Measuring the levels of a specific enzyme in pituitary tumors producing excess adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) may help predict the recurrence of Cushing’s disease in patients, a study shows.
The study, “Expression of MMP-9, PTTG, HMGA2, and Ki-67 in ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors and their association with tumor recurrence,” was published in the journal World Neurosurgery.
Cushing’s syndrome is characterized by excess cortisol levels in the blood. In 70 percent of cases, this is caused by pituitary tumors making too much ACTH, a hormone that regulates cortisol production. This condition is called Cushing’s disease.
While transsphenoidal adenomectomy, a surgery to remove a pituitary gland tumor, is the first treatment choice, tumor recurrence rates can be as high as 45 percent.
Only a few studies have investigated the association between biomarkers and the risk of ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors recurring, leaving physicians with limited methods to predict which patients will have a recurrence.
Identifying biomarkers that can effectively predict the potential recurrence of Cushing’s disease would allow clinicians to look for early signs in patients and start appropriate follow-up and therapeutic protocols, avoiding long-term mortality.
Many studies have suggested that matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) enzymes, the pituitary tumor transforming gene (PTTG), and high mobility group A 2 proteins (HMGA2) all play vital roles in the development of pituitary tumors.
Metalloproteinases (MMPs) are enzymes that work to degrade the cell’s extracellular matrix, which anchors the cell, thus enabling tumor invasion. PTTG is highly expressed in pituitary tumors, and is a marker of malignancy in many types of tumors. HMGA2 is overexpressed in various tumors, and is also associated with high malignancy.
However, whether levels of MMP-9, PTTG, and HMGA2 are related to ACTH-secreting tumor recurrence has not been investigated.
Researchers set out to determine the expression levels of MMP-9, PTTG, HMGA2, and Ki-67 (a marker of cell growth) in ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors, and evaluate their association with tumor behavior and recurrence.
They conducted a retrospective study that included 55 patients with sporadic Cushing’s disease with long-term remission after a transsphenoidal adenomectomy. Their tumor specimens were collected and examined.
Patients were divided into two groups based on whether or not they had tumor recurrence. There were 28 patients in the non-recurrent group, and 27 in the recurrent.
Results showed there was significantly increased expression of MMP-9 in tumor samples of recurrent patients, compared with the non-recurrent group. Levels of MMP-9 were also strongly associated with a shorter time period to recurrence (recurrence-free interval).
On the other hand, PTTG, HMGA2, and Ki-67 expression was not significantly different between the recurrent group and the non-recurrent group.
“ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors with higher levels of MMP-9 were associated with a higher recurrence rate and a shorter recurrence-free interval. MMP-9 could be a valuable tool for predicting recurrence of ACTH-secreting pituitary tumors,” the researchers concluded.