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Valentina Gasco, Flavia Prodam, Silvia Grottoli, Paolo Marzullo, Salvatore Longobardi, Ezio Ghigo, and Gianluca Aimaretti

Recombinant human GH has been licensed for use in adult patients with GH deficiency (GHD) for over 15 years. Early weight- and surface area-based dosing regimens were effective but resulted in supraphysiological levels of IGF1 and increased incidence of side effects. Current practice has moved towards individualised regimens, starting with low GH doses and gradually titrating the dose according to the level of serum IGF1 to achieve an optimal dose. Here we present the evidence supporting the dosing recommendations of current guidelines and consider factors affecting dose responsiveness and parameters of treatment response. The published data discussed here lend support for the use of low GH dosing regimens in adult GHD. The range of doses defined as ‘low dose’ in the studies discussed here (∼1–4 mg/week) is in accordance with those recommended in current guidelines and encompasses the dose range recommended by product labels.

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Valentina Gasco, Guglielmo Beccuti, Chiara Baldini, Nunzia Prencipe, Stellina Di Giacomo, Alessandro Berton, Federica Guaraldi, Isabella Tabaro, Mauro Maccario, Ezio Ghigo, and Silvia Grottoli


Insulin tolerance test (ITT) is the test of reference for the diagnosis of adult GH deficiency (GHD), although GHRH in combination with arginine (ARG) or GH secretagogues are considered equally reliable tests. Testing with GH secretagogue alone is, anyway, a potent stimulus exploring the integrity of hypothalamic pathways controlling somatotropic function. We therefore aimed to determine the diagnostic reliability of testing with ghrelin, the natural GH secretagogue.


We studied the GH response (every 15 min from −15 to +120 min) to acylated ghrelin (1 μg/kg i.v. at 0 min) in 78 patients with a history of pituitary disease (49 male, 29 female; age (mean±s.d.): 52.1±18.7 years; BMI: 26.7±5.3 kg/m2). The lack of GH response to GHRH+ARG and/or ITT was considered the gold standard for the diagnosis of GHD. The best GH cut-off to ghrelin test, defined as the one with the best sensitivity (SE) and specificity (SP), was identified using the receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis.


The best GH cut-off to ghrelin test was 7.3 μg/l in lean subjects (SE 88.2%, SP 90.9%), 2.9 μg/l in overweight subjects (SE 92.6%, SP 100%) and 0.6 μg/l in obese subjects (SE 50%, SP 100%). The diagnostic accuracy was 89.3, 94.1 and 62.5% respectively.


Our data show that testing with acylated ghrelin represents a reliable diagnostic tool for the diagnosis of adult GHD, in lean and overweight subjects, if appropriate cut-off limits are assumed. Obesity strongly reduces GH response to ghrelin, GH weight-related cut-off limit and diagnostic reliability of the test.

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Ginevra Corneli, Carolina Di Somma, Roberto Baldelli, Silvia Rovere, Valentina Gasco, Chiara Giulia Croce, Silvia Grottoli, Mauro Maccario, Annamaria Colao, Gaetano Lombardi, Ezio Ghigo, Franco Camanni, and Gianluca Aimaretti

Objective: The diagnosis of growth hormone (GH) deficiency (GHD) in adults is based on a reduced peak GH response to provocative tests, such as the insulin tolerance test (ITT) and the GH-releasing hormone-arginine (GHRH-ARG) test. However, the cut-off limits of peak GH response in lean subjects are not reliable in obese patients; this is noteworthy since adult GHD is often associated with obesity. Aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic cut-off limits of peak GH response to the GHRH-ARG test in overweight and obese as well as in lean population.

Design and methods: The GH responses to the GHRH-ARG test were studied in 322 patients with organic hypothalamic-pituitary disease and in 318 control subjects. Patients were subdivided into two groups on the basis of the number of pituitary hormone deficits, except for GH deficiency: (a) patients with total pituitary hormone deficit (TPHD) and (b) patients without or with no more than two pituitary hormone deficits (PHD). Both patients and control subjects were divided into three subgroups according to body mass index (BMI): lean (BMI <25 kg/m2), overweight (BMI ≥25 and <30 kg/m2) and obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2). TPHD patients were assumed to be GH deficient, whereas PHD patients may include subjects with either normal or impaired GH secretion. The statistical analysis was carried out by the Receiver-Operating Characteristic curve analysis (Medcalc 7.2). The diagnostic cut-off points were calculated for lean, overweight and obese subjects to provide optimal separation of GH-deficient patients and control subjects according to two criteria: () a balance between high sensitivity and high specificity; () to provide the highest pair of sensitivity/specificity values for GH deficiency.

Results: In the lean population the best pair of values, with highest sensitivity as 98.7% and highest specificity as 83.7%, was found using a peak GH cut-off point of 11.5 μg/l. In the overweight population the best pair of values, 96.7 and 75.5%, respectively, was found using a peak GH cut-off point of 8.0 μg/l. In the obese population the best pair of values, 93.5 and 78.3%, respectively, was found using a peak GH cut-off point of 4.2 μg/l. Applying the above mentioned cut-off points, among PHD patients we found that 80 subjects (72%) were GHD whereas 31 (28%) had normal GH secretion.

Conclusions: In conclusion the GHRH-ARG test is a reliable tool for the diagnosis of adult GH deficiency in lean, overweight and obese patients, provided that specific BMI-related cut-off limits are assumed.

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Ginevra Corneli, Carolina Di Somma, Flavia Prodam, Jaele Bellone, Simonetta Bellone, Valentina Gasco, Roberto Baldelli, Silvia Rovere, Harald Jörn Schneider, Luigi Gargantini, Roberto Gastaldi, Lucia Ghizzoni, Domenico Valle, Mariacarolina Salerno, Annamaria Colao, Gianni Bona, Ezio Ghigo, Mohamad Maghnie, and Gianluca Aimaretti


To define the appropriate diagnostic cut-off limits for the GH response to GHRH+arginine (ARG) test and IGF-I levels, using receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve analysis, in late adolescents and young adults.

Design and methods

We studied 152 patients with childhood-onset organic hypothalamic–pituitary disease (85 males, age (mean±s.e.m.): 19.2±0.2 years) and 201 normal adolescents as controls (96 males, age: 20.7±0.2 years). Patients were divided into three subgroups on the basis of the number of the other pituitary hormone deficits, excluding GH deficiency (GHD): subgroup A consisted of 35 panhypopituitary patients (17 males, age: 21.2±0.4 years), subgroup B consisted of 18 patients with only one or with no more than two pituitary hormone deficits (7 males, age: 20.2±0.9 years); and subgroup C consisted of 99 patients without any known hormonal pituitary deficits (60 males, age: 18.2±0.2 years). Both patients and controls were lean (body mass index, BMI<25 kg/m2). Patients in subgroup A were assumed to be GHD, whereas in patients belonging to subgroups B and C the presence of GHD had to be verified.


For the GHRH+ARG test, the best pair of highest sensitivity (Se; 100%) and specificity (Sp; 97%) was found choosing a peak GH of 19.0 μg/l. For IGF-I levels, the best pair of highest Se (96.6%) and Sp (74.6%) was found using a cut-off point of 160 μg/l (SDS: −1.3). Assuming 19.0 μg/l to be the cut-off point established for GHRH+ARG test, 72.2% of patients in subgroup B and 39.4% in subgroup C were defined as GHD. In patients belonging to group B and C and with a peak GH response <19 μg/l to the test, IGF-I levels were lower than 160 μg/l (or less than 1.3 SDS) in 68.7 and 41.6% of patients respectively predicting severe GHD in 85.7% of panhypopituitary patients (subgroup A).


In late adolescent and early adulthood patients, a GH cut-off limit using the GHRH+ARG test lower than 19.0 μg/l is able to discriminate patients with a suspicion of GHD and does not vary from infancy to early adulthood.

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Lucia Ghizzoni, Marco Cappa, Alessandra Vottero, Graziamaria Ubertini, Daniela Carta, Natascia Di Iorgi, Valentina Gasco, Maddalena Marchesi, Vera Raggi, Anastasia Ibba, Flavia Napoli, Arianna Massimi, Mohamad Maghnie, Sandro Loche, and Ottavia Porzio


Premature pubarche (PP) is the most frequent sign of nonclassic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCCAH) due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency in childhood. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between the CYP21A2 genotype and baseline and ACTH-stimulated 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) and cortisol serum levels in patients presenting with PP.

Patients and methods

A total of 152 Italian children with PP were studied. Baseline and ACTH-stimulated 17-OHP and cortisol serum levels were measured and CYP21A2 gene was genotyped in all subjects.


Baseline and ACTH-stimulated serum 17-OHP levels were significantly higher in NCCAH patients than in both heterozygotes and children with idiopathic PP (IPP). Of the patient population, four NCCAH patients (7.3%) exhibited baseline 17-OHP values <2 ng/ml (6 nmol/l). An ACTH-stimulated 17-OHP cutoff level of 14 ng/ml (42 nmol/l) identified by the receiver-operating characteristics curves showed the best sensitivity (90.9%) and specificity (100%) in distinguishing NCCAH patients. This value, while correctly identifying all unaffected children, missed 9% of affected individuals. Cortisol response to ACTH stimulation was <18.2 μg/dl (500 nmol/l) in 14 NCCAH patients (28%) and none of the heterozygotes or IPP children. Among the 55 NCCAH patients, 54.5% were homozygous for mild CYP21A2 mutations, 41.8% were compound heterozygotes for one mild and one severe CYP21A2 gene mutations, and 3.6% had two severe CYP21A2 gene mutations.


In children with PP, baseline 17-OHP levels are not useful to rule out the diagnosis of NCCAH, which is accomplished by means of ACTH testing only. The different percentages of severe and mild CYP21A2 gene mutations found in PP children compared with adult NCCAH patients is an indirect evidence that the enzyme defect is under-diagnosed in childhood, and it might not lead to the development of hyperandrogenic symptoms in adulthood. Stress-dose glucocorticoids should be considered in patients with suboptimal cortisol response to ACTH stimulation.