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JP Luton, M Martinez, J Coste and J Bertherat

OBJECTIVE: The study was designed to evaluate the clinical, endocrinological and radiological parameters used to investigate adrenal incidentalomas and select patients for surgery. DESIGN AND METHODS: An analysis of 88 consecutive patients with adrenal incidentaloma selected for surgery and investigated in a single clinical center was performed. RESULTS: Mean (+/-s.d.) age of the patients was 53+/-14 years. Fourteen (16%) of the adrenal incidentalomas were malignant tumors (2 adrenocortical carcinomas, 3 metastases, 4 adenocarcinomas, 4 sarcomas and 1 mesenchymoma), 10 (11%) were pheochromocytomas, 32 (36%) were non-secretory benign adrenal adenomas and the remaining were benign adrenal (n = 8; 9%) or extra-adrenal (n = 24; 27%) masses. Endocrinological investigations revealed 1 Conn adenoma, 4 tumors responsible for Cushing's syndrome or silent hypercortisolism and 1 androgen secreting tumor. Abnormalities of endocrine evaluations were observed in the 2 malignant adrenocortical carcinomas. Elevated 24-h urinary metanephrine levels were observed in the 9 pheochromocytomas tested. Complications of surgery occurred in 14% of the cases. Regardless of the endocrine status, parameters associated with malignant tumors were: older age (mean age of patients harboring malignant tumors vs patients with benign incidentalomas: 62+/-17 years vs 52+/-13 years, P = 0.005), weight loss (39% vs 7%, P = 0. 005), and mass diameter greater than 60mm (69% vs 15%, P < 0.001). By multiple logistic regression analysis malignant tumors were associated with increased age, diameter greater than 60mm and bilateral masses. CONCLUSION: This study points to a high rate of pheochromocytomas and malignant tumors in patients selected for surgery. This high rate differs from some previous reports and might be explained by the criteria used to select patients for surgery. Among these two groups of tumors, careful systematic endocrinological investigations allow the detection of altered secretion in the vast majority - if not all - malignant tumors of adrenal origin and pheochromocytomas. Only 5% of the incidentalomas below 30 mm selected for surgery in this study were malignant, in keeping with the use of this criteria as an important parameter to select patients with normal hormonal investigations for careful follow-up.

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A Bourdelot, J Coste, V Hazebroucq, S Gaillard, L Cazabat, X Bertagna and J Bertherat

OBJECTIVE: Progress in the treatment of acromegaly with drugs is making it necessary to improve the prediction of the outcome of transsphenoidal surgery. DESIGN: We evaluated clinical, hormonal and radiologic predictors based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of surgical outcome in patients with acromegaly. METHODS: This retrospective analysis included 125 consecutive patients investigated for acromegaly in a single endocrine unit since the use of MRI imaging began (1988). Eighty-three of these patients (50 women) underwent transsphenoidal surgery and were investigated before and after surgery in our department. A neuroradiologist unaware of the surgical outcome analyzed the results of pituitary gland MRI investigations. RESULTS: Surgical remission rates were 44%, 43%, 61% and 59% based on mean basal GH concentration under 2.5 microg/l, GH/oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) of <1 microg/l, GH/OGTT of <2 microg/l or IGF-I concentration normal for age and sex respectively. In univariate logistic regression analysis with IGF-I concentration used as the criterion for cure, young age (P<0.001), high IGF-I concentration before surgery (P<0.01), high basal GH concentration before surgery (P<0.02), and high nadir GH/OGTT before surgery (P=0.03) were predictors of poor outcome. The following results in standardized MRI analysis were associated with a higher probability of not being cured: adenoma greater than 15 mm in diameter (P<0.02), infrasellar extension (P=0.04), suprasellar extension (P<0.005) and invasive adenoma (0.02) according to MRI staging. MRI analysis of the intracavernous extension showed that stages above B2 (possible sinus extension with sign of invasion of the space below the carotid artery) were associated with a lower probability of postoperative normal GH plasma levels (P=0.01). In multivariate analysis, age, preoperative hormonal levels and adenoma size remained the major predictors of surgical outcome. CONCLUSIONS: This report provides the first evidence that detailed MRI analysis of adenoma size, location and potential invasion, together with preoperative clinical and hormonal parameters, can be used for the prediction of hormonal outcome after transsphenoidal surgery for acromegaly.

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D Guiban, JF Massias, MA Dugue, J Coste, X Bertagna and ML Raffin-Sanson

OBJECTIVE: Measurement of plasma ACTH is a key step for the exploration of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal disorders. To further improve ACTH recognition a new generation of ACTH IRMA was developed using antibodies directed towards succinylated ACTH (sACTH IRMA). DESIGN: The usefulness of this assay was compared with that of another commercially available ACTH IRMA assay using intact ACTH (ELSA-ACTH) in various pathophysiological situations: patients with low ACTH plasma levels, high ACTH plasma levels with normal or tumoural pituitaries, or ectopic ACTH syndrome, and pregnant women with high proopiomelanocortin (POMC) plasma levels. METHODS: All plasma samples were assayed simultaneously with the two different IRMAs. Comparisons were assessed by plotting the results along the theoretical line of identical values, and by the graphical method of Bland and Altman. RESULTS: In the ELSA-ACTH IRMA, CLIP (or ACTH18-39) showed true cross-reactivity, and alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and purified POMC both interfered and induced falsely lower ACTH results; in the sACTH IRMA no peptide showed any cross-reactivity, and only extremely high values of CLIP (50 000 pg/ml) interfered and induced falsely lower ACTH results. In ACTH hypersecretory syndromes, of tumoural (Cushing's disease, ectopic ACTH secretion) or non-tumoural (Addison's disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia) origins a good agreement between the two assays was observed except for very high ACTH plasma values (above 1000 pg/ml) and in some tumours where the sACTH IRMA yielded lower results; in some cases, the presence of circulating CLIP, demonstrated by HPLC studies, may contribute to this discrepancy. It is also likely that the calibration of the ELSA-ACTH kit itself generates higher ACTH values. In normal pregnant women both IRMAs gave highly correlated values, yet lower results were obtained with the sACTH IRMA. CONCLUSION: These data show that the sACTH IRMA has improved qualities of specificity and usefulness for rapid assessment of ACTH plasma levels.

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ML Raffin-Sanson, F Ferre, J Coste, C Oliver, D Cabrol and X Bertagna

OBJECTIVE: The human placenta normally expresses the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene. The pattern and secretory kinetics of POMC and/or POMC-derived peptides by the placenta during gestation is still debated. We recently demonstrated that full length POMC was a normal product of the human placenta. The aim of our study was to establish its normal secretory kinetics and to explore its physiological relevance. DESIGN: In a prospective, longitudinal study, thirty normal pregnant women had monthly measurements of plasma POMC. In a cross-sectional study of 128 healthy pregnant women, plasma POMC and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) were concomitantly measured to assess their correlation. Finally, POMC levels were assessed in venous and arterial cord blood samples, in amniotic fluid and in retroplacental blood. METHODS: Plasma POMC was measured by a specific IRMA in unextracted blood or biological fluid. RESULTS: Plasma POMC became detectable by the 8th week of pregnancy and reached its maximum at around the 20th week, remaining stable thereafter. The relationship between POMC and gestation time (weeks) best fitted with a third degree polynomia curve. A significant negative correlation (P=0.01) was observed between plasma levels of POMC and hCG after adjustment for gestation time to take into account the dependence of both hormones on this parameter. POMC was not secreted into the fetal circulation at term, but was present in very high levels in amniotic fluid. The highest levels of POMC were present in the retroplacental blood where the values were 35 times higher than in maternal blood; by comparison, corticotrophin releasing hormone and ACTH values in this compartment were twice or equal to those in the maternal blood. CONCLUSION: Placental POMC secretion increases during the first half of pregnancy and reaches a plateau from the 20th week to delivery. The inverse correlation between POMC and hCG plasma levels, and very high POMC levels at the feto-maternal interface suggest a physiological role for this precursor during pregnancy.