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Pituitary tumor cells in Cushings syndrome found to express large amounts of protein receptor

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 28, 2002) - While most cases of a hormonal disorder called Cushing's Syndrome are caused by non-cancerous pituitary tumors that secrete too much of a particular hormone resulting in high cortisol levels, the disorder can ultimately lead to an early death for many patients whose tumors cannot be removed surgically.

Now, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have found that pituitary tumors express an abundance of a specific protein receptor and report that treatment with a common diabetes drug was effective in shrinking tumor size and reducing hormone production in Cushing's pituitary tumors in mice. The findings, reported in the November issue of the journal, Nature Medicine, may lead to a new way to treat patients who have Cushing's Syndrome.

"Now that we know that this protein receptor plays a role in the pituitary tumors that cause Cushing's syndrome, we may have found a drug that can effectively treat this disease," said Dr. Anthony Heaney, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor and Medical Director of the Neuroendocrine Tumor Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "We will soon begin a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of this antidiabetic drug in patients with Cushing's syndrome who have pituitary tumors."

The most common type of Cushing's syndrome is caused by prolonged high-level exposure of a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropin), which is secreted in excess by tumors of the pituitary gland, situated at the base of the brain and, which controls growth, metabolism and reproduction. Although the disorder is rare, it affects more women than men by a ratio of 5:1. Symptoms include weight gain with rounding of the face; increased fat in the neck; thinning skin; excess hair growth on the face neck, chest abdomen and thighs; muscle weakness and bone loss (osteoporosis); high blood sugar; diabetes; and high blood pressure. These effects are caused by high levels of adrenal steroids, or
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Contact: Kelli Stauning
kelli.stauning@cshs.org
310-423-3674
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
28-Oct-2002


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