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M Terzolo, A Ali, G Osella, G Reimondo, A Pia, P Peretti, P Paccotti and A Angeli

OBJECTIVE: Owing to their increasing rate of discovery as incidental findings, the characterization of adrenal masses is an important diagnostic problem which frequently challenges the clinician's skill. DESIGN: The results of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) measurement were evaluated in a consecutive series of 107 patients with an adrenal mass (39 men, 68 women aged 15-81 years, median 56 years). DHEAS levels observed in the patients were categorized as reduced, normal or elevated according to sex- and age-adjusted reference ranges obtained by measuring DHEAS in 214 healthy women and 142 healthy men aged 17-93 years. The working hypothesis was that a low DHEAS level is a marker of benignity. METHODS: In 84 patients, the adrenal mass was discovered serendipitously, while in the remainder the mass was clinically symptomatic. Patients with known extra-adrenal malignancies were excluded. The adrenal masses were categorized as benign or malignant by computerized tomography (CT) criteria. All patients with suspected malignant tumors or with overtly hypersecreting tumors underwent adrenalectomy. The patients with a presumptive benign tumor were followed-up for at least 12 months. RESULTS: In the overall series, the sensitivity and specificity of a low DHEAS level in the identification of a benign lesion were 41% and 100% respectively. Superimposable figures were obtained when considering only adrenal incidentalomas. DHEAS levels in adrenal cancers displayed some overlap with adrenal adenomas, but in only 2/11 adrenal cancers were DHEAS levels normal, while they were elevated in the remainder. CONCLUSIONS: The present data suggest that DHEAS measurement may help to differentiate benign from malignant adrenal masses as a complementary test of CT in a clinical research setting. The value of DHEAS measurement in general practice is limited because it may be difficult to differentiate between low and low-normal values, particularly in the elderly.

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Irina Bancos, Fares Alahdab, Rachel K Crowley, Vasileios Chortis, Danae A Delivanis, Dana Erickson, Neena Natt, Massimo Terzolo, Wiebke Arlt, William F Young Jr and M Hassan Murad

Objective

Beneficial effects of adrenalectomy on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome (SCS) are uncertain. We sought to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis with the following objectives: (i) determine the effect of adrenalectomy compared with conservative management on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with SCS and (ii) compare the effect of adrenalectomy on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with SCS vs those with a nonfunctioning (NF) adrenal tumor.

Methods

MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trial were searched on 17 November 2015. Reviewers extracted data and assessed methodological quality in duplicate.

Results

We included 26 studies reporting on 584 patients with SCS and 457 patients with NF adrenal tumors. Studies used different definitions of SCS. Patients with SCS undergoing adrenalectomy demonstrated an overall improvement in cardiovascular risk factors (61% for hypertension, 52% for diabetes mellitus, 45% for obesity and 24% for dyslipidemia). When compared with conservative management, patients with SCS undergoing adrenalectomy experienced improvement in hypertension (RR 11, 95% CI: 4.3–27.8) and diabetes mellitus (RR 3.9, 95% CI: 1.5–9.9), but not dyslipidemia (RR 2.6, 95% CI: 0.97–7.2) or obesity (RR 3.4, 95% CI: 0.95–12). Patients with NF adrenal tumors experienced improvement in hypertension (21/54 patients); however, insufficient data exist for comparison to patients with SCS.

Conclusions

Available low-to-moderate-quality evidence from heterogeneous studies suggests a beneficial effect of adrenalectomy on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with SCS overall and compared with conservative management.

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A Ardito, C Massaglia, E Pelosi, B Zaggia, V Basile, R Brambilla, F Vigna-Taglianti, E Duregon, V Arena, P Perotti, D Penna and M Terzolo

Context

The role of 18F-labeled 2-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) in the post-operative monitoring of patients with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is still unclear.

Objective

To assess the accuracy of FDG PET/CT to diagnose ACC recurrence in a real world setting.

Design and methods

Retrospective evaluation of data of 57 patients with presumed ACC recurrence at CT scan who underwent FDG PET/CT within a median time of 20 days. We compared the results of either FDG PET/CT or CT with a gold standard confirmation of recurrence (positive histopathology report of removed/biopsied lesions or radiological progression of target lesions at follow-up) to assess their diagnostic performance at different body sites to correctly categorize target lesions. We also assessed whether FDG PET/CT findings may be useful to inform the management strategy.

Results

In 48 patients with confirmed ACC recurrence, we found that FDG PET/CT had lower sensitivity than CT in diagnosing liver and lung recurrences of ACC. FDG PET/CT had higher specificity than CT in categorizing liver lesions. FDG PET/CT had a greater positive likelihood ratio than CT to identify liver and abdominal ACC recurrences. The management strategy was changed based on FDG PET/CT findings in 12 patients (21.1%).

Conclusions

The greater sensitivity of CT may be partly expected due the specific inclusion criteria of the study; however, the greater specificity of FDG PET/CT was particularly useful in ruling out suspected ACC recurrences found by CT. Thus, use of FDG PET/CT as a second-line test in the post-operative surveillance of ACC patients following CT finding of a potential recurrence may have a significant impact on patient management.

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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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Martin Fassnacht, Olaf M Dekkers, Tobias Else, Eric Baudin, Alfredo Berruti, Ronald R de Krijger, Harm R Haak, Radu Mihai, Guillaume Assie and Massimo Terzolo

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare and in most cases steroid hormone-producing tumor with variable prognosis. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide clinicians with best possible evidence-based recommendations for clinical management of patients with ACC based on the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) system. We predefined four main clinical questions, which we judged as particularly important for the management of ACC patients and performed systematic literature searches: (A) What is needed to diagnose an ACC by histopathology? (B) Which are the best prognostic markers in ACC? (C) Is adjuvant therapy able to prevent recurrent disease or reduce mortality after radical resection? (D) What is the best treatment option for macroscopically incompletely resected, recurrent or metastatic disease? Other relevant questions were discussed within the group. Selected Recommendations: (i) We recommend that all patients with suspected and proven ACC are discussed in a multidisciplinary expert team meeting. (ii) We recommend that every patient with (suspected) ACC should undergo careful clinical assessment, detailed endocrine work-up to identify autonomous hormone excess and adrenal-focused imaging. (iii) We recommend that adrenal surgery for (suspected) ACC should be performed only by surgeons experienced in adrenal and oncological surgery aiming at a complete en bloc resection (including resection of oligo-metastatic disease). (iv) We suggest that all suspected ACC should be reviewed by an expert adrenal pathologist using the Weiss score and providing Ki67 index. (v) We suggest adjuvant mitotane treatment in patients after radical surgery that have a perceived high risk of recurrence (ENSAT stage III, or R1 resection, or Ki67 >10%). (vi) For advanced ACC not amenable to complete surgical resection, local therapeutic measures (e.g. radiation therapy, radiofrequency ablation, chemoembolization) are of particular value. However, we suggest against the routine use of adrenal surgery in case of widespread metastatic disease. In these patients, we recommend either mitotane monotherapy or mitotane, etoposide, doxorubicin and cisplatin depending on prognostic parameters. In selected patients with a good response, surgery may be subsequently considered. (vii) In patients with recurrent disease and a disease-free interval of at least 12 months, in whom a complete resection/ablation seems feasible, we recommend surgery or alternatively other local therapies. Furthermore, we offer detailed recommendations about the management of mitotane treatment and other supportive therapies. Finally, we suggest directions for future research.

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M Terzolo, B Allasino, A Pia, G Peraga, F Daffara, F Laino, A Ardito, A Termine, P Paccotti, P Berchialla, G Migliaretti and G Reimondo

Objective

Recent studies have questioned the reversibility of complications of Cushing's syndrome (CS) after successful surgical treatment. The aim of this study was to assess the outcome of patients with CS who achieved disease remission compared with those patients with persistent hypercortisolism and matched controls.

Design

A retrospective study of 75 patients with CS followed at an academic center.

Methods

Cardiovascular risk profile was evaluated in 51 patients with CS in remission (group 1) and 24 patients with persistent disease (group 2) and compared with 60 controls. Mortality of patients with CS was compared with the background population.

Results

In group 1, the frequency of cardiovascular risk factors dropped after disease remission even if it remained higher at the last follow-up than in the control group. In group 2, the frequency of cardiovascular risk factors remained unchanged during follow-up. The rate of cardiovascular and thromboembolic events was higher in group 2 than in group 1, as was the mortality rate (two deaths in group 1 and nine in group 2; ratio of two SMRs, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.011–0.512). Survival was significantly longer in group 1 than in group 2 (87 months, 80–98 vs 48 months, 38–62; P<0.0001).

Conclusions

Successful surgical treatment of hypercortisolism significantly improves cardiovascular risk and may reduce the mortality rate. Patients with persistent disease have increased morbidity and mortality when compared with patients in remission.

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M Terzolo, A E Baudin, A Ardito, M Kroiss, S Leboulleux, F Daffara, P Perotti, R A Feelders, J H deVries, B Zaggia, S De Francia, M Volante, H R Haak, B Allolio, A Al Ghuzlan, M Fassnacht and A Berruti

Context

Mitotane plasma concentrations ≥14 mg/l have been shown to predict tumor response and better survival in patients with advanced adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC). A correlation between mitotane concentrations and patient outcome has not been demonstrated in an adjuvant setting.

Objective

To compare recurrence-free survival (RFS) in patients who reached and maintained mitotane concentrations ≥14 mg/l vs patients who did not.

Design and setting

Retrospective analysis at six referral European centers.

Patients

Patients with ACC who were radically resected between 1995 and 2009 and were treated adjuvantly with mitotane targeting concentrations of 14–20 mg/l.

Main outcome measures

RFS (primary) and overall survival (secondary).

Results

Of the 122 patients included, 63 patients (52%) reached and maintained during a median follow-up of 36 months the target mitotane concentrations (group 1) and 59 patients (48%) did not (group 2). ACC recurrence was observed in 22 patients of group 1 (35%) and 36 patients in group 2 (61%). In multivariable analysis, the maintenance of target mitotane concentrations was associated with a significantly prolonged RFS (hazard ratio (HR) of recurrence: 0.418, 0.22–0.79; P=0.007), while the risk of death was not significantly altered (HR: 0.59, 0.26–1.34; P=0.20). Grades 3–4 toxicity was observed in 11 patients (9%) and was managed with temporary mitotane discontinuation. None of the patients discontinued mitotane definitively for toxicity.

Conclusions

Mitotane concentrations ≥14 mg/l predict response to adjuvant treatment being associated with a prolonged RFS. A monitored adjuvant mitotane treatment may benefit patients after radical removal of ACC.

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F Castinetti, M Fassnacht, S Johanssen, M Terzolo, P Bouchard, P Chanson, C Do Cao, I Morange, A Picó, S Ouzounian, J Young, S Hahner, T Brue, B Allolio and B Conte-Devolx

Objective

Mifepristone is the only available glucocorticoid receptor antagonist. Only few adult patients with hypercortisolism were treated to date by this drug. Our objective was to determine effectiveness and tolerability of mifepristone in Cushing's syndrome (CS).

Design

Retrospective study of patients treated in seven European centers.

Methods

Twenty patients with malignant (n=15, 12 with adrenocortical carcinoma, three with ectopic ACTH secretion) or benign (n=5, four with Cushing's disease, one with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia) CS were treated with mifepristone. Mifepristone was initiated with a median starting dose of 400 mg/day (200–1000). Median treatment duration was 2 months (0.25–21) for malignant CS, and 6 months (0.5–24) for benign CS. Clinical (signs of hypercortisolism, blood pressure, signs of adrenal insufficiency), and biochemical parameters (serum potassium and glucose) were evaluated.

Results

Treatment was stopped in one patient after 1 week due to severe uncontrolled hypokalemia. Improvement of clinical signs was observed in 11/15 patients with malignant CS (73%), and 4/5 patients with benign CS (80%). Psychiatric symptoms improved in 4/5 patients within the first week. Blood glucose levels improved in 4/7 patients. Signs of adrenal insufficiency were observed in 3/20 patients. Moderate to severe hypokalemia was observed in 11/20 patients and increased blood pressure levels in 3/20 patients.

Conclusion

Mifepristone is a rapidly effective treatment of hypercortisolism, but requires close monitoring of potentially severe hypokalemia, hypertension, and clinical signs of adrenal insufficiency. Mifepristone provides a valuable treatment option in patients with severe CS when surgery is unsuccessful or impossible.

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M Terzolo, A Stigliano, I Chiodini, P Loli, L Furlani, G Arnaldi, G Reimondo, A Pia, V Toscano, M Zini, G Borretta, E Papini, P Garofalo, B Allolio, B Dupas, F Mantero and A Tabarin

Objective

To assess currently available evidence on adrenal incidentaloma and provide recommendations for clinical practice.

Design

A panel of experts (appointed by the Italian Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AME)) appraised the methodological quality of the relevant studies, summarized their results, and discussed the evidence reports to find consensus.

Radiological assessment

Unenhanced computed tomography (CT) is recommended as the initial test with the use of an attenuation value of ≤10 Hounsfield units (HU) to differentiate between adenomas and non-adenomas. For tumors with a higher baseline attenuation value, we suggest considering delayed contrast-enhanced CT studies. Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET/CT should be considered when CT is inconclusive, whereas fine needle aspiration biopsy may be used only in selected cases suspicious of metastases (after biochemical exclusion of pheochromocytoma).

Hormonal assessment

Pheochromocytoma and excessive overt cortisol should be ruled out in all patients, whereas primary aldosteronism has to be considered in hypertensive and/or hypokalemic patients. The 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test is the test recommended for screening of subclinical Cushing's syndrome (SCS) with a threshold at 138 nmol/l for considering this condition. A value of 50 nmol/l virtually excludes SCS with an area of uncertainty between 50 and 138 nmol/l.

Management

Surgery is recommended for masses with suspicious radiological aspects and masses causing overt catecholamine or steroid excess. Data are insufficient to make firm recommendations for or against surgery in patients with SCS. However, adrenalectomy may be considered when an adequate medical therapy does not reach the treatment goals of associated diseases potentially linked to hypercortisolism.

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M Arosio, G Reimondo, E Malchiodi, P Berchialla, A Borraccino, L De Marinis, R Pivonello, S Grottoli, M Losa, S Cannavò, F Minuto, M Montini, M Bondanelli, E De Menis, C Martini, G Angeletti, A Velardo, A Peri, M Faustini-Fustini, P Tita, F Pigliaru, G Borretta, C Scaroni, N Bazzoni, A Bianchi, M Appetecchia, F Cavagnini, G Lombardi, E Ghigo, P Beck-Peccoz, A Colao, M Terzolo and for the Italian Study Group of Acromegaly

Objective

To describe demographic and hormonal characteristics, comorbidities (diabetes mellitus and hypertension), therapeutic procedures and their effectiveness, as well as predictors of morbidity and mortality in a nationwide survey of Italian acromegalic patients.

Design

Retrospective multicenter epidemiological study endorsed by the Italian Society of Endocrinology and performed in 24 tertiary referral Italian centers. The mean follow-up time was 120 months.

Results

A total of 1512 patients, 41% male, mean age: 45±13 years, mean GH: 31±37 μg/l, IGF1: 744±318 ng/ml, were included. Diabetes mellitus was reported in 16% of cases and hypertension in 33%. Older age and higher IGF1 levels at diagnosis were significant predictors of diabetes and hypertension. At the last follow-up, 65% of patients had a controlled disease, of whom 55% were off medical therapy. Observed deaths were 61, with a standardized mortality ratio of 1.13 95% (confidence interval (CI): 0.87–1.46). Mortality was significantly higher in the patients with persistently active disease (1.93; 95% CI: 1.34–2.70). Main causes of death were vascular diseases and malignancies with similar prevalence. A multivariate analysis showed that older age, higher GH at the last follow-up, higher IGF1 levels at diagnosis, malignancy, and radiotherapy were independent predictors of mortality.

Conclusions

Pretreatment IGF1 levels are important predictors of morbidity and mortality in acromegaly. The full hormonal control of the disease, nowadays reached in the majority of patients with modern management, reduces greatly the disease-related mortality.