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SJCMM Neggers, WW de Herder, JAMJL Janssen, RA Feelders and AJ van der Lely

Background

We previously reported on the efficacy, safety, and quality of life (QoL) of long-acting somatostatin analogs (SSA) and (twice) weekly pegvisomant (PEG-V) in acromegaly and improvement after the addition of PEG-V to long-acting SSA.

Objective

To assess the long-term safety in a larger group of acromegalic patients over a larger period of time: 29.2 (1.2–57.4) months (mean (range)).

Design

Pegvisomant was added to SSA monotherapy in 86 subjects (37 females), to normalize serum IGF1 concentrations (n=63) or to increase the QoL. The median dosage was 60.0 (20–200) mg weekly.

Results

After a mean treatment period of 29.2 months, 23 patients showed dose-independent PEG-V related transient liver enzyme elevations (TLEE). TLEE occurred only once during the continuation of combination therapy, but discontinuation and re-challenge induced a second episode of TLEE. Ten of these patients with TLEE also suffered from diabetes mellitus (DM). In our present series, DM had a 2.28 odds ratio (CI 1.16–9.22; p=0.03) higher risk for developing TLEE. During the combined therapy, a clinical significant decrease in tumor size by more than 20% was observed in 14 patients. Two of these patients were previously treated by pituitary surgery, 1 with additional radiotherapy and all other patients received primary medical treatment.

Conclusion

Long-term combined treatment with SSA and twice weekly PEG-V up to more than 4 years seems to be safe. Patients with both acromegaly and DM have a 2.28 higher risk of developing TLEE. Clinical significant tumor shrinkage was observed in 14 patients during combined treatment.

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PS van Dam, A van Gils, MR Canninga-van Dijk, EJ de Koning, LJ Hofland and WW de Herder

OBJECTIVE: We describe a patient with an ACTH-producing phaeochromocytoma who initially presented with hypercortisolism and normal catecholamine concentrations, followed by near-normalisation of ACTH secretion and massive catecholamine secretion. In vitro studies were carried out on the tumour to evaluate the interaction between the tumour cells and normal adrenal cortex. METHODS AND RESULTS: A 30-year-old man initially presented with severe hypercortisolism, biochemical evidence of ectopic ACTH production, a tumour in the right adrenal gland without a hyperintense signal on the T2-weighted images at magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning, and normal urinary metanephrine concentrations. After 6 months, ACTH production had almost completely resolved, but the patient developed severe hypertension and excess catecholamines. At repeated MRI-scanning, the T2-weighted images showed a hyperintense signal, in agreement with the diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma. Although the initial T1-weighted images suggested bleeding in the adrenal tumour, no signs of bleeding were observed after surgical removal. The diagnosis of ACTH-producing phaeochromocytoma was histologically and immunohistochemically confirmed. Cultured cell suspensions of the tumour secreted ACTH, which stimulated cortisol production in the ipsilateral adrenocortical cells. CONCLUSION: This case demonstrates that the biological activity of an ACTH-producing phaeochromocytoma can vary significantly in time, which may be the consequence of different stages of tumour differentiation.

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FR Nobels, WW de Herder, WM van den Brink, DJ Kwekkeboom, LJ Hofland, J Zuyderwijk, FH de Jong and SW Lamberts

OBJECTIVE: This study was performed to evaluate the effect of prolonged treatment with the dopamine agonist quinagolide on serum gonadotropin and alpha-subunit concentrations and tumor volume in patients with clinically non-functioning pituitary adenomas (CNPA). DESIGN: Ten patients with CNPA were treated with quinagolide (0.3 mg daily). The median duration of treatment was 57 months (range 36-93 months). Blood samples for measurement of serum gonadotropin and alpha-subunit concentrations were drawn before treatment, after 5 days, and at each outpatient visit. Computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the pituitary region and Goldmann perimetry were done before and at regular intervals during treatment. RESULTS: A significant decrease of serum FSH, LH or alpha-subunit concentrations was found in nine patients. The levels remained low during the entire treatment period. In two out of three patients with pre-existing visual field defects a slight improvement was shown during the first months of treatment, but eventually deterioration occurred in all three patients. A fourth patient developed unilateral ophthalmoplegia during treatment. During the first year tumor volume decreased in three patients, but in two of them regrowth occurred after a few months. In six patients progressive tumor growth occurred despite sustained suppression of gonadotropin or alpha-subunit levels. CONCLUSIONS: Long-term treatment of patients with CNPA with high doses of the dopamine agonist quinagolide could not prevent progressive increase in tumor size in most patients. It remains unproven whether quinagolide retards CNPA growth. Additional studies are needed to investigate whether subgroups of patients, e.g. those with positive dopamine receptor scintigraphy or those with marked hypersecretion of intact gonadotropins or subunits, will respond more favorably to treatment with dopamine agonists.

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FM van der Toorn, JA Janssen, WW de Herder, F Broglio, E Ghigo and AJ van der Lely

INTRODUCTION: In an animal model of acromegaly (PEPCK-hGH transgenic mice), low systemic levels of ghrelin have been observed compared with normal mice. We hypothesized that systemic circulating ghrelin levels are also decreased in humans with active acromegaly and that the contribution of central ghrelin production to systemic ghrelin levels is minimal. OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was to investigate, in two subjects with active acromegaly, whether there are differences between systemic ghrelin levels and ghrelin concentrations in the petrosal sinus. DESIGN: We measured systemic and central ghrelin levels in these two acromegalic patients by bilateral simultaneous inferior petrosal sinus sampling. Central and systemic blood samples were drawn before and 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 min after stimulation with GH-releasing hormone (GHRH). Ghrelin was measured with a commercially available radioimmunoassay. RESULTS: In one acromegalic subject, the baseline systemic and central ghrelin levels were within the same range as in two non-acromegalic obese subjects. No gradient could be observed between central and systemic ghrelin concentrations. Stimulation with GHRH did not change the ghrelin concentrations in this patient. In the other acromegalic subject, the systemic ghrelin levels were also in the same range as in two non-acromegalic obese subjects. However, in this subject, baseline ghrelin concentrations in the right inferior petrosal vein were considerably lower than the systemic ghrelin concentrations, indicating a peripheral over central gradient. Administration of GHRH induced a significant rise in central ghrelin concentrations in the right inferior petrosal vein. Ghrelin levels in the left inferior petrosal vein and systemic ghrelin levels were in the normal range and GHRH stimulation did not change these concentrations. CONCLUSIONS: The absence of a central over peripheral ghrelin gradient in these two acromegalics indicated that circulating ghrelin is mainly produced peripherally. Circulating systemic ghrelin levels were not decreased in these two subjects with active acromegaly.

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NA Huizenga, WW De Herder, JW Koper, P de Lange, D AJ v Lely, AO Brinkmann, FH de Jong and SW Lamberts

OBJECTIVE: Glucocorticoids (GCs) serve a variety of important functions throughout the body. The synthesis and secretion of GCs are under the strict influence of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. The mechanisms of action of GCs are mediated by the intracellular glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Over the years, many studies have been performed concerning the regulation of GR expression by GC concentrations. METHODS: In the present study, we determined the characteristics of the GR in peripheral mononuclear blood leukocytes (PBML) from thirteen patients with endogenous Cushing's syndrome and fifteen control subjects, using a whole cell dexamethasone binding assay. Furthermore, cortisol concentrations were determined in order to investigate a possible relationship between serum cortisol levels and receptor characteristics. RESULTS: There were no differences in mean receptor number between patients and controls. On the other hand, a significantly lower ligand affinity was identified in cells from patients with Cushing's syndrome compared with controls. A complete normalisation of the ligand affinity was observed after treatment in the only patient tested in this respect, whereas the receptor number was not affected. In patients, there was a statistically significant negative correlation between cortisol concentrations and ligand affinity, which was not found in controls. CONCLUSION: Receptor down-regulation does not occur in PBML from patients with endogenous Cushing's syndrome. On the other hand, there seems to be a diminished ligand affinity which possibly reflects receptor modification in response to exposure to the continuously high cortisol levels in patients with Cushing's syndrome. This assumption is substantiated by the fact that in one patient a normalisation of the ligand affinity after complete remission of the disease was seen.

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E van der Harst, WW de Herder, RR de Krijger, HA Bruining, HJ Bonjer, SW Lamberts, AH van den Meiracker, TH Stijnen and F Boomsma

OBJECTIVE: Phaeochromocytomas (PCCs) are widely known for their clinical unpredictability. This study intends to define predictive plasma markers for their variable postoperative behaviour. Furthermore, the diagnostic accuracy of these plasma tests was determined. DESIGN AND METHODS: A retrospective correlative study was performed in a series of 83 operated and four autopsied patients in order to correlate preoperative catecholamine (CAT) levels of 103 PCCs with their clinical behaviour. In a subset of cases, chromogranin-A (Chr-A) and enzymes/precursors of the CAT biosynthesis were studied for their predictive value. RESULTS: Basal CAT levels were elevated in 81/87 instances (sensitivity: 93%). Four of six cases with normal measurements showed only medullary hyperplasia. Larger PCCs, particularly those showing necrosis, capsular and vascular invasion, secreted higher CAT levels. Bilateral, hereditary tumours were less productive than their unilateral counterparts. Extra-adrenal PCCs secreted significantly lower levels of epinephrine (EPI) than intra-adrenal tumours. Fourteen patients developed metastases. According to Kaplan-Meier estimations, patients with higher levels of dopamine, norepinephrine (NE) and aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase as well as lower ratios of EPI/EPI+NE, had significantly shorter metastases-free intervals. Existence of preoperative hypertension, left ventricular hypertrophy and measured blood pressures showed significant positive relationships with CAT levels, but not with Chr-A. CONCLUSIONS: These data showed that plasma CAT measurement is a sensitive method in the diagnostic work-up of PCCs. Those tumours producing normal levels are commonly small and asymptomatic. Furthermore, certain secretion patterns are indicative of the presence of metastases as well as the size and site of sporadic and syndrome-related PCCs.