Thursday, January 19, 2012

Treatment Options in Cushing’s Disease

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Authors: Ahmed Rizk, Juergen Honegger, Monika Milian and Tsambika Psaras

Publication Date: 11 Jan 2012

Journal: Clinical Medicine Insights: Oncology

Citation: Clinical Medicine Insights: Oncology 2012:6 75-84

doi: 10.4137/CMO.S6198



Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is a grave disease that requires a multidisciplinary and individualized treatment approach for each patient. Approximately 80% of all patients harbour a corticotroph pituitary adenoma (Cushing’s disease) with excessive secretion of adrenocorticotropin-hormone (ACTH) and, consecutively, cortisol.

The goals of treatment include normalization of hormone excess, long-term disease control and the reversal of comorbidities caused by the underlying pathology. The treatment of choice is neurosurgical tumour removal of the pituitary adenoma. Second-line treatments include medical therapy, bilateral adrenalectomy and radiation therapy.

Drug treatment modalities target at the hypothalamic/pituitary level, the adrenal gland and at the glucocorticoid receptor level and are commonly used in patients in whom surgery has failed.

Bilateral adrenalectomy is the second-line treatment for persistent hypercortisolism that offers immediate control of hypercortisolism. However, this treatment option requires a careful individualized evaluation, since it has the disadvantage of permanent hypoadrenalism which requires lifelong glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement therapy and bears the risk of developing Nelson’s syndrome.

Although there are some very promising medical therapy options it clearly remains a second-line treatment option. However, there are numerous circumstances where medical management of CD is indicated.

Medical therapy is frequently used in cases with severe hypercortisolism before surgery in order to control the metabolic effects and help reduce the anestesiological risk. Additionally, it can help to bridge the time gap until radiotherapy takes effect.

The aim of this review is to analyze and present current treatment options in Cushing’s disease.