Desmopressin is a vasopressin analogue selective for type 2 vasopressin receptors that mediate renal water retention. In contrast to the native hormone arginine vasopressin, a well-known ACTH secretagogue, desmopressin, exerts minimal or no activity on ACTH excretion. However, in a substantial proportion of patients with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (CS), desmopressin elicits an ACTH and cortisol response, which contrasts with the minimal responses obtained in healthy subjects. The mechanism underlying this paradoxical response involves upregulation of vasopressin type 3 and/or the aberrant expression of type 2 receptors by neoplastic ACTH-producing cells. This makes desmopressin administration a suitable test enabling the distinction between neoplastic from functional (formerly termed ‘pseudo-Cushing syndrome’) ACTH-dependent cortisol excess. Several studies have now established an adjunctive role of desmopressin in the initial diagnostic workup of CS. Despite some early data indicating that this test may also have a role in distinguishing between Cushing’s disease (CD) and ectopic ACTH secretion, subsequent studies failed to confirm this observation. The ability of the paradoxical response to desmopressin to depict the presence of neoplastic ACTH-secreting cells was also exploited in the follow-up of patients with CD undergoing surgery. Loss of the desmopressin response, performed in the early postoperative period, was a good predictor for a favorable long-term outcome. Moreover, during follow-up, reappearance of desmopressin paradoxical response was an early indicator for recurrence. In conclusion, the desmopressin test is a valid tool in both the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with CD and should be more widely applied in the workup of these patients.
Dimitra Argyro Vassiliadi and Stylianos Tsagarakis
Irene Zervolea, Harris Pratsinis, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Niki Karavitaki, Dimitri Stathakos, Nikos Thalassinos and Dimitris Kletsas
Objective: Chronic exposure to elevated glucocorticoid (GC) concentrations induces detrimental effects in several tissues. In the skin, GCs provoke intense alterations on various parameters of the physiology of fibroblasts, cumulatively leading to skin atrophy and impaired wound healing. As there are concerns that GCs may generate permanent adverse functional changes, we have investigated whether chronic in vivo exposure to GC excess results in persisting defects in skin fibroblasts.
Design and methods: We have studied in vitro primary skin fibroblast cultures obtained from patients suffering from endogenous Cushing’s syndrome (CF), as well as from sex- and age-matched normal donors (NF). The following functional parameters were investigated: cell proliferation, secretion of collagen, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors (tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases; TIMPs) and contractile capacity.
Results: CFs, grown under standard culture conditions in the absence of a hypercortisolemic milieu, exhibited an increased proliferative capacity and a higher final cell culture density compared with NFs. Collagen synthesis, in the absence or presence of transforming growth factor-β, was equal to that of NFs. However, CFs secreted comparatively lower levels of MMP-1, MMP-2 and TIMP-1, and nearly equal levels of TIMP-2. CFs also exhibited an increased ability to contract gels of polymerized collagen.
Conclusions: Collectively, these functional characteristics of CFs are in contrast to the known catabolic effects of GCs, and suggest that prior exposure to GC excess is not associated with a persisting adverse outcome in the functional phenotype of the fibroblasts.
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?
(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
Elena Valassi, Alicia Santos, Maria Yaneva, Miklós Tóth, Christian J Strasburger, Philippe Chanson, John A H Wass, Olivier Chabre, Marija Pfeifer, Richard A Feelders, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Peter J Trainer, Holger Franz, Kathrin Zopf, Sabina Zacharieva, Steven W J Lamberts, Antoine Tabarin and Susan M Webb
The European Registry on Cushing's syndrome (ERCUSYN) is designed to collect prospective and follow-up data at EU level on Cushing's syndrome (CS).
Design and methods
Baseline data on 481 CS patients (390 females, 91 males; mean age (±s.d.): 44±14 years) collected from 36 centres in 23 countries, including new patients from 2008 and retrospective cases since 2000. Patients were divided into four major aetiologic groups: pituitary-dependent CS (PIT-CS) (66%), adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS) (27%), CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS) (5%) and CS from other aetiologies (2%).
Proportion of men in the ECT-CS group was higher than in the other groups (P<0.05). The ADR-CS group was older than the PIT-CS (P<0.05). Prevalence of hirsutism (92%) and diabetes (74%) in ECT-CS was higher than in the other groups (P<0.05 and P<0.01 respectively). PIT-CS had more skin alterations, menstrual irregularities and hirsutism than ADR-CS (P<0.01). Reduced libido was more prevalent in men than women (P<0.01). Prevalence of spine osteoporosis was higher in men than women (P<0.05), and males had more vertebral and rib fractures than females (52 vs 18% for vertebrae; P<0.001 and 34 vs 23% for ribs; P<0.05). ECT-CS consulted a diabetologist more frequently than ADR-CS (P<0.05), while a gynaecologist was consulted more often by women with PIT-CS or ADR-CS than with ECT-CS (P<0.05). Overall, weight gain was more common in women than men (P<0.01). CushingQoL and EuroQoL visual analogue scale scores did not differ between the groups.
The ERCUSYN project demonstrates a heterogeneous clinical presentation of CS at a European level, depending on gender and aetiology.
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, Antoine Tabarin, Michal Krsek, Carmen Fajardo, Marek Bolanowski, Alicia Santos, John A H Wass, Peter J Trainer and for the ERCUSYN Study Group
To evaluate which tests are performed to diagnose hypercortisolism in patients included in the European Registry on Cushing’s syndrome (ERCUSYN), and to examine if their use differs from the current guidelines.
Patients and methods
We analyzed data on the diagnostic tests performed in 1341 patients with Cushing’s syndrome (CS) who have been entered into the ERCUSYN database between January 1, 2000 and January 31, 2016 from 57 centers in 26 European countries. Sixty-seven percent had pituitary-dependent CS (PIT-CS), 24% had adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS), 6% had CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS) and 3% were classified as having CS from other causes (OTH-CS).
Of the first-line tests, urinary free cortisol (UFC) test was performed in 78% of patients, overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) in 60% and late-night salivary cortisol (LSaC) in 25%. Use of LSaC increased in the last five years as compared with previous years (P < 0.01). Use of HDDST was slightly more frequent in the last 5 years as compared with previous years (P < 0.05). Of the additional tests, late-night serum cortisol (LSeC) was measured in 62% and 48-h 2 mg/day low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST) in 33% of cases. ACTH was performed in 78% of patients. LSeC and overnight 1 mg DST supported the diagnosis of both PIT-CS and ADR-CS more frequently than UFC (P < 0.05).
Use of diagnostic tests for CS varies across Europe and partly differs from the currently available guidelines. It would seem pertinent that a European consensus be established to determine the best diagnostic approach to CS, taking into account specific inter-country differences with regard to the availability of diagnostic tools.
Elena Valassi, Antoine Tabarin, Thierry Brue, Richard A Feelders, Martin Reincke, Romana Netea-Maier, Miklós Tóth, Sabina Zacharieva, Susan M Webb, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Philippe Chanson, Marija Pfeiffer, Michael Droste, Irina Komerdus, Darko Kastelan, Dominique Maiter, Olivier Chabre, Holger Franz, Alicia Santos, Christian J Strasburger, Peter J Trainer, John Newell-Price, Oskar Ragnarsson and the ERCUSYN Study Group
Patients with Cushing’s syndrome (CS) have increased mortality. The aim of this study was to evaluate the causes and time of death in a large cohort of patients with CS and to establish factors associated with increased mortality.
In this cohort study, we analyzed 1564 patients included in the European Registry on CS (ERCUSYN); 1045 (67%) had pituitary-dependent CS, 385 (25%) adrenal-dependent CS, 89 (5%) had an ectopic source and 45 (3%) other causes. The median (IQR) overall follow-up time in ERCUSYN was 2.7 (1.2–5.5) years.
Forty-nine patients had died at the time of the analysis; 23 (47%) with pituitary-dependent CS, 6 (12%) with adrenal-dependent CS, 18 (37%) with ectopic CS and two (4%) with CS due to other causes. Of 42 patients whose cause of death was known, 15 (36%) died due to progression of the underlying disease, 13 (31%) due to infections, 7 (17%) due to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease and 2 due to pulmonary embolism. The commonest cause of death in patients with pituitary-dependent CS and adrenal-dependent CS were infectious diseases (n = 8) and progression of the underlying tumor (n = 10) in patients with ectopic CS. Patients who had died were older and more often males, and had more frequently muscle weakness, diabetes mellitus and ectopic CS, compared to survivors. Of 49 deceased patients, 22 (45%) died within 90 days from start of treatment and 5 (10%) before any treatment was given. The commonest cause of deaths in these 27 patients were infections (n = 10; 37%). In a regression analysis, age, ectopic CS and active disease were independently associated with overall death before and within 90 days from the start of treatment.
Mortality rate was highest in patients with ectopic CS. Infectious diseases were the commonest cause of death soon after diagnosis, emphasizing the need for careful clinical vigilance at that time, especially in patients presenting with concomitant diabetes mellitus.
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
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.
(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).
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.
PMT may confound the interpretation of immediate postoperative outcome. Follow-up is recommended to definitely evaluate surgical results.