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Sarah Johanssen and Bruno Allolio



Mifepristone (RU 486) blocks the action of cortisol by binding to the glucocorticoid receptor and, therefore, is of potential therapeutic value in Cushing's syndrome. However, research in endogenous hypercortisolism has been hampered by the controversy related to the use of mifepristone for inducing abortion. Currently, new studies are planned to better define the role of RU 486 in Cushing's syndrome. This paper reviews the available evidence concerning the therapeutic effects and adverse events of RU 486 in Cushing's syndrome.

Evidence acquisition

Original articles and reviews were identified using a PubMed search strategy covering the time period until February 2007.

Evidence synthesis

Treatment of Cushing's syndrome with mifepristone has been reported in a total of 18 patients, with daily doses ranging from 5 to 30 mg/kg. Case reports indicate that the mifepristone-induced receptor blockade may lead to significant clinical improvement in patients with Cushing's syndrome in whom surgery and inhibitors of adrenal steroidogenesis fail to control hypercortisolism. Due to its rapid onset of action, mifepristone may be particularly useful in acute crises, e.g. in cortisol-induced psychosis. Side effects include adrenal insufficiency and, as a result of its antiprogestin action, endometrial hyperplasia in long-term treatment. Adrenal insufficiency can be assessed only by careful clinical evaluation, as the hormonal parameters are not reliable during receptor blockade, and is rapidly reversed by exogenous dexamethasone. Well-designed larger clinical trials are needed to better assess the value of this interesting drug in the treatment of Cushing's syndrome.

Free access

Sebastian Wortmann, Marcus Quinkler, Christian Ritter, Matthias Kroiss, Sarah Johanssen, Stefanie Hahner, Bruno Allolio, and Martin Fassnacht


No standard therapy for advanced adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is established by any randomized trial but a consensus conference 2003 recommended mitotane as monotherapy or combined with etoposide, doxorubicin and cisplatin or with streptozotocin as first-line systemic therapy. However, there is no evidence for any therapy beneficial in patients failing these therapies. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of the anti-VEGF antibody bevacizumab plus capecitabine as salvage therapy in ACC.


Patients registered with the German ACC Registry with refractory ACC progressing after cytotoxic therapies were offered treatment with bevacizumab (5 mg/kg body weight i.v. every 21 days) and oral capecitabine (950 mg/m2 twice daily for 14 days followed by 7 days of rest) in 2006–2008. Evaluation of tumour response was performed by imaging according to response evaluation criteria in solid tumours every 12 weeks.


Ten patients were treated with bevacizumab plus capecitabine. None of them experienced any objective response or stable disease. Two patients had to stop therapy after few weeks due to hand-foot syndrome, and three patients died on progressive disease within 12 weeks. Other adverse events were mild (grade I–II). Median survival after treatment initiation was 124 days.


Bevacizumab plus capecitabine has no activity in patients with very advanced ACC. Hence, this regimen cannot be recommended as a salvage therapy.