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George J. Kahaly and Claudio Marcocci

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Alan Chun Hong Lee and George J. Kahaly

Background: Both Graves’ hyperthyroidism (GH) and Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) are associated with significant adverse health consequences. All conventional treatment options have limitations regarding efficacy and safety. Most importantly, they do not specifically address the underlying immunological mechanisms. We aim to review the latest development of treatment approaches in these two closely related disorders. Summary: Immunotherapies of GH have recently demonstrated clinical efficacy in preliminary studies. They include ATX-GD-59, an antigen-specific immunotherapy which restores immune tolerance to the thyrotropin receptor; iscalimab, an anti-CD40 monoclonal antibody which blocks the CD40-CD154 costimulatory pathway in B-T cell interaction; and K1-70, a thyrotropin receptor-blocking monoclonal antibody. Novel treatment strategies have also become available in GO. Mycophenolate significantly increased the overall response rate combined with standard glucocorticoid (GC) treatment compared to GC monotherapy. Tocilizumab, an anti-interleukin 6 receptor monoclonal antibody, displayed strong anti-inflammatory action in GC-resistant cases. Teprotumumab, an anti-insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor monoclonal antibody, resulted in remarkable improvement in terms of disease activity, proptosis, and diplopia. Further, rituximab appears to be useful in active disease of recent onset without impending dysthyroid optic neuropathy. Key Messages: Therapeutic advances will continue to optimize our management of GH and associated orbitopathy in an effective and safe manner.

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Elena Hoppe, Alan Chun Hong Lee, David Hoppe, and George J. Kahaly

Objectives: To investigate the predictive factors for changes in the quality of life (GO-QoL) of patients with Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) prior to and after specific treatment. Methods: A prospective follow-up study was conducted at an academic tertiary referral orbital center with a joint thyroid-eye clinic on 100 consecutive patients with GO. Before and after the standard 12-week course of weekly intravenous methylprednisolone (cumulative dose 4.5 g), the GO-QoL questionnaire provided by the European Group on Graves’ Orbitopathy (EUGOGO) was completed. Endocrine and ophthalmic assessments were performed at each visit. Results: All patients were biochemically euthyroid and untreated for GO at baseline and presented with active and moderate-to-severe disease. Both GO-QoL subscales (visual functioning [VF] and appearance [AP]) significantly increased after immunosuppressive therapy and showed a sustained improvement for 6 months. At baseline, demographic variables (sex, age, and smoking) influenced QoL in the stepwise linear regression (p < 0.01, adjusted R<sup>2</sup> = 0.24 for VF and p < 0.01, adjusted R<sup>2</sup> = 0.21 for AP). In contrast, 6 months after treatment, the improved QoL was now exclusively associated with ophthalmic parameters (p < 0.01, adjusted R<sup>2</sup> = 0.47 for VF; p < 0.01, adjusted R<sup>2</sup> = 0.23 for AP). Conclusions: Predictive factors for GO-QoL differed not only between the 2 subscales but also before and after the first treatment of GO.

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Tomasz Bednarczuk, Thomas H. Brix, Wolfgang Schima, Georg Zettinig, and George J. Kahaly

Given the fact that a large number of radiological examinations using iodine-based contrast media (ICM) are performed in everyday practice, clinicians should be aware of potential ICM-induced thyroid dysfunction (TD). ICM can induce hyperthyroidism (Hyper) or hypothyroidism (Hypo) due to supraphysiological concentrations of iodine in the contrast solution. The prevalence of ICM-induced TD varies from 1 to 15%. ICM-induced Hyper is predominantly found in regions with iodine deficiency and in patients with underlying nodular goiter or latent Graves’ disease. Patients at risk for ICM-induced Hypo include those with autoimmune thyroiditis, living in areas with sufficient iodine supply. Most cases of ICM-induced TD are mild and transient. In the absence of prospective clinical trials on the management of ICM-induced TD, an individualized approach to prevention and treatment, based on patient’s age, clinical symptoms, pre-existing thyroid diseases, coexisting morbidities and iodine intake must be advised. Treatment of ICM-induced Hyper with antithyroid drugs (in selected cases in combination with sodium perchlorate) should be considered in patients with severe or prolonged hyperthyroid symptoms or in older patients with underlying heart disease. It is debated whether preventive therapy with methimazole and/or perchlorate prior to ICM administration is justified. In ICM-induced overt Hypo, temporary levothyroxine may be considered in younger patients with symptoms of Hypo, with an underlying autoimmune thyroiditis and in women planning pregnancy. Additional clinical trials with clinically relevant endpoints are warranted to further aid in clinical decision-making in patients with ICM-induced TD.

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Bernadette Biondi, Luigi Bartalena, David S. Cooper, Laszlo Hegedüs, Peter Laurberg, and George J. Kahaly

Endogenous subclinical hyperthyroidism (SHyper) is caused by Graves' disease, autonomously functioning thyroid nodules and multinodular goitre. Its diagnosis is based on a persistently subnormal serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level with free thyroid hormone levels within their respective reference intervals. In 2014 the European Thyroid Association Executive Committee, given the controversies regarding the treatment of Endo SHyper, formed a task force to develop clinical practice guidelines based on the principles of evidence-based medicine. The task force recognized that recent meta-analyses, including those based on large prospective cohort studies, indicate that SHyper is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease mortality, incident atrial fibrillation, heart failure, fractures and excess mortality in patients with serum TSH levels <0.1 mIU/l (grade 2 SHyper). Therefore, despite the absence of randomized prospective trials, there is evidence that treatment is indicated in patients older than 65 years with grade 2 SHyper to potentially avoid these serious cardiovascular events, fractures and the risk of progression to overt hyperthyroidism. Treatment could be considered in patients older than 65 years with TSH levels 0.1-0.39 mIU/l (grade 1 SHyper) because of their increased risk of atrial fibrillation, and might also be reasonable in younger (<65 years) symptomatic patients with grade 2 SHyper because of the risk of progression, especially in the presence of symptoms and/or underlying risk factors or co-morbidity. Finally, the task force concluded that there are no data to support treating SHyper in younger asymptomatic patients with grade 1 SHyper. These patients should be followed without treatment due to the low risk of progression to overt hyperthyroidism and the weaker evidence for adverse health outcomes.

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George J. Kahaly, Luigi Bartalena, Lazlo Hegedüs, Laurence Leenhardt, Kris Poppe, and Simon H. Pearce

Graves’ disease (GD) is a systemic autoimmune disorder characterized by the infiltration of thyroid antigen-specific T cells into thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSH-R)-expressing tissues. Stimulatory autoantibodies (Ab) in GD activate the TSH-R leading to thyroid hyperplasia and unregulated thyroid hormone production and secretion. Diagnosis of GD is straightforward in a patient with biochemically confirmed thyrotoxicosis, positive TSH-R-Ab, a hypervascular and hypoechoic thyroid gland (ultrasound), and associated orbitopathy. In GD, measurement of TSH-R-Ab is recommended for an accurate diagnosis/differential diagnosis, prior to stopping antithyroid drug (ATD) treatment and during pregnancy. Graves’ hyperthyroidism is treated by decreasing thyroid hormone synthesis with the use of ATD, or by reducing the amount of thyroid tissue with radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment or total thyroidectomy. Patients with newly diagnosed Graves’ hyperthyroidism are usually medically treated for 12–18 months with methimazole (MMI) as the preferred drug. In children with GD, a 24- to 36-month course of MMI is recommended. Patients with persistently high TSH-R-Ab at 12–18 months can continue MMI treatment, repeating the TSH-R-Ab measurement after an additional 12 months, or opt for therapy with RAI or thyroidectomy. Women treated with MMI should be switched to propylthiouracil when planning pregnancy and during the first trimester of pregnancy. If a patient relapses after completing a course of ATD, definitive treatment is recommended; however, continued long-term low-dose MMI can be considered. Thyroidectomy should be performed by an experienced high-volume thyroid surgeon. RAI is contraindicated in Graves’ patients with active/severe orbitopathy, and steroid prophylaxis is warranted in Graves’ patients with mild/active orbitopathy receiving RAI.

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Tanja Diana, Paul D. Olivo, Yie-Hwa Chang, Christian Wüster, Michael Kanitz, and George J. Kahaly

Objective: Stimulating thyrotropin-receptor antibodies (TSAb) cause Graves’ disease (GD). We tested a novel homogeneous fluorescent 3′,5′ cyclic adenine monophosphate (cAMP) assay for the detection of TSAb in a bioassay. Methods: Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines expressing either a chimeric (MC4) or wild-type (WT) TSH-R were incubated with the adenyl cyclase activator forskolin, a human TSAb monoclonal antibody (M22), and with sera from GD patients. Intracellular cAMP levels were measured using a Bridge-It® cAMP assay, and the results were compared with a luciferase-based bioassay. Results: Both cell lines were stimulated with forskolin concentrations (0.006–200 µM) in a dose-dependent manner. The linear range in the MC4 and WT cells was 0.8–25 and 3.1–50 µM, respectively. Levels of cAMP and luciferase in forskolin-treated MC4 and WT cells were positively correlated (r = 0.91 and 0.84, both p < 0.001). The 50% maximum stimulatory concentration of forskolin was more than 16-fold higher for the CHO-WT cells than the CHO-MC4 cells in the cAMP assay and 4-fold higher in the luciferase assay. Incubation of both cell lines with M22 (0.006–50 ng/mL) resulted in a dose-dependent increase in cAMP levels with linear ranges for the MC4 and WT cells of 0.8–12.5 and 0.2–3.125 ng/mL, respectively. Comparison of cAMP and luciferase levels in M22-treated MC4 and WT cells also showed a positive correlation (r = 0.88, p < 0.001 and 0.75, p = 0.002). A positive correlation was also noted when using patient samples (r = 0.96, p < 0.001) that were all TSH-R-Ab binding assay positive. Conclusion: The novel, rapid, simple-to-perform cAMP assay provides TSAb-mediated stimulatory results comparable to a luciferase-based bioassay.

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Tanja Diana, Hans-Peter Holthoff, Julia Fassbender, Christian Wüster, Michael Kanitz, George J. Kahaly, and Martin Ungerer

Introduction: A novel long-term murine model for Graves’ disease (GD) using repeated, long-term immunizations with recombinant adenovirus expressing the extracellular A-subunit of the human thyrotropin receptor (Ad-TSHR) was applied to evaluate the functional anti-TSHR-antibody (TSHR-Ab) profile. Methods: BALB/c mice received 7 immunizations with either 10<sup>10</sup> plaque-forming units of Ad-TSHR or control Ad-GFP. Naïve (nonimmuized native) mice were also studied. Three 3-weekly immunizations were followed by 4-weekly boosts until the 7th immunization. Blocking (TBAb) and stimulating (TSAb) TSHR-Ab were measured with bioassays. Assay cut-offs for TBAb/TSAb were at 34% inhibition and a specimen-to-reference ratio (SRR) of 140%. Results: Nineteen (8 Ad-TSHR-, 4 Ad-GFP-immunized, and 7 native) mice were investigated. All native mice were negative for TSHR-binding inhibitory immunoglobulins (TBII) prior to immunization. Native and Ad-GFP mice were negative in weeks 17 and 27 for TBII and TBAb/TSAb. In native mice, the free thyroxine (fT4) levels (median [25th percentile; 75th percentile]) were in the upper normal range (1.2 ng/mL [1.1; 1.6]) prior to immunization, at weeks 17 (2.2 ng/mL [2.1; 2.4]) and 27 (1.4 ng/mL [1.1; 1.7]), respectively. In contrast, in Ad-TSHR-immunized mice, fT4 values were markedly increased at weeks 17 (4.4 ng/mL [3.9; 6]) and 27 (4.5 ng/mL [4.2; 6]) compared to those in Ad-GFP mice (2 ng/mL [1.8; 2.1] and 1.4 ng/mL [1.1; 1.6]), respectively (p = 0.0008, p = 0.001). In contrast, at week 17, in Ad-TSHR mice, the mean TBII, TBAb, and TSAb levels were 40 IU/L (40; 40); 62% inhibition (38; 69), and 116% SRR (97; 185), respectively; at week 27, they were 40 IU/L (39; 40); 65% inhibition (34; 80) and 95% SRR (63; 187), respectively. Three serum samples from Ad-TSHR mice (38%) demonstrated dual TBAb/TSAb positivity. Conclusions: TBAb/TSAb were highly prevalent in Ad-TSHR-immunized mice, thus confirming the successful establishment of a novel, long-term murine model for GD. All TBAb- and TSAb-positive Ad-TSHR-immunized mice were TBII-positive. Thus, the binding immunoassay did not differentiate between TSHR-Ab functionality.

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Luigi Bartalena, Lelio Baldeschi, Kostas Boboridis, Anja Eckstein, George J. Kahaly, Claudio Marcocci, Petros Perros, Mario Salvi, and Wilmar M. Wiersinga

Graves' orbitopathy (GO) is the main extrathyroidal manifestation of Graves' disease, though severe forms are rare. Management of GO is often suboptimal, largely because available treatments do not target pathogenic mechanisms of the disease. Treatment should rely on a thorough assessment of the activity and severity of GO and its impact on the patient's quality of life. Local measures (artificial tears, ointments and dark glasses) and control of risk factors for progression (smoking and thyroid dysfunction) are recommended for all patients. In mild GO, a watchful strategy is usually sufficient, but a 6-month course of selenium supplementation is effective in improving mild manifestations and preventing progression to more severe forms. High-dose glucocorticoids (GCs), preferably via the intravenous route, are the first line of treatment for moderate-to-severe and active GO. The optimal cumulative dose appears to be 4.5-5 g of methylprednisolone, but higher doses (up to 8 g) can be used for more severe forms. Shared decision-making is recommended for selecting second-line treatments, including a second course of intravenous GCs, oral GCs combined with orbital radiotherapy or cyclosporine, rituximab or watchful waiting. Rehabilitative treatment (orbital decompression surgery, squint surgery or eyelid surgery) is needed in the majority of patients when GO has been conservatively managed and inactivated by immunosuppressive treatment.