Cushing's disease (CD) is the commonest form of ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome and is a rare clinical diagnosis in paediatric and adolescent patients. CD is caused by an ACTH-secreting pituitary corticotroph adenoma and is associated with significant morbidity in children; therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are critical for optimal therapeutic outcome. This review highlights the key clinical and biochemical features of paediatric CD and appraises current practices in diagnosis and management. A close liaison with adult endocrinology colleagues, particularly, for interpretation of investigations and definition of therapeutic strategy is strongly advised.
Helen L Storr and Martin O Savage
Helen L Storr, Leo Dunkel, Julia Kowalczyk, Martin O Savage and Louise A Metherell
Objective and design
GH insensitivity (GHI) encompasses growth failure, low serum IGF1 and normal/elevated serum GH. By contrast, IGF1 insensitivity results in pre- and postnatal growth failure associated with relatively high IGF1 levels. From 2008 to 2013, 72 patients from 68 families (45M), mean age 7.1 years (0.4–17.0) with short stature (mean height SDS −3.9; range −9.4 to −1.5), were referred for sequencing.
As a genetics referral centre, we have sequenced appropriate candidate genes (GHR, including its pseudoexon (6Ψ), STAT5B, IGFALS, IGF1, IGF1R, OBSL1, CUL7 and CCDC8) in subjects referred with suspected GHI (n=69) or IGF1 insensitivity (n=3).
Mean serum IGF1 SDS was −2.7 (range −0.9 to −8.2) in GHI patients and 2.0, 3.7 and 4.4 in patients with suspected IGF1 insensitivity. Out of 69 GHI patients, 16 (23%) (19% families) had mutations in GH–IGF1 axis genes: homozygous GHR (n=13; 6 6Ψ, two novel IVS5ds+1 G to A) and homozygous IGFALS (n=3; one novel c.1291delT). In the GHI groups, two homozygous OBSL1 mutations were also identified (height SDS −4.9 and −5.7) and two patients had hypomethylation in imprinting control region 1 in 11p15 or mUPD7 consistent with Silver–Russell syndrome (SRS) (height SDS −3.7 and −4.3). A novel heterozygous IGF1R (c.112G>A) mutation was identified in one out of three (33%) IGF1-insensitive subjects.
Genotyping contributed to the diagnosis of children with suspected GHI and IGF1 insensitivity, particularly in the GHI subjects with low serum IGF1 SDS (<−2.0) and height SDS (<−2.5). Diagnoses with similar phenotypes included SRS and 3-M syndrome. In 71% patients, no diagnosis was defined justifying further genetic investigation.
Carlo L Acerini, Robert C Tasker, Simonetta Bellone, Gianni Bona, Christopher J Thompson and Martin O Savage
Pituitary dysfunction is now well recognised after traumatic brain injury (TBI) in adults; however, little except anecdotal evidence is known about this potential complication in childhood and adolescence. Histopathological evidence exists for both hypothalamic and pituitary damage, but few data specific to children have been published. We review the available paediatric data, which shows that after both mild and severe TBI, hypopituitarism may occur, with GH and gonadotrophin deficiencies appearing to be most common. Precocious puberty has also been documented. Road-traffic accidents, falls, sport and child abuse are the most common aetiological factors for paediatric TBI. There are no published data on the incidence or prevalence, neither within a population of children with TBI, of hypopituitarism, nor on its natural history or response to hormone replacement. We urge paediatric endocrinologists, in collaboration with adult endocrinologists, to perform formal prospective research studies in patients suffering from TBI to clarify these questions.
Martin O Savage, Cecilia Camacho-Hübner, Alessia David, Louise A Metherell, Vivian Hwa, Ron G Rosenfeld and Adrian J L Clark
Background: Idiopathic short stature (ISS) includes a range of conditions. Some are caused by defects in the GH–IGF-I axis. ISS is an approved indication for GH therapy in the USA and a similar approval in Europe may be imminent. Genetic analysis for single-gene defects has made enormous contributions to understanding the physiology of growth regulation. Can this type of investigation help in predicting growth responses to GH or IGF-I therapy?
Methods: The rationale for choice of GH or IGF-I therapy in ISS is reviewed. Many ISS patients have low IGF-I, but most can generate IGF-I levels in response to short-term GH administration. Some GH resistance seems to be present. Mutation analysis in several cohorts of GHIS and ISS patients is reviewed.
Results: Low IGF-I levels suggest either unrecognised GH deficiency or GH resistance. In classical GHIS patients, there was a positive relationship between IGFBP-3 levels and height SDS. No relationship exists between mutations and phenotype. There is a wide variability of phenotype in patients carrying identical mutations. Heterozygous GH receptor (GHR) mutations were present in <5% of ISS patients and their role in causing growth defects is questionable. Exceptions are dominant negative mutations that have been shown to disturb growth.
Conclusions: Analysis for single-gene defects does not give sensitive predictions of phenotype and cannot predict responses to GH or IGF-I therapy. Endocrine abnormalities have closer correlations with phenotype and may thus be a better guide to therapeutic responsiveness.
Lucy Shapiro, Sumana Chatterjee, Dina G Ramadan, Kate M Davies, Martin O Savage, Louise A Metherell and Helen L Storr
GH insensitivity (GHI) is characterised by short stature, IGF-1 deficiency and normal/elevated serum GH. IGF-1 insensitivity results in pre- and post-natal growth failure with normal/high IGF-1 levels. The prevalence of genetic defects is unknown.
To identify the underlying genetic diagnoses in a paediatric cohort with GH or IGF-1 insensitivity using candidate gene (CGS) and whole-exome sequencing (WES) and assess factors associated with the discovery of a genetic defect.
We undertook a prospective study of 132 patients with short stature and suspected GH or IGF-1 insensitivity referred to our centre for genetic analysis. 107 (96 GHI, 88 probands; 11 IGF-1 insensitivity, 9 probands) underwent CGS. WES was performed in those with no defined genetic aetiology following CGS.
A genetic diagnosis was discovered 38/107 (36%) patients (32% probands) by CGS. WES revealed 11 patients with genetic variants in genes known to cause short stature. A further 2 patients had hypomethylation in the H19/IGF2 region or mUPD7 consistent with Silver–Russell Syndrome (total with genetic diagnosis 51/107, 48% or 41/97, 42% probands). WES also identified homozygous putative variants in FANCA and PHKB in 2 patients. Low height SDS and consanguinity were highly predictive for identifying a genetic defect.
Comprehensive genetic testing confirms the genetic heterogeneity of GH/IGF-1 insensitivity and successfully identified the genetic aetiology in a significant proportion of cases. WES is rapid and may isolate genetic variants that have been missed by traditional clinically driven genetic testing. This emphasises the benefits of specialist diagnostic centres.
R P Dias, A Kumaran, L F Chan, L Martin, F Afshar, M Matson, P N Plowman, J P Monson, G M Besser, A B Grossman, M O Savage and H L Storr
Cushing's disease (CD) in prepubertal children is very rare and presents important diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. We report experience of the management of this subpopulation of CD patients.
Retrospective patient case note review.
Between 1985 and 2008, 17 prepubertal children (13M, 4F), aged 5.7–14.1 years presented to our centre for diagnosis and management of CD. All children had subnormal linear growth and excessive weight gain at presentation. A high proportion (85% of males, 75% of females) had evidence of excessive virilisation. Striae and hypertension were seen in 41% of patients. The investigation with highest sensitivity (100%) for CD was excessive increase of serum cortisol to i.v. CRH (mean increase 113%). Pituitary imaging performed in all the patients showed poor concordance with findings at surgery (31%). In contrast bilateral simultaneous inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BSIPSS), performed in 11/16 subjects showed a high correlation with surgical findings (91%). In 16 patients, transsphenoidal selective adenomectomy (TSS) achieved a cure rate of 44%. However, in the 11 patients who had pre-operative BSIPSS, the cure rate was 64%. Of the 16 patients, 9 patients who were not cured by TSS received external pituitary radiotherapy.
Prepubertal CD had distinctive features with increased frequency in males, abnormal auxology and excessive virilisation. The cortisol response to i.v. CRH administration was particularly exuberant and contributed to diagnosis. BSIPSS was much more helpful than pituitary imaging in localisation of the microadenoma and was associated with improved cure rate by TSS.
Helen L Storr, Farhad Afshar, Matthew Matson, Ian Sabin, Kate M Davies, Jane Evanson, P Nicholas Plowman, G Michael Besser, John P Monson, Ashley B Grossman and Martin O Savage
Objective: Early diagnosis and effective treatment of paediatric Cushing’s disease (CD) is necessary to minimise associated morbidity. Accepted first-line treatment is selective transsphenoidal microadenomectomy (TSS), which can be technically difficult, and cure rates vary considerably between centres. In our paediatric CD patient group we have assessed the possible factors which may influence cure by TSS.
Subjects and methods: From 1983–2004, 27 paediatric patients (16 males, 11 females; mean age±s.d., 13.1±3.2 yr; range, 6.4–17.8 yr) with CD were managed in our centre and underwent TSS. Sixteen patients (59%), seven males and nine females (mean age±s.d., 14.2±2.5 yr; range, 8.2–17.8 yr), were cured (post-operative serum cortisol < 50 nM). Eleven patients, nine males and two females (mean age±s.d., 11.5±3.6 yr; range, 6.4–17.8 yr) had post-operative cortisol levels above 50 nM (2–20 days), with mean serum cortisol levels at 09:00 h of 537 nM (range 269–900 nM) indicating a lack of cure. These 11 patients received external beam pituitary radiotherapy (RT). One patient with a pituitary macroadenoma had a post-operative cortisol level of < 50 nM but 0.8 yr later showed an elevated cortisol and residual disease.
Results: The patients cured by TSS alone were significantly older than those not cured (P = 0.038; Student’s t test). All patients had CT/MRI pituitary imaging: 14 were reported to have microadenomas and one macroadenoma, while 12 were reported as normal. Bilateral simultaneous inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BSIPSS) with i.v. corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) administration was introduced as a pre-operative investigation in 1986 and was performed in 21 patients (78%), on BSIPSS, 16 (76%) had evidence suggesting pituitary adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion (central to peripheral (IPS:P) ACTH ratio after CRH of ≥ 3.0) and 16 (76%) showed lateralisation of ACTH secretion (IPSG of ≥ 1.4). There was concordance between the BSIPSS finding and the position of the microadenoma at surgery in 17/21 (81%) patients. Of the 16 patients showing lateralisation of ACTH secretion, 12 (75%) were cured by TSS. Of the four without lateralisation of ACTH, suggesting a midline lesion, 3 (75%) were cured by TSS. Post-operative pituitary hormone deficiencies in the patients cured by TSS were: pan-hypopituitarism 1/16, isolated growth hormone deficiency (GHD) (peak GH on glucagon/ITT < 1–17.9 mU/l) 9/16 and diabetes insipidus 3/16.
Conclusion: Over a 21-year period selective adenomectomy by TSS cured 59% of all paediatric CD patients, with higher age favouring cure. Introduction of BSIPSS resulted in the demonstration of a high rate of lateralisation of ACTH secretion consistent with the surgical identification of the adenoma, and therefore appears likely to have contributed to the higher surgical cure rate.
H L Storr, K I Alexandraki, L Martin, A M Isidori, G A Kaltsas, J P Monson, G M Besser, M Matson, J Evanson, F Afshar, I Sabin, M O Savage and A B Grossman
There are few published comparisons between paediatric and adult-onset Cushing's disease (CD). We compare the epidemiology, diagnostic features and cure rate by transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) in these groups.
Retrospective review of patient databases in a single university hospital centre.
Totally, 41 paediatric (mean age 12.3±3.5 years; range 5.7–17.8) and 183 adult (mean age 40±13 years; range 18.0–95.0) patients with CD were investigated.
Paediatric CD was characterised by male (63%) and adult CD by a female predominance (79%, P<0.0001). There were small but significant differences in clinical presentation. Biochemical features of CD were comparable except the serum cortisol increase during a CRH test: mean change (105%, n=39) in paediatric and (54%, n=123) in adult subjects (P<0.0001). Macroadenomas were more common in adult (15%, 28/183) than in paediatric (2%, 1/41, P=0.04) CD. Corticotroph microadenomas were more easily visualised by pituitary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in adult (76%, 50/66) compared with paediatric (55%, 21/38, P=0.045) CD with poorer concordance of imaging with surgical findings in children (P=0.058). The incidence of ACTH lateralisation by bilateral simultaneous inferior petrosal sinus sampling was comparable in paediatric (76%, 25/33) and adult (79%, 46/58; P=0.95) patients with good surgical concordance in both (82% paediatric and 79% adult). Cure rates by TSS were comparable, with a paediatric cure rate of 69%.
Several features of paediatric CD are distinct: increased frequency of prepubertal CD in males, the different clinical presentation, the decreased presence of macroadenomas and the frequent absence of radiological evidence of an adenoma on MRI.
Sumana Chatterjee, Lucy Shapiro, Stephen J Rose, Talat Mushtaq, Peter E Clayton, Svetlana B Ten, Amrit Bhangoo, Uma Kumbattae, Renuka Dias, Martin O Savage, Louise A Metherell and Helen L Storr
Patients with homozygous intronic pseudoexon GH receptor (GHR) mutations (6Ψ) have growth hormone insensitivity (GHI) (growth failure, IGF1 deficiency and normal/elevated serum GH). We report 9 patients in addition to previously described 11 GHR 6Ψ patients and their responses to rhIGF1 therapy.
20 patients (12 males, 11 families, mean age 4.0 ± 2.2 years) were diagnosed genetically in our centre. Phenotypic data and responses to rhIGF1 treatment were provided by referring clinicians. Continuous parametric variables were compared using Student t-test or ANOVA.
10/20 (50%) had typical facial features of GHI, 19/20 (95%) from consanguineous families and 18/20 (90%) of Pakistani origin. At diagnosis, mean height SDS: −4.1 ± 0.95, IGF1 SDS: −2.8 ± 1.4; IGFBP3 SDS: −3.0 ± 2.1 and mean basal and peak GH levels: 11.9 µg/L and 32.9 µg/L, respectively. 1/12 who had IGF1 generation test, responded (IGF1: 132–255 ng/mL). 15/20 (75%; 11M) received rhIGF1 (mean dose: 114 µg/kg twice daily, mean duration: 5.3 ± 2.5 years). Mean baseline height velocity of 4.7 ± 1.1 cm/year increased to 7.4 ± 1.8 cm/year (P = 0.001) during year 1 of therapy. Year 3 mean height SDS (−3.2 ± 1.0) was higher than pre-treatment height SDS (−4.3 ± 0.8) (P = 0.03). Mean cumulative increase in height SDS after year 5 was 1.4 ± 0.9. Difference between target height (TH) SDS and adult or latest height SDS was less than that of TH SDS and pre-treatment height SDS (2.1 ± 1.2 vs 3.0 ± 0.8; P = 0.02).
In addition to phenotypic heterogeneity in the cohort, there was mismatch between clinical and biochemical features in individual patients with 6Ψ GHR mutations. rhIGF1 treatment improved height outcomes.