender‐, age‐, and BMI‐matched patients in whom Cushing’s syndrome had been excluded.

The outcomes of this research exhibit that the phase immediately after surgical remission from endogenous CS is defined by a high rate of bone turnover resulting in a striking net increase in bone mineral density in the majority of patients.

Read the full article on Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Surgical Removal of Pituitary Adenomas Through the Nose Remains an Effective Treatment for Pediatric Patients

Removal of pituitary adenomas by inserting surgical instruments through the nose (transsphenoidal resection) remains the best treatment option for pediatric patients, despite its inherent technical difficulties, a new study shows.

The study, “Transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas in pediatric patients: a multicentric retrospective study,” was published in the journal Child’s Nervous System.

Pituitary adenomas are rare, benign tumors that slowly grow in the pituitary gland. The incidence of such tumors in the pediatric population is reported to be between 1% and 10% of all childhood brain tumors and between 3% and 6% of all surgically treated adenomas.

Characteristics of patients that develop these pituitary adenomas vary significantly in different studies with regards to their age, gender, size of adenoma, hormonal activity, and recurrence rates.

As the pituitary gland is responsible for hormonal balance, alterations in hormone function due to a pituitary adenoma can significantly affect the quality of life of a child. In most cases, pituitary adenomas can be removed surgically. A common removal method is with a transsphenoidal resection, the goal of which is to completely remove the growing mass and cause the least harm to the surrounding structures.

In this study, the researchers report the surgical treatment of pediatric pituitary adenomas at three institutions. They collected data from 27 children who were operated for pituitary adenoma using one of two types of transsphenoidal surgeries — endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery (EETS) and transsphenoidal microsurgery (TMS) — at the University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty in Istanbul, Turkey, at San Matteo Hospital in Pavia, and at the University of Insubria-Varese in Varese, Italy.

The study included 11 males (40.7%) and 16 females (59.3%), with a mean age of 15.3 (ranging between 4 and 18). Medical records indicated that 32 surgical procedures were performed in the 27 patients, as six children required a second operation. Among the patients, 13 had Cushing’s disease, while the rest had growth-hormone-secreting adenomas, prolactinomas, or non-functional adenomas.

The researchers found that most patients underwent remission following their surgery. Among the 27 patients, 22 patients (81.4%) underwent remission while five patients (18.5%) did not. Four patients underwent remission after a second operation.

Based on these findings, the team believes that the transsphenoidal surgical approach adequately removes pituitary tumors and restores normal hormonal balance in the majority of pediatric patients with pituitary adenomas.

“Satisfactory results are reported with both EETS and TMS in the literature,” they wrote. “Despite the technical difficulties in pediatric age, transsphenoidal resection of adenoma is still the mainstay treatment that provides cure in pediatric patients.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/05/30/transsphenoidal-surgery-effective-remove-pituitaty-adenomas-children-study/

Hormonal Imbalance – Indication of Pituitary Gland Tumors

Patna: Improper functioning of the Pituitary gland usually results in excess or under production of hormones that leads to a formation of mass called tumor, which can be benign or malignant. Such tumors in this gland can create numerous serious medical conditions by interfering with the normal functioning of the endocrine system and pituitary gland.

 

“Though the occurrence of tumor is more likely after the age of 30 years, it still can impact at an early age. The survival rates of tumor due to its complicated location also depend on other factors like the patient’s age, type and size of tumor. Mostly, pituitary gland tumors are non cancerous but the exact causes are unknown. Some of them are hereditary and some are caused by a rare genetic disorder called as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1. This disorder can also lead to over-activity or enlargement of 3 different endocrine-related glands, which also includes the pituitary gland. “Dr Aditya Gupta, Director, Neurosurgery, Agrim institute for neuro sciences, Artemis Hospital

 

Diagnosis at an early stage can help the treatment procedure to be totally non-invasive with the use of advances technology called as Cyberknife. Cyberknife which is the most advanced radiation therapy is completely non-invasive therapy available for the treatment of benign as well as malignant tumors. This therapy works the best for some pituitary tumors that are upto 2 cm in size and is a very powerful and effective technique for treating patients suffering from early stage primary and medically inoperable tumors. The treatment is safe to administer and also offers a new option in patients with recurrent disease or a single disease in the body.

 

“Highlights of the therapy being ease of access to any complex location without the need to use the surgical knife, precision of the beam with high dose radiation to the tumor location, and the safety. It is a day care procedure without pain and risk, and the patient can get back to daily chores as soon as the session gets over which depends on the tumor typically (30 minutes) and hence eliminates the requirement of any hospital stay.” Added Dr Gupta

 

Depending upon the hormonal variations in the body, there can be a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms include Headaches, vision problem, tiredness, mood changes, irritability, changes in menstrual cycle in women, impotence, infertility, Inappropriate breast growth or production of breast milk, Cushing’s syndrome which is a combination of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and easy bruising, the enlargement of the extremities or limbs, thickening of the skull and jaw caused by too much growth hormone.

 

Pituitary gland, which is also known as the master gland has the most important function of producing hormones that regulates the critical organs of the body including thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. It is a small pea-size gland located behind the eyes and below the front of the brain. Some tumors produce hormones known as functional tumors, and others can cause the glands to secrete too few or too many hormones. Also if the tumor pressed on the nearby structure, for instance the optic nerve, can also limit a person’s vision.

 

Moreover the procedure makes use of the most sophisticated image guidance technique to focus high doses of radiation directly to the tumor spot which eliminates the chances to damage the healthy cells as in any other methods of treatment.

 

“Each session of treatment usually lasts for about 30 -50 min and is cost effective with a success rate of 98% in such complicated tumors. Patients with pituitary adenomas receive stereotactic radio surgery with CyberKnife and are followed up for more than 12 months. After 2-3 weeks of therapy patients are monitored for positive responses and ensure there is no recurrence of any mass. Stereotactic radio surgery with the CyberKnife is effective and safe against pituitary adenomas.” Said Dr Gupta

From https://www.apnnews.com/hormonal-imbalance-indication-of-pituitary-gland-tumors-2/

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