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  1. Abstract Background Cushing’s disease (CD) is rare in pediatric patients. It is characterized by elevated plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from pituitary adenomas, with damage to multiple systems and development. In recent years, genetic studies have shed light on the etiology and several mutations have been identified in patients with CD. Case presentation A girl presented at the age of 10 years and 9 months with facial plethora, hirsutism and acne. Her vision and eye movements were impaired. A quick weight gain and slow growth were also observed. Physical examination revealed central obesity, moon face, buffalo hump, supra-clavicular fat pads and bruising. Her plasma ACTH level ranged between 118 and 151 pg/ml, and sella enhanced MRI showed a giant pituitary tumor of 51.8 × 29.3 × 14.0 mm. Transsphenoidal pituitary debulk adenomectomy was performed and immunohistochemical staining confirmed an ACTH-secreting adenoma. Genetic analysis identified a novel germline GPR101 (p.G169R) and a somatic USP8 (p. S719del) mutation. They were hypothesized to impact tumor growth and function, respectively. Conclusions We reported a rare case of pediatric giant pituitary ACTH adenoma and pointed out that unusual concurrent mutations might contribute to its early onset and large volume. Peer Review reports Background Cushing’s disease (CD) is caused by the overproduction of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ATCH) by pituitary adenomas (PAs). It is rare in children and accounts for approximately 75% of pediatric Cushing’s syndrome from 7 to 17 years of age [1]. Weight gain and facial changes are more common in children than in adults [2]. Growth retardation is also a characteristic of children with hypercortisolemia [3]. Genetic alterations such as somatic USP8, RASD1, TP53 mutations, and germline AIP, MEN1, and CABLES1 mutations have been identified in CD patients [4]. Here we report a case of pediatric invasive pituitary ACTH macroadenoma associated with a novel germline GPR101 (p. G169R) and a somatic USP8 (p. S719del) mutation. Case presentation The girl was born at full term with a length of 48 cm and a weight of 2900 g. Her neuromotor and cognitive development was comparable to those of children of the same age. At the age of 9 years and 4 months she developed plethora, hirsutism, facial acne, rapid weight gain, and increased abdominal circumference. Her skin darkened, and purple striae appeared on thighs and in the armpits. She became dull and less talkative, as indicated by her parents. At 10 years and 3 months, the patient complained of pain around the left orbit with an intensity of 4–5 points on a numerical rating scale (NRS). Five months later bilateral blepharoptosis appeared, with significantly impaired vision of the left eye. Soon both eyes failed to rotate in all directions. On admission the patient was 10 years and 9 months, with a height of 144 cm (90–97th percentile) and a weight of 48 kg (25–50th percentile). Her weight gain was 20 kg, while the height increased by only 2–3 cm in 18 months. Her blood pressure was 115/76mmHg, and her heart rate was 80 bpm. Apart from the signs mentioned above, physical examination revealed central obesity (BMI 23.1 kg/m2), moon face, buffalo hump, supra-clavicular fat pads and bruising at the left fossa cubitalis. Her pupils were 7 mm in diameter and barely reacted to light. There was a fan-shaped visual field defect in the left eye. Her breasts were Tanner stage III and pubic hair was Tanner stage II, although menarche had not yet occurred. The parents and her younger brother at 6 years of age did not have symptoms related to Cushing syndrome, acromegaly or gigantism. There was no family history of pituitary tumor or other endocrine tumors. She had increased midnight serum cortisol (24.35 µg/dL, normal range < 1.8 µg/mL) and 24-hour urine free cortisol (24hUFC) (308.0 µg, normal range 12.3–103.5). The plasma ACTH level ranged from 118 to 151 pg/mL (< 46pg/mL). The 24hUFC was not suppressed (79.2 µg) after 48 h low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST), but suppressed to 32.8 µg (suppression rate 89.4%) after 48 h high-dose dexamethasone. Sella enhanced MRI showed a giant pituitary tumor measured 51.8 × 29.3 × 14.0 mm with heterogeneous density (Fig. 1). The mass compressed the optic chiasma and surrounded the bilateral cavernous sinus (Knosp 4). Therefore, an invasive giant pituitary ACTH adenoma was clinically diagnosed. The morning growth hormone (GH) was 1.0ng/ml (< 2 ng/ml) and insulin-like growth factor 1 416 ng/ml (88–452 ng/ml). The prolactin (PRL), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) were all in normal ranges, as well as serum sodium, potassium, blood glucose and urine osmolality. Abdominal ultrasonography revealed a fatty liver. Tests concerning type 1 multiple endocrine neoplasia included serum calcium, phosphate, parathyroid hormone, gastrin and glucagon, which were all unremarkable (Table 1). Fig. 1 Contrast-enhanced coronal (A) and sagittal (B) T1-weighted MRI on admission. The sellar mass measured 51.8 × 29.3 × 14.0 cm (TD × VD × APD) with a heterogeneous density in the enhanced scan. The diaphragma sellea was dramatically elevated, with optic chiasm compressed. The sellar floor was sunken and bilateral cavernous sinus was surrounded (Knosp 4) Full size image Table 1 Laboratory data on admission Full size table Transsphenoidal pituitary debulk adenomectomy was performed immediately due to multiple cranial nerve involvement and the negative results of Sandostatin loading test. A decompression resection was done. The plasma ACTH level declined to 77 pg/ml and serum cortisol 30.2 µg/dl three days after the operation. Vision, pupil dilation, eye movements and blepharoptosis also partially improved. Histopathology and immunohistochemical staining confirmed a densely–granulated corticotroph adenoma (Fig. 2, NanoZoomer S360 digital slide scanner and NDP.view 2.9.25 software, Hamamatsu, Japan). Neither necrosis nor mitotic activity was observed. The immunostaining for somatostatin receptor SSTR2A was positive with a cytoplasmic pattern, while GH, PRL, TSH, FSH, LH and PIT were all negative. The Ki 67 index was found to be 10%. One month after the operation the ACTH level increased to 132 pg/mL again, and the parents agreed to refer their child for radiotherapy to control the residual tumor. Fig. 2 Histopathology and immunohistochemistry staining results of the pituitary tumor. By light microscopy, the tumor cells were mostly basophilic and arranged in papillary architecture. Neither necrosis nor mitotic activity was observed (A hematoxylin-eosin, ×200). Immunohistochemistry staining was positive for ACTH (B immunoperoxidase, ×200) and transcription factor T-PIT (C immunoperoxidase, ×200). Cytoplasmic staining of SSTR2A was observed in around 1/3 tumor cells besides the strong staining of endothelial cells (D immunoperoxidase, ×200). The Ki-67 index was 10% (E immunoperoxidase, ×200). Cytokeratin CAM5.2 was diffusely positive in the cytoplasm (F immunoperoxidase, ×200). The positive control for ACTH and T-PIT was the human anterior pituitary gland, and for SSRT2, Ki-67 and CAM5.2 were cerebral cortex, tonsil and colonic mucosa, respectively Full size image The early onset and invasive behavior of this tumor led to the consideration of whether there was a genetic defect. Genetic studies were recommended for the families and they all agreed and signed the written informed consent forms. Whole exome sequencing (WES) was performed on the patient’s blood sample using an Illumina HiSeq sequencer to an average read depth of at least 90 times per individual. Raw sequence files were mapped to the GRCH37 human reference genome and analyzed using the Sentieon software. The results revealed a germline heterozygous GPR101 gene mutation c.505G > C (p.Gly169Arg), which was subsequently confirmed to be of maternal origin by Sanger sequencing. Meanwhile WES of the tumor tissue identified an additional somatic heterozygous c.2155_2157delTCC (p.S719del) mutation of the USP8 gene . Discussion and conclusions In this report, we described an extremely giant and invasive pituitary ACTH adenoma in a 10-year-old girl. According to Trouillas et al., invasive and proliferative pituitary tumors have a poor prognosis [5]. CD is rare among children, and the fast-growing and invasive nature of the tumor in this case led to the investigation of genetic causes. The somatic USP8 gene mutation has been recently reported to be associated with the pathogenesis of CD [6, 7]. This gene encodes ubiquitin-specific protease 8 (USP8). S718, S719 and P720 are hotspots in different studies [6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14]. They are located at the 14-3-3 binding motif, and the mutations disrupt the binding between USP8 and 14-3-3 protein, which leads to increased deubiquitination and EGFR signaling. High levels of EGFR consequently trigger proopiomelanocortin (POMC) transcription and ACTH secretion [6, 7]. The p.S719del mutation has been previously reported and its pathogenicity has been confirmed [7]. Thus, we speculate the p.S719del mutation plays a role in this patient with CD. It is noteworthy that in our case, the pituitary corticotrophin adenoma was extremely giant and bilaterally invasive. USP8 mutations have been found in 31% of pediatric CD patients [10]. It is well known that microadenomas are most common in adult and pediatric CD patients. Previously, the Chinese and Japanese cohorts observed smaller sizes of USP8-mutated PAs than wild-type PAs [7, 9]. The Chinese cohort also reported a lower rate of invasive adenomas in USP8-mutated PAs [7]. This may be explained by the finding that UPS8 mutations did not significantly promote cell proliferation more than the wild-type ones [6]. Other cohorts suggested no difference in tumor size or invasiveness between USP8-mutated and wild-type PAs [8, 10, 12,13,14], which may be partially explained by the differences in sample sizes and ethnic backgrounds. Owing to the lack of evidence of USP8 mutations significantly contributing to tumor growth and invasiveness, additional pathogenesis should be investigated in this case. The p.Gly169Arg mutation of the GPR101 gene has not been reported in patients with pituitary tumors. In silico predictions were performed using Polyphen-2, Mutation Taster and PROVEAN, and all of the programs reported it to be pathogenic. The GPR101 gene encodes an orphan G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) and microduplication encompassing the gene has been proven to be the cause of X-linked acrogigantism (XLAG) [15]. XLAG is characterized by the early onset of pituitary GH-secreting macroadenomas. Point mutations of GPR101 have been found in patients with PAs that are mostly GH-secreting [15,16,17]. Although their prevalence is very low, an in vitro study supported the pathogenic role of p.E308D, the most common mutation of GPR101. This led to increased cell proliferation and GH production in rat pituitary GH3 cells [15]. Rare cases of PRL, ACTH or TSH-secreting PAs with GPR101 variants were also documented [16, 18]. To date, there have been five cases of ACTH-secreting PAs with four different germline GPR101 mutations: two cases of p.E308D, p.I122T, p.T293I and p.G31S, although in silico predictions and in vitro evaluations using AtT-20 cells have respectively determined the latter two mutations to be non-pathogenic [16, 18]. These patients were mainly children and young adults. Unlike pituitary GH-secreting tumors, the role of GPR101 mutations in the pathophysiology of CD is still questionable. Trivellin et al. demonstrated no statistically significant difference in GPR101 expression between corticotropinomas and normal human pituitaries. No significant correlation between GPR101 and POMC expression levels was found neither [18]. Given the evidences above, we hypothesize that the somatic USP8 mutation is responsible for the overexpression of ACTH in this CD girl while the germline GPR101 mutation contributes to the early onset and fast-growing nature of the tumor. Similarly, a 27-year-old woman with Nelson’s syndrome originally considered to be associated with a germline AIP variant (p.Arg304Gln) was recently reported to have a somatic USP8 mutation. The patient progressed rapidly and underwent multiple transsphenoidal surgeries [19]. Since germline AIP mutations are more commonly seen in GH-secreting PAs [20], the authors proposed that the USP8 mutation might have shifted the tumor towards ACTH-secreting [19]. Further investigations into the pathogenicity of GPR101 p.Gly169Arg and AIP p.Arg304Gln mutations are required to support the hypothesis. In summary, we report a novel germline GPR101 and somatic USP8 mutation in a girl with an extremely giant pituitary ACTH adenoma. The concurrent mutations may lead to the growth and function of the tumor, respectively. Further investigations should be carried out to verify the role of the concurrent mutations in the pathogenesis of pediatric CD. Availability of data and materials The WES data of the blood sample of the patient is available in the NGDC repository (https://ngdc.cncb.ac.cn/gsa-human/) and the accession number is HRA002396. Any additional information is available from the authors upon reasonable request. Abbreviations CD: Cushing’s disease ACTH: adrenocorticotropic hormone PA: pituitary adenoma NRS: numerical rating scale 24hUFC: 24-hour urine free cortisol LDDST: low-dose dexamethasone suppression test USP8: ubiquitin-specific protease 8 POMC: proopiomelanocortin GPCR: G protein-coupled receptor XLAG: X-linked acrogigantism References Weber A, Trainer PJ, Grossman AB, Afshar F, Medbak S, Perry LA, et al. Investigation, management and therapeutic outcome in 12 cases of childhood and adolescent Cushing’s syndrome. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1995;43(1):19–28. CAS Article Google Scholar Storr HL, Alexandraki KI, Martin L, Isidori AM, Kaltsas GA, Monson JP, et al. Comparisons in the epidemiology, diagnostic features and cure rate by transsphenoidal surgery between paediatric and adult-onset Cushing’s disease. Eur J Endocrinol. 2011;164(5):667–74. CAS Article Google Scholar Magiakou MA, Mastorakos G, Oldfield EH, Gomez MT, Doppman JL, Cutler GB Jr, et al. Cushing’s syndrome in children and adolescents. Presentation, diagnosis, and therapy. N Engl J Med. 1994;331(10):629–36. CAS Article Google Scholar Hernández-Ramírez LC, Stratakis CA. Genetics of Cushing’s Syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2018;47(2):275–97. Article Google Scholar Trouillas J, Roy P, Sturm N, Dantony E, Cortet-Rudelli C, Viennet G, et al. A new prognostic clinicopathological classification of pituitary adenomas: a multicentric case-control study of 410 patients with 8 years post-operative follow-up. Acta Neuropathol. 2013;126(1):123–35. Article Google Scholar Reincke M, Sbiera S, Hayakawa A, Theodoropoulou M, Osswald A, Beuschlein F, et al. Mutations in the deubiquitinase gene USP8 cause Cushing’s disease. Nat Genet. 2015;47(1):31–8. CAS Article Google Scholar Ma Z-Y, Song Z-J, Chen J-H, Wang Y-F, Li S-Q, Zhou L-F, et al. Recurrent gain-of-function USP8 mutations in Cushing’s disease. Cell Res. 2015;25(3):306–17. CAS Article Google Scholar Perez-Rivas LG, Theodoropoulou M, Ferrau F, Nusser C, Kawaguchi K, Stratakis CA, et al. The Gene of the Ubiquitin-Specific Protease 8 Is Frequently Mutated in Adenomas Causing Cushing’s Disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(7):E997–1004. CAS Article Google Scholar Hayashi K, Inoshita N, Kawaguchi K, Ibrahim Ardisasmita A, Suzuki H, Fukuhara N, et al. The USP8 mutational status may predict drug susceptibility in corticotroph adenomas of Cushing’s disease. Eur J Endocrinol. 2016;174(2):213–26. CAS Article Google Scholar Faucz FR, Tirosh A, Tatsi C, Berthon A, Hernandez-Ramirez LC, Settas N, et al. Somatic USP8 Gene Mutations Are a Common Cause of Pediatric Cushing Disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017;102(8):2836–43. Article Google Scholar Albani A, Perez-Rivas LG, Dimopoulou C, Zopp S, Colon-Bolea P, Roeber S, et al. The USP8 mutational status may predict long-term remission in patients with Cushing’s disease. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2018;89:454–8. CAS Article Google Scholar Ballmann C, Thiel A, Korah HE, Reis AC, Saeger W, Stepanow S, et al. USP8 Mutations in Pituitary Cushing Adenomas-Targeted Analysis by Next-Generation Sequencing. J Endocr Soc. 2018;2(3):266–78. CAS Article Google Scholar Losa M, Mortini P, Pagnano A, Detomas M, Cassarino MF, Pecori Giraldi F. Clinical characteristics and surgical outcome in USP8-mutated human adrenocorticotropic hormone-secreting pituitary adenomas. Endocrine. 2019;63(2):240–6. CAS Article Google Scholar Weigand I, Knobloch L, Flitsch J, Saeger W, Monoranu CM, Hofner K, et al. Impact of USP8 Gene Mutations on Protein Deregulation in Cushing Disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019;104(7):2535–46. Article Google Scholar Trivellin G, Daly AF, Faucz FR, Yuan B, Rostomyan L, Larco DO, et al. Gigantism and acromegaly due to Xq26 microduplications and GPR101 mutation. N Engl J Med. 2014;371(25):2363–74. CAS Article Google Scholar Lecoq AL, Bouligand J, Hage M, Cazabat L, Salenave S, Linglart A, et al. Very low frequency of germline GPR101 genetic variation and no biallelic defects with AIP in a large cohort of patients with sporadic pituitary adenomas. Eur J Endocrinol. 2016;174(4):523–30. CAS Article Google Scholar Iacovazzo D, Caswell R, Bunce B, Jose S, Yuan B, Hernández-Ramírez LC, et al. Germline or somatic GPR101 duplication leads to X-linked acrogigantism: a clinico-pathological and genetic study. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2016;4(1):56. Article Google Scholar Trivellin G, Correa RR, Batsis M, Faucz FR, Chittiboina P, Bjelobaba I, et al. Screening for GPR101 defects in pediatric pituitary corticotropinomas. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2016;23(5):357–65. CAS Article Google Scholar Perez-Rivas LG, Theodoropoulou M, Puar TH, Fazel J, Stieg MR, Ferrau F, et al. Somatic USP8 mutations are frequent events in corticotroph tumor progression causing Nelson’s tumor. Eur J Endocrinol. 2018;178(1):57–63. CAS Article Google Scholar Tatsi C, Stratakis CA. The Genetics of Pituitary Adenomas. J Clin Med. 2019;9(1). Download references Acknowledgements We thanked Dr. Xiaohua Shi and Dr. Yu Xiao from the Department of Pathology, Peking Union Medical College Hospital for their expertise in pituitary pathology and critical help in accomplishment of our manuscript. Funding This research was supported by “The National Key Research and Development Program of China” (No. 2016YFC0901501), “CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Science” (CAMS-2017-I2M–1–011). They mainly covered the fees for genetic analysis and publications. Author information Authors and Affiliations Department of Pediatrics, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100730, China Xu-dong Bao Department of Endocrinology, Key Laboratory of Endocrinology of National Health Commission, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100730, China Lin Lu, Hui-juan Zhu, Xiao Zhai, Yong Fu, Feng-ying Gong & Zhao-lin Lu Department of Neurosurgery, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100730, China Yong Yao, Ming Feng & Ren-zhi Wang Contributions XB and LL contributed to the study design and manuscript writing. HZ and FG performed genetic analysis. XZ and YF collected the clinical data. YY, MF and RW provided the tumor tissue and histopathology data. ZL revised the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript. Corresponding author Correspondence to Lin Lu. Ethics declarations Ethics approval and consent to participate This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Peking Union Medical College Hospital. The parents of the patient provided written informed consent for research participation. Consent for publication The parents of the patient provided written informed consent for the publication of indirectly identifiable data in this research. Competing interests The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Additional information Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Rights and permissions Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. 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  2. Crinetics Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: CRNX) today announced positive results from the multiple-ascending dose (MAD) portion of a first-in-human Phase 1 clinical study of CRN04894, the company's first-in-class, investigational, oral, nonpeptide adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) antagonist that is being developed for the treatment of Cushing’s disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and other conditions of excess ACTH. Following administration of CRN04894, results showed serum cortisol below normal levels and a marked reduction in 24-hour urine free cortisol excretion in the presence of sustained, disease-like ACTH concentrations. “The design of our Phase 1 healthy volunteer study allowed us to demonstrate CRN04894’s potent pharmacologic activity in the presence of ACTH levels that were in similar range to those seen in CAH and Cushing’s disease patients,” said Alan Krasner, M.D., Crinetics’ chief medical officer. “The observation of dose-dependent reductions in serum cortisol levels to below the normal range even in the presence of high ACTH indicates that CRN04894 was effective in blocking the key receptor responsible for regulating cortisol secretion. We believe this is an important finding that may be predictive of CRN04894’s efficacy in patients.” ACTH is the key regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis controlling adrenal activation. It is regulated by cortisol via a negative feedback loop that acts to inhibit ACTH secretion. This feedback loop is dysregulated in diseases of excess ACTH. In Cushing’s disease, a benign pituitary tumor drives excess ACTH secretion even in the presence of excess cortisol. While in CAH, an enzyme deficiency results in excess androgen synthesis without normal cortisol synthesis, allowing unchecked ACTH production and requiring lifelong glucocorticoid use. In both diseases, excess ACTH drives over-stimulation of the adrenal gland and leads to a host of symptoms including infertility, adrenal rest tumors, and metabolic complications in CAH and, in Cushing’s disease, symptoms include hypertension, central obesity, neuropsychiatric disorders and metabolic complications. To our knowledge, no other ACTH antagonists are currently in clinical development for diseases of ACTH excess such as Cushing’s disease or CAH. The 49 healthy adults evaluated in the multiple ascending dose portion of the Phase 1 study were administered 40, 60 or 80 mg doses of CRN04894, or placebo, daily for 10 days. After 10 days of dosing was complete, evaluable participants were administered an ACTH challenge to stimulate adrenal activation to disease relevant levels. Safety and pharmacokinetic data were consistent with expectations from the single-ascending dose cohorts in the Phase 1 study. There were no discontinuations due to treatment-related adverse events and no serious adverse events reported. Glucocorticoid deficiency was the most common treatment-related adverse event in the MAD cohorts. This was an expected extension of pharmacology given the mechanism of action of CRN04894. CRN04894 showed consistent oral bioavailability in the MAD cohorts with a half-life of approximately 24 hours, which is anticipated to support once-daily dosing. Participants in the MAD cohorts who were administered once nightly CRN04894 experienced a dose-dependent suppression of adrenal function as measured by suppression of serum cortisol production of 17%, 29% and 37% on average from baseline over 24 hours for the 40, 60 or 80 mg dosing groups respectively, (despite requirement for glucocorticoid supplementation in some of these subjects to prevent clinical adrenal insufficiency), compared to an average 2% increase in serum cortisol for individuals receiving placebo. The strong, dose-dependent suppression of serum and urine free cortisol was achieved despite ACTH levels in subjects in the 60 and 80 mg cohorts similar to those typically seen in patients with CAH and Cushing’s disease. Even when an additional exogenous ACTH challenge was administered on top of the already increased ACTH levels, cortisol levels remained below the normal range in subjects receiving CRN04894, indicating clinically significant suppression of adrenal activity. “Due to its central position in HPA axis, ACTH is the obvious target for inhibiting excessive stimulation of the adrenal in diseases of ACTH excess. Even though the field of endocrinology has known about its clinical significance for more than 100 years, we are not aware of any other ACTH antagonist that has entered clinical development. This is an important milestone for endocrinology and for our company.” said Scott Struthers, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Crinetics. “We are very excited to initiate patient studies in Cushing’s disease and CAH with CRN04894, which will be our third home-grown NCE to demonstrate pharmacologic proof-of-concept and enter patient trials.” Crinetics plans to present additional details of safety, efficacy, and biomarker results from the CRN04894 Phase 1 study at an endocrinology-focused medical meeting in 2022. Data Review Conference Call Crinetics will hold a conference call and live audio webcast today, May 25, 2022, at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss results from the MAD cohorts of the Phase 1 study of CRN04894. To participate, please dial 1-877-407-0789 (domestic) or 1-201-689-8562 (international) and refer to conference ID 13730000. To access the webcast, click here. Following the live event, a replay will be available on the Events page of the Company’s website. About the CRN04894 Phase 1 Study Crinetics has completed enrollment of the 88 healthy volunteers in this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 1 study. Participants were divided into multiple cohorts in the single ascending dose (n=39) and multiple ascending dose (n=49) portions of the study. In both the SAD and MAD portions of the study, safety and pharmacokinetics were assessed. In addition, pharmacodynamic responses were evaluated before and after challenges with injected synthetic ACTH to assess pharmacologic effects resulting from exposure to CRN04894. From https://www.streetinsider.com/Corporate+News/Crinetics+Pharmaceuticals+(CRNX)+Reports+Positive+Top-line+Results+Including+Strong+Adrenal+Suppression+from+CRN04894+Phase+1+Study/20126484.html
  3. Abstract Corticotroph cells give rise to aggressive and rare pituitary neoplasms comprising ACTH-producing adenomas resulting in Cushing disease (CD), clinically silent ACTH adenomas (SCA), Crooke cell adenomas (CCA) and ACTH-producing carcinomas (CA). The molecular pathogenesis of these tumors is still poorly understood. To better understand the genomic landscape of all the lesions of the corticotroph lineage, we sequenced the whole exome of three SCA, one CCA, four ACTH-secreting PA causing CD, one corticotrophinoma occurring in a CD patient who developed Nelson syndrome after adrenalectomy and one patient with an ACTH-producing CA. The ACTH-producing CA was the lesion with the highest number of single nucleotide variants (SNV) in genes such as USP8, TP53, AURKA, EGFR, HSD3B1 and CDKN1A. The USP8 variant was found only in the ACTH-CA and in the corticotrophinoma occurring in a patient with Nelson syndrome. In CCA, SNV in TP53, EGFR, HSD3B1 and CDKN1A SNV were present. HSD3B1 and CDKN1A SNVs were present in all three SCA, whereas in two of these tumors SNV in TP53, AURKA and EGFR were found. None of the analyzed tumors showed SNV in USP48, BRAF, BRG1 or CABLES1. The amplification of 17q12 was found in all tumors, except for the ACTH-producing carcinoma. The four clinically functioning ACTH adenomas and the ACTH-CA shared the amplification of 10q11.22 and showed more copy-number variation (CNV) gains and single-nucleotide variations than the nonfunctioning tumors. Keywords: corticotroph; Cushing disease; ACTH-secreting carcinoma; single nucleotide variation; copy number variation; exome 1. Introduction The pathological spectrum of the corticotroph includes ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone)-secreting pituitary adenomas (PA), causing Cushing disease (CD), silent corticotroph adenomas (SCA), Crooke cell adenomas (CCA) and the rare ACTH-secreting carcinoma (ACTH-CA). Pituitary carcinomas account for 0.1 to 0.2% of all pituitary tumors and are defined by the presence of craniospinal or distant metastasis [1,2,3]. Most pituitary carcinomas are of corticotroph or lactotrope differentiation [3]. Although a few cases present initially as CA, the majority develop over the course of several months or years from apparently benign lesions [3,4]. CCA are characterized by the presence of hyaline material in more than 50% of the cells of the lesion, and most of them arise from silent corticotroph adenomas (SCA) or CD-provoking ACTH-secreting adenomas [5]. SCA are pituitary tumors with positive immunostaining for ACTH but are not associated with clinical or biochemical evidence of cortisol excess; they are frequently invasive lesions and represent up to 19% of clinically non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) [6]. ACTH-secreting PA represents up to 6% of all pituitary tumors and causes eloquent Cushing disease (CD), which is characterized by symptoms and signs of cortisol hypersecretion, including a two- to fivefold increase in mortality [7,8]. The 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) classification of PA considers not only the hormones these tumors synthesize but also the transcription factors that determine their cell lineage [9]. TBX19 is the transcription factor responsible for the terminal differentiation of corticotrophs [9]. All tumor lesions of corticotroph differentiation are positive for both ACTH and TBX19. ACTH-secreting PA causing CD are among the best genetically characterized pituitary tumors, with USP8 somatic variants occurring in up to 25–35% of sporadic cases [9]. Yet, information regarding the molecular pathogenesis of the lesions conforming to the whole pathological spectrum of the corticotroph is scarce. The aim of the present study is to characterize the genomic landscape of pituitary tumors of corticotroph lineage. For this purpose, we performed whole exome sequencing to uncover the mutational burden (single-nucleotide variants, SNV) and copy-number variations (CNVs) of these lesions. 2. Results 2.1. Clinical and Demographic Characteristics of the Patients A total of 10 tumor samples from 10 patients were evaluated: 4 ACTH-secreting adenomas causing clinically evident CD, three non-functioning adenomas that proved to be SCA upon immunohistochemistry (IHC), one ACTH-secreting CA with a prepontine metastasis, one rapidly growing ACTH-secreting adenoma after bilateral adrenalectomy (Nelson syndrome) in a patient with CD and one non-functioning, ACTH-producing CCA (Table 1). All except one patient were female; the mean age was 38.8 ± 16.5 years (range 17–61) (Table 1). They all harbored macroadenomas with a mean maximum diameter of 31.9 ± 13 mm (range 18–51). Cavernous sinus invasion was evident on MRI in all but one of the patients (Table 1). Homonymous hemianopia was present in seven patients, whereas right optic nerve atrophy and amaurosis were evident in patient with the ACTH-CA, and in patient with CD and pituitary apoplexy (Table 1). Detailed clinical data are included in Supplementary Table S1. Death was documented in only the patient with pituitary apoplexy, and one patient was lost during follow-up, as of October 2018. Table 1. Clinical features of the tumors analyzed and SNV present in each tumor. 2.2. General Genomic Characteristics of Neoplasms of Corticotrophic Lineage Overall, approximately 18,000 variants were found, including missense, nonsense and splice-site variants as well as frameshift insertions and deletions. Of these alterations, the majority corresponded to single-nucleotide variants, followed by insertions and deletions. The three most common base changes were transitions C > T, T > C and C > G; most of the genetic changes were base transitions rather than transversions (Figure 1). There were several genes across the whole genome affected in more than one way, meaning that the same gene presented missense and nonsense variants, insertions, deletions and splice-site variants (Figure 2). Many of these variants are of unknown pathogenicity and require further investigation. Gains in genetic material were found in 44 cytogenetic regions, whereas 72 cytogenetic regions showed loss of genetic material in all corticotroph tumors. Figure 1. Panel (A) shows the gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging of the patient with ACTH-CA, highlighting in red the metastatic lesion in the prepontine area. Panel (B) shows the hematoxylin and eosin staining displaying the hyaline structures in the perinuclear areas denoting a Crooke cell adenoma. Panel (C,D) depict a representative corticotroph tumor with positive ACTH and TBX19 immunohistochemistry, respectively. Panel (E) shows four graphics: variant classification, variant type, SNV class and transition (ti) or transversion (tv) describing the general results of exome sequencing of the corticotroph tumors. Figure 2. Representative rainfall plots showing the SNV alterations throughout the whole genome of corticotroph tumors (A) CCA, (B) SCA, (C) CD and (D) ACTH-CA, displaying all base changes, including transversions and transitions. No kataegis events were found. Alterations across the genome were seen in all corticotroph tumors. 2.3. ACTH-Secreting Carcinoma (Tumor 1) SNV missense variants were found in the genes encoding TP53 (c.215G > C [rs1042522], p.Pro72Arg); AURKA (c.91T > A [rs2273535], p.Phe31Ile); EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor, c.1562G > A [rs2227983], p.Arg521Lys); HSD3B1 (3-ß-hydroxisteroid dehydrogenase, c.1100C > A [rs1047303], p.Thr367Asn); CDKN1A (cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1A or p21, c.93C > A [rs1801270], p.Ser31Arg); and USP8 (c.2159C > G [rs672601311], p.Pro720Arg). Interestingly, the previously reported USP48, BRAF, BRG1 and CABLES1 variants in pituitary CA cases were not found in this patient’s tumor (Figure 3). All SNV detected in WES experiments were validated by Sanger sequencing. The variants described were selected due to their potential pathogenic participation in other tumors and the allelic-risk association with tumorigenesis. Hereafter, all the mentioned variants in other corticotroph tumors are referred to by these aforementioned variants. Even though these same genes presented other variants, currently the significance of those variants is unknown. Figure 3. Panel (A) shows the oncoplot from the missense variants of the selected genes and their clinical–pathological features. Panels (B–G) depict USP8, EGFR, TP53, AURKA, CDKN1A and HSD3B1 proteins, respectively, with the changes found in DNA impacting aminoacidic changes. In general, the pituitary CA presented more CNV alterations than the benign tumors, with 27 and 32 cytogenetic regions showing gains and losses of genetic material, respectively. The cytogenetic regions showing gains were 10q11.22, 15q11.2, 16p12.3, 1p13.2 and 20p, where genes SYT15, POTEB, ARL6IP1, HIPK1 and CJD6 are coded, respectively. By contrast, 8p21.2 was the cytogenetic region showing loss of genetic material. The previously reported amplification of 1p13.2 was also detected in this tumor (Figure 4) [10]. Figure 4. Hierarchical clustering of corticotroph tumors according to their gains and losses across the whole genome (somatic chromosomes only). High contrast was used to enhance potential CNV alterations; nevertheless, there were only 44 unique cytogenetic regions that showed gains in genetic material with statistical significance, whereas only 72 unique cytogenetic regions showed loss of genetic material with statistical significance. 2.4. Crooke Cell Adenoma (Tumor 2) The CCA showed SNV in the genes encoding TP53, EGFR, HSD3B1 and CDKN1A. However, neither the genes encoding AURKA and USP8 nor those encoding USP48, BRAF, BRG1 and CABLES were affected in this tumor. In CCA, only two and fifteen gains and losses were observed in copy-number variation, respectively. CNVs only showed gains in cytogenetic regions 17q12 and 10q11.22, harboring genes CCL3L1 and NPY4R, respectively, whereas losses were found in cytogenetic regions 18q21.1, 15q12 and 2q11.2, harboring genes KATNAL2, TUBGCP5 and ANKRD36. 2.5. Silent Corticotroph Adenomas (Tumors 3–5) The three SCA shared SNVs in the genes encoding HSD3B1 and CDKN1A. SCA 4 and 5 showed SNV in the genes encoding EGFR, whereas SNV in the genes encoding AURKA and TP53 were present in SCA 3 and 5. None of the SCA were found to have SNV in the genes encoding USP8, USP48, BRAF, BRG1 or CABLES1. The SCA presented only two and eighteen gains and losses (CNV), respectively. In regard to CNV, the these clinically silent tumors presented gains of genetic material in cytogenetic regions 17q22 and 10q11.22, which harbor genes encoding CCL3L1 and NPY4R. Eighteen losses were found distributed in cytogenetic regions 18q21.1, 15q12 and 2q11.2, encompassing the genes encoding KATNAL2, TUBGCP5 and ANKRD36. This CNV pattern closely resembles the one found in the CCA, which is somewhat expected if we consider that both neoplasms are clinically non-functioning 2.6. ACTH-Secreting Adenomas (Cushing Disease) (Tumors 6–9) SNV of the genes encoding TP53 and HSD3B1 were present in tumor samples from all four CD patients, whereas none of these patients harbored adenomas with SNV in the genes encoding USP8 or CDKN1A. An SNV in the gene encoding AURKA was identified in only one of these tumors (tumor 8). EGFR SNV were found in tumors 7 and 9. None of the CD-causing ACTH-secreting adenomas showed the previously reported SNV in the genes encoding USP48, BRAF, BRG1 and CABLES1. CNV analysis in this group of eloquent-area corticotroph tumors revealed 25 gains and 55 losses of genetic material. The gains occurred in cytogenetic regions 17q12, 2p12, 9p24 and 10q11.22, where genes CCL3L1, CTNNA2, FOXD4 and NPY4R are coded, respectively. The losses were localized in cytogenetic regions 21p12, 15q11.2, and 8p23, harboring genes USP16, KLF13 and DEF130A, respectively. We also detected the previously reported 20p13 amplification [10]. 2.7. ACTH-Secreting Adenoma Causing Nelson Syndrome (Tumor 10) This patient’s tumor showed SNV in the genes encoding USP8, TP53, HSD3B1 and CDKN1A but no alterations were found in the genes encoding EGFR and AURKA. This tumor and the ACTH-CA were the only two neoplasms that harbored a USP8 variant. No SNV were identified in the genes encoding USP48, BRAF, BRG1 and CABLES1. Interestingly, CNV analysis revealed the same gains and losses of genetic material found in tumors from other patients with CD. 2.8. Tumor Phylogenic Analysis We performed a phylogenetic inference analysis to unravel a hypothetical sequential step transformation from an SCA to a functioning ACTH-secreting adenoma and finally to an ACTH-CA. The theoretical evolutive development of the ACTH CA, departing from the SCA, shows two main clades, with the smallest one comprising two of the three SCA and two of the five ACTH-adenomas causing CD. Since these four tumors have the same SNV profile, we can assume that they harbor the genes that must be altered to make possible the transition from a silent to a clinically eloquent adenoma; the gene encoding ATF7IP (c.1589A > G [rs3213764], p.K529R) characterizes this clade. The second and largest clade includes the CCA, the ACTH-CA, one of the three SCA and three of the five most aggressive ACTH adenomas causing CD, including the adenoma of the patient with Nelson syndrome. This clade represents the molecular alterations required to evolve from a CD-causing ACTH-adenoma to a more aggressive tumor, or even to a CA and is characterized by the gene encoding MSH3 (c.235A > G [rs1650697], p.I79V) (Figure 5). Figure 5. Phylogenetic analysis of the corticotroph tumors. The theoretical evolutive development of the ACTH-CA, departing from the SCA shows two main clades. The first clade, characterized by ATF7IP gene, comprises 2 of the 3 SCA and 2 of the 5 ACTH-adenomas causing CD. The second clade is characterized by the gene encoding MSH3 and includes the CCA, the ACTH-CA, one of the 3 SCA and 3 of the 5 most aggressive ACTH adenomas causing CD, including the adenoma of the patient with Nelson syndrome. Red dots represent the Cushing Disease provoking adenomas, green dots represent the silent corticotroph tumors, brown dot represent the Crooke cell adenoma and the blue dot represent the corticotroph carcinoma. 2.9. Correlation between Gene Variants and Clinicopathological Features The USP8 variant positively correlated with increased tumor mass (p = 0.019). The CDKN1A variant was significantly associated with silent tumors (p = 0.036). The rest of the genetic variants did not correlate with any of the clinicopathological features tested. The presence of the EGFR variant was not distinctly associated with any of the clinical parameters and was equally present in functional as well as non-functional tumors (p = 0.392). AURKA SNV did not correlate with any of the features, including recurrence (p = 0.524). Detailed statistical results are presented in Supplementary Table S2. 3. Discussion Corticotrophs are highly specialized cells of the anterior pituitary that synthesize and secrete hormones that are essential for the maintenance of homeostasis. In this study, we sequenced the exome of 10 corticotroph tumors, including three SCA, four ACTH adenomas causing CD, an ACTH adenoma in a patient with Nelson syndrome, a CCA and an ACTH-CA in total, representing the broad pathological spectrum of this cell. Our results portray the genomic landscape of all the neoplasms that are known to affect the corticotroph. The neoplasm with the highest number of genomic abnormalities, including SNV and CNV, was the ACTH-CA, followed by the CCA and the CD tissues. Of all the genes harboring SNVs, six were found to be present in at least two of our tumor samples: HSD3B1, TP53, CDKN1A, EGFR, AURKA and USP8. The HSD3B1 gene encodes a rate-limiting enzyme required for all pathways of dihydrotestosterone synthesis and is abundantly expressed in adrenal tumors. Gain of function of this HSD3B1 variant, which has a global allelic prevalence of 0.69678 [11], results in resistance to proteasomal degradation with the consequent accumulation of the enzyme and has been associated with a poor prognosis in patients with prostate cancer [12]. Nine of the ten corticotroph tumors in our cohort harbored an SNV of the tumor suppressor gene TP53. The TP53 variant described in our cohort has been reported to be present in 80% of non-functioning pituitary adenomas and is apparently associated with a younger age at presentation and with cavernous sinus invasion [13]. Furthermore, this TP53 variant results in a reduced expression of CDKN1A and an increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as well as an increased cellular proliferation rate [13]. CDKN1A (also known as p21) is a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor regulating cell cycle progression. The SNV described in our study was reported to alter DNA binding ability and expression and has a global allelic frequency of 0.086945 [14]. This cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor SNV was found to be associated with breast carcinoma [15] and lung cancer [16]. The presence of this SNV has not been previously explored in pituitary adenomas, although CDKN1A is downregulated in clinically non-functioning pituitary adenomas of gonadotrophic lineage but not in hormone-secreting tumors [17]. EGFR encodes a transmembrane tyrosine kinase receptor, activation of which leads to mitogenic signaling [18]. This gene is upregulated in several cancers and represents a target for molecular therapies [19]. The EGFR SNV described in our corticotroph tumor series was found to be associated with the response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients with breast and lung cancer [18]. EGFR is normally expressed in corticotrophs, where it participates in the regulation of POMC (proopiomelanocortin) gene transcription and cellular proliferation [20]. The EGFR rs2227983 has a 0.264334 global allelic frequency [21]. AURKA is a cell-cycle regulatory serine/threonine kinase that promotes cell cycle progression by the establishment of the mitotic spindle and centrosome separation [22]. Alterations of these gene are related to centrosomal amplification, dysfunction of cytokinesis and aneuploidy [22]; it has a global allelic frequency of 0.18078 [23]. This same SNV has been associated with overall cancer risk, particularly breast, gastric, colorectal, liver and endometrial carcinomas, but it has never been formally studied in pituitary tumors [22]. Activating somatic variants of the gene encoding USP8 were recently found in 25–40% of ACTH-secreting adenomas causing CD [24,25]. Patients harboring these variants are usually younger, more frequently females and were found to have higher long-term recurrence rates in some but not all studies [26,27]. USP8 mediates the deubiquitination of EGFR by inhibiting its interaction with protein 14-3-3, which in turn prevents its proteosomal degradation. Signaling through the recycled deubiquitinated EGFR is increased, leading to increased POMC transcription and cellular proliferation. Most activating USP8 variants are located within its 14-3-3 binding motif [24,25]. Recently, USP8 and TP53 SNV were described in corticotroph tumors as drivers of aggressive lesions [28]. To our knowledge, USP8 variants have not been evaluated in patients with pituitary carcinomas, and none of the previously mentioned studies have included patients with Nelson syndrome. In our cohort, neither the CCA nor the SCA showed variants in USP8, in concordance with previously published studies [25,29], or in the genes USP48, BRAF, BRG1 and CABLES1 [9], and none of them were present in our cohort. Genetic structural variations in the human genome can be present in many forms, from SNV to large chromosomal aberrance [30]. CNV are structurally variant regions, including unbalanced deletions, duplications and amplifications of DNA segments ranging from a dozen to several hundred base pairs, in which copy-number differences have been observed between two or more genomes [31,32]. CNV are involved in the development and progression of many tumors and occur frequently in PA [30,33]. Hormone-secreting pituitary tumors show more CNV than non-functioning tumors [34]. Accordingly, our non-functioning SCA and CCA had considerably fewer chromosomal gains and losses than the CD-causing adenomas and the ACTH-CA. Expectedly, the ACTH-CA had significantly more cytogenetic abnormalities than any other tumor in our series. Interestingly, the ACTH-adenomas causing CD, the SCA and the CCA shared the gain of genetic material in 17q12, highlighting their benign nature. The 17q12 amplification has been described in gastric neoplasms [35]. The only cytogenetic abnormality shared by all types of corticotroph tumors was the gain of genetic material in 10q11.22. Amplification of 10q11.22 was previously described in Li–Fraumeni cancer predisposition syndrome [36]. The ACTH-CA, the CCA and one SCA clustered together showing a related CNV pattern; this CNV profile could be reflective of the aggressive nature of these neoplasms, since both CCA and SCA can follow a clinically aggressive course [5,6]. Our results show that all lesions conforming to the pathological spectrum of the corticotroph share some of the SNV and CNV profiles. These genomic changes are consistent with the potential existence of a continuum, whereby silent tumors can transform into a clinically eloquent tumor and finally to carcinoma, or at least a more aggressive tumor. It can also be interpreted as the common SNV shared by aggressive tumors. It is known that silent corticotroph adenomas may switch into a hormone-secreting tumor [37] and are considered a marker for aggressiveness and a risk factor for malignancy since most of the carcinomas are derived from functioning hormone-secreting adenomas. Our phylogenetic inference analysis showed that the genes ATF7IP and MSH3 could participate in a tumor transition ending in aggressive entities or even carcinomas. ATF7IP is a multifunctional nuclear protein mediating heterochromatin formation and gene regulation in several contexts [38], while MSH3 is a mismatch-repair gene [39]. Events related to heterochromatin remodeling and maintenance have been related to aggressive pituitary adenomas and carcinomas [40]. Additionally, alterations in mismatch-repair genes are related to pituitary tumor aggressiveness and resistance to pharmacologic treatment [41,42]. The variants described in ATF7IP and MSH3 are related to prostate and colorectal cancer, respectively [43,44]. There is evidence suggesting that the ATF7IP variant could be deleterious because it leads to a negative regulation of transcription [45]. Thus, these events could be biologically relevant to corticotroph tumorigenesis, although more research is needed. 4. Conclusions We have shown genomic evidence that within the tumoral spectrum of the corticotroph, functioning ACTH-secreting lesions harbor more SNV and CNV than non-functioning ACTH adenomas. The ACTH-secreting CA shows more genomic abnormalities than the other lesions, underscoring its more aggressive biological behavior. Phylogenetic inference analysis of our data reveals that silent corticotroph lesions may transform into functioning tumors, or at least potentially, into more aggressive lesions. Alterations in genes ATF7IP and MSH3, related to heterochromatin formation and mismatch repair, could be important in corticotroph tumorigenesis. The main drawback of our study is the limited sample size. We are currently increasing the number of samples to corroborate our findings and to be able to perform a more comprehensive complementary phylogenetic analysis of our data. Finally, further research is needed to uncover the roles of these variants in corticotroph tumorigenesis. 5. Materials and Methods 5.1. Patients and Tumor Tissue Samples Ten pituitary tissues were collected: one ACTH-CA, one CCA, three SCA, and five ACTH-secreting PA causing CD, including the tumor of a patient who developed Nelson syndrome after bilateral adrenalectomy. All tumors included in the study were sporadic and were collected from patients diagnosed, treated and followed at the Endocrinology Service and the Neurosurgical department of Hospital de Especialidades, Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Hospital General de Mexico “Dr. Eduardo Liceaga” and Instituto Nacional de Neurologia y Neurocirugia “Manuel Velazquez”. All participating patients were recruited with signed informed consent and ethical approval from the Comisión Nacional de Ética e Investigación Científica of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, in accordance with the Helsinki declaration. CD was diagnosed according to our standard protocol. Briefly, the presence of hypercortisolism was documented based on two screening tests, namely a 24 h urinary free-cortisol level above 130 µg and the lack of suppression of morning (7:00–8:00) cortisol after administration of 1 mg dexamethasone the night before (23:00) to less than 1.8 µg/dL, followed by a normal or elevated plasma ACTH to ascertain ACTH-dependence. Finally, an overnight, high-dose (8 mg) dexamethasone test, considered indicative of a pituitary source, and a cortisol suppression > 69%, provided that a pituitary adenoma was clearly present on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the sellar region. In none of the 10 patients included in the study was inferior petrosal venous sampling necessary to confirm the pituitary origin of the ACTH excess. Invasiveness was defined by the presence of tumor within the cavernous sinuses (CS). DNA was extracted from paraffin-embedded tumor tissues using the QIAamp DNA FFPE tissue kit. From frozen tumors, DNA was obtained using the Proteinase K-ammonium acetate protocol. 5.2. Construction and Sequencing of Whole Exome Libraries Exome libraries were prepared according to the Agilent SureSelect XT HS Human All exon v7 instructions. Briefly, 200 ng of DNA was enzymatically fragmented with Agilent SureSelect Enzymatic Fragmentation Kit. Fragmented DNA was end-repaired and dA-tail was added at DNA ends; then, molecular barcode adaptors were added, followed by AMPure XP bead purification. The adaptor-ligated library was amplified by PCR and purified by AMPure XP beads. DNA libraries were hybridized with targeting exon probes and purified with streptavidin-coated magnetic beads. The retrieved libraries were amplified by PCR and purified by AMPure XP beads and pooled for sequencing in NextSeq 500 using Illumina flow cell High Output 300 cycles chemistry. All quality controls of the libraries were carried out using Screen tape assays and quantified by Qubit fluorometer. Quality parameters included a DNA integrity number above 8 and a 100X sequencing depth aimed with at least 85% of coverage. 5.3. Bioinformatics Analysis The fastq files were subjected to quality control using FastQC v0.11.9, the adapters were removed using Cutadapt v3.4, the alignment was carried out with Burrows–Wheeler Alignment Tool v0.7.17 with the -M option to ensure compatibility with Picard and GRCh38 as a reference genome. The marking of duplicates as well as the sorting was carried out with Picard v2.26.4 with the AddOrReplaceReadGroups programs with the option SORT_ORDER = coordinate and MarkDuplicates, respectively. Variant calling was carried out using Genomic Analysis Toolkit (GATK) v4.2.2.0 following the Best Practices guide (available at https://gatk.broadinstitute.org/) [46] and with the parameters used by Genomic Data Commons (GDC), available at https://docs.gdc.cancer.gov/ [47]. The GATK tools used were CollectSequencingArtifactMetrics, GetPileupSummaries, CalculateContamination and Mutect2. Mutect2 was run with the latest filtering recommendations, including a Panel of Normal and a Germline Reference from the GATK database. Filtering was performed with the CalculateContamination, LearnReadOrientationModel and FilterMutectCalls tools with the default parameters. For the calculation of CNV GISTIC v2.0.23 was used with the parameters used by GDC. Catalog of Somatic Mutation in Cancer (COSMIC) was used to uncover pathogenic variants. For the analysis of variants and CNV, the maftool v2.10.0 and ComplexHeatmap 2.10.0 packages were used. All analyses were carried out on the GNU/Linux operating system under Ubuntu v20.01.3 or using the R v4.0.2 language in Rstudio v2021.09.0+351. A second bioinformatics pipeline was also used, SureCall software (Agilent) with the default parameters used for SNV variant calling. The variants found by both algorithms were taken as reliable SNV. Data were deposited in Sequence Read Archive hosted by National Center for Biotechnology Information under accession number PRJNA806516. Phylogenetic tree inference (PTI) was run by means of the default parameters using matrices for each sample. These matrices contain an identifier for each variant, mutant read counts, counts of reference reads and the gene associated with the variant. The only PTI parameter was Allele Frequency of Mutation and was used to improve the speed of the algorithm. Briefly, PTI uses an iterative process on the variants shared between the samples. First, it builds the base of the tree using the variants shared by all the samples; second, it eliminates these variants and establishes a split node; and third, it eliminates the variants of the sample that produced the division (split). PTI iteratively performs these three steps for all division possibilities. Each tree is given a score based on an aggregated variant count, and the tree with the highest score is chosen as the optimal tree. 5.4. Sanger Sequencing forConfirmation of Exome Findings Exome variant findings in exome sequencing were validated by Sanger sequencing using BigDye Terminator v3.1 Cycle Sequencing kit (ThermoFischer) in a 3500 Genetic Analyzer. Primers used for USP8 [48], TP53 [49], EGFR [50], AURKA [51], CDKN1A [52,53] and HSD3B1 sequencing have been previously reported. 5.5. Hormone and Transcription Factor Immunohistochemistry Paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed tissue blocks were stained with hematoxylin–eosin and reviewed by a pathologist. Tumors were represented with a 2-fold redundancy. Sections (3 μm) were cut and placed onto coated slides. Immunostaining was performed by means of the HiDef detection HRP polymer system (Cell Marque, CA, USA), using specific antibodies against each pituitary hormone (TSH, GH, PRL, FSH, LH and ACTH) and the lineage-specific transcription factors TBX19, POU1F1 and NR5A1, as previously described [54]. Two independent observers performed assessment of hormones and transcription factors expression at different times. 5.6. Statistical Analysis Two-tailed Fisher exact tests and Student’s t tests were used to evaluate the relationship between the identified gene variants and clinicopathological features. A p value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. Statistical software consisted of SPSS v28.0.1 Supplementary Materials The following supporting information can be downloaded at: https://www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/ijms23094861/s1. Author Contributions D.M.-R., K.T.-P. and M.M. conceived, designed and coordinated the project, performed experiments, analyzed, discussed data and prepared the manuscript. S.A.-E., G.S.-R., E.P.-M., S.V.-P., R.S., L.B.-A., C.G.-T., J.G.-C. and J.T.A.-S. performed DNA purification, library preparation, sequencing experiments, bioinformatics analysis and wrote the manuscript. A.-L.E.-d.-l.-M., I.R.-S., E.G.-A., L.A.P.-O., G.G., S.M.-J., L.C.-M., B.L.-F. and A.B.-L. provided biological samples and detailed patient information. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. Funding This work was partially supported by grants 289499 from Fondos Sectoriales Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia, Mexico, and R-2015-785-015 from Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (MM). Institutional Review Board Statement Protocol approved by the Comisión Nacional de Ética e Investigación Científica of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, in accordance with the Helsinki declaration (R-2019-785-052). Informed Consent Statement Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study. Data Availability Statement Data were deposited in Sequence Read Archive hosted by National Center for Biotechnology Information under accession number PRJNA806516. Acknowledgments Sergio Andonegui-Elguera is a doctoral student from Programa de Doctorado en Ciencias Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and received fellowship 921084 from CONACYT. 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  4. Abstract Cushing’s syndrome (CS) secondary to ectopic adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)-producing prostate cancer is rare with less than 50 cases reported. The diagnosis can be challenging due to atypical and variable clinical presentations of this uncommon source of ectopic ACTH secretion. We report a case of Cushing’s syndrome secondary to prostate adenocarcinoma who presented with symptoms of severe hypercortisolism with recurrent hypokalaemia, limb oedema, limb weakness, and sepsis. He presented with severe hypokalaemia and metabolic alkalosis (potassium 2.5 mmol/L and bicarbonate 36 mmol/L), with elevated 8 am cortisol 1229 nmol/L. ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome was diagnosed with inappropriately normal ACTH 57.4 ng/L, significantly elevated 24-hour urine free cortisol and unsuppressed cortisol after 1 mg low-dose, 2-day low-dose, and 8 mg high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests. 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT showed an increase in DOTANOC avidity in the prostate gland, and his prostate biopsy specimen was stained positive for ACTH and markers for neuroendocrine differentiation. He was started on ketoconazole, which was switched to IV octreotide in view of liver dysfunction from hepatic metastases. He eventually succumbed to the disease after 3 months of his diagnosis. It is imperative to recognize prostate carcinoma as a source of ectopic ACTH secretion as it is associated with poor clinical outcomes, and the diagnosis can be missed due to atypical clinical presentations. 1. Introduction Ectopic secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is responsible for approximately 10–20% of all causes of Cushing syndrome [1]. The classic sources of ectopic ACTH secretion include bronchial carcinoid tumours, small cell lung carcinoma, thymoma, medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NET), and phaeochromocytomas [2]. Ectopic adrenocorticotropic syndrome (EAS) is diagnostically challenging due to its variable clinical manifestations; however, prompt recognition and treatment is critical. Ectopic ACTH production from prostate carcinoma is rare, and there are less than 50 cases published to date. Here, we report a case of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to prostate adenocarcinoma who did not present with the typical physical features of Cushing’s syndrome, but instead with features of severe hypercortisolism such as hypokalaemia, oedema, and sepsis. 2. Case Presentation A 61-year-old male presented to our institution with recurrent hypokalaemia, lower limb weakness, and oedema. He had a history of recently diagnosed metastatic prostate adenocarcinoma, for which he was started on leuprolide and finasteride. Other medical history includes poorly controlled diabetes mellitus and hypertension of 1-year duration. He presented with hypokalaemia of 2.7 mmol/L associated with bilateral lower limb oedema and weakness, initially attributed to the intake of complementary medicine, which resolved with potassium supplementation and cessation of the complementary medicine. One month later, he was readmitted for refractory hypokalaemia of 2.5 mmol/L and progression of the lower limb weakness and oedema. On examination, his blood pressure (BP) was 121/78 mmHg, and body mass index (BMI) was 24 kg/m2. He had no Cushingoid features of rounded and plethoric facies, supraclavicular or dorsocervical fat pad, ecchymoses, and no purple striae on the abdominal examination. He had mild bilateral lower limb proximal weakness and oedema. His initial laboratory findings of severe hypokalaemia with metabolic alkalosis (potassium 2.5 mmol/L and bicarbonate 36 mmol/L), raised 24-hour urine potassium (86 mmol/L), suppressed plasma renin activity and aldosterone, central hypothyroidism, and elevated morning serum cortisol (1229 nmol/L) (Table 1) raised the suspicion for endogenous hypercortisolism. Furthermore, hormonal evaluations confirmed ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome with inappropriately normal ACTH (56 ng/L) and failure of cortisol suppression after 1 mg low-dose, 2-day low-dose, and 8 mg high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests (Table 2). His 24-hour urine free cortisol (UFC) was significantly elevated at 20475 (59–413) nmol/day. Table 1 Investigations done during his 2nd admission. Table 2 Diagnostic workup for hypercortisolism. To identify the source of excessive cortisol secretion, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary fossa and computed tomography (CT) of the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis were performed. Pituitary MRI was unremarkable, and CT scan showed the known prostate lesion with extensive liver, lymph nodes, and bone metastases (Figure 1). To confirm that the prostate cancer was the source of ectopic ACTH production, gallium-68 labelled somatostatin receptor positron emission tomography (PET)/CT (68Ga-DOTANOC) was done, which showed an increased DOTANOC avidity in the inferior aspect of the prostate gland (Figure 2). Immunohistochemical staining of his prostate biopsy specimen was requested, and it stained positive for ACTH and markers of neuroendocrine differentiation (synaptophysin and CD 56) (Figures 3 and 4), establishing the diagnosis of EAS secondary to prostate cancer. Figure 1 CT thorax abdomen and pelvis showing prostate cancer (blue arrow) with liver metastases (red arrow). Figure 2 Ga68-DOTANOC PET/CT demonstrating increased DOTANOC avidity seen in the inferior aspect of the right side of the prostate gland (red arrow). Figure 3 Hematoxylin and eosin staining showing acinar adenocarcinoma of the prostate featuring enlarged, pleomorphic cells infiltrating as solid nests and cords with poorly differentiated glands (Gleason score 5 + 4 = 9). Figure 4 Positive ACTH immunohistochemical staining of prostate tumour (within the circle). The patient was started on potassium chloride 3.6 g 3 times daily and spironolactone 25 mg once daily with normalisation of serum potassium. His BP was controlled with the addition of lisinopril and terazosin to spironolactone and ketoconazole, and his blood glucose was well controlled with metformin and sitagliptin. To manage the hypercortisolism, he was treated with ketoconazole 400 mg twice daily with an initial improvement of serum cortisol from 2048 nmol/L to 849 nmol/L (Figure 5). Systemic platinum and etoposide-based chemotherapy was recommended for the treatment of his prostate cancer after a multidisciplinary discussion, but it was delayed due to severe bacterial and viral infection. With the development of liver dysfunction, ketoconazole was switched to intravenous octreotide 100 mcg three times daily as metyrapone was not readily available in our country. However, the efficacy was suboptimal with marginal reduction of serum cortisol from 3580 nmol/L to 3329 nmol/L (Figure 5). The patient continued to deteriorate and was deemed to be medically unfit for chemotherapy or bilateral adrenalectomy. He was referred to palliative care services, and he eventually demised due to cancer progression within 3 months of his diagnosis. Figure 5 The trend in cortisol levels on pharmacological therapy. 3. Discussion Ectopic ACTH secretion is an uncommon cause of Cushing’s syndrome accounting for approximately 9–18% of the patients with Cushing’s syndrome [3]. Clinical presentation is highly variable depending on the aggressiveness of the underlying malignancy, but patients typically present with symptoms of severe hypercortisolism such as hypokalaemiaa, oedema, and proximal weakness which were the presenting complaints of our patient [4]. The classical symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are frequently absent due to the rapid clinic onset resulting in diagnostic delay [5]. Prompt diagnosis and localisation of the source of ectopic ACTH secretion are crucial due to the urgent need for treatment initiation. The usual sources include small cell lung carcinoma, bronchial carcinoid, medullary thyroid carcinoma, thymic carcinoid, and pheochromocytoma. CT of the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis should be the first-line imaging modality, and its sensitivity varies with the type of tumour ranging from 77% to 85% [6]. Functional imaging such as 18-fluorodeoxyglucose-PET and gallium-68 labelled somatostatin receptor PET/CT can be useful in localising the source of occult EAS, determining the neuroendocrine nature of the tumour or staging the underlying malignancy [3, 6]. As prostate cancer is an unusual cause of EAS, we proceeded with 68Ga-DOTANOC PET/CT in our patient to localise the source of ectopic ACTH production. The goals of management in EAS include treating the hormonal excess and the underlying neoplasm as well as managing the complications secondary to hypercortisolism [3]. Prompt management of the cortisol excess is paramount as complications such as hyperglycaemia, hypertension, hypokalaemia, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, and psychosis can develop especially when UFC is more than 5 times the upper limit of normal [3]. Ideally, surgical resection is the first-line management, but this may not be feasible in metastatic, advanced, or occult diseases. Pharmacological agents are frequently required with steroidogenesis inhibitors such as ketoconazole and metyrapone, which reduce cortisol production effectively and rapidly [3, 6], the main drawback of ketoconazole being its hepatic toxicity. The efficacy of ketoconazole is reported to be 44%, metyrapone 50–75%, and ketoconazole-metyrapone combination therapy 73% [3, 7]. Mitotane, typically used in adrenocortical carcinoma, is effective in controlling cortisol excess but has a slow onset of action [3, 8]. Etomidate infusion can be used for short-term rapid control of severe symptomatic hypercortisolism and can serve as a bridge to definitive therapy [9]. Mifepristone, a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, is indicated mainly in difficult to control hyperglycaemia secondary to hypercortisolism [8]. Somatostatin analogue has been proposed as a possible pharmacological therapy due to the expression of somatostatin receptors by ACTH secreting tumours [8, 10]. Bilateral adrenalectomy should be considered in patients with severe symptomatic hypercortisolism and life-threatening complications who cannot be optimally managed with medical therapies, especially in patients with occult EAS or metastatic disease [3, 8]. Bilateral adrenalectomy results in immediate improvement in cortisol levels and symptoms secondary to hypercortisolism [11]. However, surgical complications, morbidity, and mortality are high in patients with uncontrolled hypercortisolism [8], and our patient was deemed by his oncologist and surgeon to have too high a risk for bilateral adrenalectomy. For the treatment of prostate carcinoma, platinum and etoposide-based chemotherapies have been used, but their efficacy is limited with a median survival of 7.5 months [4, 12]. The side effects of chemotherapy can be severe with an enhanced risk of infection due to both cortisol and chemotherapy-mediated immunosuppression. Prompt control of hypercortisolism prior to chemotherapy and surgical procedure is strongly suggested to attenuate life-threatening complications such as infection, thrombosis, and bleeding with chemotherapy or surgery as well as to improve prognosis [3, 13]. There are rare reports of ectopic ACTH secretion from prostate carcinoma. These tumours were predominantly of small cell or mixed cell type, and pure adenocarcinoma with neuroendocrine differentiation are less common [4, 5]. There is a strong correlation between the prognosis and the types of malignancy in patients with EAS, and patients with prostate carcinoma have a poor prognosis [4]. These patients had metastatic disease at presentation, and the median survival was weeks to months despite medical treatment, chemotherapy, and even bilateral adrenalectomy [4], as seen with our patient who passed away within 3 months of his diagnosis. In conclusion, adenocarcinoma of the prostate is a rare cause of EAS. The diagnosis and management are complex and challenging requiring specialised expertise with multidisciplinary involvement. The presentation can be atypical, and it is imperative to suspect and recognise prostate carcinoma as a source of ectopic ACTH secretion. Prompt initiation of treatment is important, as it is a rapidly progressive and aggressive disease associated with intense hypercortisolism resulting in high rates of mortality and morbidity. Data Availability The data used to support the findings of this study are included within the article. Conflicts of Interest The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest. Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank the Pathology Department of Changi General Hospital for their contribution to this case. References I. Ilias, D. J. Torpy, K. Pacak, N. Mullen, R. A. Wesley, and L. K. Nieman, “Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic corticotropin secretion: twenty years’ experience at the national institutes of health,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 90, no. 8, pp. 4955–4962, 2005.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar J. Newell-Price, P. Trainer, M. Besser, and A. Grossman, “The diagnosis and differential diagnosis of cushing’s syndrome and pseudo-cushing’s states,” Endocrine Reviews, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 647–672, 1998.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar J. Young, M. Haissaguerre, O. Viera-Pinto, O. Chabre, E. Baudin, and A. Tabarin, “Management of endocrine disease: cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion: an expert operational opinion,” European Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 182, no. 4, pp. R29–R58, 2020.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar M. S. Elston, V. B. Crawford, M. Swarbrick, M. S. Dray, M. Head, and J. V. Conaglen, “Severe Cushing’s syndrome due to small cell prostate carcinoma: a case and review of literature,” Endocrine Connections, vol. 6, no. 5, pp. R80–R86, 2017.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar O. M. Alshaikh, A. A. Al-Mahfouz, H. Al-Hindi, A. B. Mahfouz, and A. S. Alzahrani, “Unusual cause of ectopic secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone: cushing syndrome attributable to small cell prostate cancer,” Endocrine Practice, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 249–254, 2010.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar A. Sundin, R. Arnold, E. Baudin et al., “ENETS consensus guidelines for the standards of care in neuroendocrine tumors: radiological, nuclear medicine and hybrid imaging,” Neuroendocrinology, vol. 105, no. 3, pp. 212–244, 2017.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar J.-B. Corcuff, J. Young, P. Masquefa-Giraud, P. Chanson, E. Baudin, and A. Tabarin, “Rapid control of severe neoplastic hypercortisolism with metyrapone and ketoconazole,” European Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 172, no. 4, pp. 473–481, 2015.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar L. K. Nieman, B. M. K. Biller, J. W. Findling et al., “Treatment of cushing's syndrome: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 100, no. 8, pp. 2807–2831, 2015.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar T. B. Carroll, W. J. Peppard, D. J. Herrmann et al., “Continuous etomidate infusion for the management of severe cushing syndrome: validation of a standard protocol,” Journal of the Endocrine Society, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1–12, 2019.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar K. Von Werder, O. A. Muller, and G. K. Stalla, “Somatostatin analogs in ectopic corticotropin production,” Metabolism, vol. 45, pp. 129–131, 1996.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar N. Klomjit, D. J. Rowan, A. G. Kattah, I. Bancos, and S. J. Taler, “New-onset resistant hypertension in a newly diagnosed prostate cancer patient,” American Journal of Hypertension, vol. 32, no. 12, pp. 1214–1217, 2019.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar R. Nadal, M. Schweizer, O. N. Kryvenko, J. I. Epstein, and M. A. Eisenberger, “Small cell carcinoma of the prostate,” Nature Reviews Urology, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 213–219, 2014.View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar F. A. Collichio, P. D. Woolf, and M. Brower, “Management of patients with small cell carcinoma and the syndrome of ectopic corticotropin secretion,” Cancer, vol. 73, no. 5, pp. 1361–1367, 1994.View at: Google Scholar Copyright Copyright © 2022 Wanling Zeng and Joan Khoo. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. From https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crie/2022/3739957/
  5. Rie Hagiwara Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, Hirosaki 036-8562, Japan Kazunori Kageyama Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, Hirosaki 036-8562, Japan Yasumasa Iwasaki Suzuka University of Medical Science, Suzuka 510-0293, Japan Kanako Niioka Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, Hirosaki 036-8562, Japan Makoto Daimon Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, Hirosaki 036-8562, Japan Keywords: Cushing’s disease, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Proopiomelanocortin, Corticotroph tumor, Histone deacetylase https://doi.org/10.1507/endocrj.EJ21-0778 Abstract Cushing’s disease is an endocrine disorder characterized by hypercortisolism, mainly caused by autonomous production of ACTH from pituitary adenomas. Autonomous ACTH secretion results in excess cortisol production from the adrenal glands, and corticotroph adenoma cells disrupt the normal cortisol feedback mechanism. Pan-histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors inhibit cell proliferation and ACTH production in AtT-20 corticotroph tumor cells. A selective HDAC6 inhibitor has been known to exert antitumor effects and reduce adverse effects related to the inhibition of other HDACs. The current study demonstrated that the potent and selective HDAC6 inhibitor tubastatin A has inhibitory effects on proopiomelanocortin (Pomc) and pituitary tumor-transforming gene 1 (Pttg1) mRNA expression, involved in cell proliferation. The phosphorylated Akt/Akt protein levels were increased after treatment with tubastatin A. Therefore, the proliferation of corticotroph cells may be regulated through the Akt-Pttg1 pathway. Dexamethasone treatment also decreased the Pomc mRNA level. Combined tubastatin A and dexamethasone treatment showed additive effects on the Pomc mRNA level. Thus, tubastatin A may have applications in the treatment of Cushing’s disease. Access the PDF at https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/endocrj/advpub/0/advpub_EJ21-0778/_pdf/-char/en
  6. Abstract Summary The pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is of an unprecedented magnitude and has made it challenging to properly treat patients with urgent or rare endocrine disorders. Little is known about the risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in patients with rare endocrine malignancies, such as pituitary carcinoma. We describe the case of a 43-year-old patient with adrenocorticotrophic hormone-secreting pituitary carcinoma who developed a severe COVID-19 infection. He had stabilized Cushing’s disease after multiple lines of treatment and was currently receiving maintenance immunotherapy with nivolumab (240 mg every 2 weeks) and steroidogenesis inhibition with ketoconazole (800 mg daily). On admission, he was urgently intubated for respiratory exhaustion. Supplementation of corticosteroid requirements consisted of high-dose dexamethasone, in analogy with the RECOVERY trial, followed by the reintroduction of ketoconazole under the coverage of a hydrocortisone stress regimen, which was continued at a dose depending on the current level of stress. He had a prolonged and complicated stay at the intensive care unit but was eventually discharged and able to continue his rehabilitation. The case points out that multiple risk factors for severe COVID-19 are present in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. ‘Block-replacement’ therapy with suppression of endogenous steroidogenesis and supplementation of corticosteroid requirements might be preferred in this patient population. Learning points Comorbidities for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are frequently present in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. ‘Block-replacement’ with suppression of endogenous steroidogenesis and supplementation of corticosteroid requirements might be preferred to reduce the need for biochemical monitoring and avoid adrenal insufficiency. The optimal corticosteroid dose/choice for COVID-19 is unclear, especially in patients with endogenous glucocorticoid excess. First-line surgery vs initial disease control with steroidogenesis inhibitors for Cushing’s disease should be discussed depending on the current healthcare situation. Keywords: Adult; Male; Other; Belgium; Pituitary; Adrenal; Neuroendocrinology; Oncology; Insight into disease pathogenesis or mechanism of therapy; February; 2022 Background The pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has had a significant impact on the health care systems to date. The clinical presentation of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is diverse, ranging from asymptomatic illness to respiratory failure requiring admission to the intensive care unit (ICU). Risk factors for severe course include old age, male gender, comorbidities such as arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic lung-, heart-, liver- and kidney disease, malignancy, immunodeficiency and pregnancy (1). Little is known about the risk of COVID-19 in patients with rare endocrine malignancies, such as pituitary carcinoma. Case presentation This case concerns a 43-year-old man with adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary carcinoma (with cerebellar and cervical drop metastases) with a severe COVID-19 infection. He had previously received multiple treatment modalities including surgery, radiotherapy, ketoconazole, pasireotide, cabergoline, bilateral (subtotal) adrenalectomy and temozolomide chemotherapy as described elsewhere (2). His most recent therapy was a combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors consisting of ipilimumab (3 mg/kg) and nivolumab (1 mg/kg) (anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1, respectively) every 3 weeks for four cycles, after which maintenance therapy with nivolumab (240 mg) every 2 weeks was continued. Residual endogenous cortisol production was inhibited with ketoconazole 800 mg daily. He had stabilized disease with a decrease in plasma ACTH, urinary free cortisol and stable radiological findings (2). Surgical resection of the left adrenal remnant was planned but was not carried out due to the development of a COVID-19 infection. In March 2021, he consulted our emergency department for severe respiratory complaints. He had been suffering from upper respiratory tract symptoms for one week, with progressive dyspnoea in the last three days. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 the day before admission. On examination, his O2 saturation was 72%, with tachypnoea (40/min) and bilateral pulmonary crepitations. His temperature was 37.2°C, blood pressure 124/86 mmHg and pulse rate 112 bpm. High-flow oxygen therapy was initiated but yielded insufficient improvement (O2 saturation of 89% and tachypnoea 35/min). He was urgently intubated for respiratory exhaustion. Investigation Initial investigations showed type 1 respiratory insufficiency with PaO2 of 52.5 mmHg (normal 75–90), PaCO2 of 33.0 mmHg (normal 36–44), pH of 7.47 (normal 7.35–7.45) and a P/F ratio of 65.7 (normal >300). His inflammatory parameters were elevated with C-reactive protein level of 275.7 mg/L (normal <5·0) and white blood cell count of 7.1 × 10⁹ per L with 72.3% neutrophils. His most recent morning plasma ACTH-cortisol level (measured using the Elecsys electrochemiluminescence immunoassays on a Cobas 8000 immunoanalyzer [Roche Diagnostics]) before his admission was 213 ng/L (normal 7.2–63) and 195 µg/L (normal 62–180) respectively, while a repeat measurement 3 weeks after his admission demonstrated increased cortisol levels of 547 µg/L (possibly iatrogenic due to treatment with high-dose hydrocortisone) and a decreased ACTH of 130 ng/L. Treatment On admission, he was started on high-dose dexamethasone therapy for 10 days together with broad-spectrum antibiotics for positive sputum cultures containing Serratia, methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenzae. Thromboprophylaxis with an intermediate dose of low molecular weight heparin (tinzaparin 14 000 units daily for a body weight of 119 kg) was initiated. A ‘block-replacement’ regimen was adopted with the continuation of ketoconazole (restarted on day 11) in view of his endocrine treatment and the supplementation of hydrocortisone at a dose depending on the current level of stress. The consecutive daily dose of hydrocortisone and ketoconazole is shown in Fig. 1. View Full Size Figure 1 ‘Block-replacement’ therapy with ketoconazole and hydrocortisone/dexamethasone. Dexamethasone 10 mg daily was initially started as COVID-19 treatment, followed by hydrocortisone at a dose consistent with current levels of stress. Ketoconazole was restarted on day 11 and titrated to a dose of 800 mg daily to suppress endogenous glucocorticoid production. Citation: Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism Case Reports 2022, 1; 10.1530/EDM-21-0182 Download Figure Download figure as PowerPoint slide Outcome and follow-up He developed multiple organ involvement, including metabolic acidosis, acute renal failure requiring continuous venovenous hemofiltration, acute coronary syndrome type 2, septic thrombophlebitis of the right jugular vein, and critical illness polyneuropathy. He was readmitted twice to the ICU, for ventilator-associated pneumonia and central line-associated bloodstream infection respectively. He eventually recovered and was discharged from the hospital to continue his rehabilitation. Discussion We describe the case of a patient with severe COVID-19 infection with active Cushing’s disease due to pituitary carcinoma, who was treated with high-dose dexamethasone followed by ‘block-replacement’ therapy with hydrocortisone in combination with off-label use of ketoconazole as a steroidogenesis inhibitor. His hospitalization was prolonged by multiple readmissions to the ICU for infectious causes. Our case illustrates the presence of multiple comorbidities for a severe and complicated course of COVID-19 in a patient with active Cushing’s disease. Dexamethasone was initially chosen as the preferred corticosteroid therapy, in analogy with the RECOVERY trial, in which dexamethasone at a dose of 6mg once daily (oral or i.v.) resulted in lower 28-day mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen therapy or invasive mechanical ventilation (3). However, the optimal dose/choice of corticosteroid therapy is unclear, especially in a patient population with pre-existing hypercortisolaemia. A similar survival benefit for hydrocortisone compared to dexamethasone has yet to be convincingly demonstrated. This may be explained by differences in anti-inflammatory activity but could also be due to the fact that recent studies with hydrocortisone were stopped early and were underpowered (4, 5). Multiple risk factors for a complicated course of COVID-19 are present in patients with Cushing’s syndrome and might increase morbidity and mortality (6, 7). These include a history of obesity, arterial hypertension and impaired glucose metabolism. Prevention and treatment of these pre-existing comorbidities are essential. Patients with Cushing’s syndrome also have an increased thromboembolic risk, which is further accentuated by the development of severe COVID-19 infection (6, 7). Thromboprophylaxis with low molecular weight heparin is associated with lower mortality in COVID-19 patients with high sepsis‐induced coagulopathy score or high D-dimer levels (8) and is presently widely used in the treatment of severe COVID-19 disease (9). Subsequently, this treatment is indicated in hospitalized COVID-19 patients with Cushing’s syndrome. It is unclear whether therapeutic anticoagulation dosing could provide additional benefits (6, 7). An algorithm based on the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis-Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation score was proposed to evaluate the ideal anticoagulation therapy in severe/critical COVID-19 patients, with an indication for therapeutic low molecular weight heparin dose at a score ≥5 (9). Furthermore, the chronic cortisol excess induces suppression of the innate and adaptive immune response. Patients with Cushing’s syndrome, especially when severe and active, should be considered immunocompromised and have increased susceptibility for viral and other (hospital-acquired) infections. Prophylaxis for Pneumocystis jirovecii with trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should therefore be considered (6, 7). Additionally, there is a particular link between the pathophysiology of COVID-19 and Cushing’s syndrome. The SARS-CoV-2 virus (as well as other coronaviruses) enter human cells by binding the ACE2 receptor. The transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2), expressed by endothelial cells, is additionally required for the priming of the spike-protein of SARS-CoV-2, leading to viral entry. TMPRSS2 was studied in prostate cancer and found to be regulated by androgen signalling. Consequently, the androgen excess frequently associated with Cushing’s syndrome might be an additional risk factor for contracting COVID-19 via higher TMPRSS2 expression (10), especially in women, in whom the effect of excess androgen would be more noticeable compared to male patients with Cushing’s syndrome. Treating Cushing’s syndrome with a ‘block-replacement’ approach, with suppression of endogenous steroidogenesis and supplementation of corticosteroid requirements, is an approach that should be considered, especially in severe or cyclic disease. The use of this method might decrease the need for monitoring and reduce the occurrence of adrenal insufficiency (7). Our patient was on treatment with ketoconazole, which was interrupted at initial presentation and then restarted under the coverage of a hydrocortisone stress regimen. Ketoconazole was chosen because of its availability. Advantages of ketoconazole over metyrapone include its antifungal activity with the potential for prevention of invasive pulmonary fungal infections, as well as its antiandrogen action (especially in female patients) and subsequent inhibition of TMPRSS2 expression (10). Regular monitoring of the liver function (every month for the first 3 months, at therapy initiation or dose increase) is necessary. Caution is needed due to its inhibition of multiple cytochrome P450 enzymes (including CYP3A4) and subsequently greater risk of drug-drug interactions vs metyrapone (7, 10). Another disadvantage of ketoconazole is the need for oral administration. In our patient, ketoconazole was delivered through a nasogastric tube. i.v. etomidate is an alternative in case of an unavailable enteral route. Finally, as a general point, the first-line treatment of a patient with a novel diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is transsphenoidal surgery. Recent endocrine recommendations pointed out the possibility of initial disease control with steroidogenesis inhibitors in patients without an indication for urgent intervention during a high prevalence of COVID-19 (7). This would allow the optimalization of metabolic parameters; emphasizing that the short-to mid-term prognosis is related to the cortisol excess and not its cause. Surgery could then be postponed until the health situation allows for safe elective surgery (7). This decision depends of course on the evolution of COVID-19 and the healthcare system in each country and should be closely monitored by policymakers and physicians. Declaration of interest The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research reported. Funding This work did not receive any specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sector. Patient consent Written informed consent for publication of their clinical details and/or clinical images was obtained from the patient. Author contribution statement J M K de Filette is an endocrinologist-in-training and was the main author. All authors were involved in the clinical care of the patient. All authors contributed to the reviewing and editing process and approved the final version of the manuscript. 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  7. This article was originally published here Microvasc Res. 2022 Jan 21:104323. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2022.104323. Online ahead of print. ABSTRACT PURPOSE: Macrovascular alterations are prominent in Cushing’s syndrome (CS). Microvascular abnormalities are yet to be established. This cross-sectional observational study aimed to evaluate microvascular changes in nailfold capillaries and their association with disease status and carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) as a marker of atherosclerosis. METHODS: A total of 70 patients with CS [46 (65.7%) ACTH-dependent pituitary adenoma and 24 (34.3%) adrenocortical adenomas] and 100 healthy controls were enrolled. The microvascular structure was evaluated using nailfold video-capillaroscopy (NVC). RESULTS: The median number of capillaries was less [10 mm (IQR: 2, min-max:7-14) vs. 11 mm (IQR: 2, min-max:9-19) (p < 0.001)], the median limb diameter and capillary width were wider in the CS group than in the controls (p = 0.016 and p = 0.002, respectively). Microhemorrhages within limited areas were more frequent in the CS group than in the controls (p = 0.046). Observed capillary changes were similar among the patients with CS with remission or active disease. CIMT levels were higher in the CS group than in the controls and similar in subjects with active disease and remission. Univariate logistic regression analyses revealed that the number of capillaries and capillary widths were associated with body mass index (BMI), the presence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, HbA1c, and CIMT. CONCLUSION: Morphologic alterations present similarly in nailfold capillaries in subjects with CS regardless of disease status, resembling changes in chronic atherosclerotic diseases. Microvascular changes in nailfold capillaries measured using NVC can be used as a marker in the assessment of cardiovascular risk in patients with CS. PMID:35074338 | DOI:10.1016/j.mvr.2022.104323 From https://www.docwirenews.com/abstracts/rheumatology-abstracts/capillary-microarchitectural-changes-in-cushings-syndrome/
  8. This article was originally published here J Endocr Soc. 2021 Nov 24;6(1):bvab176. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvab176. eCollection 2022 Jan 1. ABSTRACT CONTEXT: Acromegaly (ACM) and Cushing’s disease (CD) are caused by functioning pituitary adenomas secreting growth hormone and ACTH respectively. OBJECTIVE: To determine the impact of race on presentation and postoperative outcomes in adults with ACM and CD, which has not yet been evaluated. METHODS: This is a retrospective study of consecutive patients operated at a large-volume pituitary center. We evaluated (1) racial distribution of patients residing in the metropolitan area (Metro, N = 124) vs 2010 US census data, and(2) presentation and postoperative outcomes in Black vs White for patients from the entire catchment area (N = 241). RESULTS: For Metro area (32.4% Black population), Black patients represented 16.75% ACM (P = .006) and 29.2% CD (P = .56). Among the total 112 patients with ACM, presentations with headaches or incidentaloma were more common in Black patients (76.9% vs 31% White, P = .01). Black patients had a higher prevalence of diabetes (54% vs 16% White, P = .005), significantly lower interferon insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 deviation from normal (P = .03) and borderline lower median growth hormone levels (P = .09). Mean tumor diameter and proportion of tumors with cavernous sinus invasion were similar. Three-month biochemical remission (46% Black, 55% White, P = .76) and long-term IGF-1 control by multimodality therapy (92.3% Black, 80.5% White, P = .45) were similar. Among the total 129 patients with CD, Black patients had more hypopituitarism (69% vs 45% White, P = .04) and macroadenomas (33% vs 15% White, P = .05). At 3 months, remission rate was borderline higher in White (92% vs 78% Black, P = 0.08), which was attributed to macroadenomas by logistic regression. CONCLUSION: We identified disparities regarding racial distribution, and clinical and biochemical characteristics in ACM, suggesting late or missed diagnosis in Black patients. Large nationwide studies are necessary to confirm our findings. PMID:34934883 | PMC:PMC8677529 | DOI:10.1210/jendso/bvab176 From https://www.docwirenews.com/abstracts/journal-abstracts/racial-disparities-in-acromegaly-and-cushings-disease-a-referral-center-study-in-241-patients/
  9. Patient: Female, 74-year-old Final Diagnosis: ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome • ectopic ACTH syndrome Symptoms: Edema • general fatigue • recurrent mechanical fall Medication: — Clinical Procedure: — Specialty: Critical Care Medicine • Endocrinology and Metabolic • Family Medicine • General and Internal Medicine • Nephrology • Oncology Objective: Unusual clinical course Background: Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (CS) secondary to an ectopic source is an uncommon condition, accounting for 4–5% of all cases of CS. Refractory hypokalemia can be the presenting feature in patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS), and is seen in up to 80% of cases. EAS can be rapidly progressive and life-threatening without timely diagnosis and intervention. Case Report: We present a case of a 74-year-old White woman who first presented with hypokalemia, refractory to treatment with potassium supplementation and spironolactone. She progressively developed generalized weakness, recurrent falls, bleeding peptic ulcer disease, worsening congestive heart failure, and osteoporotic fracture. A laboratory workup showed hypokalemia, hypernatremia, and primary metabolic alkalosis with respiratory acidosis. Hormonal evaluation showed elevated ACTH, DHEA-S, 24-h urinary free cortisol, and unsuppressed cortisol following an 8 mg dexamethasone suppression test, suggestive of ACTH-dependent CS. CT chest, abdomen, and pelvis, and FDG/PET CT scan showed a 1.4 cm right lung nodule and bilateral adrenal enlargement, confirming the diagnosis of EAS, with a 1.4-cm lung nodule being the likely source of ectopic ACTH secretion. Due to the patient’s advanced age, comorbid conditions, and inability to attend to further evaluation and treatment, her family decided to pursue palliative and hospice care. Conclusions: This case illustrates that EAS is a challenging condition and requires a multidisciplinary approach in diagnosis and management, which can be very difficult in resource-limited areas. In addition, a delay in diagnosis and management often results in rapid deterioration of clinical status. Keywords: Cushing Syndrome, Endocrine System, Hypokalemia Go to: Background Cushing’s syndrome (CS) has a variety of clinical manifestations resulting from excess steroid hormone production from adrenal glands (endogenous) or administration of glucocorticoids (exogenous) [1,2]. Endogenous CS is classified into 2 main categories: ACTH-dependent and ACTH-independent disease. In ACTH-dependent disease, the source of ACTH can further be subdivided into either the pituitary gland or an ectopic source [2]. Ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) results from excess production of ACTH from extra-pituitary sources [2] and accounts for approximately 4–5% of cases of CS [3,4]. Common clinical manifestations of CS include weight gain, central obesity, fatigue, plethoric facies, purple striae, hirsutism, irregular menses, hypertension, diabetes/glucose intolerance, anxiety, muscle weakness, bruising, and osteoporosis [2]. Hypokalemia is a less defining feature, seen in roughly 20% of cases with CS. However, it is present in up to 90% of cases with EAS [2,5], which is attributed to the mineralocorticoid action of steroid [6]. Hypercortisolism due to EAS is usually severe and rapid in onset, and excess cortisol levels can lead to severe clinical manifestations, including life-threatening infections [7]. Moreover, in most patients with EAS, the source of excess ACTH is an underlying malignancy that can further result in rapid deterioration of the overall clinical condition. Although numerous malignancies have been associated with EAS, lung neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are the most common [2,8]. Since the treatment of choice for EAS is complete resection of the tumor, the correct localization of the source of ectopic ACTH is crucial in managing these patients. Traditional radiological investigations can localize these tumors in up to 50% of cases [9]; however, recent studies utilizing somatostatin receptor (SSTR) analogs have increased the sensitivity and specificity of tumor localization [9–11]. This case report describes a challenging case of an elderly patient with EAS who presented with refractory hypokalemia. Her clinical condition deteriorated rapidly in the absence of surgical intervention. Go to: Case Report A 74-year-old White woman was brought to the Emergency Department from her nephrologist’s office with a chief concern of persistent anasarca and recurrent hypokalemia of 1-month duration. In addition, she reported generalized weakness and recurrent mechanical falls in the preceding 3 months. Before presentation in March 2021, she had a medical history of type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease stage 3b, atrial fibrillation on chronic anticoagulation, heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (EF 35–40%), hypothyroidism, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Home medications included diltiazem, apixaban, insulin glargine, levothyroxine, simvastatin, carvedilol, glimepiride, sacubitril, valsartan, and furosemide. On presentation, she was hemodynamically stable with temperature 36.5°C, heart rate 67 beats per min, blood pressure 139/57 mmHg, respiratory rate 20 per min, and saturation 98% on 2 L oxygen supplementation. Her height was 162.6 cm, and weight was 80.88 kg, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.6 kg/m2. A physical exam showed central obesity, bruising in extremities, generalized facial swelling mainly in the periorbital region, severe pitting edema in bilateral lower extremities, and moderate pitting edema in bilateral upper extremities. A laboratory workup revealed serum potassium 2.4 mmol/L (3.6–5.2 mmol/L), serum sodium 148 mmol/L (133–144 mmol/L), and eGFR 31.5 mL/min/1.73 m2. Arterial blood gas analysis showed pH 7.6, PaCO2 48.9 mmHg (35.0–45.0 mmHg), and serum bicarbonate 32 mmol/L (22–29 mmol/L), which was consistent with primary metabolic alkalosis, appropriately compensated by respiratory acidosis. Due to concerns of loop diuretic-induced hypokalemia, she was started on spironolactone and potassium replacement. However, potassium levels persistently remained in the low range of 2–3.5 mmol/L (3.6–5.2 mmol/L) despite confirming compliance to medications and adequate up-titration in the dose of spironolactone and potassium chloride. Hence, the workup for the secondary cause of persistent hypokalemia was pursued. Hormonal evaluation revealed plasma aldosterone concentration (PAC) <1.0 ng/dL, plasma renin activity (PRA) 0.568 ng/mL/h (0.167–5.380 ng/mL/h), 24-h urine free cortisol (UFC) 357 mg/24h (6–42 mg/24h), ACTH 174 pg/mL, and DHEA-S 353 ug/dL (20.4–186.6 ug/dL). ACTH levels on 2 repeat testings were 229 pg/mL and 342 pg/mL. The rest of the laboratory workup is summarized in Table 1. Considering elevated ACTH and 24-h UFC, a preliminary diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome was made. An 8-mg dexamethasone suppression test revealed non-suppressed cortisol of 62.99 ug/dL along with dexamethasone 4050 ng/dL (1600–2850 ng/dL). A pituitary MRI was unremarkable for any focal lesion suggesting a diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ectopic source. Imaging studies were then performed to determine the source. A CT scan of the chest and abdomen revealed adenomatous thickening with nodularity of bilateral adrenal glands, and a 1.4-cm nodule in the right middle lobe (Figure 1A, 1B). FDG-PET/CT showed severe bilateral enlargement of the adrenal glands with severe hyper-metabolic uptake (mSUV 9.2 and 9.1 for left and right adrenal glands, respectively) (Figure 2A). The uptake of the right lung nodule on PET/CT was 1.4 mSUV (Figure 2B). Figure 1. CT chest, abdomen, and pelvis w/o contrast showed bilateral enlargement of adrenal glands (A, red arrows) and a 1.4-cm nodule in the right middle lobe of the lung (B, blue arrow). Figure 2. Whole-body PET/CT following intravenous injection of 40 mCi FDG showed diffuse enlargement of the bilateral adrenal glands with mSUV of 9.2 on the left and 9.1 on the right adrenal gland, respectively (A, red arrows) and low-grade activity with an MSUV of 1.4 in right lung nodule (B, blue arrow). Table 1. Laboratory on initial presentation. Laboratory test Level Reference range WBCs 7.8 k/uL 3.7–10.3 k/uL RBCs 3.05 M/mL 3.–5.2 M/mL Hemoglobin 9.6 g/dL 11.2–15.7 g/dL Hematocrit 27.3% 34–45% Platelets 98 k/mL 155–369 k/mL MCV 89.7 fl 78.2–101.8 fl MCH 31.5 pg 26.4–33.3 pg MCHC 35.2 g/dL 32.5–35.3 g/dL RDW 15.8% 10.1–16.2% Glucose 73 mg/dL 74–90 mg/dL Sodium 148 mmol/L 136–145 mmol/L Potassium 2.4 mmol/L 3.7–4.8 mmol/L Bicarbonate 32 mmol/L 22–29 mmol/L Chloride 108 mmol/L 97–107 mmol/L Calcium 7.0 mg/dL 8.9–10.2 mg/dL Magnesium 1.7 mg/dL 1.7–2.4 mg/dL Phosphorus 2.3 mg/dL 2.5–4.9 mg/dL Albumin 2.4 g/dL 3.3–4.6 g/dL Blood urea nitrogen 41 mg/dL 0–30 ng/dL Creatinine 1.60 mg/dL 0.60–1.10 mg/dL Estimated GFR 31.5 mL/min/1.73m2 >60 mL/min/1.73 m2 Aspartate transaminase 42 U/L 9–36 U/L Alanine transaminase 67 U/L 8–33 U/L Alkaline phosphatase 90 U/L 46–142 U/L Total protein 4.8 g/dL 6.3–7.9 g/dL Arterial blood gas analysis PaCO2 48.9 mmHg 35.0–45.0 mmHg PaO2 63.1 mmHg 85.0–100.0 mmHg %SAT 92.8% 93.0–97.0 HCO3 47.8 mm/L 20.0–26.0 mm/L Base excess 26.3 mm/L <2.0 mm/L pH 7.599 7.350–7.450 Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) 174, 229 and 342 pg/mL 15–65 pg/mL Urine free cortisol, 24 h 357 ug/24 hr 6–42 mg/24 hr 8: 00 AM cortisol following 8 mg dexamethasone (4×2 mg doses) previous day 62.99 mg/dL 8: 00 AM dexamethasone following 8 mg dexamethasone (4×2 mg doses) previous day 4050 ng/dL 1600–2850 ng/dL Based on unsuppressed cortisol following an 8-mg dexamethasone suppression test, negative pituitary MRI, and 1.4-cm lung nodule, we diagnosed ACTH-dependent CS secondary to an ectopic source, most likely from the 1.4-cm lung nodule. While awaiting localization studies, within 3 months of initial presentation, she had 2 hospitalizations, one in May 2021 for acute anemia secondary to bleeding peptic ulcer disease (PUD) requiring endoscopic clipping of the bleeding ulcer, and another in June 2021 for acute on chronic congestive heart failure. The patient’s overall condition continued to deteriorate, and she became progressively weak and wheelchair-bound. A 68-Ga-DOTATATE was planned to establish the source of ectopic ACTH definitively; however, she developed a left hip fracture in July 2021 and could not present for follow-up care. Therefore, she was started on Mifepristone until curative surgery. However, considering the patient’s advanced comorbid conditions, the increased burden of the patient’s health care needs on her elderly husband, and the inability of other family members to provide necessary healthcare-related support, palliative care was pursued. In August 2021, she developed a sacral decubitus ulcer and community-acquired pneumonia. However, she was still alive while receiving palliative care in a nursing home until September 2021. Go to: Discussion Ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) is defined as secretion of ACTH from an extra-pituitary source and is the cause of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) in approximately 4–5% of cases [3,4]. Clinical features of EAS depend on the rate and amount of ACTH production [12]. Among all forms of Cushing’s (excluding adrenal cortical carcinoma), EAS has the worst outcome, with one of the most extensive combined UK & Athens study demonstrating a 5-year survival rate of 77.6%. Compared to Cushing’s disease (CD), patients with EAS have severe and excessive production of ACTH, resulting in highly elevated cortisol levels. This leads to hypokalemia, metabolic alkalosis, worsening glycemia, hypertension, psychosis, and infections. Metabolic alkalosis and hypokalemia are the 2 most common acid-base and electrolyte abnormalities associated with glucocorticoid excess among these patients. Studies have shown that hypokalemia is seen in up to 90% of patients with EAS. Although hypertension and hypokalemia are often attributed to primary hyperaldosteronism, other causes should be sought. Under normal circumstances, the mineralocorticoid effect of cortisol is insignificant due to local conversion to cortisone by the action of 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Excessive cortisol in patients with EAS saturates the action of 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and leads to the appearance of mineralocorticoid action of cortisol [6]. In our patient, the initial treatment of hypokalemia was unsatisfactory, so additional endocrine workup was pursued. Elevated urinary cortisol excretion, plasma ACTH levels, unsuppressed cortisol following 8 mg dexamethasone, and lung mass on CT scan strongly suggested that the clinical symptoms were due to EAS. Unfortunately, despite diagnosing the underlying condition contributing to the patient’s symptoms, her clinical condition rapidly deteriorated without surgical treatment. Various factors resulted in delayed diagnosis in our patient. First, the patient sought medical care only 3 months after symptom onset. Second, furosemide, a medication commonly used to treat patients with HFrEF, is a frequent culprit of hypokalemia and often is treated with adequate potassium supplementation. Third, multiple hospitalizations resulted in delays in the proper endocrine workup necessary for establishing hypercortisolism. Fourth, localization of the ectopic source requires advanced imaging studies, which are only available in a few tertiary care centers. Fifth, even after tumor localization with PET/CT scan, there is still a need for a more definitive localization study using Ga-DOTATATE scan, which has a higher specificity. However, it was unavailable in our institution and was only available in a few tertiary care centers, with the nearest center being 2.5 h away. Sixth, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also played a critical role in promptly providing critical care necessary to the patient. In addition to those, the social situation of our patient also played an essential role in contributing to delays in diagnosis. It is well recognized that EAS is associated with various malignancies, mostly of neuroendocrine origin. The most common location of these tumors was found to be the lung (55.3%), followed by the pancreas (8.5%), mediastinum-thymus (7.9%), adrenal glands (6.4%), and gastrointestinal tract (5.4%) [9]. Prompt surgical removal of ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors is the mainstay of therapy in patients with EAS [13]. However, localization of such tumors with conventional therapy is often challenging as the sensitivity to localize the tumor is 50–60% for conventional imaging such as CT, MRI, and FDG-PET [9]. In a study by Isidori et al, nuclear imaging improved the sensitivity of conventional radiological imaging [9]. Moreover, newer imaging technologies using somatostatin receptor (SSTR) analogs such as 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT further improve the ability to localize the tumor. 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, approved in 2016 by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for imaging well-differentiated NETs, has a high sensitivity (88–93%) and specificity (88–95%) to diagnose carcinoid tumor [14]; however, a systematic review reported a significantly lower sensitivity (76.1%) of 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT to diagnose EAS [15]. Once localized, the optimal management of EAS is surgical re-section of the causative tumor, which is often curative. However, until curative surgery is done, patients should be medically managed. Drugs used to reduce cortisol levels include ketoconazole, mitotane, and metyrapone [16, 17]. These are oral medications and decrease cortisol synthesis by inhibiting adrenal enzymes [17]. Etomidate is the only intravenous drug that immediately reduces adrenal steroid production and can be used when acute reduction in cortisol production is desired [16]. Medical management requires frequent monitoring of cortisol levels and titration of dose to achieve low serum and urine cortisol levels. Mifepristone, an anti-progesterone at a higher dose, works as a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and can be used to block the action of cortisol. Its use results in variable levels of ACTH and cortisol levels in patients with EAS. Hence, hormonal measurement cannot be used to judge therapeutic response, and clinical improvement is the goal of treatment [18]. Drugs inhibiting ACTH secretion by NETs such as kinase inhibitors (vandetanib, sorafenib, or sunitinib) are effective in treating EAS secondary to medullary thyroid cancer [19]. Somatostatin analogs such as octreotide and lanreotide have demonstrated short- and medium-term efficacy in a few EAS patients; however, a few patients failed to improve, necessitating the use of more effective treatment options [19,20]. Hence, they are not considered a first-line drug as monotherapy and should be used in combination with other agents, or as anti-tumoral therapy in non-excisable metastatic well-differentiated NETs [19,20]. Cabergoline, a dopamine agonist, has been used with variable therapeutic effects in a few patients [19]. In 1 patient, the use of combination therapy using Mifepristone and a long-acting octreotide significantly improved EAS [21]. In our patient, we initiated Mifepristone to reduce the burden associated with frequent biochemical monitoring and planned 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT to localize the tumor; however, further diagnostic and therapeutic approaches could not be further undertaken per family wishes. Go to: Conclusions EAS can present with refractory hypokalemia, especially in patients who are already at risk of developing hypokalemia. Diagnosis of EAS is often challenging and requires a multidisciplinary approach. Localization of source of EAS should be done using nuclear imaging, preferably using SSTR analogs, when available. Urgent surgical evaluation remains the mainstay of treatment following tumor localization and can result in a cure. EAS is a rapidly progressive and life-threatening situation that can be fatal if diagnosis or timely intervention is delayed. Go to: Abbreviations ACTH adrenocorticotropic hormone; CS Cushing’s syndrome; CT computed tomography; EAS ec-topic ACTH syndrome; MRI magnetic resonance imaging; FDG/PET 18-F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography; NET neuroendocrine tumors; SSTR somatostatin receptor; EF ejection fraction; PAC plasma aldosterone concentration; PRA plasma renin activity; UFC urine free cortisol; DHEA-S dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; 68-Ga-DOTATATE Gallium 68 (68Ga) 1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tet-raacetic acid (DOTA)-octreotate; PUD peptic ulcer disease Go to: Footnotes Financial support: None declared Go to: References: 1. Pluta RM, Burke AE, Golub RM. JAMA patient page. Cushing syndrome and Cushing disease. JAMA. 2011;306:2742. [PubMed] [Google Scholar] 2. Melmed SKR, Rosen C, Auchus R, Goldfine A. Williams textbook of endocrinology. Elsevier; 2020. [Google Scholar] 3. Rubinstein G, Osswald A, Hoster E, et al. 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  10. The pituitary gland works hard to keep you healthy, doing everything from ensuring proper bone and muscle growth to helping nursing mothers produce milk for their babies. Its functionality is even more remarkable when you consider the gland is the size of a pea. “The pituitary is commonly referred to as the ‘master’ gland because it does so many important jobs in the body,” says Karen Frankwich, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist at Mission Hospital. “Not only does the pituitary make its own hormones, but it also triggers hormone production in other glands. The pituitary is aided in its job by the hypothalamus. This part of the brain is situated above the pituitary, and sends messages to the gland on when to release or stimulate production of necessary hormones.” These hormones include: Growth hormone, for healthy bone and muscle mass Thyroid-stimulating hormone, which signals the thyroid to produce its hormones that govern metabolism and the body’s nervous system, among others Follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones for healthy reproductive systems (including ovarian egg development in women and sperm formation in men, as well as estrogen and testosterone production) Prolactin, for breast milk production in nursing mothers Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which prompts the adrenal glands to produce the stress hormone cortisol. The proper amount of cortisol helps the body adapt to stressful situations by affecting the immune and nervous systems, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and metabolism. Antidiuretic (ADH), which helps the kidneys control urine levels Oxytocin, which can stimulate labor in pregnant women The work of the pituitary gland can be affected by non-cancerous tumors called adenomas. “These tumors can affect hormone production, so you have too little or too much of a certain hormone,” Dr. Frankwich says. “Larger tumors that are more than 1 centimeter, called macroadenomas, can also put pressure on the area surrounding the gland, which can lead to vision problems and headaches. Because symptoms can vary depending on the hormone that is affected by a tumor, or sometimes there are no symptoms, adenomas can be difficult to pinpoint. General symptoms can include nausea, weight loss or gain, sluggishness or weakness, and changes in menstruation for women and sex drive for men.” If there’s a suspected tumor, a doctor will usually run tests on a patient’s blood and urine, and possibly order a brain-imaging scan. An endocrinologist can help guide a patient on the best course of treatment, which could consist of surgery, medication, radiation therapy or careful monitoring of the tumor if it hasn’t caused major disruption. “The pituitary gland is integral to a healthy, well-functioning body in so many ways,” Dr. Frankwich says. “It may not be a major organ you think about much, but it’s important to know how it works, and how it touches on so many aspects of your health.” Adapted from http://www.stjhs.org/HealthCalling/2016/December/The-Pituitary-Gland-Small-but-Mighty.aspx
  11. E. Ferrante, M. Barbot, A. L. Serban, F. Ceccato, G. Carosi, L. Lizzul, E. Sala, A. Daniele, R. Indirli, M. Cuman, M. Locatelli, R. Manara, M. Arosio, M. Boscaro, G. Mantovani & C. Scaroni Journal of Endocrinological Investigation (2021)Cite this article 286 Accesses 6 Altmetric Metricsdetails Abstract Purpose Dynamic testing represents the mainstay in the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome. However, in case of undetectable or detectable lesion < 6 mm on MRI, bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS) is suggested by current guidelines. Aim of this study was to analyze the performance of CRH, desmopressin and high-dose dexamethasone suppression test (HDDST) in the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome as well as the impact of invasive and noninvasive tests on surgical outcome in patients affected by Cushing’s disease (CD). Methods Retrospective analysis on 148 patients with CD and 26 patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome. Results Among CD patients, negative MRI/lesion < 6 mm was detected in 97 patients (Group A); 29 had a 6–10 mm lesion (Group and 22 a macroadenoma (Group C). A positive response to CRH test, HDSST and desmopressin test was recorded in 89.4%, 91·4% and 70.1% of cases, respectively. Concordant positive response to both CRH/HDDST and CRH/desmopressin tests showed a positive predictive value of 100% for the diagnosis of CD. Among Group A patients with concordant CRH test and HDDST, no difference in surgical outcome was found between patients who performed BIPSS and those who did not (66.6% vs 70.4%, p = 0.78). Conclusions CRH, desmopressin test and HDDST have high accuracy in the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent CS. In patients with microadenoma < 6 mm or non-visible lesion, a concordant positive response to noninvasive tests seems sufficient to diagnose CD, irrespective of MRI finding. In these patients, BIPSS should be reserved to discordant tests. Introduction Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is a rare and potentially fatal condition due to chronic exposure to cortisol. After excluding exogenous glucococorticoid assumption from any route, the diagnosis is based on clinical suspicion and further confirmed with appropriate testing as suggested by Endocrine Society Guidelines [urinary free cortisol (UFC), late night serum/salivary cortisol and 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test] [1]. Once the diagnosis of endogenous hypercortisolism is confirmed, the measurement of morning ACTH levels allows to discriminate ACTH-dependent from ACTH-independent CS that originates from primary adrenal disorders. Among ACTH-dependent CS, the most common form is caused by an ACTH-secreting pituitary tumor, a condition named Cushing’s disease (CD), accounting for about 80% of all cases, whereas the rest is due to an ectopic source (EAS); even though ACTH levels are usually higher in EAS than in CD, there is a significant overlap between these two conditions, thus further diagnostic procedures are needed [1]. Desmopressin (DDAVP) stimulatory test is helpful in suggesting risk of recurrence in the post-neurosurgical follow-up, but it seems to have a limited diagnostic utility in the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent CS due to the expression of vasopressin receptors in both CD and EAS [2]. Conversely, high-dose dexamethasone suppression test (HDDST) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) test have been widely used for this purpose and represent the mainstay in the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent CS forms [3,4,5,6]. Despite their satisfactory accuracy, there is no consensus on how to interpret their results [7]. Previous studies found that the presence of concordant clear-cut response to both HDDST and CRH test is able to exclude the diagnosis of EAS, irrespective of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) finding [8, 9]. Even though MRI with intravenous gadolinium administration is certainly useful for individuation of the pituitary tumor, it results in little help in about 30% of cases due to tiny dimensions, localization and characteristics of the ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas [10]. Conversely, radiological studies may sometimes disclose abnormalities with no functional significance, the so-called “pituitary incidentalomas”, that have been found in about 10% of healthy individuals [11], as in up to 38% of patients with EAS [12]. However, it is noteworthy that the finding of a pituitary incidentalomas larger than 6 mm in patients with EAS is usually very rare [13]. The presence of a microadenoma is therefore not enough for hypercortisolism to be labeled as pituitary-dependent and the role of hormonal tests is crucial for a correct diagnosis. When discordant results to dynamic tests and/or when pituitary MRI shows a lesion < 6 mm, bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS) is still recommended as the gold-standard procedure to achieve correct differential diagnosis due to its high sensitivity and specificity [7]. However, even BIPSS is not always fully reliable; false negative results are indeed possible in case of anatomical variations of the venous drainage from the cavernous sinuses to the jugular veins or when BIPSS is performed in a low-normal cortisolemic phase, as might happen in cyclic CS or during treatment with cortisol-lowering medications [14]. Furthermore, BIPSS requires hospitalization, is time- and cost-consuming and in few instances might lead to severe complications [15, 16]. Given the fact that BIPSS is not 100% accurate, has poor reliability to suggest intrapituitary localization/lateralization and has some drawbacks [17], we collected clinical, biochemical and neuroradiological data of a large series of CD patients as well as biochemical and neuroradiological data of a group of EAS patients with the following aims: (i) to describe the responsiveness to dynamic testing (CRH test, DDAVP test and HDDST) and its performance in the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome in possible different scenarios given by MRI finding; (ii) to assess whether the decision of BIPSS execution can affect surgical outcome of patients affected by Cushing’s disease. Patients and methods We performed a retrospective analysis on 148 patients (F/M 113/35, mean age 42.4 ± 14.2 years) affected by CD followed at 2 tertiary care centers in Italy between 2000 and 2017 [Endocrinology Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan (62 patients); Endocrinology Unit, Department of Medicine-DIMED, University of Padova (86 patients)]. The diagnosis of hypercortisolism was performed on the basis of typical clinical features in the presence of at least two of the following abnormal tests: high 24-h UFC levels, loss of circadian rhythm in plasma/salivary cortisol and lack of cortisol suppression after 1 mg of dexamethasone overnight [1]. The diagnosis of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism was confirmed in case of detectable baseline ACTH plasma levels (> 20 ng/L) [18]. Pituitary MRI (magnet strength ranging from 1.5 to 3.0 TESLA over the study period) with gadolinium was performed in all patients and reviewed by experienced neuroradiologists. Differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism was established through: (i) CRH test (positive response: ACTH and/or cortisol plasma levels increase by more than 50% and/or 20%, respectively) [12, 18,19,20]; (ii) high-dose dexamethasone suppression test (HDDST) (positive response: serum cortisol levels reduction to a value of < 50% of the basal level) [19]; (iii) DDAVP test (positive response: increase of both ACTH and cortisol greater than 30% and 20%, respectively) [21, 22]. For CRH and DDAVP tests, all patients were evaluated after an overnight fast; blood samples for ACTH and cortisol measurements were collected − 15, 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120 min after intravenous bolus injection of human CRH 100 µg or DDAVP 10 µg, respectively. For HDDST, dexamethasone 8 mg was administered orally at 23.00 h and serum cortisol levels were measured between 8.00 and 9.00 a.m. on the next morning. The decision whether to perform bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS) was guided by clinical judgement considering neuroradiological and biochemical findings. After catheter placement, ACTH was measured simultaneously in a blood sample obtained from each petrosal sinus and from a peripheral vein before and 1, 3, 5, and 10 min after the injection of 1 µg/Kg of CRH. An inferior petrosal sinus to periphery ratio (IPS:P) ≥ 2 at baseline or ≥ 3 after CRH administration was considered as positive response [23]. All patients included in this study underwent transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) performed by neurosurgeons with recognized expertise in the management of pituitary diseases. The pituitary origin of ACTH secretion was then confirmed by immediate (serum cortisol < 138 nmol/L within 7 days following TSS) and/or sustained biochemical remission [hypoadrenalism (morning serum cortisol < 138 nmol/L or lack of cortisol response to Synacthen stimulation test considering a cut-off of 500 nmol/L) for at least 6 months] after TSS and/or histological examination (defined as positive immunostaining for ACTH on the adenomatous tissue). Finally, data describing biochemical responses to CRH test, DDAVP test and HDDST and pituitary MRI in a group of 26 patients (14 of which were presented in a previous publication) [9] with histologically confirmed ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) were also collected. Statistical analysis Data are shown using mean ± standard deviation for normally distributed continuous variables or median and interquartile range (IQR) for non-Gaussian data and proportion for categorical parameters. Categorical data were analyzed using the χ2 test or the Fisher exact test if the expected value was < 5. Continuous parameters with normal distribution were compared using the t test and non-Gaussian data using the non-parametric test of Mann Whitney. The relation between two or more variable was assessed through logistic regression in case of binary dependent variable and linear regression in case of continuous dependent variable. Sensitivity (SE), specificity (SP), positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) were calculated with 95% confidence intervals (CI) using the exact binomial method. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS, version 25 (IBM, Cary, NC, USA). Results Neuroradiological findings Patients with CD were divided into three groups on the basis of MRI results; group A included 97 patients (65.5%) with negative imaging (n = 40, 27% of total) or with a pituitary lesion < 6 mm (n = 57 patients, 38.5%); group B those with visible pituitary adenoma sized between 6 and 10 mm (29 subjects, 19.6%), while group C accounted for patients with macroadenoma (22 patients, 14.9%) (Fig. 1). Fig. 1 Different groups of patients according to MRI findings Full size image Among patients with EAS, seven had a microadenoma < 6 mm, while pituitary imaging was negative in 19. Biochemical characteristics at baseline Demographic, basal and dynamic biochemical characteristics and remission rates of three groups of patients affected by CD are summarised in Table 1. Table 1 Demographic, basal and dynamic biochemical characteristics and remission rates of three groups of patients Full size table Basal levels of cortisol, ACTH and UFC were evaluated for each group. Because of different assay methods performed during time, we preferred to use relative UFC (UFC/upper normal limit ratio). Patients of Group C showed higher basal ACTH levels compared to patients with negative MRI imaging or microadenomas (Group A + B) [90(54.5–113.5) vs 44.6(33.7–65.6), p < 0.001), without difference between Group A and Group B. No difference in basal cortisol and relative UFC levels was found between groups. Late night salivary cortisol levels were evaluated in 73 patients (47 of Group A, 13 of Group B and C) without any difference between groups. Suppression test Overall, a positive response to HDDST was observed in 91.4% of cases of CD. The rate of responders to HDDST was similar between negative MRI/microadenomas (Group A + B) and macroadenomas (respectively 92.6% vs 83.3%, p = 0.18) and no differences were found in cortisol levels and percentage of cortisol reduction after HDDST among the three different groups of patients (Table 1). Six out of 26 patients affected by EAS were responsive to HDDST (23.1%). HDDST had a 91% SE, 77% SP, 95% PPV and 62% NPV to diagnose Cushing’s disease (Table 2). Table 2 Diagnostic performance of positive response to CRH test, HDDST and their combination for the correct identification of Cushing’s disease Full size table Dynamic tests Overall, CRH test was positive in 89.4% of CD subjects. The response rate was significantly higher in patients with negative MRI/microadenomas (Group A + B) with respect to those with macroadenomas (91.7% vs 75%, p = 0.04), without difference between Group A and Group B. Likewise, negative MRI/microadenomas showed a higher response in terms of ACTH [140.5 (71.9–284.9) vs 82 (26.4–190.9) p = 0.02] and cortisol percentage increase [61.8 (30.7–92.8) vs 36.8 (15.6–63.1), p = 0.03]. As far as DDAVP is concerned, a positive response was recorded in 70.1% of the whole cohort. In this case, unlike CRH test, the response rate was significantly higher in patients with macroadenomas than in those with negative MRI/microadenomas (90% vs 66.3%, p = 0.03). However, no differences between negative MRI/microadenomas and macroadenomas in terms of percentage increase of ACTH and cortisol were found. Concordance of positive responses between CRH test and HDDST was observed in 81.5% of all patients (82.4% in Group A, 88.4% in Group B and 66.6% of Group C) without any difference between groups. In four cases, a negative response to both tests was recorded; all these patients had a macroadenoma with a minimum diameter of 20 mm. Concordant positive responses to CRH and DDAVP tests were observed in 62.6% of patients (62.9% in Group A, 56.5% in Group B and 68.4% in Group C, p = NS between groups). In Group A, the concordance rate between CRH and DDAVP was significantly lower than that observed between CRH test and HDDST (62.9% vs 81.5%, p = 0.035). Additionally, six patients (four of Group A, one of Group B and one of Group C) showed a negative response to both tests. With regards to EAS, one patient had a positive response to CRH test and six patients to HDDST, respectively. Data regarding DDAVP test were available in 22 out of 26 patients: in this subgroup, a false positive response was observed in 11 patients. However, no patient showed a concordant positive response to CRH test and HDDST or to CRH test and DDAVP test. Conversely, two patients responded to both HDDST and DDAVP test. Although it is beyond the aim of this paper, our data confirm previous studies reporting a higher sensitivity of CRH in respect to HDDST and DDAVP test in this setting [24,25,26]. CRH test showed a SE of 89%, SP of 96%, PPV of 99% and NPV of 62% for the diagnosis of CD (Table 2). The combination of the concordant positive responses to CRH test and HDDST performed better than single tests, reaching a 100% SP and PPV irrespective of pituitary MRI. Considering only the patients with negative imaging or a pituitary lesion < 6 mm, the SE, SP, PPV and NPV of combined positive responses were 82%, 100%, 100% and 62%, respectively (Table 2). On the other hand, combined negative responses in this subgroup of patients showed a SP and PPV of 100% for the diagnosis of EAS. Similarly, a positive response to both CRH test and DDAVP test reached a SP and PPV of 100% for the diagnosis of CD (Table 3). Table 3 Diagnostic performance of positive response to DDAVP test or to the combination DDAVP/CRH and DDAVP/HDDST for the correct identification of Cushing’s disease Full size table Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling in CD BIPSS was performed in 29/97 patients of Group A and 1/29 patient of Group B. In particular, 20 of 29 patients of Group A had a negative MRI. In four out of these patients, CRH and HDDST were discordant (two negative results for each test) and BIPSS confirmed a pituitary origin of CS. In the other 16 cases, a positive response to both tests was observed: in 15 cases BIPSS confirmed the diagnosis of CD, while a central/periphery ratio of 2.91 after CRH administration was recorded in one case. The latter patient underwent TSS and CD was then confirmed by immediate and long-term remission of disease. Notably, no patient of Group A presented a negative response to both CRH test and HDDST, while four patients presented a combined negative response to CRH and DDAVP tests. In the remaining nine patients of Group A, MRI showed a visible microadenoma < 6 mm and BIPSS confirmed the diagnosis of CD both in concordant (n = 6) and discordant (n = 3) patients. BIPSS was not consistent with a pituitary origin in a patient of Group B with discordant tests. However, as her pretest probability of having CD was high (she was a young female without any suggestive features of ectopic CS and no lesion at thoracoabdominal computed tomography), also in this case the patient underwent TSS and both short and long-term remission confirmed the diagnosis of CD. No complications were observed in 29/30 patients after BIPSS. One patient died about 24 h after the procedure because of cardiac rupture. Since autopsy revealed a left ventricular free-wall rupture after asymptomatic acute myocardial infarction and cortisol related myopathy, this event was considered as unlikely related to BIPSS. Remission rates after surgery and role of BIPSS in CD patients with inconclusive neuroradiological imaging Overall, surgical remission was achieved in 107/148 (72.3%) patients. No difference between groups was found, also considering all patients with negative MRI or microadenomas (Group A + B) with respect to those with macroadenomas (Group C) (73.8% vs 63.6%, p = 0.31). Finally, when considering patients of Group A with concordant positive responses to HDDST and CRH test (n = 75), no difference in surgical outcome was found between patients who performed BIPSS and those who did not [respectively, 14/21 (66.6%) vs 38/54 (70.4%), p = 0.78] (Fig. 2). Fig. 2 Remission rate in patients of Group A with concordant positive tests Full size image Discussion Differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent CS is challenging and to date a single best approach in the diagnostic work-up of these patients does not exist. Whereas the usefulness of stimulatory and suppression tests is widely accepted, their role to the light of positive MRI (pituitary adenoma < or > 6 mm) or negative findings is still a matter of debate. In the latter case, although BIPSS still represents the gold-standard procedure for differential diagnosis regardless the results of dynamic tests [7, 18], different clinical approaches and opinions are reported in the literature. In a recent opinion statement by members of the Italian Society of Endocrinology, Italian Society of Neurosurgery and Italian Society of Neuroradiology that summarizes different strategies adopted in the prescription of BIPSS [27], the authors report two studies in which BIPSS did not show any influence on neurosurgical remission rates. In the first one, Bochicchio and coll. retrospectively analyzed data from 668 patients affected by CD and described that in 98 subjects who underwent BIPSS, surgical failure was similar to patients who did not [28]; however, in this cohort CRH and TRH tests but not HDDST, were performed and selection criteria for BIPSS were not clearly reported. In the second one, Jehle and coll. performed a retrospective analysis of 193 patients with ACTH-dependent CS [29]; also in this case, BIPSS did not affect remission rate after TSS as far as recurrence and long-term remission rates. The procedure was reserved to patients with equivocal scan and/or biochemical tests; however, biochemical evaluation consisted of ACTH and UFC levels, while CRH test was not performed and data about HDDST were lacking in all but six patients. In a subsequent review about the role of BIPSS in CS, Zampetti et al. [30] suggested that, on the basis of authors’ experience, BIPSS should not be performed in patients with positive response to CRH test (defined as increase > 50% in ACTH and > 30% in cortisol), particularly if a consistent suppression to HDDST is present, independently of MRI findings. This opinion was finally remarked by Losa et al. [14] which pointed out CRH test as the main factor in providing indication to BIPSS. In this area of controversy, we performed a retrospective analysis on 148 patients with CD and 26 patients with EAS aiming to evaluate the role non-invasive tests in the diagnostic work-up, with secondary focus on the need of BIPSS in CD patients with inconclusive neuroradiological examination. In all 148 patients of our cohort, the diagnosis of CD was confirmed by biochemical remission after TSS, histology and/or > 6 months post-surgical hypoadrenalism. In agreement with previous data, our results confirm that CRH test and HDDST have high accuracy in differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent CS [8, 9, 27]. As a whole, a positive response was observed in 89.4% and 91.4% of patients with CD, and in 3.8% and 23.1% of patients with EAS, respectively. More importantly, the combination of concordant positive responses to CRH test and HDDST reaches 100% specificity and PPV, thus allowing the diagnosis of CD irrespective of MRI findings. Otherwise, a single-test approach is not able to reach a specificity of 100%. The same performance is maintained in the subgroup of patients with negative MRI or with a microadenoma < 6 mm. Furthermore, in this subgroup, a negative response to both CRH test and HDDST is sufficient to make the diagnosis of EAS. Interestingly, in CD patients, the response rate to CRH test, as far as ACTH and cortisol percentage increase, were significantly higher in patients with microadenomas or negative imaging in respect to those with macroadenomas. A similar observation was recently reported in a group of 149 CD patients where macroadenomas tended to show a lower increase of ACTH after CRH compared to microadenomas [9]. As a negative correlation between baseline secretion and ACTH and cortisol responses to CRH in CD patients has been described [31], suggesting in this context a different degree of negative feedback impairment at the pituitary level, the finding of higher baseline ACTH levels in our patients may represent the most likely explanation for this observation. Accordingly, the highest rate of false negative responses to dynamic tests were observed in patients with macroadenomas, in which a false negative result to both CRH and HDDST was recorded in four cases; nevertheless, in this condition BIPSS is already overlooked due to the low pretest probability of the co-existence of a pituitary macroadenoma and an ectopic CS. The role of DDAVP test in differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent CS is still controversial and a high frequency of false positive results in patients with EAS has been reported [2]. However, in a recent work including 167 patients with CD and 27 patients with EAS, the positive response to both CRH and DDAVP test showed a positive predictive value of 100% for CD in patients with negative MRI and negative computed tomography scan [32]. In our study, similarly to CRH test and HDDST, also the combination of positive responses to both CRH and DDAVP tests reaches a specificity and PPV of 100% for the diagnosis of CD. However, DDAVP test presents low sensitivity and specificity, thus resulting in a high prevalence of false negative and false positive results as well as a concordance rate significantly lower than that observed for CRH test and HDDST in patients with negative MRI or with a microadenoma < 6 mm. In addition, in four of these patients we recorded a concordant negative response to CRH and DDAVP tests that might have resulted in misdiagnosis. Therefore, our data indicate that DDAVP test may represent a valid alternative, in particular when discordant results arise from other dynamic tests, but CRH test, HDDST and their combination perform better and reduce the need to perform BIPSS. On the other hand, it is well recognized that DDAVP may have an important role in the post-surgical follow-up of CD patients, as the persistence or reappearance of a positive response may precede the clinical recurrence of disease [21, 22, 33,34,35,36,37,38]. In our series, BIPSS confirmed the diagnosis of CD in 28 out of 30 patients who underwent this procedure. Two negative cases included one patient with a pituitary adenoma sized between 6 and 10 mm but discordant CRH test and HDDST and another one with negative imaging and concordant tests. Notably, in the latter case, a borderline central/periphery ratio of 2.91 was recorded. Nevertheless, diagnosis of CD was subsequently proven by remission after neurosurgery, suggesting that BIPSS returned a false negative result in both patients. The proportion of false negative we observed is in line with previous literature data reporting a prevalence of 3–19%, possibly related to anatomical or biochemical variations of disease [14, 17, 27, 30, 39, 40]. Furthermore, BIPSS is burdened by possible complications. In particular, minor adverse events (i.e., groin hematoma, tinnitus, otalgia) have been reported in about 4% of patients, while severe complications (i.e., brainstem infarction, subarachnoid haemorrhage, pulmonary and deep venous thrombosis) are expected in less than 1% of cases [27, 30]. As reported above, in our series one patient died 24 h after BIPSS due to cardiac rupture, while no complications in the other subjects were recorded. Although our fatal event was unlikely related to the procedure and complications are rare, all these observations point out the need for an accurate selection of patients referred to BIPSS. Following the results of diagnostic performance analysis, in those patients with concordant positive responses to CRH test and HDDST but inconclusive neuroradiological findings (i.e., negative imaging or pituitary adenoma < 6 mm), the execution of BIPSS did not improve surgical outcome. Then, our data do not support the routine use of BIPSS in this subgroup of CD patients, in whom BIPSS could have been avoided in 22 out of 29 subjects. In this setting, contrarily to what the current guidelines propose [7, 13, 18, 19], CRH test and HDDST seems to be sufficient to confirm the diagnosis of CD and to provide indication to pituitary surgery. Similarly, a negative response to both tests pointed toward EAS diagnosis; in this circumstance BIPSS can be avoided too. Indeed, the present study does not propose to remove BIPSS from the diagnostic work-up of ACTH-dependent CS diagnosis, but to restrict its use when really necessary. Our study has some limitations: first, its retrospective nature, leading in particular to an inhomogeneous selection of patients referred to BIPSS. Second, our data do not allow to draw conclusions about patients with intermediate pituitary lesion between 6 and 10 mm. Although our approach was to avoid BIPSS even in case of discordant results, except in the presence of clinical features suggestive for ectopic CS (rapid onset, hypokalemia, advanced age), these cases can still represent matter of debate. On the other side, the strength is represented by the comprehensive and punctual biochemical and diagnostic characterization of patients which in our view makes our results very reliable. 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Romanholi DJPC, Machado MC, Pereira CC et al (2008) Role for postoperative cortisol response to desmopressin in predicting the risk for recurrent Cushing’s disease. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 69:117–122. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2265.2007.03168.x CAS Article Google Scholar 39. Swearingen B, Katznelson L, Miller K et al (2004) Diagnostic errors after inferior petrosal sinus sampling. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 89:3752–3763. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2003-032249 CAS Article PubMed Google Scholar 40. Sheth SA, Mian MK, Neal J et al (2012) Transsphenoidal surgery for cushing disease after nondiagnostic inferior petrosal sinus sampling. Neurosurgery 71:14–22. https://doi.org/10.1227/NEU.0b013e31824f8e2e Article PubMed Google Scholar Download references Funding This work was supported by AIRC (Associazione Italiana Ricerca Cancro) grant to GM (IG 2017-20594), Italian Ministry of Health grant to GM (PE-2016-02361797) and by Ricerca Corrente Funds from the Italian Ministry of Health. Author information Author notes E. Ferrante and M. Barbot have equally contributed to this work. Affiliations Endocrinology Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico di Milano, Via Francesco Sforza, 35, 20122, Milan, Italy E. Ferrante, A. L. Serban, G. Carosi, E. Sala, R. Indirli, M. Arosio & G. Mantovani Endocrinology Unit, Department of Medicine DIMED, University of Padova, Padua, Italy M. Barbot, F. Ceccato, L. Lizzul, A. Daniele, M. Cuman, M. Boscaro & C. Scaroni Department of Experimental Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy A. L. Serban Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Milan, Milan, Italy G. Carosi, R. Indirli, M. Arosio & G. Mantovani Neurosurgery Department, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico di Milano, Milan, Italy M. Locatelli Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan, Milan, Italy M. Locatelli Department of Neurosciences, University of Padua, Padua, Italy R. Manara Corresponding author Correspondence to G. Mantovani. Ethics declarations Conflict of interests All authors declare no competing interests. Ethical approval The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan (Comitato Etico Milano Area 2, number 651_2019). Informed consent All subjects gave their written informed consent for the use of their clinical data for research purposes. Additional information Publisher's Note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Rights and permissions Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Reprints and Permissions Cite this article Ferrante, E., Barbot, M., Serban, A.L. et al. Indication to dynamic and invasive testing in Cushing’s disease according to different neuroradiological findings. J Endocrinol Invest (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40618-021-01695-1 Download citation Received13 October 2020 Accepted18 October 2021 Published26 October 2021 DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s40618-021-01695-1 Share this article Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content: Get shareable link Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative Keywords Cushing’s disease ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome Differential diagnosis Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling From https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40618-021-01695-1
  12. Any condition that causes the adrenal gland to produce excessive cortisol results in the disorder Cushing's syndrome. Cushing syndrome is characterized by facial and torso obesity, high blood pressure, stretch marks on the belly, weakness, osteoporosis, and facial hair growth in females. Cushing's syndrome has many possible causes including tumors within the adrenal gland, adrenal gland stimulating hormone (ACTH) produced from cancer such as lung cancer, and ACTH excessively produced from a pituitary tumors within the brain. ACTH is normally produced by the pituitary gland (located in the center of the brain) to stimulate the adrenal glands' natural production of cortisol, especially in times of stress. When a pituitary tumor secretes excessive ACTH, the disorder resulting from this specific form of Cushing's syndrome is referred to as Cushing's disease. As an aside, it should be noted that doctors will sometimes describe certain patients with features identical to Cushing's syndrome as having 'Cushingoid' features. Typically, these features are occurring as side effects of cortisone-related medications, such as prednisone and prednisolone.
  13. Abstract Cushing’s disease is an abnormal secretion of ACTH from the pituitary that causes an increase in cortisol production from the adrenal glands. Resultant manifestations from this excess in cortisol include multiple metabolic as well as psychiatric disturbances which can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. In this report, 23-year-old woman presented to mental health facility with history of severe depression and suicidal ideations. During evaluation, she found to have Cushing’s disease, which is unusual presentation. She had significant improvement in her symptoms with reduction of antidepressant medications after achieving eucortisolism. Cushing syndrome can present with wide range of neuropsychiatric manifestations including major depression. Although presentation with suicidal depression is unusual. Early diagnosis and prompt management of hypercortisolsim may aid in preventing or lessening of psychiatric symptoms The psychiatric and neurocognitive disorders improve after disease remission (the normalization of cortisol secretion), but some studies showed that these disorders can partially improve, persist, or exacerbate, even long-term after the resolution of hypercortisolism. The variable response of neuropsychiatric disorders after Cushing syndrome remission necessitate long term follow up. Keywords cushing syndrome, cushing disease, hypercortisolism Introduction Endogenous Cushing syndrome is a complex disorder caused by chronic exposure to excess circulating glucocorticoids. It has a wide range of clinical signs and symptoms as a result of the multisystem effects caused by excess cortisol.1 The hypercortisolism results in several complications that include glucose intolerance, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, thromboembolism, osteoporosis, impaired immunity with increased susceptibility to infection as well as neuropsychiatric disorders.2,3 Cushing syndrome presents with a wide variety of neuro-psychiatric manifestations like anxiety, major depression, mania, impairments of memory, sleep disturbance, and rarely, suicide attempt as seen in this case.2,4 The mechanism of neuropsychiatric symptoms in Cushing’s syndrome is not fully understood, but multiple proposed theories have been reported, one of which is the direct brain damage secondary to excess of glucocorticoids.5 Case Report A 23-year-old female presented to Al-Amal complex of mental health in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with history of suicidal tendencies and 1 episode of suicidal attempt which was aborted because of religious reasons. She reported history of low mood, having disturbed sleep, loss of interest, and persistent feeling of sadness for 4 months. She also reported history of weight gain, facial swelling, hirsutism, and irregular menstrual cycle with amenorrhea for 3 months. She was prescribed fluoxetine 40 mg and quetiapine 100 mg. She was referred to endocrinology clinic at King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh for evaluation and management of possible Cushing syndrome as the cause of her abnormal mental health. She was seen in the endocrinology clinic where she reported symptoms as mentioned above in addition to headache, acne, and proximal muscle weakness. On examination her vital signs were normal. She had depressed affect, rounded face with acne and hirsutism, striae in the upper limb, and abdomen with proximal muscle weakness (4/5). Initial investigations showed that 24 hour urinary free cortisol was more than 633 µg which is more than 3 times upper limit of normal (this result was confirmed on second sample with level more than 633 µg/24 hour), cortisol level of 469 nmol/L after low dose 1 mg-dexamethasone suppression test and ACTH level of 9.8 pmol/L. Levels of other anterior pituitary hormones tested were within normal range. She also had prediabetes with HbA1c of 6.1 and dyslipidemia. Serum electrolytes, renal function and thyroid function tests were normal. MRI pituitary showed left anterior microadenoma with a size of 6 mm × 5 mm. MRI pituitary (Figure 1). Figure 1. (A-1) Coronal T2, (B-1) post contrast coronal T1 demonstrate small iso intense T1, heterogeneous mixed high, and low T2 signal intensity lesion in the left side of anterior pituitary gland which showed micro adenoma with a size of 6 mm × 5 mm. (A-2) Post-operative coronal T2 and (B-2) post-operative coronal T1. Demonstrates interval resection of the pituitary micro adenoma with no recurrence or residual lesion and minimal post-operative changes. There is no abnormal signal intensity or abnormal enhancing lesion seen. No further hormonal work up or inferior petrosal sinus sampling were done as the tumor size is 6 mm and ACTH level consistent with Cushing’s disease (pituitary source). She was referred to neurosurgery and underwent trans-sphenoidal resection of the tumor. Histopathology was consistent with pituitary adenoma and positive for ACTH. Her repeated cortisol level after tumor resection was less than 27 and ACTH 2.2 with indicated excellent response to surgery. She was started on hydrocortisone until recovery of her hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis documented by normal morning cortisol 3 months after surgery (Table 1). Table 1. Labs. Table 1. Labs. View larger version During follow up with psychiatry her depressive symptoms improved but not resolved and she was able to stop fluoxetine 5 months post-surgery. Currently she is maintained on quetiapine 100 mg with significant improvement in her psychiatric symptoms. Currently she is in remission from Cushing’s disease based on the normal level of repeated 24 hour urinary free cortisol and with an over-all improvement in her metabolic profile. Discussion Cushing syndrome is a state of chronic hypercortisolism due to either endogenous or exogenous sources. Glucocorticoid overproduction by adrenal gland can be adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone dependent which represent most of the cases and ACTH independent.6 To the best of our knowledge this is the first case documented in Saudi Arabia. There are multiple theories behind the neuropsychiatric manifestations in Cushing syndrome. These include increased stress response leading to behavioral changes, prolonged cortisol exposure leading to decreased brain volume especially in the hippocampus, reduced dendritic mass, decreased glial development, trans-cellular shift of water and synaptic loss, and excess glucocorticoid levels inhibiting neurogenesis and promoting neuronal tendency to toxic insult.3,7 In this report, the patient presented with severe depression with suicidal attempt. She had significant improvement in her symptoms with reduction of antidepressant medications but her depression persisted despite remission of Cushing disease. A similar case has been reported by Mokta et al,1 about a young male who presented with suicidal depression as initial manifestation of Cushing disease. As opposed to the present case he had complete remission of depression within 1 month of resolution of hypercortisolism. In general, psychiatric and neurocognitive disorders secondary to Cushing syndrome improves after normalization of cortisol secretion, but some studies showed that these disorders can partially improve, persist, or exacerbate, even long-term after the resolution of hypercortisolism. This may be due to persistence hypercortisolism creating toxic brain effects that occur during active disease.2,8 Similar patients need to be followed up for mental health long after Cushing syndrome has been resolved. Conclusion Depression is a primary psychiatric illness, that is, usually not examined for secondary causes. Symptoms of depression and Cushing syndrome overlap, so diagnosis and treatment of Cushing disease can be delayed. Early diagnosis and prompt management of hypercortisolsim may aid in preventing or lessening psychiatric symptoms. The variable neuropsychiatric disorders associated with Cushing syndrome post-remission necessitates long term follow up. Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Funding: The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Informed Consent Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for the publication of this case and accompanying images. ORCID iD Sultan Dheafallah Al-Harbi https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9877-9371 References 1. Mokta, J, Sharma, R, Mokta, K, Ranjan, A, Panda, P, Joshi, I. Cushing’s disease presenting as suicidal depression. J Assoc Physicians India. 2016;64:82-83. Google Scholar | Medline 2. Pivonello, R, Simeoli, C, De Martino, MC, et al. Neuropsychiatric disorders in cushing’s syndrome. Front Neurosci. 2015;9:1-6. Google Scholar | Crossref | Medline 3. Pereira, AM, Tiemensma, J, Romijn, JA. Neuropsychiatric disorders in Cushing’s syndrome. Neuroendocrinology. 2010;92:65-70. Google Scholar | Crossref | Medline | ISI 4. Tang, A, O’Sullivan, AJ, Diamond, T, Gerard, A, Campbell, P. Psychiatric symptoms as a clinical presentation of Cushing’s syndrome. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2013;12:1. Google Scholar | Crossref | Medline 5. Sonino, N, Fava, GA, Raffi, AR, Boscaro, M, Fallo, F. Clinical correlates of major depression in Cushing’s disease. Psychopathology. 1998;31:302-306. Google Scholar | Crossref | Medline 6. Wu, Y, Chen, J, Ma, Y, Chen, Z. Case report of Cushing’s syndrome with an acute psychotic presentation. Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2016;28:169-172. Google Scholar | Medline 7. Rasmussen, SA, Rosebush, PI, Smyth, HS, Mazurek, MF. Cushing disease presenting as primary psychiatric illness: a case report and literature review. J Psychiatr Pract. 2015;21:449-457. Google Scholar | Crossref | Medline 8. Sonino, N, Fava, GA. Psychiatric disorders associated with Cushing’s syndrome. Epidemiology, pathophysiology and treatment. CNS Drugs. 2001;15:361-373. Google Scholar | Crossref | Medline From https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/11795476211027668
  14. MeganOrrMD, JamesFindlingMD, NathanZwagermanMD, JenniferConnellyMD, KatherineAlbanoMS, JosephBoviMD Show more https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adro.2021.100813Get rights and content Under a Creative Commons license open access Abstract Pituitary carcinoma (PC) is an uncommon intracranial malignancy with a high rate of metastasis, mortality, and inconsistent response to therapy. Because PC is a rare condition (0.1%-0.2% of pituitary tumors), prospective studies and observable data are scarce. Some PC may have an endocrine secretory function and can arise from existing pituitary adenomas. Treatment often includes a combination of surgical resection, radiotherapy, and systemic therapies. Because of the poor treatment response rate and rapid progression, treatment is often palliative. Here we describe a unique, complete amelioration of severe Cushing's disease due to an ACTH secreting pituitary carcinoma followed by the development of pituitary hypoadrenalism after re-irradiation with concurrent temozolomide. Summary Pituitary carcinoma is a rare malignancy with high rates of metastases at diagnosis, inconsistent therapeutic response, and high mortality. Treatment includes a combination of surgical resections, radiotherapy, and medications. Because of the poor treatment response rate and rapid progression, treatment is often palliative. This report describes the complete resolution of severe Cushing's disease due to an ACTH secreting pituitary carcinoma followed by the development of pituitary hypoadrenalism after re-irradiation and concurrent temozolomide radio-sensitization. Introduction Pituitary adenomas (PA) are a common, benign tumor managed with combinations of surgery, radiotherapy, and medication. While uncommon, there are atypical PA with aggressive behaviors that are refractory to treatment. In rare instances, pituitary tumors can metastasize or spread. These malignant behaving tumors are called pituitary carcinomas (PC). PC is challenging to manage as they metastasize early and have a poor response to treatment. In reported PC cases, malignant transformation of atypical adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) secreting PA is a common pathogenesis.1 Features of PC include functional ACTH production and resistance to radiation. Because of the aggressive nature and systemic spread, the prognosis is poor with a high mortality rate of 66% at one year.2 Prospective studies and observable data are scarce. Prior reports of treatment include a combination of surgical resection, radiotherapy, and medication with inconsistent responses. Because of the poor treatment response rate and rapid progression, treatment is often palliative. This report describes a complete resolution of severe Cushing disease due to an ACTH secreting pituitary carcinoma followed by the development of pituitary hypoadrenalism after re-irradiation with concurrent temozolomide. Case Description A 53-year female presented with complaints of blurry vision, right-sided cranial nerve (CN) III palsy, diffuse edema of her face and extremities, and a 15 lb. weight gain over 2 weeks. Visual field testing revealed bitemporal hemianopsia which prompted imaging. MRI demonstrated a large intracranial sellar mass (4.0 × 4.3 cm) invading the suprasellar cistern and compressing the optic chiasm. ACTH and cortisol were elevated, which combined with radiographic evidence, established a diagnosis of an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma and Cushing's disease (CD). The patient underwent a transsphenoidal tumor debulking, followed by CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery two months after surgery (treated to 24 Gy, seeTable 2). Pathology revealed an atypical PA, positive for p53 and with a low Ki-67 index. Table 1. Clinical Course Date Condition 24 h urinary cortisol* Late salivary cortisol* Serum morning cortisol* ACTH* Nov 2009 Before 1st debulking surgery 3,192 N/A N/A 635 Feb 2010 Cyberknife 6.9 1.5 9.6 134 May 2014 Redo-Debulking 40.2 5.5 11.8 190.0 August 2017 3 months post RT 20.1 5.5 39.4 240.8 May 2018 1 year post RT 16.0 5.9 12.6 199.8 Feb 2019 1 year and 6 months post RT 2.1 3.6 6.8 111.8 Jan 2020 Post 3rd Debulking N/A N/A 8.4 88.5 ⁎ 24h urinary cortisol (NR:30-310 ug/24h). Late salivary cortisol(NR < 0.13 ug/dL). Serum morning cortisol (NR: 5-25 ug/dL). ACTH (NR <46 pg/dL) GC: glucocorticoids, CS: Cushing syndrome Table 2. CyberKnife Radiation Treatment Plan Cyber Knife Feb 2010 Target/OAR Volume(cm3) Max Dose(cGy) Min Dose(cGy) Mean Dose(cGy) Standard deviation (SD)(cGy) CTV 7 2817 1214 2403 240 PTV 6 2817 1323 2457 204 Brain Stem 34 1023 28 250 160 Left Eye 7 65 16 29 7 LON 2 1069 39 233 223 Optic Chiasm 1 845 194 448 164 Right Eye 7 164 16 31 12 RON 2 1267 48 298 216 After three years in remission, she experienced worsening symptoms associated with cortisol excess. Medical management of cabergoline (D2 receptor agonist) followed by pasireotide (somatostatin analog) was tried without clinical improvement. Imaging demonstrated the mass had recurred with non-congruent intracranial spread. This noncontiguous intracranial growth met the criteria for PC. A second transsphenoidal subtotal resection was performed. Pathology revealed atypical ACTH secreting adenoma with a similarly low Ki-67, but with a new loss of p53 signaling. Despite debulking, she had biochemical persistence of hypercortisolism. Over the next two months, the patient declined rapidly with weakness, and worsening Cushing's symptoms. She was enrolled in a Phase III clinical trial with osilodrostat (11-Beta hydroxylase inhibitor) however, could not tolerate the investigational drug and was taken off. Subsequent MRI showed evidence of progression with gross residual disease and interval growth. She was referred to radiation oncology. She completed a course of image-guided, intensity modulated, radiotherapy (IG-IMRT) with concurrent temodar (TMZ) radiosensitization. TMZ was dosed at 75 mg/m2 per day for 42 days during radiation. Her IG-IMRT plan consisted of a gross tumor volume (GTV); drawn for MR defined gross disease and a clinical target volume (CTV) encompassing gross disease at risk areas of microscopic disease extension (Figure 1). These volumes were then expanded to 2 planning target volumes (PTV). The first, and larger, PTV was created by expanding the CTV to PTV1 and treated to 50.4 Gy in 28 fractions (180 cGy/fraction). The GTV alone was expanded to PTV2 (integrated boost) and was treated to a total dose of 56 Gy in 28 fractions (200 cGy/fraction) (See Table 3). Over the next two years, the patient had a steady decline in ACTH and cortisol levels and experienced a significant improvement in CD symptoms. Amazingly, she developed hypocortisolemia. Following concurrent chemo-RT, her leg strength and ambulation improved, and she endorsed improvements in vision. Surveillance images taken a year and a half after chemo-RT showed stable size and configuration of the residual sella and parasellar lesion with obvious shrinkage of the residual PC compared to prior scans. Download : Download high-res image (798KB) Download : Download full-size image Figure 1. IG-IMRT Planning Images Radiotherapy Planning session MRI T1 weighted images with contrast (March 2017) showing PTV's and prescribed isodose lines. Red lines: 5600 cGy, dose1. Yellow lines: 5040 cGy, dose 2. Orange lines: PTV1. Purple lines: PTV2. Table 3. IG-IMRT Radiation Treatment Plan IG-IMRT May 2017 Target/OAR Volume(cm3) Max Dose(cGy) Min Dose(cGy) Mean Dose(cGy) SD(cGy) EqD2 (cGy) GTV 83 6091 4922 5621 233 CTV 24 6083 5292 5793 102 PTV 1 241 6118 4753 5423 270 PTV 2 51 6118 5074 5779 106 Brain Stem 32 5784 2374 4701 586 4324 CHIASM PRV 5 5640 4881 5266 171 5109 Eye_L 8 3173 537 1355 574 841 Eye_R 7 3680 542 1551 644 990 EyeLens_L 0.1 997 614 765 81 435 EyeLens_R 0.1 830 626 719 41 406 InnerEar_L 0.5 5088 4235 4687 164 4305 InnerEar_R 0.4 5673 4853 5165 112 5175 LacrimalGland_L 0.7 2207 734 1313 382 810 LacrimalGland_R 0.8 2518 1064 1736 340 1137 OpticChiasm 0.8 5367 4881 5177 89 4981 OpticNerve_L 0.5 5325 2742 4723 592 4353 OpticNerve_R 0.6 5327 3149 4799 493 4456 EqD2: Equivalent dose in 2 Gy fractions Two years following concurrent chemo-RT, a new clival nodule was noted on imaging. Biopsy confirmed pituitary carcinoma. This was managed with single fraction Gamma Knife delivering a margin dose of 16 Gy (Figure 2) to the biopsied area of recurrence. She remains in clinical remission with stable tumor appearance on recent imaging (Figure 3). Download : Download high-res image (686KB) Download : Download full-size image Figure 2. Gamma Knife Radiation Therapy Planning Images Gamma Knife Planning session MRI T1 weighted images with contrast (May 2020) showing GTV and prescribed isodose line. Red lines: 1600 cGy prescribed dose. Blue lines: GTV. Download : Download high-res image (469KB) Download : Download full-size image Figure 3. Follow-up Imaging Follow up MRI imaging (Jan 2021) showing stable tumor appearance at 8 months post-GK, and 46 months post-IGMRT with TMZ. Discussion Over a ten-year history of persistent symptoms and aggressive tumor behavior, this patient's diagnosis evolved from an atypical ACTH secreting pituitary macroadenoma to an invasive ACTH secreting pituitary carcinoma (PC) that was managed by fractionated imaged-guided intensity modulated radiotherapy (IG-IMRT) with concurrent temozolomide (TMZ). Approximately two years post-IG-IMRT, ACTH/cortisol labs had declined, and the lesion was reduced radiographically. Remarkably, she developed hypocortisolemia mandating hydrocortisone replacement therapy despite an elevated plasma ACTH. It is postulated that the remission of Cushing's disease was likely related to chemo-radiotherapy-induced alterations in the post-translation processing of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) with the production of biologically inactive ACTH and significant decreases in cortisol biosynthesis.4 To date, the patient endorses substantial strength, visual, and cognitive improvement. The mainstay of PC treatment begins with surgical transsphenoidal resection, followed by radiotherapy for residual tumor growth, and adjuvant medical treatment. Studies show in the case of atypical PA that progress to PC, early and aggressive treatment provides the longest survival.3 Surgical resection is the initial intervention to avoid morbidity and mortality related to mass effect of these large aggressive tumors, however, it is rarely complete.3 As a result, the residual disease progresses, and multiple surgeries may be performed after a recurrence of disease. Primary pituitary tumors that present with metastases at diagnosis are termed PC. If no metastases are present, histological evaluation can aid in the management of the tumor.3 Tumors with a high mitotic index, high Ki-67 index >3%, and/or p53 immunoreactivity are termed atypical PA for their aggressive growth and tendency to recur after resection.3 In both PC and atypical PA guidelines, evidence of post-surgical growth is treated with radiation therapy. In general, radiotherapy provides a modest benefit of local tumor control, especially when administered before distant metastases arise in atypical PA with malignant potential.3 Focal stereotactic treatment has shown mostly palliative benefit with little prognostic improvement.3 Finally, medical therapy is used to combat tumor growth and hypersecretory function. Non-chemotherapy biotherapy includes somatostatin analogs, particularly in the case of GH and TSH-producing tumors, with variable tumor reduction and a limited period of control. Chemotherapy agents such as doxorubicin, cisplatin, and etoposide-based chemotherapy have been implicated in the treatment of PC.3 Responses are variable and not widely replicated, but observational studies indicated prolonged survival in cases of distant metastases, and in aggressive atypical PA before malignant transformation.1-3 One report demonstrated significant regression of an ACTH-secreting PC and distant metastases induced with cisplatin and etoposide, two cytotoxic platinum-based chemotherapy drugs.4 These agents have variable CNS penetrance, unlike TMZ, but have potential benefit in cases of PC with high mitotic indices. Without prospective, randomized studies, significant conclusions on the benefits of chemotherapeutic agents have yet to be made. Current guidelines for PC that demonstrate progression after primary tumor debulking and radiotherapy include further surgery (alpha), focused radiotherapy (beta), chemotherapy (gamma), and treatment with radionuclides (delta).3 In this case, a complex PC/recurrent atypical PA had a stable positive response to combined fractionated IG-IMRT and TMZ, demonstrating radiological decrease in tumor volume, clinical improvement, and endocrine remission status post 1 year and 8 months. The lasting results of a combined therapy approach in treating PC have been illustrated in other literature examples. In a similar case, an ACTH secreting PC was treated with a course of concurrent radiotherapy, TMZ, and bevacizumab, an anti-VEGF monoclonal antibody.5 The multimodality course was implemented six weeks post-resection. At eight weeks, the resolution of a distant metastasis helped established a positive outcome. The patient followed up this course with a year of adjuvant TMZ. Five years post treatment, there has been no evidence of recurrent disease on imaging or with ACTH monitoring.5 Another report found that an aggressive, functional ACTH-producing pituitary adenoma was managed with concurrent TMZ and radiotherapy after failing maximal conventional therapy. As in the presented PC case, this PA was recurrent after surgical, medical, and radiotherapy interventions. It rapidly progressed biochemically, radiologically, and clinically. After initiating the combined concurrent TMZ and radiation, a rapid biochemical response was observed with cortisol normalization and regression of intracranial tumor volume on MRI at 3 and 6 months. The TMZ therapy was stopped after the sixth cycle, and at twenty-two months out from treatment, the patient continues to have stable tumor volume and biochemical remission. Although the patient did not have metastasis necessary for classification of PC, the recurrent clinical course and aggressive functional nature of the tumor demonstrate the lasting positive outcome of a combined modality approach on tumor growth and endocrine remission.6 In presenting this case, fractionated IG-IMRT with TMZ was effective in achieving stable endocrine remission and partial tumor regression for several years’ duration. The recurrent clival PA is ACTH non-secreting after IG-IMRT and concurrent TMZ which has improved the patient's clinical condition. Although this mass recurred after treatment, it is quite remarkable that her tumor has remained hormonally nonfunctional, and the patient continues to have a resolution of CD symptoms. Limited clinical information exists on successful treatment options for PC. Recurrence, metastasis, and mortality are high after exhausting conventional treatment. The alternative combined therapeutic approach of current TMZ and radiation has shown rare, and lasting effects in this patient. These findings may further support the use of combined fractionated radiotherapy with concurrent TMZ treating in patients with ACTH-secreting PC who fail standard surgical and medical interventions. References 1 Joehlin-Price, A. S., Hardesty, D. A., Arnold, C. A., Kirschner, L. S., Prevedello, D. M., & Lehman, N. L. (2017). Case report: ACTH-secreting pituitary carcinoma metastatic to the liver in a patient with a history of atypical pituitary adenoma and Cushing's disease. Diagnostic Pathology, 12(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13000-017-0624-5 2 Borba, C. G., Batista, R. L., Musolino, N. R. de C., Machado, V. C., Alcantara, A. E. E., Silva, G. O. da, … Cunha Neto, M. B. C. da. (2015). Progression of an Invasive ACTH Pituitary Macroadenoma with Cushing's Disease to Pituitary Carcinoma. Case Reports in Oncological Medicine, 2015(Cd), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/810367 3 Kaltsas, G. A., Nomikos, P., Kontogeorgos, G., Buchfelder, M., & Grossman, A. B. (2005). Clinical review: Diagnosis and management of pituitary carcinomas. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 90(5), 3089–3099. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2004-2231 4 Cornell, R.F., Kelly, D. F., Bordo, G., Corroll, T. B., Duong, H. T., Kim, J., Takasumi, Y., Thomas, J. P., Wong, Y. L., & Findling, J. W. (2013). Chemotherapy-Induced Regression of an Adrenocorticotropin-Secreting Pituitary Carcinoma Accompanied by Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. Case Reports in Endocrinology, 2013;2013:675298 https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/675298 5 Touma, W., Hoostal, S., Peterson, R. A., Wiernik, A., SantaCruz, K. S., & Lou, E. (2017). Successful treatment of pituitary carcinoma with concurrent radiation, temozolomide, and bevacizumab after resection. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 41, 75–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jocn.2017.02.052 6 Misir Krpan, A., Dusek, T., Rakusic, Z., Solak, M., Kraljevic, I., Bisof, V., … Kastelan, D. (2017). A Rapid Biochemical and Radiological Response to the Concomitant Therapy with Temozolomide and Radiotherapy in an Aggressive ACTH Pituitary Adenoma. Case Reports in Endocrinology, 2017, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2419590 Funding: None Disclosures: Dr. Findling reports grants, personal fees and other from Novartis, personal fees and other from Corcept Therapeutics, personal fees from Recordati, outside the submitted work. Research data are stored in an institutional repository and will be shared upon request to the corresponding author. © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of American Society for Radiation Oncology. From https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2452109421001718
  15. Abstract Background The most common etiologies of Cushing's syndrome (CS) are adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing pituitary adenoma (pitCS) and primary adrenal gland disease (adrCS), both of which burden patients with metabolic disturbance. The aim of this study was to compare the metabolic features of pitCS and adrCS patients. Methods A retrospective review including 114 patients (64 adrCS and 50 pitCS) diagnosed with CS in 2009–2019 was performed. Metabolic factors were then compared between pitCS and adrCS groups. Results Regarding sex, females suffered both adrCs (92.2%) and pitCS (88.0%) more frequently than males. Regarding age, patients with pitCS were diagnosed at a younger age (35.40 ± 11.94 vs. 39.65 ± 11.37 years, P = 0.056) than those with adrCS, although the difference was not statistically significant. Moreover, pitCS patients had much higher ACTH levels and more serious occurrences of hypercortisolemia at all time points (8 AM, 4 PM, 12 AM) than that in adrCS patients. Conversely, indexes, including body weight, BMI, blood pressure, serum total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, triglycerides, fasting plasma glucose, and uric acid, showed no differences between adrCS and pitCS patients. Furthermore, diabetes prevalence was higher in pitCS patients than in adrCS patients; however, there were no significant differences in hypertension or dyslipidemia prevalence between the two. Conclusions Although adrCS and pitCS had different pathogenetic mechanisms, different severities of hypercortisolemia, and different diabetes prevalences, both etiologies had similar metabolic characteristics. Keywords Cushing's syndrome Pituitary Cushing's Adrenal Cushing's Metabolic disturbance From https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095882X21000669
  16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.radcr.2021.07.093 Abstract The chronic excess of glucocorticoids results in Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's syndrome presents with a variety of signs and symptoms including: central obesity, proximal muscle weakness, fatigue striae, poor wound healing, amenorrhea, and others. ACTH independent Cushing's syndrome is usually due to unilateral adenoma. A rare cause of it is bilateral adrenal adenomas. In this paper we report a case of a 43-year-old woman with Cushing's syndrome due to bilateral adrenal adenoma. Read the case report at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1930043321005690
  17. Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disorder that occurs when the body is exposed to too much cortisol. Cortisol is produced by the body and is also used in corticosteroid drugs. Cushing's syndrome can occur either because cortisol is being overproduced by the body or from the use of drugs that contain cortisol (like prednisone). Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by the pituitary. One form of Cushing’s syndrome may be caused by an oversecretion of ACTH by the pituitary leading to an excess of cortisol. Cortisol has several functions, including the regulation of inflammation and controlling how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Corticosteroids such as prednisone, which are often used to treat inflammatory conditions, mimic the effects of cortisol. Stay tuned for more basic info...
  18. SAN DIEGO, CA, USA I August 10, 2021 I Crinetics Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: CRNX), a clinical stage pharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapeutics for rare endocrine diseases and endocrine-related tumors, today announced positive preliminary findings from the single ascending dose (SAD) portion of a first-in-human Phase 1 clinical study with CRN04894 demonstrating pharmacologic proof-of-concept for this first-in-class, investigational, oral, nonpeptide adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) antagonist that is being developed for the treatment of conditions of ACTH excess, including Cushing’s disease and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. “ACTH is the central hormone of the endocrine stress response. Even though we’ve known about its clinical significance for more than 100 years, there has never been an ACTH antagonist available to intervene in diseases of excess stress hormones. This is an important milestone for the field of endocrinology and for our company,” said Scott Struthers, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Crinetics. “I am extremely proud of our team that conceived, discovered and developed CRN04894 this far. This is the second molecule to emerge from our in-house discovery efforts and demonstrate pharmacologic proof of concept. I am very excited to see what it can do in upcoming clinical studies.” The 39 healthy volunteers who enrolled in the SAD cohorts were administered oral doses of CRN04894 (10 mg to 80 mg, or placebo) two hours prior to a challenge with synthetic ACTH. Analyses of basal cortisol levels (before ACTH challenge) showed that CRN04894 produced a rapid and dose-dependent reduction of cortisol by 25-56%. After challenge with a supra-pathophysiologic dose of ACTH (250 mcg), CRN04894 suppressed cortisol (as measured by AUC) up to 41%. After challenge with a disease-relevant dose of ACTH (1 mcg), CRN04894 showed a clinically meaningful reduction in cortisol AUC of 48%. These reductions in cortisol suggest that CRN04894 is bound with high affinity to its target receptor on the adrenal gland and blocking the activity of ACTH. CRN04894 was well tolerated in the healthy volunteers who enrolled in these SAD cohorts and all adverse events were considered mild. “We are very encouraged by these single ascending dose data which clearly demonstrate proof of ACTH antagonism with CRN04894 exposure in healthy volunteers,” stated Alan Krasner, M.D., chief medical officer of Crinetics. “We look forward to completing this study and assessing results from the multiple ascending dose cohorts. As a clinical endocrinologist, I recognize the pioneering nature of this work and eagerly look forward to further understanding the potential of CRN04894 for the treatment of diseases of ACTH excess.” Data Review Conference Call Crinetics will hold a conference call and live audio webcast today, August 10, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss the results of the CRN04894 SAD cohorts. To participate, please dial 800-772-3714 (domestic) or 212-271-4615 (international) and refer to conference ID 21996541. To access the webcast, please visit the Events page on the Crinetics website. The archived webcast will be available for 90 days. About the CRN04894-01 Phase 1 Study Crinetics is enrolling healthy volunteers in this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 1 study of CRN04894. Participants will be divided into multiple cohorts in the single ascending dose (SAD) and multiple ascending dose (MAD) phases of the study. In the SAD phase, safety and pharmacokinetics are assessed. In addition, pharmacodynamic responses are evaluated before and after challenges with injected synthetic ACTH to assess pharmacologic effects resulting from exposure to CRN04894. In the MAD phase, participants will be administered placebo or ascending doses of study drug daily for 10 days. Assessments of safety, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics will also be performed after repeat dosing. About CRN04894 Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is synthesized and secreted by the pituitary gland and binds to melanocortin type 2 receptor (MC2R), which is selectively expressed in the adrenal gland. This interaction of ACTH with MCR2 stimulates the adrenal production of cortisol, a stress hormone that is involved in the regulation of many systems. Cortisol is involved for example in the regulation of blood sugar levels, metabolism, inflammation, blood pressure, and memory formulation, and excess adrenal androgen production can result in hirsutism, menstrual dysfunction, infertility in men and women, acne, cardiometabolic comorbidities and insulin resistance. Diseases associated with excess of ACTH, therefore, can have significant impact on physical and mental health. Crinetics’ ACTH antagonist, CRN04894, has exhibited strong binding affinity for MC2R in preclinical models and demonstrated suppression of adrenally derived glucocorticoids and androgens that are under the control of ACTH, while maintaining mineralocorticoid production. About Cushing’s Disease and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Cushing’s disease is a rare disease with a prevalence of approximately 10,000 patients in the United States. It is more common in women, between 30 and 50 years of age. Cushing’s disease often takes many years to diagnose and may well be under-diagnosed in the general population as many of its symptoms such as lethargy, depression, obesity, hypertension, hirsutism, and menstrual irregularity can be incorrectly attributed to other more common disorders. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) encompasses a set of disorders that are caused by genetic mutations that result in impaired cortisol synthesis with a prevalence of approximately 27,000 patients in the United States. This lack of cortisol leads to a loss of feedback mechanisms and results in persistently high levels of ACTH, which in turn causes overstimulation of the adrenal cortex. The resulting adrenal hyperplasia and over-secretion of other steroids (particularly androgens) and steroid precursors can lead to a variety of effects from improper gonadal development to life-threatening adrenal crisis. About Crinetics Pharmaceuticals Crinetics Pharmaceuticals is a clinical stage pharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapeutics for rare endocrine diseases and endocrine-related tumors. The company’s lead product candidate, paltusotine, is an investigational, oral, selective nonpeptide somatostatin receptor type 2 agonist for the treatment of acromegaly, an orphan disease affecting more than 26,000 people in the United States. A Phase 3 program to evaluate safety and efficacy of paltusotine for the treatment of acromegaly is underway. Crinetics also plans to advance paltusotine into a Phase 2 trial for the treatment of carcinoid syndrome associated with neuroendocrine tumors. The company is also developing CRN04777, an investigational, oral, nonpeptide somatostatin receptor type 5 (SST5) agonist for congenital hyperinsulinism, as well as CRN04894, an investigational, oral, nonpeptide ACTH antagonist for the treatment of Cushing’s disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and other diseases of excess ACTH. All of the company’s drug candidates are new chemical entities resulting from in-house drug discovery efforts and are wholly owned by the company. SOURCE: Crinetics Pharmaceuticals From https://pipelinereview.com/index.php/2021081178950/Small-Molecules/Crinetics-Pharmaceuticals-Oral-ACTH-Antagonist-CRN04894-Demonstrates-Pharmacologic-Proof-of-Concept-with-Dose-Dependent-Cortisol-Suppression-in-Single-Ascending-Dose-Port.html
  19. Abstract Background: Cushing’s syndrome is a condition caused by excessive glucocorticoid with insomnia as one of its neuropsychiatric manifestation. Cushing’s syndrome may be caused by excessive adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH-dependent), for example from ACTH producing pituitary tumors, or by overproduction of cortisol by adrenocortical tumors. In this report, we presented a case with Cushing’s syndrome manifesting as chronic insomnia with adrenal cortical adenoma and pituitary microadenoma. Case presentation: A 30-year-old woman was consulted from the Neurologic Department to the Internal Medicine Department with the chief complaint of insomnia and worsening headache for 6 months prior to the admission. She had undergone head MRI and abdominal CT scan previously and was found to have both pituitary microadenoma and left adrenal mass. From the physical examination she had clinical signs of Cushing’s syndrome like Cushingoid face and purplish striae on her stomach. Midnight cortisol serum examination was done initially and showed high level of cortisol. High dose dexamethasone suppression test or DST (8 mg overnight) was later performed to help determine the main cause of Cushing’s syndrome. The result failed to reach 50% suppression of cortisol serum, suggestive that the Cushing’s syndrome was not ACTH-dependent from the pituitary but potentially from overproduction of cortisol by the left adrenal mass. Therefore, left adrenalectomy was performed and the histopathological study supported the diagnosis of adrenal cortical adenoma. Conclusion: Chronic insomnia is a very important symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome that should not be neglected. The patient had both microadenoma pituitary and left adrenal mass thus high dose DST test (8 mg overnight) needed to be performed to differentiate the source of Cushing’s syndrome. The result showed only little suppression therefore the pituitary microadenoma was not the source of Cushing’s syndrome and more suggestive from the adrenal etiology. Keywords: Cushing’s syndrome; insomnia; adrenal cortical adenoma; pituitary microadenoma; dexamethasone suppression test Permalink/DOI: https://doi.org/10.14710/jbtr.v7i1.9247I Read the entire article here: https://ejournal2.undip.ac.id/index.php/jbtr/article/view/9247/5440
  20. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2003 Apr;88(4):1554-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2002-021518. Francesca Pecori Giraldi 1, Mirella Moro, Francesco Cavagnini, Study Group on the Hypothalamo-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis of the Italian Society of Endocrinology Affiliations PMID: 12679438 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2002-021518 Abstract Cushing's disease (CD) presents a marked female preponderance, but whether this skewed gender distribution has any relevance to the presentation and outcome of CD is not known. The aim of the present study was the comparison of clinical features, biochemical indices of hypercortisolism, and surgical outcome among male and female patients with CD. The study population comprised 280 patients with CD (233 females, 47 males) collected by the Italian multicentre study. Epidemiological data, frequency of clinical signs and symptoms, urinary free cortisol (UFC), plasma ACTH and cortisol levels, responses to dynamic testing, and surgical outcome were compared in female and male patients. Male patients with CD presented at a younger age, compared with females (30.5 +/- 1.93 vs. 37.1 +/- 0.86 yr, P < 0.01), with higher UFC and ACTH levels (434.1 +/- 51.96 vs. 342.1 +/- 21.01% upper limit of the normal range for UFC, P < 0.05; 163.9 +/- 22.92 vs. 117.7 +/- 9.59% upper limit of the normal range for ACTH, P < 0.05). No difference in ACTH and cortisol responses to CRH, gradient at inferior petrosal sinus sampling, and cortisol inhibition after low-dose dexamethasone was recorded between sexes. In contrast, the sensitivity of the high-dose dexamethasone test was significantly lower in male than in female patients. Of particular interest, symptoms indicative of hypercatabolic state were more frequent in male patients; indeed, males presented a higher prevalence of osteoporosis, muscle wasting, striae, and nephrolitiasis. Conversely, no symptom was more frequent in female patients with CD. Patients with myopathy, hypokalemia, and purple striae presented significantly higher UFC levels, compared with patients without these symptoms. Lastly, in male patients, pituitary imaging was more frequently negative and immediate and late surgical outcome less favorable. In conclusion, CD appeared at a younger age and with a more severe clinical presentation in males, compared with females, together with more pronounced elevation of cortisol and ACTH levels. Furthermore, high-dose dexamethasone suppression test and pituitary imaging were less reliable in detecting the adenoma in male patients, further burdening the differential diagnosis with ectopic ACTH secretion. Lastly, the postsurgical course of the disease carried a worse prognosis in males. Altogether, these findings depict a different pattern for CD in males and females. From https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12679438/
  21. Levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in circulation after pituitary surgery may help predict which Cushing’s disease patients will achieve early remission and which will eventually see the disease return, a study shows. Also, the earlier that patients reached their lowest peak of ACTH levels, the better their long-term outcomes. The study, “Prognostic usefulness of ACTH in the postoperative period of Cushing’s disease,” was published in the journal Endocrine Connections. Removing the pituitary tumor through a minimally invasive surgery called transsphenoidal surgery is still the treatment of choice for Cushing’s disease patients. But not all patients enter remission, and even among those who do, a small proportion will experience disease recurrence. While cortisol levels have been suggested as a main predictor of remission and recurrence, there is no consensus as to which cutoff point should be used after surgery, or the best time for measuring this hormone. Because Cushing’s disease is caused by an ACTH-producing tumor in the pituitary gland, and ACTH has a short half-life (approximately 10 minutes), it is expected that ACTH levels drop markedly within a few hours after surgery. Thus, a group of researchers in Spain aimed to determine whether blood levels of ACTH could be useful for predicting remission of Cushing’s disease both immediately after surgery (defined as less than 72 hours) and in the long term. Researchers analyzed 65 patients with Cushing’s disease who had undergone transsphenoidal surgery (seven required a second intervention) between 2005 and 2016. Remission within three months was seen in 56 of 65 cases; late disease recurrence was seen in 18 of 58 cases. Investigators measured the ACTH nadir concentration (defined as the lowest concentration) and the time taken to reach nadir levels after surgery, as well as the plasma ACTH concentration before hospital discharge. While ACTH levels had no predictive value, the team found that people who went into remission had significantly lower ACTH nadir levels and ACTH levels at discharge. On the other hand, levels of ACHT nadir and at discharge were significantly higher for people who experienced a relapse, compared to those who remained in remission. Using artificial intelligence algorithms, the researchers further found that ACTH nadir, ACTH at discharge, and cortisol nadir values were all of great relevance to predict remission within three months. Analysis indicated that using a cutoff point of 3.3 pmol/L of ACTH after surgery and before discharge gave the best sensitivity and specificity for predicting a patient’s prognosis. Researchers further found that the time patients took to reach their ACTH nadir, regardless of nadir levels, also influenced their outcomes. In fact, patients reaching this nadir in less than than 46 hours more likely achieved early remission. And taking longer than 39 hours to reach the ACTH nadir was significantly more frequent in patients who experienced recurrence. This indicates that the time to ACTH nadir is an important measure for prognosis. “In the immediate postoperative period of patients with [Cushing’s disease], the ACTH concentration is of prognostic utility in relation to late disease remission,” the researchers said. Overall, “we propose an ACTH value <3.3 pmol/L as a good long-term prognostic marker in the postoperative period of CD. Reaching the ACTH nadir in less time is associated to a lesser recurrence rate,” the study concluded. PATRICIA INACIO, PHD EDITOR Patricia holds her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She also served as a PhD student research assistant in the Laboratory of Doctor David A. Fidock, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York. From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/08/29/acth-levels-after-surgery-help-predict-remission-recurrence-in-cushings-study-suggests/
  22. Cases of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent Cushing’s syndrome are often caused by unilateral tumors in the adrenal glands, but Indian researchers have now reported a rare case where the condition was caused by tumors in both adrenal glands. Fewer than 40 cases of bilateral tumors have been reported so far, but an accurate diagnosis is critical for adequate and prompt treatment. Sampling the veins draining the adrenal glands may be a good way to diagnose the condition, researchers said. The study, “Bilateral adrenocortical adenomas causing adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent Cushing’s syndrome: A case report and review of the literature,” was published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases. Cushing’s syndrome, a condition characterized by excess cortisol in circulation, can be divided into two main forms, depending on ACTH status. Some patients have tumors that increase the amount of ACTH in the body, and this hormone will act on the adrenal glands to produce cortisol in excess. Others have tumors in the adrenal glands, which produce excess cortisol by themselves, without requiring ACTH activation. This is known as ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome. Among the latter, the disease is mostly caused by unilateral tumors — in one adrenal gland only — with cases of bilateral tumors being extremely rare in this population. Now, researchers reported the case of a 31-year-old Indian woman who developed ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome because of tumors in both adrenal glands. The patient complained of weight gain, red face, moon face, bruising, and menstrual irregularity for the past two years. She recently had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and had started treatment the month prior to the presentation. A physical examination confirmed obesity in her torso, moon face, buffalo hump, thin skin, excessive hair growth, acne, swollen legs and feet, and skin striae on her abdomen, arms, and legs. Laboratory examinations showed that the woman had an impaired tolerance to glucose, excess insulin, and elevated cortisol in both the blood and urine. Consistent with features of Cushing’s syndrome, cortisol levels had no circadian rhythm and were non-responsive to a dexamethasone test, which in normal circumstances lowers cortisol production. Because ACTH levels were within normal levels, researchers suspected an adrenal tumor, which led them to conduct imaging scans. An abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan showed adrenal adenomas in both adrenal glands (right: 3.1 cm × 2.0 cm × 1.9 cm; left: 2.2 cm × 1.9 cm × 2.1 cm). A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan showed that the pituitary gland (which normally produces ACTH) was normal. To determine whether both adrenal tumors were producing cortisol, researchers sampled the adrenal veins and compared their cortisol levels to those of peripheral veins. They found that the left adrenal gland was producing higher amounts of cortisol, thought the right adrenal gland was also producing cortisol in excess. “Our case indicates that adrenal vein [blood] sampling might be useful for obtaining differential diagnoses” in cases of Cushing’s syndrome, researchers stated. Also, they may help design a surgical plan that makes much more sense.” The tumors were surgically removed — first the left, and three months later the right — which alleviated many of her symptoms. She also started prednisolone treatment, which helped resolve many disease symptoms. “Bilateral cortisol-secreting tumors are a rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome,” researchers said. So when patients present bilateral adrenal lesions, “it is crucial to make a definitive diagnosis before operation since various treatments are prescribed for different causes,” they said. The team recommends that in such cases the two tumors should not be removed at the same time, as this approach may cause adrenal insufficiency and the need for glucocorticoid replacement therapy. From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/06/27/rare-case-of-cs-due-to-bilateral-tumors-in-the-adrenal-glands/
  23. The oral chemotherapy temozolomide might be an effective treatment for Cushing’s disease caused by aggressive tumors in the pituitary gland that continue to grow after surgery and taking other medications, a case report suggests. The study, “Successful reduction of ACTH secretion in a case of intractable Cushing’s disease with pituitary Crooke’s cell adenoma by combined modality therapy including temozolomide,” was published in the journal J-Stage. Cushing’s disease is often caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland that secretes high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), leading to high levels of cortisol and other symptoms. Macroadenomas are aggressive, fast-growing tumors that reach sizes larger than 10 millimeters. Crooke’s cell adenoma is a type of macroadenoma that does not respond to conventional therapies, but has deficient mechanisms of DNA repair. That is why chemotherapeutic agents that damage the DNA, such as temozolomide, might be potential treatments. Researchers in Japan reported the case of a 56-year-old woman with Cushing’s disease caused by a Crooke’s cell adenoma in the pituitary gland who responded positively to temozolomide. The patient was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease at age 39 when she went to the hospital complaining of continuous weight gain. She also had excessive production of urine and a loss of vision in the right eye. The lab tests showed high levels of cortisol and ACTH, and the MRI detected a tumor of 4.5 centimeters in the pituitary gland. The doctors removed a part of the tumor surgically, which initially reduced the levels of ACTH and cortisol. However, the hormone levels and the size of the residual tumor started to increase gradually after the surgery, despite treatment with several medications. By the time the patient was 56 years old, she went to the hospital complaining of general fatigue, leg edema (swelling from fluid), high blood pressure, and central obesity (belly fat). Further examination showed a 5.7 cm tumor, identified as a Crooke’s cell macroadenoma. The patient underwent a second surgery to remove as much tumor as possible, but the levels of ACTH remained high. She took temozolomide for nine months, which normalized the levels of ACTH and cortisol. After the treatment, the patient no longer had high blood pressure or leg edema. The tumor shrunk considerably in the year following temozolomide treatment. The patient started radiation therapy to control tumor growth. The levels of cortisol and ACHT remained normal, and the tumor did not grow in the seven years following temozolomide treatment. “These clinical findings suggest that [temozolomide] treatment to patients with Crooke’s cell adenoma accompanied with elevated ACTH may be a good indication to induce lowering ACTH levels and tumor shrinkage,” researchers wrote. Other cases of Cushing’s disease caused by aggressive macroadenomas showed positive results, such as reduction of tumor size and decrease in plasma ACTH, after temozolomide treatment. However, more studies are needed to establish the ideal course of chemotherapy to treat these tumors, the researchers noted. From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/06/18/temozolomide-effective-cushings-disease-aggressive-tumors-case-report/
  24. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent Cushing's syndrome (CS) is mostly due to unilateral tumors, with bilateral tumors rarely reported. Its common causes include primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease, ACTH-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia, and bilateral adrenocortical adenomas (BAAs) or carcinomas. BAAs causing ACTH-independent CS are rare; up to now, fewer than 40 BAA cases have been reported. The accurate diagnosis and evaluation of BAAs are critical for determining optimal treatment options. Adrenal vein sampling (AVS) is a good way to diagnose ACTH-independent CS. A 31-year-old woman had a typical appearance of CS. The oral glucose tolerance test showed impaired glucose tolerance and obviously increased insulin and C-peptide levels. Her baseline serum cortisol and urine free cortisol were elevated and did not show either a circadian rhythm or suppression with dexamethasone administration. The peripheral 1-deamino-8-D-arginine-vasopressin (DDVAP) stimulation test showed a delay of the peak level, which was 1.05 times as high as the baseline level. Bilateral AVS results suggested the possibility of BAAs. Abdominal computed tomography showed bilateral adrenal adenomas with atrophic adrenal glands (right: 3.1 cm × 2.0 cm × 1.9 cm; left: 2.2 cm × 1.9 cm × 2.1 cm). Magnetic resonance imaging of the pituitary gland demonstrated normal findings. A left adenomectomy by retroperitoneoscopy was performed first, followed by resection of the right-side adrenal mass 3 mo later. Biopsy results of both adenomas showed cortical tumors. Evaluations of ACTH and cortisol showed a significant decrease after left adenomectomy but could still not be suppressed, and the circadian rhythm was absent. Following bilateral adenomectomy, this patient has been administered with prednisone until now, all of her symptoms were alleviated, and she had normal blood pressure without edema in either of her lower extremities. BAAs causing ACTH-independent CS are rare. AVS is of great significance for obtaining information on the functional state of BAAs before surgery. World journal of clinical cases. 2019 Apr 26 [Epub] Yu-Lin Gu, Wei-Jun Gu, Jing-Tao Dou, Zhao-Hui Lv, Jie Li, Sai-Chun Zhang, Guo-Qing Yang, Qing-Hua Guo, Jian-Ming Ba, Li Zang, Nan Jin, Jin Du, Yu Pei, Yi-Ming Mu Department of Endocrinology, Chinese People's Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China., Department of Endocrinology, Chinese People's Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China. guweijun301@163.com., Department of Pathology, Chinese People's Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China. PubMed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31119141 From https://www.urotoday.com/recent-abstracts/urologic-oncology/adrenal-diseases/112782-bilateral-adrenocortical-adenomas-causing-adrenocorticotropic-hormone-independent-cushing-s-syndrome-a-case-report-and-review-of-the-literature.html
  25. Irina Bancos, M.D., an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and Jamie J. Van Gompel, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic's campus in Minnesota, discuss Mayo's multidisciplinary approach to adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary tumors. Pituitary tumors are common and often don't cause problems. But some pituitary tumors produce the hormone ACTH, which stimulates the production of another hormone (cortisol). Overproduction of cortisol can result in Cushing syndrome, with signs and symptoms such as weight gain, skin changes and fatigue. Cushing syndrome is rare but can cause significant long-term health problems. Treatment for Cushing syndrome caused by a pituitary tumor generally involves surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation therapy and occasionally adrenal surgery may be needed to treat Cushing syndrome caused by ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors. Mayo Clinic has experience with this rare condition.
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