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Lucía Sanz-Salvador, Miguel Ángel García-Pérez, Juan J Tarín, and Antonio Cano

Changes in bone density and bone markers suggest that pregnancy is associated with deterioration of bone mass in the mother. The metabolism of calcium resets to allow for the needs imposed by the building of the fetal skeleton. The fetus contributes to the process through the output of regulators from the placenta. Understanding of the whole process is limited, but some changes are unambiguous. There is an increase in the circulating levels of vitamin D, but its functional impact is unclear. Fetal parathyroid hormone (PTH) and PTH-related peptide (PTHrp) play an indirect role through support of a calcium gradient that creates hypercalcemia in the fetus. Placental GH, which increases up to the end of pregnancy, may exert some anabolic effects, either directly or through the regulation of the IGF1 production. Other key regulators of bone metabolism, such as estrogens or prolactin, are elevated during pregnancy, but their role is uncertain. An increase in the ratio of receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa B ligand (RANKL) to osteoprotegerin (OPG) acts as an additional pro-resorbing factor in bone. The increase in bone resorption may lead to osteoporosis and fragility fracture, which have been diagnosed, although rarely. However, the condition is transitory as long-term studies do not link the number of pregnancies with osteoporosis. Prevention is limited by the lack of identifiable risk factors. When fractures are diagnosed, rest, analgesics, or, when indicated, orthopedic intervention have demonstrated efficacy. Systemic treatment with anti-osteoporotic drugs is effective, but the potential harm to the fetus imposes caution in their use.

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Thierry Brue, Vincent Amodru, and Frederic Castinetti

With fewer than 200 reported cases, Cushing’s syndrome (CS) in pregnancy remains a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. In normal pregnancies, misleading signs may be observed such as striae or hypokalemia, while plasma cortisol and urinary free cortisol may rise up to 2- to 3-fold. While the dexamethasone suppression test is difficult to use, reference values for salivary cortisol appear valid. Apart from gestational hypertension, differential diagnosis includes pheochromocytoma and primary aldosteronism. The predominant cause is adrenal adenoma (sometimes without decreased ACTH), rather than Cushing’s disease. There are considerable imaging pitfalls in Cushing’s disease. Aberrant receptors may, in rare cases, lead to increased cortisol production during pregnancy in response to HCG, LHRH, glucagon, vasopressin or after a meal. Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is rare and has poor prognosis. Active CS during pregnancy is associated with a high rate of maternal complications: hypertension or preeclampsia, diabetes, fractures; more rarely, cardiac failure, psychiatric disorders, infection and maternal death. Increased fetal morbidity includes prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation and less prevalently stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, intrauterine death and hypoadrenalism. Therapy is also challenging. Milder cases can be managed conservatively by controlling comorbidities. Pituitary or adrenal surgery should ideally be performed during the second trimester and patients should then be treated for adrenal insufficiency. Experience with anticortisolic drugs is limited. Metyrapone was found to allow control of hypercortisolism, with a risk of worsening hypertension. Cabergoline may be an alternative option. The use of other drugs is not advised because of potential teratogenicity and/or lack of information. Non-hormonal (mechanical) contraception is recommended until sustained biological remission is obtained.

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Jens Bollerslev, Lars Rejnmark, Claudio Marcocci, Dolores M Shoback, Antonio Sitges-Serra, Wim van Biesen, and Olaf M Dekkers

Hypoparathyroidism (HypoPT) is a rare (orphan) endocrine disease with low calcium and inappropriately low (insufficient) circulating parathyroid hormone levels, most often in adults secondary to thyroid surgery. Standard treatment is activated vitamin D analogues and calcium supplementation and not replacement of the lacking hormone, as in other hormonal deficiency states. The purpose of this guideline is to provide clinicians with guidance on the treatment and monitoring of chronic HypoPT in adults who do not have end-stage renal disease. We intend to draft a practical guideline, focusing on operationalized recommendations deemed to be useful in the daily management of patients. This guideline was developed and solely sponsored by The European Society of Endocrinology, supported by CBO (Dutch Institute for Health Care Improvement) and based on the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) principles as a methodological base. The clinical question on which the systematic literature search was based and for which available evidence was synthesized was: what is the best treatment for adult patients with chronic HypoPT? This systematic search found 1100 articles, which was reduced to 312 based on title and abstract. The working group assessed these for eligibility in more detail, and 32 full-text articles were assessed. For the final recommendations, other literature was also taken into account. Little evidence is available on how best to treat HypoPT. Data on quality of life and the risk of complications have just started to emerge, and clinical trials on how to optimize therapy are essentially non-existent. Most studies are of limited sample size, hampering firm conclusions. No studies are available relating target calcium levels with clinically relevant endpoints. Hence it is not possible to formulate recommendations based on strict evidence. This guideline is therefore mainly based on how patients are managed in clinical practice, as reported in small case series and based on the experiences of the authors.

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Irene Campi, Guia Vannucchi, and Mario Salvi

Management of Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) must be based on the correct assessment of activity and severity of the disease. Activity is usually assessed with the Clinical Activity Score, whereas severity is classified according to a European Group On Graves' Orbitopathy (EUGOGO) consensus statement as mild, moderate-to-severe, and sight-threatening. Myopathic and chronic congestive forms are uncommon clinical presentations of GO. Restoration and maintenance of stable euthyroidism are recommended in the presence of GO.

In moderate-to-severe disease, steroids have been widely employed and have shown to possess an anti-inflammatory activity, but about 20–30% of patients are not responsive and present recurrence. Some novel immunosuppressors have already been employed in clinical studies and have shown interesting results, although the lack of randomized and controlled trials suggests caution for their use in clinical practice. Potential targets for therapy in GO are the thyroid-stimulating hormone and the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor on the fibroblasts, inflammatory cytokines, B and T cells, and the PIK3/mTORC1 signaling cascades for adipogenesis. A recent open study has shown that tocilizumab, an anti-sIL-6R antibody, inactivates GO. Consistent reports on the efficacy of rituximab have recently been challenged by randomized controlled trials.

As the main goal of treatment is the well-being of the patient, the therapeutic strategy should be addressed to better suit the patient needs, more than improving one or more biological parameters. The increasing availability of new therapies will expand the therapeutic options for GO patients and allow the clinician to really personalize the treatment to better suit the patients’ personal needs.

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Georg Brabant, Robin P Peeters, Shiao Y Chan, Juan Bernal, Philippe Bouchard, Domenico Salvatore, Kristien Boelaert, and Peter Laurberg

Guideline advice of many societies on the management of subclinical hypothyroidism in pregnancy suggests treatment when TSH serum levels exceed 2.5 mU/l. Justification of this procedure is based on limited experience, mainly from studies carried out in patients with positive thyroid-specific antibodies and higher TSH levels that classically define the condition in the non-pregnant state. Taking into account a lack of clear understanding of the regulation of thyroid hormone transport through the utero-placental unit and in the absence of foetal markers to monitor the adequacy of thyroxine treatment, this review attempts to discuss currently available data and suggests a more cautious approach.

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Wilmar M Wiersinga

About 5%–10% of hypothyroid patients on T4 replacement therapy have persistent symptoms, despite normal TSH levels. It was hoped that T4 + T3 combination therapy might provide better outcomes, but that was not observed according to a meta-analysis of 11 randomized clinical trials comparing T4 monotherapy with T4 + T3 combination therapy. However, the issue is still subject of much research because normal thyroid function tests in serum may not necessarily indicate an euthyroid state in all peripheral tissues. This review evaluates recent developments in the field of T4 + T3 combination therapy. T4 monotherapy is associated with higher serum FT4 levels than in healthy subjects, and subnormal serum FT3 and FT3/FT4 ratios are observed in about 15% and 30% respectively. T4 + T3 combination therapy may mimic more closely thyroid function tests of healthy subjects, but it has not been demonstrated that relatively low serum FT3 or FT3/FT4 ratios are linked to persistent symptoms. One study reports polymorphism Thr92Ala in DIO2 is related to lower serum FT3 levels after thyroidectomy, and that the D2-Ala mutant reduces T4 to T3 conversion in cell cultures. Peripheral tissue function tests such as serum cholesterol reflect thyroid hormone action in target tissues. Using such biochemical markers, patients who had a normal serum TSH during postoperative T4 monotherapy, were mildly hypothyroid, whereas those with a TSH 0.03–≤0.3 mU/L were closest to euthyroidism. Peripheral tissue function tests suggest euthyroidism more often in patients randomized to T4 + T3 rather than that to T4. Preference for T4 + T3 combination over T4 monotherapy was dose-dependently related to the presence of two polymorphisms in MCT10 and DIO2 in one small study. It is not known if persistent symptoms during T4 monotherapy disappear by switching to T4 + T3 combination therapy. The number of patients on T4 + T3 therapy has multiplied in the last decade, likely induced by indiscriminate statements on the internet. Patients are sometimes not just asking but rather demanding this treatment modality. It creates tensions between patients and physicians. Only continued research will answer the question whether or not T4 + T3 combination therapy has true benefits in some patients.

Open access

J S Carroll

Most breast cancers are driven by a transcription factor called oestrogen receptor (ER). Understanding the mechanisms of ER activity in breast cancer has been a major research interest and recent genomic advances have revealed extraordinary insights into how ER mediates gene transcription and what occurs during endocrine resistance. This review discusses our current understanding on ER activity, with an emphasis on several evolving, but important areas of ER biology.

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Margaret Cristina da Silva Boguszewski and Adriane de Andre Cardoso-Demartini

Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm across the world every year, with less than 37 completed weeks of gestation. Survival rates increased during the last decades with the improvement of neonatal care. With premature birth, babies are deprived of the intense intrauterine growth phase, and postnatal growth failure might occur. Some children born prematurely will remain short at later ages and adult life. The risk of short stature increases if the child is also born small for gestational age. In this review, the effects of being born preterm on childhood growth and adult height and the hormonal abnormalities possibly associated with growth restriction are discussed, followed by a review of current information on growth hormone treatment for those who remain with short stature during infancy and childhood.

Free access

Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre and Pilar Santisteban

Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancy giving rise to one of the most indolent solid cancers, but also one of the most lethal. In recent years, systematic studies of the cancer genome, most importantly those derived from The Cancer Genome Altas (TCGA), have catalogued aberrations in the DNA, chromatin, and RNA of the genomes of thousands of tumors relative to matched normal cellular genomes and have analyzed their epigenetic and protein consequences. Cancer genomics is therefore providing new information on cancer development and behavior, as well as new insights into genetic alterations and molecular pathways. From this genomic perspective, we will review the main advances concerning some essential aspects of the molecular pathogenesis of thyroid cancer such as mutational mechanisms, new cancer genes implicated in tumor initiation and progression, the role of non-coding RNA, and the advent of new susceptibility genes in thyroid cancer predisposition. This look across these genomic and cellular alterations results in the reshaping of the multistep development of thyroid tumors and offers new tools and opportunities for further research and clinical development of novel treatment strategies.

Free access

Mohsen Khosravi-Maharlooei, Ensiyeh Hajizadeh-Saffar, Yaser Tahamtani, Mohsen Basiri, Leila Montazeri, Keynoosh Khalooghi, Mohammad Kazemi Ashtiani, Ali Farrokhi, Nasser Aghdami, Anavasadat Sadr Hashemi Nejad, Mohammad-Bagher Larijani, Nico De Leu, Harry Heimberg, Xunrong Luo, and Hossein Baharvand

Over the past decades, tremendous efforts have been made to establish pancreatic islet transplantation as a standard therapy for type 1 diabetes. Recent advances in islet transplantation have resulted in steady improvements in the 5-year insulin independence rates for diabetic patients. Here we review the key challenges encountered in the islet transplantation field which include islet source limitation, sub-optimal engraftment of islets, lack of oxygen and blood supply for transplanted islets, and immune rejection of islets. Additionally, we discuss possible solutions for these challenges.