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L Bartalena, C Marcocci, and A Pinchera

Most patients with Graves' disease have some degree of ocular involvement, but only 3-5% of them develop severe ophthalmopathy (1). The reasons why only such a minority of patients with Graves' disease have severe expression of the ophthalmopathy remain to be elucidated. One possible explanation is that non-severe ophthalmopathy and severe ophthalmopathy are two different disorders with different genetic backgrounds; alternatively, they might be part of a spectrum of different conditions ranging from absent ocular involvement to most severe ophthalmopathy. In this case, external variables (i.e. environmental factors) must contribute to the nature of the expression of the disease. How important are they? How far can our intervention on environmental factors go towards reducing the risk of progression of the ophthalmopathy? In other words, to which extent, if any, is Graves' ophthalmopathy preventable? The aim of this mini-review is to address the above issues.

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F Cetani, E Pardi, L Cianferotti, E Vignali, A Picone, P Miccoli, A Pinchera, and C Marcocci

OBJECTIVE: To report a new mutation of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) gene in an Italian kindred. DESIGN: The study included the female proband, aged 50 years, affected by primary hyperparathyroidism, insulinoma and prolactinoma, and ten relatives. Blood samples were obtained for biochemical and genetic analyses. Clinical screening tests included serum glucose, ionized calcium, intact parathyroid hormone, GH, insulin and prolactin. The coding sequence, including nine coding exons and 16 splice sites, was amplified by PCR and directly sequenced. RESULTS: Two additional cases of primary hyperparathyroidism were identified among the paternal family members. The sequence analysis showed a heterozygous T to C transition at codon 444 in exon 9, resulting in a leucine to proline substitution (L444P) in the patient and in the two paternal family members with primary hyperparathyroidism. The L444P amino acid change was absent in 50 normal subjects. The mutation determined the loss of a BlnI restriction site of the wild-type sequence and the creation of a new restriction EcoRII site. The patient, but not her paternal affected relatives, also had a common heterozygous polymorphism (D418D) in exon 9. CONCLUSIONS: A new MEN1 mutation (L444P) in exon 9 has been identified; this substitution caused the loss of a BlnI restriction site and the creation of a new EcoRII site.

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F Cetani, E Pardi, S Borsari, E Vignali, G Dipollina, V Braga, S Adami, A Pinchera, and C Marcocci

OBJECTIVE: Calcium-sensing receptor (CaR) is a candidate gene for osteoporosis susceptibility. Several CaR polymorphisms have been identified and an association between the A986S genotype and serum calcium levels has been found in Canadian postmenopausal women. We investigated whether the presence of 986S allele was associated with bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporotic fractures. DESIGN: The study group consisted of 164 Italian postmenopausal women without fragility fracture (Fx(-)) and 55 women with fracture (Fx(+)). METHODS: A fragment of exon 7 of CaR gene containing three polymorphisms (A986S, R990G and Q1011E) was amplified by PCR and sequenced. Anthropometric characteristics and BMD were evaluated. RESULTS: The A986S polymorphism was the most commonly observed (27.9%), whereas the other two CaR polymorphisms, R990G and Q1011E, occurred in a minority of cases (8.8 and 5.5% respectively). There was no significant difference in the frequency distribution of any CaR allele between Fx(-) and Fx(+) patients. Body mass index was found to predict BMD at the lumbar spine and femoral neck. The A986S polymorphism and Years since menopause were not independent predictors of BMD at any site. As far as fracture occurrence, there was no statistically significant difference in the prevalence of fractures between women carrying or not carrying the 986S allele. CONCLUSIONS: Our data do not support a role of A986S CaR polymorphism in BMD and in the prevalence of fragility fractures in Italian postmenopausal women.

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P Agretti, L Chiovato, G De Marco, C Marcocci, B Mazzi, S Sellari-Franceschini, P Vitti, A Pinchera, and M Tonacchera

OBJECTIVE: The TSH receptor (TSHr) expressed on thyroid follicular cells is the autoantigen involved in the pathogenesis of Graves' hyperthyroidism. Whether this receptor is expressed in extrathyroidal tissues, and whether it participates directly in the pathogenesis of thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO) is unclear. DESIGN: The aim of the present study was to measure TSHr mRNA in retro-orbital tissues, retro-orbital adipose tissue, extraocular muscle, and skin from patients with TAO and in several tissues from patients not affected by thyroid diseases using RT-PCR and real-time PCR. METHODS: Total RNA was isolated from tissue specimens, reverse transcribed, and amplified using specific primers for the extracellular portion and a part of a 1.3 kbp variant form of the TSHr gene. Determination of TSHr mRNA levels using real-time PCR was also performed by the TaqMan system; to normalize for differences in the amount of total RNA added to the reaction, amplification of beta-actin gene was performed as an endogenous control. RESULTS: A single-round RT-PCR amplification using specific primers for the extracellular portion of the TSHr gene demonstrated an amplification product of 1.2 kbp in the thyroid, but not in all other tissues. A second-round RT-PCR amplification using the same primers and starting from the previous amplification product demonstrated a band of the size expected for the TSHr gene in all tissue specimens analyzed irrespective of their origin. Similar results were obtained using primers specific for a part of the variant form of 1.3 kbp of the TSHr gene. The amount of TSHr mRNA measured by real-time PCR with the TaqMan probe and expressed as TSHr/beta-actin ratio was similar in the tissues from TAO patients with respect to the tissues from subjects not affected by thyroid diseases. CONCLUSIONS: We measured TSHr mRNA in tissues from patients with TAO using the very sensitive and quantitative method of real-time PCR. The level of transcription was similar to that measured in extraorbital tissues from patients who were not affected by thyroid diseases. These data suggest an illegitimate TSHr mRNA transcription in all the tissues examined apart from thyroid.

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C Marcocci, S Mazzeo, G Bruno-Bossio, A Picone, E Vignali, M Ciampi, P Viacava, AG Naccarato, P Miccoli, P Iacconi, and A Pinchera

OBJECTIVE: To determine the usefulness of parathyroid hormone (PTH) measurement in needle aspirates of a suspicious neck mass to confirm its parathyroid nature in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism. METHODS: Thirty-three patients with surgically proved primary hyperparathyroidism were submitted to neck ultrasound (US), parathyroid scintigraphy, and assay of PTH in the aspirate (PTHa) of the suspicious cervical mass. RESULTS: Based on the results of neck US and parathyroid scintigraphy, patients were divided into two groups. Group 1: 16 patients (seven with nodular goiter) with concordant positive US and scintigraphic results. In all but one patient, PTHa was detectable and often markedly elevated (> 1000 pg in 12 patients, between 292 pg and 803 pg in three patients and 53 pg in one patient). The patient with undetectable PTHa had a small lower left parathyroid adenoma (8x8x10 mm). Group 2: 17 patients (12 with nodular goiter) with discordant US and scintigraphic results. PTHa established the parathyroid nature of the mass in 13 cases (> 1000 pg in 8 patients, between 501 pg and 953 pg in three patients and 90 and 79 pg in two patients): 11 of these had a suspected lesion by US examination but the scintigraphy results were negative; two had a mass that gave positive scintigraphy results but was of uncertain origin according to US: in both cases an intrathyroidal parathyroid adenoma was found. PTHa was undetectable in four cases (three with nodular goiter): all of these had equivocal US results, and three had positive scans and one a negative scan. CONCLUSIONS: Assay of PTHa is a simple method and should be useful for confirming the parathyroid nature of a cervical mass in patients with discordant or non-diagnostic US and scintigraphic results.

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E Vignali, A Picone, G Materazzi, S Steffe, P Berti, L Cianferotti, F Cetani, E Ambrogini, P Miccoli, A Pinchera, and C Marcocci

OBJECTIVE: The traditional surgical approach for patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) consists of the identification of at least four glands and in the removal of all hyperfunctioning parathyroid tissue. DESIGN: To evaluate whether intraoperative parathyroid hormone (PTH) monitoring will allow a more limited surgical procedure by confirming complete removal of all hyperfunctioning tissue. METHODS: Plasma samples were obtained from 206 consecutive patients with sporadic PHPT before skin incision, during manipulation of a suspected adenoma, and 5 min (T-5) and 10 min after removal of abnormal parathyroid tissue. PTH was measured by a quick immunochemiluminescent assay (QPTH). The operative success was defined by a decrease of PTH greater than 50% of the highest pre-excision value. RESULTS: A >50% decrease of PTH occurred in 203 patients and was evident at T-5 in the majority of cases. All but three had normal serum calcium the day after surgery and afterwards. PTH concentration did not show a >50% decrease in the remaining three cases after completion of surgery. One patients had negative neck exploration and remained hypercalcemic; the other two had normal serum calcium at follow-up. Thus, the intraoperative QPTH correctly predicted the outcome of surgery in 201 patients (97.5%) (200 true positive and 1 true negative), and provided three false positive and two false negative results. CONCLUSIONS: The intraoperative QPTH measurement represents a useful tool to assist the surgeon during parathyroidectomy. It indicates whether all hyperfunctioning parathyroid tissue has been removed, limiting the procedure to a unilateral neck exploration in most cases.

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P Schwarz, J J Body, J Cáp, L C Hofbauer, M Farouk, A Gessl, J M Kuhn, C Marcocci, C Mattin, M Muñoz Torres, J Payer, A Van De Ven, M Yavropoulou, and P Selby


Medical management of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is important in patients for whom surgery is inappropriate. We aimed to describe clinical profiles of adults with PHPT receiving cinacalcet.


A descriptive, prospective, observational study in hospital and specialist care centres.


For patients with PHPT, aged 23–92 years, starting cinacalcet treatment for the first time, information was collected on dosing pattern, biochemistry and adverse drug reactions (ADRs). Initial cinacalcet dosage and subsequent dose changes were at the investigator's discretion.


Of 303 evaluable patients with PHPT, 134 (44%) had symptoms at diagnosis (mostly bone pain (58) or renal stones (50)). Mean albumin-corrected serum calcium (ACSC) at baseline was 11.4 mg/dl (2.9 mmol/l). The reasons for prescribing cinacalcet included: surgery deemed inappropriate (35%), patient declined surgery (28%) and surgery failed or contraindicated (22%). Mean cinacalcet dose was 43.9 mg/day (s.d., 15.8) at treatment start and 51.3 mg/day (31.8) at month 12; 219 (72%) patients completed 12 months treatment. The main reason for cinacalcet discontinuation was parathyroidectomy (40; 13%). At 3, 6 and 12 months from the start of treatment, 63, 69 and 71% of patients, respectively, had an ACSC of ≤10.3 mg/dl vs 9.9% at baseline. Reductions from baseline in ACSC of ≥1 mg/dl were seen in 56, 63 and 60% of patients respectively. ADRs were reported in 81 patients (27%), most commonly nausea. A total of 7.6% of patients discontinued cinacalcet due to ADRs.


Reductions in calcium levels of ≥1 mg/dl was observed in 60% of patients 12 months after initiation of cinacalcet, without notable safety concerns.

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W M Wiersinga, P Perros, G J Kahaly, M P Mourits, L Baldeschi, K Boboridis, A Boschi, A J Dickinson, P Kendall-Taylor, G E Krassas, C M Lane, J H Lazarus, C Marcocci, M Marino, M Nardi, C Neoh, J Orgiazzi, A Pinchera, S Pitz, M F Prummel, M S Sartini, M Stahl, and G von Arx

Group-author : The European Group on Graves’ Orbitopathy (EUGOGO)

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MF Prummel, A Bakker, WM Wiersinga, L Baldeschi, MP Mourits, P Kendall-Taylor, P Perros, C Neoh, AJ Dickinson, JH Lazarus, CM Lane, AE Heufelder, GJ Kahaly, S Pitz, J Orgiazzi, A Hullo, A Pinchera, C Marcocci, MS Sartini, R Rocchi, M Nardi, GE Krassas, and A Halkias

To improve management of patients with Graves' orbitopathy, a multi-center collaborative approach is necessary in order to have large enough sample sizes for meaningful randomized clinical trials. This is hampered by a lack of consensus on how to investigate the eye condition. The European Group on Graves' Orbitopathy aims to overcome this and has designed a preliminary case record form (CRF) to assess Graves' orbitopathy patients. This form was used in this first multi-center study. AIM: To investigate patient characteristics and treatment strategies in 152 new consecutively referred patients with thyroid eye disease seen in nine large European referral centers. METHODS: Newly referred patients with Graves' orbitopathy were included who were seen between September and December 2000. Demographic data and a complete ophthalmological assessment were recorded. RESULTS: One-hundred and fifty-two patients (77% females) were included. Diabetes was present in 9%, and glaucoma or cataract in 14% of patients. Forty percent were current smokers, 9% also had dermopathy, and only 33% reported a positive family history of thyroid disease. Mild eye disease was seen in 40%, moderately severe eye disease was seen in 33% and severe eye disease was seen in 28% of patients. Soft tissue involvement was the most frequent abnormality (seen in 75%), proptosis > or =21 mm was found in 63%, eye motility dysfunction in 49%, keratopathy in 16% and optic nerve involvement was found in 21% of patients. According to the clinical impression, 60% had active eye disease. Immunosuppressive treatment was planned more frequently in active patients (57/86; 66%) than in inactive patients (5/57, 9%; Chi-square 46.16; P<0.02). There were no important differences among the eight centers regarding the severity and the activity of their patients. CONCLUSIONS: In view of the large number of patients recruited in only 4 months, multi-center studies in the eight EUGOGO centers appear to be feasible.

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P Perros, L Baldeschi, K Boboridis, A J Dickinson, A Hullo, G J Kahaly, P Kendall-Taylor, G E Krassas, C M Lane, J H Lazarus, C Marcocci, M Marino, M P Mourits, M Nardi, J Orgiazzi, A Pinchera, S Pitz, M F Prummel, and W M Wiersinga

Group-author : The European Group of Graves’ Orbitopathy

Objective: To determine management patterns among clinicians who treat patients with Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) in Europe.

Design and methods: Questionnaire survey including a case scenario of members of professional organisations representing endocrinologists, ophthalmologists and nuclear medicine physicians.

Results: A multidisciplinary approach to manage GO was valued by 96.3% of responders, although 31.5% did not participate or refer to a multidisciplinary team and 21.5% of patients with GO treated by responders were not managed in a multidisciplinary setting. Access to surgery for sight-threatening GO was available only within weeks or months according to 59.5% of responders. Reluctance to refer urgently to an ophthalmologist was noted by 32.7% of responders despite the presence of suspected optic neuropathy. The use of steroids was not influenced by the age of the patient, but fewer responders chose to use steroids in a diabetic patient (72.1 vs 90.5%, P < 0.001). Development of cushingoid features resulted in a reduction in steroid use (90.5 vs 36.5%, P < 0.001) and increase in the use of orbital irradiation (from 23.8% to 40.4%, P < 0.05) and surgical decompression (from 20.9 to 52.9%, P < 0.001). More ophthalmologists chose surgical decompression for patients with threatened vision due to optic neuropathy, who were intolerant to steroids than other specialists (70.3 vs 41.8%, P < 0.01).

Conclusion: Deficiencies in the management of patients with GO in Europe were identified by this survey. Further training of clinicians, easier access of patients to specialist multidisciplinary centres and the publication of practice guidelines may help improve the management of this condition in Europe.