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F Cucinelli, P Paparella, L Soranna, A Barini, B Cinque, S Mancuso and A Lanzone

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact on glucose and insulin metabolism of transdermal estrogen patches before and after the addition of cyclic dydrogesterone in postmenopausal women. DESIGN: We studied 21 postmenopausal women seeking treatment for symptomatic menopause. All patients received transdermal 50 micrograms/day estradiol for 24 weeks. After 12 weeks of treatment, 10 mg/day dydrogesterone were added. METHODS: During both regimens, insulin and C-peptide plasma concentrations were evaluated after an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT); insulin sensitivity was evaluated by a hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp technique. Insulin and C-peptide response to OGTT were expressed as area under the curve (AUC) and as incremental AUC; insulin sensitivity was expressed as mg/kg body weight. Fractional hepatic insulin extraction (FHIE) was estimated by the difference between the incremental AUC of the C-peptide and insulin divided by the incremental AUC of the C-peptide. Plasma hormone and lipid concentrations were assessed at baseline and at 12 and 24 weeks of treatment. RESULTS: Nine patients proved to be hyperinsulinemic and 12 were normoinsulinemic. Transdermal estrogen treatment significantly decreased the insulin AUC (P < 0.05) and the insulin incremental AUC in hyperinsulinemic patients; addition of dydrogesterone further decreased both the AUC and incremental AUC of insulin. Estrogen alone and combined with dydrogesterone evoked a significant increase in C-peptide AUC in hyperinsulinemic (79.2%) and normoinsulinemic (113%) patients. The treatment increased the values for FHIE and insulin sensitivity in all patients (P < 0.04) and in the hyperinsulinemic group (P < 0.01), whereas it did not affect such parameters in normoinsulinemic patients. CONCLUSIONS: Transdermal estrogen substitution alone and combined with cyclical dydrogesterone may ameliorate hyperinsulinemia in a selected population of postmenopausal women.

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SM Corsello, A Tofani, S Della Casa, R Sciuto, CA Rota, S Colasanti, A Bini, A Barini and A Barbarino

Previous studies have shown that corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is capable of inhibiting growth hormone (GH) secretion in response to GH-releasing hormone (GHRH). In an attempt to clarify the mechanism of the CRH action, we have studied the effect of enhanced cholinergic tone induced by pyridostigmine on the CRH inhibition of the GH response to GHRH in a group of six normal men and six normal women. All subjects presented a normal GH response to 50 μg iv GHRH administration (mean peak±sem plasma GH levels 20±2.9 μg/l in men and 28.9±2.9 μg/l in women) with a further significant increase after pyridostigmine pretreatment (60mg orally given 60 min before GHRH) in men (GH peaks 43.1±6.9 μg/l, p<0.005) but not in women (GH peaks 39.2±3.0 μg/l). In the same subjects, peripherally injected CRH (100 μg) significantly inhibited the GH response to GHRH (GH peaks 8.1±0.6 μg/l in men, p<0.005 and 9.9±0.7 μg/l in women, p<0.005). Pyridostigmine (60 mg) given orally at the same time of CRH administration (60 min before GHRH) reversed the CRH inhibition of GHRH-induced GH secretion (GH peaks 35.3±8.2 μg/l in men and 35±3.3 μg/l in women) with a response not significantly different to that seen in the pyridostigmine plus GHRH test. Our data confirm that pyridostigmine is capable of potentiating the GHRH-induced GH release in normal male but not female subjects. In addition, our studies show that the potentiating action of pyridostigmine on the GHRH-induced GH secretion prevails on the inhibiting effect of CRH when the two drugs are given together 1 h before GHRH injection. Both CRH and pyridostigmine could exert their action by modifying, in opposite ways, somatostatin release from the hypothalamus.

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SM Corsello, CA Rota, P Putignano, S Della Casa, A Barnabei, MG Migneco, V Vangeli, A Barini, M Mandala, C Barone and A Barbarino

Tamoxifen, an estrogen antagonist, is usually employed in the treatment of breast cancer. Its mechanism of action is not well known because an antiproliferative effect of the drug has been shown also in estrogen receptor negative tumors, most likely mediated by the inhibition of local growth factors and particularly IGF-I. However, the action of tamoxifen on the GH-IGF-I axis is still open to investigation. We have investigated the influence of acute and chronic treatment with tamoxifen on GH response to GHRH and IGF-I serum levels in six postmenopausal women with metastatic breast cancer. A GHRH test (50 microg i.v. at time 0, GH determinations at 0, 15, 30, 60, 90 and 120 min) was performed (a) basally, (b) 3 h after 40 mg oral administration of tamoxifen and (c) after 8 weeks of 20 mg twice a day oral tamoxifen treatment. IGF-I was measured basally and after chronic tamoxifen therapy. No significant modifications in GH response to GHRH were observed after acute or chronic treatment with tamoxifen vs the basal test. On the contrary, chronic tamoxifen treatment induced a significant decrease in serum IGF-I levels. Basal pretreatment levels of 123+/-18 microg/l were suppressed to 65+/-11 microg/l (mean suppression 47%, P < 0.001). These preliminary data confirm the inhibitory effect of tamoxifen on IGF-I production but seem to exclude the possibility that this effect may be due to an inhibition of GH secretion.