Friday, 2 March 2012

A New Treatment for Cushing's Disease?

I've just been reading about a drug called Pasireotide. It's been around for a while, but on January 23rd this year, the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended that pasireotide be approved for use in the treatment of Cushing's Disease. This is exciting, because Cushing's Disease - in which a benign tumour of the pituitary gland causes the body to release excess steroid hormone - has long been very difficult to treat medically, with surgery and radiotherapy being the main treatments. But they're not always appropriate or successful for every patient.

Pasireotide (brand name Signifor, developed by Novartis) is a somatostatin analogue - like the medication lanreotide, which I take at the moment to prevent my own pituitary tumour from releasing thyroid-stimulating hormone. Like lanreotide and octreotide, the two somatostatin medications currently on the market, pasireotide looks likely to be effective in treating acromegaly and neuroendocrine tumours; unlike them, it appears to be much more effective at blocking tumours from producing adrenocorticotrophic hormone.

At the moment, there are no approved medicines in Europe for the treatment of Cushing's. Other drugs are used in practise, off-label, but with less data about their safety and effectiveness against the disease, so for Signifor to be approved would be a very significant step. The European Commission looks set to make its decision in the next few months.

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