Novartis' SOM230 reduces cortisol levels in Cushing's disease patients

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation ("Novartis") (NYSE: NVS) announced today that the results of a Phase III study of SOM230 (pasireotide) showed a reduction in cortisol levels in patients with Cushing's disease, a condition in which a benign (non-cancerous) pituitary tumor causes the adrenal glands to produce excess cortisol and can be fatal. Results will be presented at the 14th Congress of the European Neuroendocrine Association (ENEA).

At six months, the majority of evaluable patients (91/103) experienced a reduction from baseline in urinary free cortisol (UFC) levels, the main measure of biochemical control of the disease. UFC levels were normalized in 26% of patients randomized to SOM230 900ug twice daily, meeting the primary endpoint of the study. Additionally, median UFC was reduced by 48% in both the 900ug and 600ug dose groups. After 12 months of treatment, results confirmed the durability of the effect.

On average, as UFC levels were reduced, clinical symptoms of Cushing's disease improved including reduction of blood pressure, total cholesterol, weight and body mass index (BMI).

Cushing's disease is caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary gland that secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which triggers the adrenal glands to produce excess cortisol. Cortisol is a powerful steroid hormone that regulates a broad range of physiologic functions, including metabolism and immunity(2). Cushing's disease can cause severe cardiovascular and metabolic-related illnesses or death. There are currently no approved medicines to treat Cushing's disease.

"There is a critical need for a medical treatment for people with Cushing's disease because currently available options, such as surgery or radiotherapy, are ultimately not effective for many of the patients who suffer from this debilitating disease," said William H. Ludlam, MD, PhD, Director, Seattle Pituitary Center at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, WA.  "The results of this study suggest that pasireotide may help patients achieve biochemical control of their Cushing's disease and its symptoms by directly targeting the pituitary tumor that triggers excess cortisol production."

PASPORT-CUSHINGS (PASireotide clinical trial PORTfolio - CUSHING'S disease) is the largest randomized study to evaluate a medical therapy in patients with Cushing's disease. The trial is part of a large-scale global clinical development program to assess the efficacy and safety of SOM230 in a range of pituitary and neuroendocrine tumors.

"Positive results from this trial bring us one step closer to providing physicians with a new treatment option to offer people living with the physically and emotionally debilitating symptoms associated with Cushing's disease," said Herve Hoppenot, President, Novartis Oncology.

These data will form the basis for the first regulatory filing of SOM230 planned this year. SOM230 has orphan drug designation for Cushing's disease in the US and Europe. In the US, orphan drugs are those developed to treat diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people. In Europe, orphan drugs are those developed to treat conditions affecting fewer than five in 10,000 people.


Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation


  1. Richard Richard United Kingdom says:

    Any potential new treatment options for this distressing disease is very good news and long overdue.

    It would also be nice to see further investigation of 9-cis retinoic acid therapy followed up in humans, after the apparently very effective and interesting results seen in dogs with Cushings disease ......
    Retinoic Acid as a Novel Medical Therapy for Cushing’s
    Disease in Dogs. Endocrinology, Castillo et al. 147 (9): 4438.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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