Steroidogenesis enzyme inhibitors are the mainstay of medical therapy in Cushing's syndrome (CS). Ketoconazole (KTZ) and metyrapone are the most commonly used agents. Although there is considerable experience of their use in individual specialist centres, these drugs have not been rigorously tested in prospective clinical trials. Clinicians face uncertainties and concerns with respect to the safety profile of these agents, and best means to monitor effect. We review steroidogenesis inhibitors in the management of CS, including older agents (KTZ, metyrapone, etomidate and mitotane) and those currently under development (LCI699, non-racemic KTZ), and offer a practical approach for their use in clinical practice.
Eleni Daniel and John D C Newell-Price
Miguel Debono, Richard J Ross, and John Newell-Price
Patients with adrenal insufficiency need lifelong glucocorticoid replacement, but many suffer from poor quality of life, and overall there is increased mortality. Moreover, it appears that use of glucocorticoids at the higher end of the replacement dose range is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular and metabolic bone disease. These data highlight some of the inadequacies of current regimes.
The cortisol production rate is estimated to be equivalent to 5.7–7.4 mg/m2 per day, and a major difficulty for replacement regimes is the inability to match the distinct circadian rhythm of circulating cortisol levels, which are low at the time of sleep onset, rise between 0200 and 0400 h, peaking just after waking and then fall during the day. Another issue is that current dose equivalents of glucocorticoids used for replacement are based on anti-inflammatory potency, and few data exist as to doses needed for equivalent cardiovascular and bone effects. Weight-adjusted, thrice-daily dosing using hydrocortisone (HC) reduces glucocorticoid overexposure and represents the most refined regime for current oral therapy, but does not replicate the normal cortisol rhythm. Recently, proof-of-concept studies have shown that more physiological circadian glucocorticoid therapy using HC infusions and newly developed oral formulations of HC have the potential for better biochemical control in patients with adrenal insufficiency. Whether such physiological replacement will have an impact on the complications seen in patients with adrenal insufficiency will need to be analysed in future clinical trials.
Eleni Daniel, Robert Jones, Matthew Bull, and John Newell-Price
Patients with SDHx mutations need long-term radiological surveillance for the development of paragangliomas and phaeochromocytomas, but no longitudinal data exist. The aim of the study was to assess the performance of rapid-sequence non-contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the long-term monitoring of patients with SDHx mutations.
Retrospective study between 2005 and 2015 at a University Hospital and regional endocrine genetics referral centre. Clinical and imaging data of 47 patients with SDHx mutations (SDHB (36), SDHC (6) and SDHD (5)) who had surveillance for detection of paragangliomas by rapid-sequence non-contrast MRI (base of skull to pubic symphysis) were collected.
Twelve index cases (nine SDHB, one SDHC and two SDHD) and 35 mutation-positive relatives were monitored for a mean of 6.4 years (range 3.1–10.0 years). Mean age at the end of the study: SDHB 46.9 ± 17.6 years; SDHC 42.3 ± 24.4 years; SDHD 54.9 ± 10.6 years. On excluding imaging at initial diagnosis of index cases, 42 patients underwent 116 rapid-sequence MRI scans: 83 scans were negative and 31 scans were positive for sPGL/HNPGL in 13 patients. Most patients had multiple scans (n = number of patients (number of rapid-sequence MRI scans during screening)): n = 9 (2), n = 20 (3), n = 6 (4), n = 1 (6). Nine patients (three index) were diagnosed with new paragangliomas during surveillance and non-operated tumour size was monitored in nine patients. There were two false-positive scans (1.6%). Scans were repeated every 27 ± 9 months.
Biannual rapid-sequence non-contrast MRI is effective to monitor patients with SDHx mutations for detection of new tumours and monitoring of known tumours.
Dinesh Selvarajah, Jonathan Webster, Richard Ross, and John Newell-Price
Background: The excess mortality and morbidity associated with acromegaly are secondary to prolonged elevation of GH and IGF-I. Vigorous control of these biochemical parameters results in improved morbidity and mortality. Somatostatin analogues (SAs) allow adequate control of GH and IGF-I in approximately 65% of subjects, leaving a significant cohort uncontrolled. Dopamine agonists (DAs), a cheap alternative to SAs, allow control of GH and IGF-I in less than 20% of patients with acromegaly.
Aims: To assess the effectiveness of adding DA therapy to SA in the biochemical control of acromegaly.
Subjects: One hundred and twenty cases from the Sheffield Acromegaly Register were reviewed; 24 (20%) did not require medical treatment following pituitary surgery alone; 16 (13%) had safe GH levels following surgery and radiotherapy; and 58 (48%) required medical treatment despite having had surgery, radiotherapy or both. The remaining 22 (18%) received only medical treatment.
Methods: In nine subjects a DA (three bromocriptine, six cabergoline) was added to an SA to control active disease. GH day curves and IGF-I levels were compared before and after the addition of a DA to existing SA treatment. All were on stable maximum-dose treatment with an SA, with inadequate biochemical control prior to addition of DA therapy. Mean duration of treatment on a DA before biochemical assessments were made was 10.3 months. Six subjects had previously been treated with either transsphenoidal surgery, radiotherapy or both. In three subjects SA was the primary therapy.
Results: All subjects exhibited a fall in median GH and IGF-I levels. Introduction of a DA resulted in a 36.1% reduction in median GH levels (8.3 vs 5.3 mIU/l; P = 0.008) on a GH day curve and a 35.2% reduction in IGF-I levels (387.2 vs 251.0 μg/l; P = 0.018). Only four subjects had elevated prolactin levels prior to the addition of a DA (>368 mIU/l).
Conclusion: Addition of DAs to SAs is of benefit in the biochemical control of acromegaly and should be considered in those inadequately controlled. Furthermore, the beneficial effects of DAs occur even when pre-treatment prolactin levels are within the normal range.
John Newell-Price, Lynnette K Nieman, Martin Reincke, and Antoine Tabarin
Clinical evaluation should guide those needing immediate investigation. Strict adherence to COVID-19 protection measures is necessary. Alternative ways of consultations (telephone, video) should be used. Early discussion with regional/national experts about investigation and management of potential and existing patients is strongly encouraged. Patients with moderate or severe clinical features need urgent investigation and management. Patients with active Cushing’s syndrome, especially when severe, are immunocompromised and vigorous adherence to the principles of social isolation is recommended. In patients with mild features or in whom a diagnosis is less likely, clinical re-evaluation should be repeated at 3 and 6 months or deferred until the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 has significantly decreased; however, those individuals should be encouraged to maintain social distancing. Diagnostic pathways may need to be very different from usual recommendations in order to reduce possible exposure to SARS-CoV-2. When extensive differential diagnostic testing and/or surgery is not feasible, it should be deferred and medical treatment should be initiated. Transsphenoidal pituitary surgery should be delayed during high SARS-CoV-2 viral prevalence. Medical management rather than surgery will be the used for most patients, since the short- to mid-term prognosis depends in most cases on hypercortisolism rather than its cause; it should be initiated promptly to minimize the risk of infection in these immunosuppressed patients. The risk/benefit ratio of these recommendations will need re-evaluation every 2–3 months from April 2020 in each country (and possibly local areas) and will depend on the local health care structure and phase of pandemic.
Miguel Debono, Lorcan Sheppard, Sarah Irving, Philip Jackson, Jo Butterworth, Zoe L S Brookes, John Newell-Price, Jonathan J Ross, and Richard J Ross
Patients with cortisol deficiency poorly tolerate any systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), and may die if not treated with sufficient exogenous glucocorticoids. Controversy surrounds what constitutes a ‘normal’ adrenal response in critical illness. This study uses conventional tests for adrenal insufficiency to investigate cortisol status in patients undergoing elective coronary artery bypass surgery, a condition frequently associated with SIRS.
A prospective, observational study.
Thirty patients with impaired left ventricular function (ejection fraction >23% <50%) underwent basal ACTH measurement, and a short cosyntropin test (250 μg, i.v.) 1 week preoperatively, and at +4 h following induction of general anaesthesia. Preoperatively, a 30 min cortisol level post cosyntropin >550 nmol/l was taken as a normal response.
Prior to surgery, all patients had a normal response to cosyntropin. Postoperatively, eight patients (26.7%) did not achieve stimulated cortisol levels >550 nmol/l and the mean peak cortisol postoperatively was lower (1048 vs 730 nmol/l; P<0.001). There was a significant rise in ACTH after surgery (21 vs 184 ng/l; P=0.007) and reduction in Δ-cortisol post cosyntropin (579 vs 229 nmol/l; P<0.001). There was no change in basal cortisol pre- and post-operatively (447 vs 501; P=0.4). All patients underwent routine, uneventful postoperative recovery.
Up to one quarter of patients with a normal cortisol status preoperatively demonstrated a raised ACTH and deficient cortisol response postoperatively. Despite these responses, all patients had uneventful outcomes. These data reinforce the need for caution when interpreting results of endocrine testing following major surgery or in the intensive care environment, and that prognostic value of these results may be of limited use.
Martin Fassnacht, Wiebke Arlt, Irina Bancos, Henning Dralle, John Newell-Price, Anju Sahdev, Antoine Tabarin, Massimo Terzolo, Stylianos Tsagarakis, and Olaf M Dekkers
By definition, an adrenal incidentaloma is an asymptomatic adrenal mass detected on imaging not performed for suspected adrenal disease. In most cases, adrenal incidentalomas are nonfunctioning adrenocortical adenomas, but may also represent conditions requiring therapeutic intervention (e.g. adrenocortical carcinoma, pheochromocytoma, hormone-producing adenoma or metastasis). The purpose of this guideline is to provide clinicians with best possible evidence-based recommendations for clinical management of patients with adrenal incidentalomas based on the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) system. We predefined four main clinical questions crucial for the management of adrenal incidentaloma patients, addressing these four with systematic literature searches: (A) How to assess risk of malignancy?; (B) How to define and manage low-level autonomous cortisol secretion, formerly called ‘subclinical’ Cushing’s syndrome?; (C) Who should have surgical treatment and how should it be performed?; (D) What follow-up is indicated if the adrenal incidentaloma is not surgically removed?
(i) At the time of initial detection of an adrenal mass establishing whether the mass is benign or malignant is an important aim to avoid cumbersome and expensive follow-up imaging in those with benign disease. (ii) To exclude cortisol excess, a 1mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test should be performed (applying a cut-off value of serum cortisol ≤50nmol/L (1.8µg/dL)). (iii) For patients without clinical signs of overt Cushing’s syndrome but serum cortisol levels post 1mg dexamethasone >138nmol/L (>5µg/dL), we propose the term ‘autonomous cortisol secretion’. (iv) All patients with ‘(possible) autonomous cortisol’ secretion should be screened for hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus, to ensure these are appropriately treated. (v) Surgical treatment should be considered in an individualized approach in patients with ‘autonomous cortisol secretion’ who also have comorbidities that are potentially related to cortisol excess. (vi) In principle, the appropriateness of surgical intervention should be guided by the likelihood of malignancy, the presence and degree of hormone excess, age, general health and patient preference. (vii) Surgery is not usually indicated in patients with an asymptomatic, nonfunctioning unilateral adrenal mass and obvious benign features on imaging studies. We provide guidance on which surgical approach should be considered for adrenal masses with radiological findings suspicious of malignancy. Furthermore, we offer recommendations for the follow-up of patients with adrenal incidentaloma who do not undergo adrenal surgery, for those with bilateral incidentalomas, for patients with extra-adrenal malignancy and adrenal masses and for young and elderly patients with adrenal incidentalomas
John Newell-Price, Rosario Pivonello, Antoine Tabarin, Maria Fleseriu, Przemysław Witek, Mônica R Gadelha, Stephan Petersenn, Libuse Tauchmanova, Shoba Ravichandran, Pritam Gupta, André Lacroix, and Beverly M K Biller
Monitoring of patients with Cushing’s disease on cortisol-lowering drugs is usually performed with urinary free cortisol (UFC). Late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC) has an established role in screening for hypercortisolism and can help to detect the loss of cortisol circadian rhythm. Less evidence exists regarding the usefulness of LNSC in monitoring pharmacological response in Cushing’s disease.
Exploratory analysis evaluating LNSC during a Phase III study of long-acting pasireotide in Cushing’s disease (clinicaltrials.gov: NCT01374906).
Mean LNSC (mLNSC) was calculated from two samples, collected on the same days as the first two of three 24-h urine samples (used to calculate mean UFC [mUFC]). Clinical signs of hypercortisolism were evaluated over time.
At baseline, 137 patients had evaluable mLNSC measurements; 91.2% had mLNSC exceeding the upper limit of normal (ULN; 3.2 nmol/L). Of patients with evaluable assessments at month 12 (n = 92), 17.4% had both mLNSC ≤ULN and mUFC ≤ULN; 22.8% had mLNSC ≤ULN, and 45.7% had mUFC ≤ULN. There was high variability in LNSC (intra-patient coefficient of variation (CV): 49.4%) and UFC (intra-patient CV: 39.2%). mLNSC levels decreased over 12 months of treatment and paralleled changes in mUFC. Moderate correlation was seen between mLNSC and mUFC (Spearman’s correlation: ρ = 0.50 [all time points pooled]). Greater improvements in systolic/diastolic blood pressure and weight were seen in patients with both mLNSC ≤ULN and mUFC ≤ULN.
mUFC and mLNSC are complementary measurements for monitoring treatment response in Cushing’s disease, with better clinical outcomes seen for patients in whom both mUFC and mLNSC are controlled.
Peter J Trainer, John D C Newell-Price, John Ayuk, Simon J B Aylwin, Aled Rees, William Drake, Philippe Chanson, Thierry Brue, Susan M Webb, Carmen Fajardo, Javier Aller, Ann I McCormack, David J Torpy, George Tachas, Lynne Atley, David Ryder, and Martin Bidlingmaier
ATL1103 is a second-generation antisense oligomer targeting the human growth hormone (GH) receptor. This phase 2 randomised, open-label, parallel-group study assessed the potential of ATL1103 as a treatment for acromegaly.
Twenty-six patients with active acromegaly (IGF-I >130% upper limit of normal) were randomised to subcutaneous ATL1103 200 mg either once or twice weekly for 13 weeks and monitored for a further 8-week washout period.
The primary efficacy measures were change in IGF-I at week 14, compared to baseline and between cohorts. For secondary endpoints (IGFBP3, acid labile subunit (ALS), GH, growth hormone-binding protein (GHBP)), comparison was between baseline and week 14. Safety was assessed by reported adverse events.
Results and conclusions
Baseline median IGF-I was 447 and 649 ng/mL in the once- and twice-weekly groups respectively. Compared to baseline, at week 14, twice-weekly ATL1103 resulted in a median fall in IGF-I of 27.8% (P = 0.0002). Between cohort comparison at week 14 demonstrated the median fall in IGF-I to be 25.8% (P = 0.0012) greater with twice-weekly dosing. In the twice-weekly cohort, IGF-I was still declining at week 14, and remained lower at week 21 than at baseline by a median of 18.7% (P = 0.0005). Compared to baseline, by week 14, IGFBP3 and ALS had declined by a median of 8.9% (P = 0.027) and 16.7% (P = 0.017) with twice-weekly ATL1103; GH had increased by a median of 46% at week 14 (P = 0.001). IGFBP3, ALS and GH did not change with weekly ATL1103. GHBP fell by a median of 23.6% and 48.8% in the once- and twice-weekly cohorts (P = 0.027 and P = 0.005) respectively. ATL1103 was well tolerated, although 84.6% of patients experienced mild-to-moderate injection-site reactions. This study provides proof of concept that ATL1103 is able to significantly lower IGF-I in patients with acromegaly.
Elena Valassi, Antoine Tabarin, Thierry Brue, Richard A Feelders, Martin Reincke, Romana Netea-Maier, Miklós Tóth, Sabina Zacharieva, Susan M Webb, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Philippe Chanson, Marija Pfeiffer, Michael Droste, Irina Komerdus, Darko Kastelan, Dominique Maiter, Olivier Chabre, Holger Franz, Alicia Santos, Christian J Strasburger, Peter J Trainer, John Newell-Price, Oskar Ragnarsson, and the ERCUSYN Study Group
Patients with Cushing’s syndrome (CS) have increased mortality. The aim of this study was to evaluate the causes and time of death in a large cohort of patients with CS and to establish factors associated with increased mortality.
In this cohort study, we analyzed 1564 patients included in the European Registry on CS (ERCUSYN); 1045 (67%) had pituitary-dependent CS, 385 (25%) adrenal-dependent CS, 89 (5%) had an ectopic source and 45 (3%) other causes. The median (IQR) overall follow-up time in ERCUSYN was 2.7 (1.2–5.5) years.
Forty-nine patients had died at the time of the analysis; 23 (47%) with pituitary-dependent CS, 6 (12%) with adrenal-dependent CS, 18 (37%) with ectopic CS and two (4%) with CS due to other causes. Of 42 patients whose cause of death was known, 15 (36%) died due to progression of the underlying disease, 13 (31%) due to infections, 7 (17%) due to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease and 2 due to pulmonary embolism. The commonest cause of death in patients with pituitary-dependent CS and adrenal-dependent CS were infectious diseases (n = 8) and progression of the underlying tumor (n = 10) in patients with ectopic CS. Patients who had died were older and more often males, and had more frequently muscle weakness, diabetes mellitus and ectopic CS, compared to survivors. Of 49 deceased patients, 22 (45%) died within 90 days from start of treatment and 5 (10%) before any treatment was given. The commonest cause of deaths in these 27 patients were infections (n = 10; 37%). In a regression analysis, age, ectopic CS and active disease were independently associated with overall death before and within 90 days from the start of treatment.
Mortality rate was highest in patients with ectopic CS. Infectious diseases were the commonest cause of death soon after diagnosis, emphasizing the need for careful clinical vigilance at that time, especially in patients presenting with concomitant diabetes mellitus.