ENDO Online 2020 Preview: The Year in Pituitary

When the Endocrine Society launches ENDO Online 2020 in June, attendees will be treated to Mirjam Christ-Crain, MD, PhD, from the University of Basel, Switzerland, who will discuss the top pituitary research studies in her session, “The Year in Pituitary: Clinical and Research Breakthroughs.”

For such a miniscule structure, the pea-sized hypophysis plays an outsized role in regulating many vital human body functions as well as general wellbeing.

Because the pituitary gland is a topic of such importance for endocrinologists, this June ENDO Online 2020 will feature “The Year in Pituitary: Clinical and Research Breakthroughs” to explore some of the latest studies to move the field forward. Indeed, the so-called “master gland” is a fitting area of emphasis for the Endocrine Society’s first-ever all-digital ENDO conference.

Hosted by Mirjam Christ-Crain, MD, PhD, deputy chief of endocrinology and co-head of the Department of Clinical Research at the University of Basel, Switzerland, “The Year in Pituitary: Clinical and Research Breakthroughs” will run the gamut of all things pituitary — taking a look at new treatments and diagnostic tests, uncovering previously unknown drug side effects that will aid clinicians in making treatment decisions, and elucidating hormone signaling pathways gone awry.

An Abundance of Research

Among any number of studies published in the last year, Christ-Crain was tasked with selecting those she most wanted to discuss during her virtual presentation. “It’s quite challenging,” she explains, “because the aim of the talk is to provide an overview of the most interesting papers in the field of pituitary, but there are so many interesting papers!”

With such an abundance to choose from, she opted to provide a little taste of just about everything: “I tried to cover the different fields in pituitary. On the anterior pituitary side, I chose studies dealing with non-functioning pituitary adenomas, and tumors like prolactinoma, Cushing disease, and growth hormone deficiency. On the posterior pituitary side, I chose studies dealing with oxytocin on one side and vasopressin on the other side.” The neurohypophysis is, in fact, a special area of interest for Christ-Crain.

“I tried to cover the different fields in pituitary. On the anterior pituitary side, I chose studies dealing with non-functioning pituitary adenomas, and tumors like prolactinoma, Cushing disease, and growth hormone deficiency. On the posterior pituitary side, I chose studies dealing with oxytocin on one side and vasopressin on the other side.” – Mirjam Christ-Crain, MD, PhD, deputy chief, endocrinology; co-head, Department of Clinical Research, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

She was also intentional about featuring research groups from all over the world. “So, we have papers from Europe, United States, Australia, and Asia, and I also want to cover both basic research and clinical research. So that’s a big overview,” she says.

“This Talk Is Really Meant As an Appetizer”

Her roughly 50-minute presentation will focus on a total of 15 studies that were published from about March 2019 through March 2020. In such a relatively short amount of time available to present, explaining each study in depth is not possible. Instead, she says, “It’s important for the people who listen to the talk to know that I will not go into detail for all of these papers. This talk is really meant as an appetizer.” In other words, if audience members find a certain paper particularly interesting during Christ-Crain’s presentation, they should circle back to the full course — the whole paper — to read later.

If Christ-Crain’s presentation is the appetizer, then here is the “amuse bouche”: “What I chose to highlight includes a couple of papers about the new genomic classification of pituitary tumors from the basic research side. I will also talk about new treatment options, for example, in non-functioning pituitary adenomas, but also highlight treatment with levoketokonazole for Cushing disease and the new long-acting growth hormone for growth hormone deficiency. I will also highlight the only relatively recently known side effect of dopamine agonists for prolactinoma, which is impulse control disorder. And, concerning the posterior pituitary, I will show the data about new diagnostic tests for diabetes insipidus, and discuss the controversial question whether there is oxytocin deficiency in patients with diabetes insipidus.”

A Clinician’s Perspective

Although it’s easy to see how each of these investigations will contribute to greater understanding among the clinical and research communities, which will ultimately translate to better care for patients with endocrinopathies, Christ-Crain is quick to point out that her choices are inherently subjective — they are what happened to catch her eye, as a clinician.

“I did find the impulse control disorders with prolactinoma treatment very clinically relevant because we endocrinologists did not know much about this side effect. It’s nice to now have more data from the two quite large cross-sectional studies to see the prevalence and maybe also to think about how we could act with our patients.” – Mirjam Christ-Crain, MD, PhD, deputy chief, endocrinology; co-head, Department of Clinical Research, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

“There were so many interesting and challenging studies; the choices I made are what I particularly like,” she says. “Of course, it’s very subjective to make such choices, and it’s difficult to say which was the top study for me. However, I did find the impulse control disorders with prolactinoma treatment very clinically relevant because we endocrinologists did not know much about this side effect. It’s nice to now have more data from the two quite large cross-sectional studies to see the prevalence and maybe also to think about how we could act with our patients. That’s something I really like about those papers — I’m a clinician and a clinical researcher myself, and therefore the clinical research papers are somehow closer to my daily routine.”

Attendees of “The Year in Pituitary: Clinical and Research Breakthroughs” will get a big picture of some of the pituitary-related discoveries scientists have made, as presented by Christ-Crain. These inviting studies are sure to tempt the audience to delve afterward into the details of how these discoveries were made.

— Horvath is a freelance writer based in Baltimore, Md. She wrote about the unintended effects of cancer therapy on the bones in the April issue.

You may also like

  • Eureka 2019: A New Look at Pituitary Tumors

    For the fifth year in a row, Endocrine News spoke with editors from Endocrine Society journals to get the scoop on the top endocrine discoveries of 2019. Here is part 8 of Eureka! 2019. From April, “DNA Methylation of Tumor Suppressor Genes in Pituitary Neuroendocrine Tumors,” by Picó, A., et. al. was selected by The…