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Nicole Reisch, Marc Slawik, Oliver Zwermann, Felix Beuschlein and Martin Reincke

Objective: Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is the primary secretagogue stimulating secretion of adrenal androgens (AA). Yet, genetic and environmental factors are assumed to play a determining role in the regulation of their biosynthesis and thus might explain the high variability of AA levels. Here we investigate the influence of an ACTH receptor promoter polymorphism affecting ACTH receptor gene transcription on ACTH-dependent dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) secretion.

Design: We recently reported a polymorphism within the transcription initiation site of the ACTH receptor gene promoter that alters the consensus sequence from CTC to CCC at −2 bp. This results in lower promoter activity in vitro and is associated with impaired cortisol response to ACTH stimulation in vivo. We now studied 14 normal, lean volunteers aged 20–35 years (eight CTC/CTC and six CCC/CCC carriers) in a 6-h ACTH stimulation test.

Methods: After overnight dexamethasone suppression, ACTH1-24 was administered continuously in each subject with hourly increasing doses (120–3840 ng/m2 body surface area/h) within a 6-h period. On a separate day, baseline DHEA samples were collected.

Results: In the 6-h ACTH stimulation test, CTC/CTC carriers showed a significantly higher DHEA response than CCC/CCC carriers (area under the curve: 19 367 ± 2919 vs 11 098 ± 1241 nmol/l per min; P < 0.04, Mann–Whitney U-test). In contrast, baseline DHEA concentrations did not differ between groups.

Conclusion: These data demonstrate that genetic variations within the ACTH receptor promoter result in decreased DHEA secretion. Thus, we might have identified one of the genetic factors responsible for variation in ACTH-dependent DHEA secretion.

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Nicole Reisch, Marina Willige, Denise Kohn, Hans-Peter Schwarz, Bruno Allolio, Martin Reincke, Marcus Quinkler, Stefanie Hahner and Felix Beuschlein

Objective

To study adrenal crisis (AC) in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to classical 21-hydroxylase deficiency (21-OHD). AC was defined as an acute state of health impairment requiring i.v. glucocorticoid administration and hospital admission.

Design and methods

In a cross-sectional study with detailed retrospective assessment, AC was studied following two approaches: i) questionnaire based: 122 adult 21-OHD patients (50 men, 72 women, median age 35 years, range 18–69 years) completed a disease-specific questionnaire; and ii) patient chart based: charts of 67 21-OHD patients (32 males, 35 females, median age 31 years, range 20–66 years) were analyzed from diagnosis to last follow-up with regard to frequency and causes of AC since diagnosis.

Results

Evaluation of questionnaires revealed 257 ACs in 4456 patient years (py; frequency 5.8 crises/100 py), while patient charts documented 106 ACs in 2181 py (4.9 crises/100 py). The chart-based evaluation showed that gastrointestinal infections (29%) and salt-wasting crisis (18%) were the main causes of AC. In 14%, the cause remained uncertain. There was no difference in the overall frequency of AC in males and females. AC mostly occurred during childhood, with more than 70% of AC in the first 10 years of life and one-third of AC in the first year of life. Still, 20% of cases of AC were observed in adults (>18 years).

Conclusion

Our data demonstrate a significant risk of AC in patients with 21-OHD over lifetime. Specific age-adapted and repeated crisis prevention training may help to reduce morbidity due to AC in 21-OHD.

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Martin Reincke, Katrin Ritzel, Andrea Oßwald, Christina Berr, Günter Stalla, Klaus Hallfeldt, Nicole Reisch, Jochen Schopohl and Felix Beuschlein

Objective

Our aim was to review short- and long-term outcomes of patients treated with bilateral adrenalectomy (BADx) in ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome.

Methods

We reviewed the literature and analysed our experience with 53 patients treated with BADx since 1990 in our institution.

Results

BADx is considered if ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome is refractory to other treatment modalities. In Cushing's disease (CD), BADx is mainly used as an ultima ratio after transsphenoidal surgery and medical therapies have failed. In these cases, the time span between the first diagnosis of CD and treatment with BADx is relatively long (median 44 months). In ectopic Cushing's syndrome, the time from diagnosis to BADx is shorter (median 2 months), and BADx is often performed as an emergency procedure because of life-threatening complications of severe hypercortisolism. In both situations, BADx is relatively safe (median surgical morbidity 15%; median surgical mortality 3%) and provides excellent control of hypercortisolism; Cushing's-associated signs and symptoms are rapidly corrected, and co-morbidities are stabilised. In CD, the quality of life following BADx is rapidly improving, and long-term mortality is low. Specific long-term complications include the development of adrenal crisis and Nelson's syndrome. In ectopic Cushing's syndrome, long-term mortality is high but is mostly dependent on the prognosis of the underlying malignant neuroendocrine tumour.

Conclusion

BADx is a relatively safe and highly effective treatment, and it provides adequate control of long-term co-morbidities associated with hypercortisolism.

Free access

Britta Heinze, Leonie J M Herrmann, Martin Fassnacht, Cristina L Ronchi, Holger S Willenberg, Marcus Quinkler, Nicole Reisch, Martina Zink, Bruno Allolio and Stefanie Hahner

Context

The Li–Fraumeni tumor syndrome is strongly associated with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) and is caused by germline mutations in TP53 in 70% of cases. Also, TP53 polymorphisms have been shown to influence both cancer risk and clinical outcome in several tumor entities. We, therefore, investigated TP53 polymorphisms in a cohort of adult patients with ACC.

Objective

Evaluation of the role of TP53 polymorphisms in adult patients with ACC.

Subjects and methods

Peripheral blood for DNA extraction was collected from 72 ACC patients. Polymorphism analysis was carried out by amplification and sequencing of exons and adjacent intron sections of TP53. Results were correlated with clinical data and the distribution of the polymorphisms was compared with published Caucasian control groups.

Results

Compared with control groups, genotype frequencies of analyzed TP53 polymorphisms among ACC patients were significantly different in three out of four polymorphisms: IVS2+38G>C (G/G, P=0.0248), IVS3ins16 (NoIns/NoIns, P<0.0001; NoIns/Ins, P<0.0001), and IVS6+62A>G (G/G, P<0.0001; G/A, P<0.0001). Overall, the survival of ACC patients, which harbored at least one of the less frequent genotype variants of four analyzed polymorphisms (n=23), was significantly inferior (median survival: 81.0 months in patients with the common homozygous genotypes vs 20.0 months in patients with the less frequent genotypes, HR 2.56, 95% CI 1.66–7.07; P=0.001). These results were confirmed by multivariable regression analysis (HR 2.84, 95% CI 1.52–7.17; P=0.037).

Conclusion

Some TP53 polymorphisms seem to influence overall survival in ACC patients. This effect was observed for a combination of polymorphic changes rather than for single polymorphisms.

Free access

Katrin Ritzel, Felix Beuschlein, Christina Berr, Andrea Osswald, Nicole Reisch, Martin Bidlingmaier, Harald Schneider, Jürgen Honegger, Lucas L. Geyer, Jochen Schopohl and Martin Reincke

Objective

The aim of the present study was to validate criteria of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation and 8 mg dexamethasone suppression (high-dose dexamethasone suppression, HDDS) to distinguish the etiology of ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome.

Subjects and methods

We retrospectively analyzed cortisol and ACTH after the injection of 100 μg human CRH in confirmed Cushing's disease (CD, n=78) and confirmed ectopic Cushing's syndrome (ECS, n=18). Cortisol and ACTH increase (in percentage above basal (%B)) at each time point, maximal increase (Δmax %B), and area under the curve (AUC %B) were analyzed using receiver operator characteristics (ROC) curve analyses. Cortisol suppression (%B) after 8 mg of dexamethasone was evaluated as a supplementary criterion.

Results

An increase in ACTH of ≥43%B at 15 min after CRH was the strongest predictor of CD, with a positive likelihood ratio of 14.0, a sensitivity of 83%, a specificity of 94%, a positive predictive value of 98% and a negative predictive value of 58%. All of the other criteria of stimulated ACTH and cortisol levels were not superior in predicting CD in response to CRH injection. The addition of cortisol suppression by dexamethasone did not increase the discriminatory power. However, the combination of a positive ACTH response at 15 min and a positive HDDS test excluded ECS in all cases.

Conclusion

The present findings support the use of plasma ACTH levels 15 min after the injection of human CRH as a response criterion for distinguishing between CD and ECS. The addition of the HDDS test is helpful for excluding ECS when both tests are positive.

Free access

Robert Kopetschke, Mario Slisko, Aylin Kilisli, Ulrich Tuschy, Henri Wallaschofski, Martin Fassnacht, Manfred Ventz, Felix Beuschlein, Martin Reincke, Nicole Reisch and Marcus Quinkler

Context

Adrenal and extra-adrenal phaeochromocytoma are chromaffin cell-derived tumours that are discovered due to classical symptom triad with headache, sweating and palpitations combined with persistent or paroxysmal hypertension. However, an increasing proportion of phaeochromocytoma seems to be discovered incidentally upon abdominal imaging.

Objective

To specify the exact circumstances of discovery of adrenal and extra-adrenal phaeochromocytoma.

Design and patients

Four German endocrine centres participated in this retrospective study. Medical records of 201 patients with adrenal and extra-adrenal phaeochromocytoma who were diagnosed between 1973 and 2007 were analyzed.

Results

The typical triad of symptoms was found only in 10% of cases. Ten percent of patients presented were without clinical symptoms and 6.1% were normotensive. Documented blood pressure peaks occurred in 44.1% of cases. In 24 patients (12.2%), phaeochromocytoma was malignant. Before 1985, <10% of cases were incidentally discovered, whereas thereafter the frequency was >25% (29.4% of the total study population). Patients with incidentally detected phaeochromocytoma were significantly older (53.1±1.9 vs 47.0±1.3 years; P<0.05) and often had less blood pressure peaks (37.0 vs 70.7%; P<0.001) than patients in whom the diagnosis was suspected on clinical grounds. Of phaeochromocytomas 94.4% were intra-adrenal tumours, of which 12.9% were bilateral. Bilateral tumours were significantly smaller than unilateral tumours (36.6±14.7 vs 52.5±34.3 mm; P<0.05), whereas extra-adrenal tumours had a mean diameter of 52.6±28.7 mm.

Conclusions

Owing to better availability and accessibility of imaging procedures, the number of incidentally discovered phaeochromocytoma is increasing and reaches nearly 30% in our study population. Every adrenal incidentaloma should be investigated for the presence of phaeochromocytoma.

Free access

Christina M Berr, Mareike R Stieg, Timo Deutschbein, Marcus Quinkler, Ralf Schmidmaier, Andrea Osswald, Nicole Reisch, Katrin Ritzel, Christina Dimopoulou, Julia Fazel, Stefanie Hahner, Günter K Stalla, Felix Beuschlein and Martin Reincke

Background

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is characterized by an excessive secretion of glucocorticoids that results in a characteristic clinical phenotype. One feature of clinical hypercortisolism is breakdown of protein metabolism translating into clinical consequences including glucocorticoid-induced myopathy. While surgery is effective in control of cortisol excess, the effect of biochemical remission on muscular function is yet unclear.

Methods

In a cross-sectional study we analyzed 47 patients with CS during the florid phase (ActiveCS). 149 additional patients were studied 2–53 years (mean: 13 years) after surgery in biochemical long-term remission (RemissionCS). Also, 93 rule-out CS patients were used as controls (CON). All subjects were assessed for grip strength using a hand grip dynamometer and underwent the chair rising test (CRT).

Results

Hand grip strength (85% vs 97% of norm, P = 0.002) and the CRT performance (9.5 s vs 7.1 s, P = 0.001) were significantly lower in ActiveCS compared to the CON group. Six months after treatment grip strength further decreased in CS (P = 0.002) and CRT performance remained impaired. The RemissionCS group (mean follow-up 13 years) had reduced hand grip strength (92% compared to normal reference values for dominant hand, P < 0.001). The chair rising test performance was at 9.0 s and not significantly different from the ActiveCS group (P = 0.45).

Conclusion

CS affects muscle strength in the acute phase, but functional impairment remains detectable also during long-term follow-up despite biochemical remission.

Restricted access

Stephanie Burger-Stritt, Annemarie Eff, Marcus Quinkler, Tina Kienitz, Bettina Stamm, Holger S Willenberg, Gesine Meyer, Johannes Klein, Nicole Reisch, Michael Droste and Stefanie Hahner

Objective

Patients with adrenal insufficiency (AI) suffer from impaired quality of life and are at risk of adrenal crisis (AC) despite established replacement therapy. Patient education is regarded an important measure for prevention of AC and improvement of AI management. A standardized education programme was elaborated for patients with chronic AI in Germany.

Design

Longitudinal, prospective, questionnaire-based, multi-centre study.

Methods

During 2-h sessions, patients (n = 526) were provided with basic knowledge on AI, equipped with emergency cards and sets and trained in self-injection of hydrocortisone. To evaluate the education programme, patients from eight certified centres completed questionnaires before, immediately after and 6–9 months after training.

Results

399 completed data sets were available for analysis. Questionnaire score-values were significantly higher after patient education, indicating successful knowledge transfer (baseline: 17 ± 7.1 of a maximum score of 29; after training: 23 ± 4.2; P < 0.001), and remained stable over 6–9 months. Female sex, younger age and primary cause of AI were associated with higher baseline scores; after education, age, cause of AI and previous adrenal crisis had a significant main effect on scores. 91% of patients would dare performing self-injection after training, compared to 68% at baseline. An improvement of subjective well-being through participation in the education programme was indicated by 95% of the patients 6–9 months after participation.

Conclusion

Patient group education in chronic AI represents a helpful tool for the guidance of patients, their self-assurance and their knowledge on prevention of adrenal crises. Repeated training and adaptation to specific needs, for example, of older patients is needed.