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  1. Written by Kathleen Doheny with Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, and Vivien Herman-Bonert, MD Cushing's disease, an uncommon but hard to treat endocrine disorder, occurs when a tumor on the pituitary gland, called an adenoma—that is almost always benign—leads to an overproduction of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Until now, surgery to remove the non-cancerous but problematic tumor has been the only effective treatment. Still, many patients will require medication to help control their serum cortisol levels, and others cannot have surgery or would prefer to avoid it. Finally, a drug proves effective as added on or alternative to surgery in managing Cushing's disease. Photo; 123rf New Drug Offers Alternative to Surgery for Cushing's Disease Now, there is good news about long-term positive results achieved with pasireotide (Signifor)—the first medication to demonstrate effectiveness in both normalizing serum cortisol levels and either shrinking or slowing growth of tumors over the long term.1,2 These findings appear in the journal, Clinical Endocrinology, showing that patients followed for 36 months as part of an ongoing study had improved patient outcomes for Cushing’s disease.2 "What we knew before this extension study was—the drug will work in approximately half of the patients with mild Cushing's disease," says study author Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, director of the Northwest Pituitary Center and professor of neurological surgery and medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition at the Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Medicine. “Pasireotide also offers good clinical benefits," says Dr. Fleseriu who is also the president of the Pituitary Society, “which includes improvements in blood pressure, other signs and symptoms of Cushing’s symptom], and quality of life.”2 What Symptoms Are Helped by Drug for Cushing's Disease? Among the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease that are lessened with treatment are:3 Changes in physical appearance such as wide, purple stretch marks on the skin (eg, chest, armpits, abdomen, thighs) Rapid and unexplained weight gain A more full, rounder face Protruding abdomen from fat deposits Increased fat deposits around the neck area The accumulation of adipose tissue raises the risk of heart disease, which adds to the urgency of effective treatment. In addition, many individuals who have Cushing’s disease also complain of quality of life issues such as fatigue, depression, mood and behavioral problems, as well as poor memory.2 As good as the results appear following the longer term use of pasireotide,2 Dr. Fleseriu admits that in any extension study in which patients are asked to continue on, there are some built-in limitations, which may influence the findings. For example, patients who agree to stay on do so because they are good responders, meaning they feel better, so they’re happy to stick with the study. “Fortunately, for the patients who have responded to pasireotide initially, this is a drug that can be continued as there are no new safety signals with longer use," Dr. Fleseriu tells EndocrineWeb, "and when the response at the start is good, very few patients will lose control of their urinary free cortisol over time. That's a frequent marker used to monitor patient's status. For those patients with large tumors, almost half of them had a significant shrinkage, and all the others had a stable tumor size." What Are the Reasons to Consider Drug Treatment to Manage Cushing’s Symptoms The extension study ''was important because we didn't have any long-term data regarding patient response to this once-a-month treatment to manage Cushing's disease," she says. While selective surgical removal of the tumor is the preferred treatment choice, the success rate in patients varies, and Cushing's symptoms persist in up to 35% of patients after surgery. In addition, recurrent rates (ie, return of disease) range from 13% to 66% after individuals experience different durations remaining in remission.1 Therefore, the availability of an effective, long-lasting drug will change the course of therapy for many patients with Cushing’s disease going forward. Not only will pasireotide benefit patients who have persistent and recurrent disease after undergoing surgery, but also this medication will be beneficial for those who are not candidates for surgery or just wish to avoid having this procedure, he said. Examining the Safety and Tolerability of Pasireotide This long-acting therapy, pasireotide, which is given by injection, was approved in the US after reviewing results of a 12-month Phase 3 trial.1 In the initial study, participants had a confirmed pituitary cause of the Cushing's disease. After that, the researchers added the optional 12-month open-label, extension study, and now patients can continue on in a separate long-term safety study. Those eligible for the 12-month extension had to have mean urinary free cortisol not exceeding the upper limit of normal (166.5 nanomoles per 24 hour) and/or be considered by the investigator to be getting substantial clinical benefit from treatment with long-action pasireotide, and to demonstrate tolerability of pasireotide during the core study.1 Of the 150 in the initial trial, 81 participants, or 54% of the patients, entered the extension study. Of those, 39 completed the next phase, and most also enrolled in another long-term safety study—these results not yet available).2 During the core study, 1 participants were randomly assigned to 10 or 30 mg of the drug every 28 days, with doses based on effectiveness and tolerability. When they entered the extension, patients were given the same dose they received at month.1,2 Study Outcomes Offer Advantages in Cushing’s Disease Of those who received 36 months of treatment with pasireotide, nearly three in four (72.2%) had controlled levels of urinary free cortisol at this time point.2 Equally good news for this drug was that tumors either shrank or did not grow. Of those individuals who started the trial with a measurable tumor (adenoma) as well as those with an adenoma at the two year mark (35 people), 85.7% of them experienced a reduction of 20% or more or less than a 20% change in tumor volume. No macroadenomas present at the start of the study showed a change of more than 20% at either month 24 or 36.2 Improvements in blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference continued throughout the extension study.1 Those factors influence CVD risk, the leading cause of death in those with Cushing's.4 As for adverse events, most of the study participants, 91.4%, did report one or more complaint during the extension study—most commonly, it was high blood sugar, which was reported by nearly 40% of participants.2. This is not surprising when you consider that most (81.5%) of the individuals participating in the extension trial entered with a diagnosis of diabetes or use of antidiabetic medication, and even more of them (88.9%) had diabetes at the last evaluation.1 This complication indicates the need for people with Cushing’s disease to check their blood glucose, as appropriate. Do You Have Cushing’s Disese? Here's What You Need to Know Women typically develop Cushing’s disease more often than men. What else should you be aware of if you and your doctor decide this medication will help you? Monitoring is crucial, says Dr. Fleseriu, as you will need to have your cortisol levels checked, and you should be on alert for any diabetes signals, which will require close monitoring and regular follow-up for disease management. Another understanding gained from the results of this drug study: "This medication works on the tumor level," she says. "If the patient has a macroadenoma (large tumor), this would be the preferred treatment." However, it should be used with caution in those with diabetes given the increased risk of experiencing high blood sugar. The researchers conclude that "the long-term safety profile of pasireotide was very favorable and consistent with that reported during the first 12 months of treatment. These data support the use of long-acting pasireotide as an effective long-term treatment option for some patients with Cushing's Disease."1 Understanding Benefits of New Drug to Treat Cushing's Diseease Vivien S. Herman-Bonert, MD, an endocrinologist and clinical director of the Pituitary Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, agreed to discuss the study findings, after agreeing to review the research for EndocrineWeb. As to who might benefit most from monthly pasireotide injections? Dr. Herman-Bonert says, "any patient with Cushing's disease that requires long-term medical therapy, which includes patients with persistent or recurrent disease after surgery." Certainly, anyone who has had poor response to any other medical therapies for Cushing's disease either because they didn't work well enough or because the side effects were too much, will likely benefit a well, she adds. Among the pluses that came out of the study, she says, is that nearly half of the patients had controlled average urinary free cortisol levels after two full years, and 72% of the participants who continued on with the drug for 36 months were able to remain in good urinary cortisol control .1 As the authors stated, tumor shrinkage was another clear benefit of taking long-term pasireotide. That makes the drug a potentially good choice for those even with large tumors or with progressive tumor growth, she says. It’s always good for anyone with Cushing’s disease to have an alterative to surgery, or a back-up option when surgery isn’t quite enough, says Dr. Herman-Bonert. The best news for patients is that quality of life scores improved,1 she adds. Dr Herman-Bonert did add a note of caution: Although the treatment in this study is described as ''long-term, patients will need to be on this for far longer than 2 to 3 years," she says. So, the data reported in this study may or may not persist, and we don’t yet know what the impact will be 10 or 25 years out. Also, the issue of hyperglycemia-related adverse events raises a concern, given the vast majority (81%) of patients who have both Cushing’s disease and diabetes. Most of those taking this drug had a dual diagnosis—having diabetes, a history of diabetes, or taking antidiabetic medicine. If you are under care for diabetes and you require treatment for Cushing’s disease, you must be ver mindful that taking pasireotide will likely lead to high blood sugar spikes, so you should plan to address this with your healthcare provider. Dr. Fleseriu reports research support paid to Oregon Health & Science University from Novartis and other 0companies and consultancy fees from Novartis and Strongbridge Biopharma. Dr. Herman-Bonert has no relevant disclosures. The study was underwritten by Novartis Pharma AG, the drug maker. From https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/pituitary-disorders/62449-cushings-disease-monthly-injection-good-alternative-surgery
  2. For patients with persistent or recurring Cushing’s disease, monthly pasireotide therapy was safe and effective, leading to normal urinary free cortisol levels in 47% of patients after 2 years, according to findings published in Clinical Endocrinology. Maria Fleseriu “The management of Cushing’s syndrome, and particularly Cushing’s disease, remains challenging,” Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of neurological surgery and professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University and director of the OHSU Northwest Pituitary Center, told Endocrine Today. “Long-acting pasireotide provided sustained biochemical improvements and clinical benefit in a significant proportion of patients with Cushing’s disease who elected to continue in this extension study. There were many adverse events reported overall, but no new safety signals emerging over long-term treatment.” In the last decade, medical treatment for Cushing’s disease has progressed from a few steroidogenesis inhibitors to three novel drug groups: new inhibitors for steroidogenic enzymes with possibly fewer adverse effects, pituitary-directed drugs that aim to inhibit the pathophysiological pathways of Cushing’s disease, and glucocorticoid receptor antagonists that block cortisol’s action, Fleseriu, who is also an Endocrine Today Editorial Board member, said. In an open-label extension study, Fleseriu and colleagues analyzed data from 81 adults with confirmed Cushing’s disease with mean urinary free cortisol not exceeding the upper limit of normal, who transitioned from a 12-month, randomized controlled trial where they were assigned 10 mg or 30 mg once-monthly intramuscular pasireotide (Signifor LAR, Novartis). During the main study, researchers recruited participants with mean urinary free cortisol level concentration 1.5 to five times the upper limit of normal, normal or greater than normal plasma and confirmed pituitary source of Cushing’s disease. Participants who elected to continue in the extension were considered biochemical responders or benefited from the study drug per the clinical investigator, Fleseriu said. “As in all extension studies, the bias is inherent that patients deemed responders tend to continue, but for any type of treatment for pituitary tumors, and particularly Cushing’s disease, long-term, robust data on efficacy and safety parameters is essential,” Fleseriu said. Median overall exposure to pasireotide at the end of the extension study was 23.9 months, with nearly half of patients receiving at least 1 year of treatment during the extension phase. Researchers found that improvements in clinical signs of hypercortisolism were sustained throughout the study and median urinary free cortisol remained within normal range. Overall, 38 participants (47%) had controlled urinary free cortisol at month 24 (after 12 months of treatment during the extension phase), with researchers noting that the proportion of participants with controlled or partially controlled urinary free cortisol was stable throughout the extension phase. “Interestingly, the median salivary cortisol level decreased but remained above normal (1.3 times upper limit of normal) at 3 years,” Fleseriu said. As seen in other pasireotide studies, and expected based on the mechanism of action, researchers observed hyperglycemia-related adverse events in 39.5% of participants, with diabetes medications initiated or escalated in some patients, Fleseriu said. However, mean fasting glucose and HbA1c were stable during the extension phase, after increasing in the main study. Within the cohort, 81.5% had type 2 diabetes at baseline (entering extension phase) and 88.9% patients had type 2 diabetes at last assessment. “Pasireotide acts at the tumor level, and tumor shrinkage is seen in many patients,” Fleseriu said. “In this study, 42% and 32.1% had a measurable microadenoma or macroadenoma, respectively, on MRI at the start of pasireotide treatment; an adenoma was not visible in almost a quarter of patients at 2 years.” Among patients with a measurable adenoma at baseline and at month 24 (n = 35), 85.7% experienced a reduction of at least 20% or a 20% change in tumor volume between the two time points. Improvements in median systolic and diastolic blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference were sustained during the extension, Fleseriu said. “The long-term safety profile of pasireotide was favorable and consistent with that reported during the first 12 months of treatment,” the researchers wrote. “These data support the use of long-acting pasireotide as an effective long-term treatment option for some patients with [Cushing’s disease].” Fleseriu said individualized treatment selecting patients who will derive benefit from therapy will be crucial, balancing both efficacy and the potential risks and costs. – by Regina Schaffer Disclosures: Fleseriu reports she has received consultant fees and her institution has received research support from Novo Nordisk and Pfizer. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures. From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/online/%7B5da4611f-34b2-4306-80b8-46babd2aad4a%7D/long-acting-pasireotide-provides-sustained-biochemical-improvements-in-cushings-disease?page=2
  3. until
    **REGISTER NOW!** Saturday, Sept 14, 2019 7:30am – 4:00pm Please join the Pituitary Network Association and The Ohio State University for a Pituitary Patient Symposium featuring a series of pituitary and hormonal patient education sessions presented by some of the top physicians of pituitary and hormonal medicine. The symposium faculty will share the most up-to-date information and be available to answer your most pressing questions. Keynote Speaker: Maria Fleseriu, MD FACE **We are offering a limited number of registration only scholarships. Register today to claim your scholarship!** Please email carol@pituitary.org to register! *This registration is for the Patient Symposium only. The Ohio State University is offering a CME Course separate from our Symposium. For information on the CME course go to ccme.osu.edu OSU Pituitary Symposium Agenda Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 Patient and Family Track Gabbe Conference Room – James L045 7:30 AM Registration and Breakfast 8:00 AM Welcoming Remarks and Introductions: The OSU Skull Base and Pituitary Team 8:05 AM Trans-sphenoidal Approach: What to Expect? Post-Operative Complications Richard Carrau, MD Professor Department of Otolaryngology OSUCCC - James 8:30 AM Radiation Therapy? Difference Between Modalities and Possible Risks Dukagjin M Blakaj, MD, PhD OSUCCC - James 9:00 AM What Are The Challenges Our Patients Face, and How Can We Help? Kami Perdue, PA-C OSUCCC - James 9:30 AM Round Table Q & A 9:45 AM Mid-Morning Break and Visit Vendors 10:00 AM Acromegaly: Why it Takes That Long to Diagnose? What are the Options? Lawrence Kirschner, MD, PhD Professor Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism OSUCCC - James 10:30 AM Growth Hormone Deficiency: Beyond Growth Rohan Henry, MD Pediatric Endocrinologist Nationwide Children's Hospital 11:00 AM Hypopituitarism: Pitfalls and Recommendations Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE Oregon Health and Science University - Keynote Speaker 11:30 AM Round Table Q & A 11:45 AM Lunch Break and Patient's Journey 12:45 PM Pituitary Trivia Luma Ghalib, MD Assistant Professor - Clinical Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism OSUCCC - James Brian Lee, RN OSUCCC - James 1:15 PM Surgical Approach: What to Expect Daniel Prevedello, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery OSUCCC - James 1:45 PM Visual Complications of Pituitary/Sellar Lesion? Predictors of Outcome Abbe Craven, MD Assistant Professor - Clinical Department of Ophthalmology OSUCCC - James 2:15 PM Round Table Q & A 2:30 PM Mid-Afternoon Break and Visit Vendors 2:45 PM Recovering from Trans-sphenoidal Surgery, Challenges for the Patient and their Families Traci Douglass, RN OSUCCC - James 3:15 PM Pituitary Network Association: Cushing's Disease: Psychological Research and Clinical Implications Jessica Diller Kovler, AM, MA, PhD PNA Board Member 3:45 PM Closing Remarks 4: 00 PM Adjourn
  4. by Kristen Monaco, Staff Writer, MedPage Today LOS ANGELES -- An investigational therapy improved quality of life and reduced disease symptoms for patients with endogenous Cushing's syndrome, according to new findings from the phase III SONICS study. Patients taking oral levoketoconazole twice daily had significant reductions in mean scores for acne (-1.8), peripheral edema (-0.4), and hirsutism (-2.6), all secondary endpoints of the pivotal trial (P<0.03 for all), reported Maria Fleseriu, MD, of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. "We're looking forward to see the results of further studies and to add this therapy to the landscape of Cushing's," Fleseriu said here during a presentation of the findings at AACE 2019, the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. "We have a newer medication and still we cannot make a dent in the outcomes of Cushing's, especially for patient-reported outcomes." Free testosterone levels significantly decreased in women taking levoketoconazole (a ketoconazole stereoisomer and potent steroidogenesis inhibitor), from an average of 0.32 ng/dL down to 0.12 ng/dL (0.011 to 0.004 nmol/L, P<0.0001). Men had a non-significant increase: 5.1 ng/dL up to 5.8 ng/dL (0.177 to 0.202 nmol/L). There were no significant changes from baseline to the end of maintenance for other secondary endpoints in the analysis: moon facies, facial plethora, striae, bruising, supraclavicular fat, irregular menstruation, and dysmenorrhea. However, significant improvements after 6 months of therapy were seen in patient-reported quality of life compared with baseline (mean 10.6 change on the Cushing QOL questionnaire) as well as a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (mean -4.3 change on the Beck Depression Inventory II). The open-label, multicenter SONICS (Study of Levoketoconazole in Cushing's Syndrome) trial included 94 adult men and women with a confirmed diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome and elevated 24-hour mean urinary free cortisol (mUFC) levels at least 1.5 times the upper limit of normal. In the dose-titration phase of the study (weeks 2 to 21), patients were titrated up to a max dose of 600 mg levoketoconazole twice daily until mUFC normalization. A 6-month maintenance phase followed with no dose increases, but decreases were allowed if adverse events emerged. An additional 6-month extended evaluation phase followed thereafter. The study met it's previously reported primary endpoint, with 30% of patients achieving normalized mUFC levels after 6 months of maintenance therapy without a dose increase (95% CI 21%-40%, P=0.0154). Levoketoconazole was well tolerated, with only 12.8% of patients discontinuing treatment due to adverse events. The most commonly reported adverse events were nausea (31.9%), headache (27.7%), peripheral edema (19.1%), hypertension (17%), and fatigue (16%), some of which were expected due to steroid withdrawal, Fleseriu said. Serious adverse events were reported in 14 patients, including prolonged QTc interval in two patients, elevated liver function in one patient, and adrenal insufficiency in another, events similar to those seen with ketoconazole (Nizoral) therapy. Fleseriu explained that drug-drug interaction is a problem in Cushing's, as all of the available medications prolong QT interval. She noted that in SONICS, QT prolongation with levoketoconazole was observed in few patients. It's still a "concern," said Fleseriu, especially for patients on other drugs that prolong QT. Although not yet approved, levoketoconazole has received orphan drug designation from the FDA and the European Medicines Agency for endogenous Cushing's syndrome. The tentative brand name is Recorlev. The study was supported by Strongbridge Biopharma. Fleseriu reported relationships with Strongbridge, Millendo Therapeutics, and Novartis. Co-authors also disclosed relevant relationships with industry. Primary Source American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Source Reference: Fleseriu M, et al "Levoketoconazole in the treatment of endogenous Cushing's syndrome: Improvements in clinical signs and symptoms, patient-reported outcomes, and associated biochemical markers in the phase 3 SONICS study" AACE 2019; Poster 369. From https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/aace/79465
  5. Strongbridge Biopharma released additional positive results from a Phase 3 trial evaluating whether the company’s investigational therapy Recorlev (levoketoconazole) is safe and effective for people with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome. The latest results were presented in the scientific poster “Safety and Efficacy of Levoketoconazole in Cushing Syndrome: Initial Results From the Phase 3 SONICS Study,\” at the 18th Annual Congress of the European NeuroEndocrine Association (ENEA), which took place in Wrocław, Poland, last month. The SONICS study (NCT01838551) was a multi-center, open-label Phase 3 trial evaluating Recorlev’s safety and effectiveness in 94 patients with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome. The trial consisted of three parts: a dose-escalation phase to determine the appropriate Recorlev dose that achieved normalization of cortisol levels; a maintenance phase in which patients received the established dose for six months; and a final extended phase, in which patients were treated with Recorlev for an additional six months, with the possibility of dose adjustments. Its primary goal was a reduction in the levels of cortisol in the patients’ urine after six months of maintenance treatment, without any dose increase during that period. Among secondary goals was a reduction in the characteristically high risk of cardiovascular disease in these people, through the assessment of multiple cardiovascular risk markers. Strongbridge announced top-line results of the SONICS study in August, which showed that the trial had reached its primary and secondary goals. It concluded last month. After six months of maintenance therapy, Recorlev successfully lowered to normal the levels of cortisol in 30% of patients without a dose increase. It also led to statistically and clinically significant reductions in cardiovascular risk biomarkers, including blood sugar, cholesterol levels, body weight, and body mass index. Maria Fleseriu, MD, director of the Oregon Health Sciences University Northwest Pituitary Center, presented additional and detailed results of SONICS at the congress. Additional analyses showed that among the 77 patients who completed the dose-escalation phase and entered the study’s maintenance phase, 81% had their cortisol levels normalized. At the end of the six months of maintenance treatment, 29 (53%) of the 55 patients who had their cortisol levels assessed at the beginning of the study and at the end of the maintenance phase had achieved normalization of cortisol levels, regardless of dose increase. Among all patients who completed maintenance treatment (including patients with some missing data) and regardless of dose increase, 38% had achieved normalization of cortisol levels and 48% recorded a 50% or more decrease or normalization. The results also highlighted that Recorlev substantially reduced patients’ cortisol levels regardless of their levels at the study’s beginning (which were on average about five-fold higher than the upper limit of normal). In those patients with the highest levels of cortisol in their urine, Recorlev led to a median reduction of more than 80%. As previously reported, Recorlev was found to be generally well-tolerated, with no new safety concerns, and only 12 participants (12.8%) stopped treatment due to adverse events. Ten patients had three- or five-fold increased levels of alanine aminotransferase — a liver enzyme used to assess liver damage — which were fully resolved without further complications. These liver-related adverse events “were all noted in the first 60 days, thus suggesting a timeline interval for monitoring,” Fleseriu said in a press release. “We continue to be encouraged by the positive efficacy results of SONICS and the overall benefit-to-risk profile of Recorlev and look forward to sharing additional planned analyses from the study in the near future,” said Fredric Cohen, Strongbridge’s chief medical officer. From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/11/01/new-data-from-phase-3-trial-supports-recorlev-ability-to-safely-treat-cushings-syndrome/
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