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Options Improving for Patients With Acromegaly and Gigantism

Scientific, technological and medical advances made in the past two decades are leading to more definitive diagnoses, earlier and more effective treatment options/// and better outcomes for patients suffering from a condition called acromegaly.

In the article, Shlomo Melmed, M.D., senior vice president for Academic Affairs and director of the Burns and Allen Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai, provides an update on medical progress related to the condition that stems from disorders – usually tumors – of the pituitary gland. He wrote a similar review article 16 years ago, published in the same journal in 1990.

“There have been remarkable advances in the therapy of this disease. Previously, all patients required surgery and/or radiotherapy for management, but now we have a whole new armamentarium of safe drugs that can effectively control the disorder. There also have been advances in diagnosis, such as the development of more sensitive blood assays for hormones,” said Melmed, who directs the medical center’s Pituitary Center and holds the Helene A. and Philip E. Hixon Endowed Chair in Investigative Medicine.

“Despite the improvements, acromegaly remains a very challenging and very complex disease,” he said. “If it occurs before the end of puberty, the patients become giants, suffering from a condition called gigantism. Unfortunately, several studies document a seven- to 12-year gap from symptom onset to time of diagnosis. During this time the children get bigger and their hormones get higher and the tissue damage gets worse. Therefore, the earlier we can diagnose and treat the disease, the more effectively we can control the negative implications.”

Acromegaly develops when somatotrophs, cells of the pituitary gland that are responsible for producing growth hormone, proliferate and oversecrete the hormone. The overabundance of growth hormone and the related insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), produce a range of effects
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