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Nanomedicines in the treatment of acromegaly: focus on pegvisomant

Authors Ferdinand Roelfsema, Nienke R Biermasz, Alberto M Pereira, Johannes Romijn

Published 15 January 2007 Volume 2006:1(4) Pages 385—398

Ferdinand Roelfsema, Nienke R Biermasz, Alberto M Pereira, Johannes Romijn

Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

Abstract: This article examines the role of pegvisomant in the treatment of acromegaly. This syndrome, caused by excessive growth hormone (GH) secretion by a pituitary adenoma, is associated with a doubled mortality rate and poor quality of life. Pituitary microsurgery has long been the first choice of treatment since it cures many patients, especially those with localized tumors. Adjuvant irradiation was given if insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) or GH did not normalize. The introduction of long-acting slow- release somatostatin analogs was a breakthrough for adjuvant treatment, although not always effective. Rather, targeting excessive GH production, muting the GH signal at its receptor, was a totally different approach. The development of GH antagonists (by mutation of glycine at position 120) and other modifications to enhance receptor binding, and subsequent pegylation of the molecule led to the development of B2036. After pegylation of B2036 at 5 positions the distribution volume is restricted and its serum half-life considerably increased. In short-term clinical studies performed in selected, mostly pretreated, acromegalic patients, IGF-I normalized in the majority of cases. Combination therapy with long-acting somatostatin analogs and weekly rather than daily pegvisomant injections appears to be successful in one clinical study and might limit the high cost of pegvisomant. Long-term efficacy and safety has to be demonstrated. The drug does not cross the blood–brain barrier, and whether it distributes freely into the extracellular space of other organs than the liver has not been investigated, which might have implications for persistent local IGF-I production under unrestrained GH concentrations.

Keywords: pegvisomant, Somavert, receptor antagonist, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I, treatment