Targeting Iatrogenic Cushing's Syndrome With 11 -hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 Inhibition

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    University of Oxford
Updated on 6 May 2021


Currently, 2-3% of the population of the United Kingdom and United States of America receive glucocorticoid therapy. Significant adverse effects are not confined to chronic use; recurrent short-course administration is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The adverse metabolic features associated with glucocorticoid use include obesity, skeletal muscle myopathy, hypertension, insulin resistance and diabetes and are collectively termed 'iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome'. The efficacy of glucocorticoid therapy is not in doubt, but there are no interventions to reduce their metabolic consequences. Within metabolic tissues (liver, skeletal muscle, adipose), 11-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11-HSD1) regenerates active glucocorticoid and therefore is able to tightly control the availability of glucocorticoids to activate the glucocorticoid receptor. In preclinical studies, the investigators have shown that 11-HSD1 is critical in regulating the development of the adverse features associated with circulating glucocorticoid excess, endorsing our observations in a patient with Cushing's disease, who was protected from a classical phenotype due to a functional deficit in 11-HSD1.

This study is the first clinical evaluation of the impact of the selective 11-HSD1 inhibitor, AZD4017, in healthy volunteers taking exogenous glucocorticoids (prednisolone). The investigators propose that in tissues expressing high levels of 11-HSD1, prednisolone action will be amplified, driving adverse effects within these tissues and have hypothesized that AZD4017 in humans will reduce the adverse metabolic consequences of Prednisolone administration without compromise to its anti-inflammatory action.

Our specific research objectives are:

  1. To demonstrate the beneficial effect of the selective 11-HSD1 inhibitor, AZD4017, upon the prednisolone-induced deterioration in metabolic phenotype, including glucose disposal and endogenous glucose production rates.
  2. To determine the impact of AZD4017 on the anti-inflammatory actions of Prednisolone.
  3. To identify the tissue-specific (skeletal muscle, adipose) mechanisms underpinning the response to Prednisolone therapy administered in conjunction with AZD4017.

The investigators will perform a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled study to determine if co-administration of the selective 11-HSD1 inhibitor, AZD4017, limits the adverse effects of short-course exogenous glucocorticoid administration. 32 healthy male volunteers will have detailed metabolic investigations including 2-step hyperinsulinaemic euglycaemic clamps (with stable isotope measurements of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism), as well as assessment of skeletal muscle forearm glucose uptake. All volunteers will then be treated with Prednisolone (20mg daily) and randomized to the co-administration of placebo or AZD4017. After 1 week of therapy, all investigations will be repeated. Our hypothesis is that the adverse metabolic effects of Prednisolone will be reduced by co-administration of AZD4017.

Condition Iatrogenic Cushing's Disease, iatrogenic cushing syndrome
Treatment AZD4017 and prednisolone, Placebo Oral Tablet and prednisolone
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03111810
SponsorUniversity of Oxford
Last Modified on6 May 2021

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