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Eleni Daniel and John D C Newell-Price

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.

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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.

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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.

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Eleni Daniel, Robert Jones, Matthew Bull and John Newell-Price

Background

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

Biannual rapid-sequence non-contrast MRI is effective to monitor patients with SDHx mutations for detection of new tumours and monitoring of known tumours.

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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?

Selected recommendations:

(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

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Miguel Debono, Lorcan Sheppard, Sarah Irving, Philip Jackson, Jo Butterworth, Zoe L S Brookes, John Newell-Price, Jonathan J Ross and Richard J Ross

Objective

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.

Design

A prospective, observational study.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

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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

Objective

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.

Design

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.

Methods

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.

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Ann McCormack, Olaf M Dekkers, Stephan Petersenn, Vera Popovic, Jacqueline Trouillas, Gerald Raverot, Pia Burman and ESE survey collaborators

Objective

To collect outcome data in a large cohort of patients with aggressive pituitary tumours (APT)/carcinomas (PC) and specifically report effects of temozolomide (TMZ) treatment.

Design

Electronic survey to ESE members Dec 2015–Nov 2016.

Results

Reports on 166 patients (40 PC, 125 APT, 1 unclassified) were obtained. Median age at diagnosis was 43 (range 4–79) years. 69% of the tumours were clinically functioning, and the most frequent immunohistochemical subtype were corticotroph tumours (45%). Ki-67 index did not distinguish APT from PC, median 7% and 10% respectively. TMZ was first-line chemotherapy in 157 patients. At the end of the treatment (median 9 cycles), radiological evaluation showed complete response (CR) in 6%, partial response (PR) in 31%, stable disease (SD) in 33% and progressive disease in 30%. Response was more frequent in patients receiving concomitant radiotherapy and TMZ. CR was seen only in patients with low MGMT expression. Clinically functioning tumours were more likely to respond than non-functioning tumours, independent of MGMT status. Of patients with CR, PR and SD, 25, 40 and 48% respectively progressed after a median of 12-month follow-up. Other oncological drugs given as primary treatment and to TMZ failures resulted in PR in 20%.

Conclusion

This survey confirms that TMZ is established as first-line chemotherapeutic treatment of APT/PC. Clinically functioning tumours, low MGMT and concurrent radiotherapy were associated with a better response. The limited long-term effect of TMZ and the poor efficacy of other drugs highlight the need to identify additional effective therapies.

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Elena Valassi, Holger Franz, Thierry Brue, Richard A Feelders, Romana Netea-Maier, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Susan M Webb, Maria Yaneva, Martin Reincke, Michael Droste, Irina Komerdus, Dominique Maiter, Darko Kastelan, Philippe Chanson, Marija Pfeifer, Christian J Strasburger, Miklós Tóth, Olivier Chabre, Michal Krsek, Carmen Fajardo, Marek Bolanowski, Alicia Santos, Peter J Trainer, John A H Wass, Antoine Tabarin and for the ERCUSYN Study Group

Background

Surgery is the definitive treatment of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) but medications may also be used as a first-line therapy. Whether preoperative medical treatment (PMT) affects postoperative outcome remains controversial.

Objective

(1) Evaluate how frequently PMT is given to CS patients across Europe; (2) examine differences in preoperative characteristics of patients who receive PMT and those who undergo primary surgery and (3) determine if PMT influences postoperative outcome in pituitary-dependent CS (PIT-CS).

Patients and methods

1143 CS patients entered into the ERCUSYN database from 57 centers in 26 countries. Sixty-nine percent had PIT-CS, 25% adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS), 5% CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS) and 1% were classified as having CS from other causes (OTH-CS).

Results

Twenty per cent of patients took PMT. ECT-CS and PIT-CS were more likely to receive PMT compared to ADR-CS (P < 0.001). Most commonly used drugs were ketoconazole (62%), metyrapone (16%) and a combination of both (12%). Median (interquartile range) duration of PMT was 109 (98) days. PIT-CS patients treated with PMT had more severe clinical features at diagnosis and poorer quality of life compared to those undergoing primary surgery (SX) (P < 0.05). Within 7 days of surgery, PIT-CS patients treated with PMT were more likely to have normal cortisol (P < 0.01) and a lower remission rate (P < 0.01). Within 6 months of surgery, no differences in morbidity or remission rates were observed between SX and PMT groups.

Conclusions

PMT may confound the interpretation of immediate postoperative outcome. Follow-up is recommended to definitely evaluate surgical results.