SUMMARY: Cushing's syndrome is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Although surgery is the first-line treatment, drugs can still play a role as an ancillary treatment to be employed while waiting for surgery, after unsuccessful operation or in patients unsuitable for surgery. We were asked to evaluate a 32-year-old male waiting for cardiac transplantation. Idiopathic hypokinetic cardiomyopathy had been diagnosed since 6 years. He was on treatment with multiple drugs, had a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter and an external device for the support of systolic function. Physical examination showed severely impaired general status, signs of hypercortisolism and multiple vertebral compression fractures. We administered teriparatide, and the few evaluable parameters supported the diagnosis of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism: serum cortisol was 24.2 µg/dL in the morning and 20.3 µg/dL after overnight 1 mg dexamethasone, urinary free cortisol (UFC) was 258 µg/24 h and ACTH 125 pg/mL. Pituitary CT was negative. Pasireotide 300 µg bid was administered and uptitrated to 600 µg bid. Treatment was well tolerated, achieving dramatic improvement of clinical picture with progressive normalization of serum cortisol and ACTH levels as well as UFC. After 4 months, the patient underwent successful heart transplantation. Many complications ensued and were overcome. Pituitary MRI was negative. On pasireotide 300 µg bid and prednisone 2.5 mg/day (as part of immunosuppressive therapy), morning serum cortisol and ACTH were 15.6 µg/dL and 54 pg/mL respectively, UFC was 37 µg/24 h, fasting glucose: 107 mg/dL and HbA1c: 6.5%. In conclusion, primary treatment with pasireotide achieved remission of hypercortisolism, thus allowing the patient to undergo heart transplantation.
LEARNING POINTS: Untreated Cushing's syndrome is associated with ominous prognosis.First-line treatment is surgery (at pituitary or adrenal, according to disease localization).A few drugs are available to treat hypercortisolism.Pasireotide is a multi-ligand somatostatin analog approved for treatment of hypercortisolism.Primary treatment with pasireotide was effective in a patient with severe Cushing's syndrome, allowing him to undergo heart transplantation.