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Oskar Ragnarsson and Gudmundur Johannsson

One hundred years have passed since Harvey Williams Cushing presented the first patient with the syndrome that bears his name. In patients with Cushing's syndrome (CS), body composition and lipid, carbohydrate and protein metabolism are dramatically affected and psychopathology and cognitive dysfunction are frequently observed. Untreated patients with CS have a grave prognosis with an estimated 5-year survival of only 50%. Remission can be achieved by surgery, radiotherapy and sometimes with medical therapy. Recent data indicate that the adverse metabolic consequences of CS are present for years after successful treatment. In addition, recent studies have demonstrated that health-related quality of life and cognitive function are impaired in patients with CS in long-term remission. The focus of specialised care should therefore be not only on the diagnostic work-up and the early postoperative management but also on the long-term follow-up. In this paper, we review the long-term consequences in patients with CS in remission with focus on the neuropsychological effects and discuss the importance of these findings for long-term management. We also discuss three different phases in the postoperative management of surgically-treated patients with CS, each phase distinguished by specific challenges: the immediate postoperative phase, the glucocorticoid dose tapering phase and the long-term management. The focus of the long-term specialised care should be to identify cognitive impairments and psychiatric disorders, evaluate cardiovascular risk, follow pituitary function and detect possible recurrence of CS.

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Helena Filipsson and Gudmundur Johannsson

Severe GH deficiency (GHD) in adults has been described as a clinical entity. However, some of the features associated with GHD could be due to unphysiological and inadequate replacement of other pituitary hormone deficiencies. This may be true for glucocorticoid replacement that lacks a biomarker making dose titration and monitoring difficult. Moreover, oral estrogen replacement therapy decreases IGF1 levels compared with the transdermal route, which attenuates the responsiveness to GH replacement therapy in women. In addition, in untreated female hypogonadism, oral estrogen may augment the features associated with GHD in adult women. Important interactions between the hormones used for replacing pituitary hormone deficiency occur. Introducing GH replacement may unmask both an incipient adrenal insufficiency and central hypothyroidism. Therefore, awareness and proper monitoring of these hormonal interactions are important in order to reach an optimal replacement therapy. This review will focus on the complex hormonal interactions between GH and other pituitary hormones in GHD and in GH replacement.

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Helena Filipsson, Ernst Nyström and Gudmundur Johannsson

Context

The diagnosis of central hypothyroidism (CH) is often difficult to establish as serum TSH levels may be low, normal, or slightly increased.

Objective

To explore the use of recombinant human TSH (rhTSH) in the diagnosis of CH.

Design

Randomized single-blind clinical trial.

Setting

Outpatient clinic of a tertiary care referral center.

Intervention

A single intramuscular injection of 0.1 and 0.9 mg rhTSH in random order with 1-week interval.

Participants

Eighteen adult patients with pituitary insufficiency and six healthy age-, sex-, and body mass index-matched controls. Six patients had untreated CH (newCH), six had treated CH (CH), and six patients were TSH sufficient (nonCH). Five weeks before TSH stimulation, levothyroxine was replaced with tri-iodothyronine (T3) for 4 weeks. One week before stimulation, treatment was withdrawn.

Main outcome measures

Thyroid hormones and thyroglobulin (Tg) before and 2, 3½, 7, 24, 48, and 72 h after each injection.

Results

In the newCH group, basal free thyroxine (FT4) levels were lower than in controls (P<0.05). After 0.9 mg rhTSH, the increases in FT4 and reverse T3 (rT3) were less marked in the newCH group than in controls (FT4±s.e.m. 9.2±0.5 to 19.7±1.2 vs 11.3±0.5 to 27.8.2±2.4 pmol/l, P<0.05). The CH group exhibited reduced basal and stimulated FT4 compared with the TSH-sufficient groups. Tg increased similarly among all study groups after rhTSH injection.

Conclusion

In this pilot study, patients with untreated CH had lower response to 0.9 mg rhTSH in FT4 and rT3 than controls. An rhTSH test may be useful in the diagnosis of CH, but further studies are required.

Open access

Ashley Grossman, Gudmundur Johannsson, Marcus Quinkler and Pierre Zelissen

Background

Conventional glucocorticoid (GC) replacement for patients with adrenal insufficiency (AI) is inadequate. Patients with AI continue to have increased mortality and morbidity and compromised quality of life despite treatment and monitoring.

Objectives

i) To review current management of AI and the unmet medical need based on literature and treatment experience and ii) to offer practical advice for managing AI in specific clinical situations.

Methods

The review considers the most urgent questions endocrinologists face in managing AI and presents generalised patient cases with suggested strategies for treatment.

Results

Optimisation and individualisation of GC replacement remain a challenge because available therapies do not mimic physiological cortisol patterns. While increased mortality and morbidity appear related to inadequate GC replacement, there are no objective measures to guide dose selection and optimisation. Physicians must rely on experience to recognise the clinical signs, which are not unique to AI, of inadequate treatment. The increased demand for corticosteroids during periods of stress can result in a life-threatening adrenal crisis (AC) in a patient with AI. Education is paramount for patients and their caregivers to anticipate, recognise and provide proper early treatment to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ACs.

Conclusions

This review highlights and offers suggestions to address the challenges endocrinologists encounter in treating patients with AI. New preparations are being developed to better mimic normal physiological cortisol levels with convenient, once-daily dosing which may improve treatment outcomes.

Open access

Gudmundur Johannsson, Hans Lennernäs, Claudio Marelli, Kevin Rockich and Stanko Skrtic

Objective

Oral once-daily dual-release hydrocortisone (DR-HC) replacement therapy was developed to provide a cortisol exposure−time profile that closely resembles the physiological cortisol profile. This study aimed to characterize single-dose pharmacokinetics (PK) of DR-HC 5–20mg and assess intrasubject variability.

Methods

Thirty-one healthy Japanese or non-Hispanic Caucasian volunteers aged 20−55 years participated in this randomized, open-label, PK study. Single doses of DR-HC 5, 15 (3×5), and 20mg were administered orally after an overnight fast and suppression of endogenous cortisol secretion. After estimating the endogenous cortisol profile, PK of DR-HC over 24h were evaluated to assess dose proportionality and impact of ethnicity. Plasma cortisol concentrations were analyzed using liquid chromatography−tandem mass spectrometry. PK parameters were calculated from individual cortisol concentration−time profiles.

Results

DR-HC 20mg provided higher than endogenous cortisol plasma concentrations 0−4h post-dose but similar concentrations later in the profile. Cortisol concentrations and PK exposure parameters increased with increasing doses. Mean maximal serum concentration (Cmax) was 82.0 and 178.1ng/mL, while mean area under the concentration−time curve (AUC)0−∞ was 562.8 and 1180.8h×ng/mL with DR-HC 5 and 20mg respectively. Within-subject PK variability was low (<15%) for DR-HC 20mg. All exposure PK parameters were less than dose proportional (slope <1). PK differences between ethnicities were explained by body weight differences.

Conclusions

DR-HC replacement resembles the daily normal cortisol profile. Within-subject day-to-day PK variability was low, underpinning the safety of DR-HC for replacement therapy. DR-HC PK were less than dose proportional – an important consideration when managing intercurrent illness in patients with adrenal insufficiency.

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Harald J Schneider, Michael Buchfelder, Henri Wallaschofski, Anton Luger, Gudmundur Johannsson, Peter H Kann and Anders Mattsson

Objective

There is no single clinical marker to reliably assess the clinical response to growth hormone replacement therapy (GHRT) in adults with growth hormone deficiency (GHD). The objective of this study was to propose a clinical response score to GHRT in adult GHD and to establish clinical factors that predict clinical response.

Design

This was a prospective observational cohort study from the international KIMS database (Pfizer International Metabolic Database).

Methods

We included 3612 adult patients with GHD for proposing the response score and 844 patients for assessing predictors of response. We propose a clinical response score based on changes in total cholesterol, waist circumference and QoL-AGHDA quality of life measurements after 2 years of GHRT. A score point was added for each quintile of change in each variable, resulting in a sum score ranging from 3 to 15. For clinical response at 2 years, we analysed predictors at baseline and after 6 months using logistic regression analyses.

Results

In a baseline prediction model, IGF1, QoL-AGHDA, total cholesterol and waist circumference predicted response, with worse baseline parameters being associated with a favourable response (AUC 0.736). In a combined baseline and 6-month prediction model, baseline QoL-AGHDA, total cholesterol and waist circumference, and 6-month change in waist circumference were significant predictors of response (AUC 0.815).

Conclusions

A simple clinical response score might be helpful in evaluating the success of GHRT. The baseline prediction model may aid in the decision to initiate GHRT and the combined prediction model may be helpful in the decision to continue GHRT.

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Casper Hammarstrand, Oskar Ragnarsson, Olivia Bengtsson, Ing-Liss Bryngelsson, Gudmundur Johannsson and Daniel S Olsson

Background

Patients with hypopituitarism have an increased mortality. The aim of this study was to investigate comorbidities including cerebral infarction, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and malignant tumors in patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) with and without growth hormone replacement therapy (GHRT).

Methods

Observational cohort study in patients with NFPA within the western region of Sweden. Subjects were identified through the National Patient Registry and followed between 1987 and 2014. Patient records were reviewed and standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) with 95% CIs for comorbidities were calculated.

Results

In total, 426 patients were included, 206 with GHRT and 219 without. Median (range) follow-up time for patients with and without GHRT was 12.2 (0–24) and 8.2 (0–27) years, respectively. Mean ± s.d. BMI was 28.5 ± 4.5 and 26.5 ± 4.4 for patients with and without GHRT, respectively (P < 0.001). Incidence of cerebral infarction was increased (SIR: 1.39; 95% CI: 1.03–1.84; P = 0.032), with no difference between patients with and without GHRT. SIR for T2DM in patients not receiving GHRT was increased (1.65; 1.06–2.46; P = 0.018), whereas the incidence in patients receiving GHRT was not (0.99; 0.55–1.63; P = 0.99). The incidence of malignant tumors was not increased, either in patients with or without GHRT.

Conclusion

The incidence of cerebral infarction is increased in patients with NFPA irrespective of GHRT. Patients without GHRT had an increased risk of T2DM, whereas patients with GHRT had a normal incidence of T2DM, despite having higher BMI. Incidence of malignant tumors was not increased. Thus, long-term GHRT seems to be safe regarding risk of comorbidities.

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Galina Götherström, Mariam Elbornsson, Katharina Stibrant-Sunnerhagen, Bengt-Åke Bengtsson, Gudmundur Johannsson and Johan Svensson

Context

Only few studies have investigated the effects of GH replacement on muscle strength in elderly patients with GH deficiency (GHD).

Objective, design, and patients

In this prospective open-labeled study, the effects of 10 years of GH replacement on muscle strength and neuromuscular function were followed in 24 elderly GHD adults (mean age of 65.2 years; range 61–74 years). Muscle strength was compared with reference values obtained from the background population.

Results

The mean initial GH dose of 0.72 mg/day was lowered to 0.37 mg/day. The mean IGF1 SDS increased from −1.10 at baseline to 1.17 at study end. GH replacement induced a sustained increase in lean body mass and a transient increase in isometric knee flexor strength. Isometric knee extensor strength was reduced after 10 years. However, after correction for age and gender, using observed/predicted value ratios, there was sustained and even progressive increase in most variables reflecting muscle strength. Measurements of neuromuscular function showed unchanged voluntary motor unit activation after 10 years.

Conclusions

Ten years of GH replacement therapy in elderly GHD adults resulted in a transient increase in isometric knee flexor strength, and provided protection from most of the normal age-related decline in muscle performance and neuromuscular function.

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Daniela Esposito, Oskar Ragnarsson, Daniel Granfeldt, Tom Marlow, Gudmundur Johannsson and Daniel S Olsson

Context

New therapeutic strategies have developed for the management of acromegaly over recent decades. Whether this has improved mortality has not been fully elucidated.

Objective

The primary aim was to investigate mortality in a nationwide unselected cohort of patients with acromegaly. Secondary analyses included time trends in mortality and treatment patterns.

Design

A total of 1089 patients with acromegaly were identified in Swedish National Health Registries between 1987 and 2013. To analyse time trends, the cohort was divided into three periods (1987–1995, 1996–2004 and 2005–2013) based on the year of diagnosis.

Main outcome measures

Using the Swedish population as reference, standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results

Overall SMR was 2.79 (95% CI: 2.43–3.15) with 232 observed and 83 expected deaths. Mortality was mainly related to circulatory diseases (SMR: 2.95, 95% CI: 2.35–3.55), including ischemic heart disease (2.00, 1.35–2.66) and cerebrovascular disease (3.99, 2.42–5.55) and malignancy (1.76, 1.27–2.26). Mortality decreased over time, with an SMR of 3.45 (2.87–4.02) and 1.86 (1.04–2.67) during the first and last time period, respectively (P = .015). During the same time periods, the frequency of pituitary surgery increased from 58% to 72% (P < 0.001) and the prevalence of hypopituitarism decreased from 41% to 23% (P < 0.001).

Conclusions

Excess mortality was found in this nationwide cohort of patients with acromegaly, mainly related to circulatory and malignant diseases. Although still high, mortality significantly declined over time. This could be explained by the more frequent use of pituitary surgery, decreased prevalence of hypopituitarism and the availability of new medical treatment options.

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Cesar L Boguszewski, Edna J L Barbosa, Per-Arne Svensson, Gudmundur Johannsson and Camilla A M Glad

Pharmacogenetics aims to maximize the beneficial effects of a medical therapy by identifying genetic finger prints from responders and non-responders and, thereby improving safety and efficacy profile of the drug. Most subjects who are deficient in growth hormone (GHD) are candidates for recombinant human GH (rhGH) therapy. To date, it is well established that even after adjustments for several clinical variables, such as age, gender, body composition and the age at onset of the GHD, response to rhGH treatment is highly variable among individuals, part of which is believed to be due to genetic factors within the GH system. As the first genetic variant to potentially influence the individual response to rhGH therapy in children with growth disorders, polymorphism in the GH receptor (GHR) has attracted a great interest as a target for pharmacogenetics. Studies have been conducted to compare the functional and molecular effects of the full-length GHR (fl-GHR) isoform with the exon 3 deleted (d3-GHR) isoform in children and adults treated with rhGH therapy. Additionally, the impact of the GHR polymorphism has been investigated in relation to the clinical status and response to medical treatment in acromegaly, especially to the GHR antagonist drug pegvisomant. We have performed a narrative review of the studies performed to date on the association of GHR polymorphism with rhGH response in children and adults, and its potential influence in the medical management of acromegaly. In addition, data from studies on the general population and in other chronic diseases examining a role of this genetic variant in the regulation of growth and metabolism are summarized.