Aggressive GH-secreting pituitary adenomas (GHPAs) represent an important clinical problem in patients with acromegaly. Surgical therapy, although often the mainstay of treatment for GHPAs, is less effective in aggressive GHPAs due to their invasive and destructive growth patterns, and their proclivity for infrasellar invasion. Medical therapies for GHPAs, including somatostatin analogues and GH receptor antagonists, are becoming increasingly important adjuncts to surgical intervention. Stereotactic radiosurgery serves as an important fallback therapy for tumors that cannot be cured with surgery and medications. Data suggests that patients with aggressive and refractory GHPAs are best treated at dedicated tertiary pituitary centers with multidisciplinary teams of neuroendocrinologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and other specialists who routinely provide advanced care to GHPA patients. Future research will help clarify the defining features of “aggressive” and “atypical” PAs, likely based on tumor behavior, preoperative imaging characteristics, histopathological characteristics, and molecular markers 1).
Growth hormone secreting pituitary adenoma should be treated surgically, often followed by radiation therapy. That acromegaly can be treated with surgery alone is very unlikely. However, debulking the tumor is very important. Radiation therapy results in 50% reduction in growth hormone levels within 2 years, followed by an additional 25% in the following 2 years. Thereafter, the growth hormone levels decline more slowly. Therefore, the lower the postoperative growth hormone level, the higher the chance of remission after radiation therapy. Medical treatment is used after surgery to suppress growth hormone secretion, awaiting the occurrence of the effects of radiotherapy. Octreotide is the treatment of choice. A long-acting formulation administered monthly is now available.
Somatostatin must be administered as a continuous infusion, while shorter-acting octreotide is administered tid-qid. Growth hormone receptor antagonists have been another addition to the treatment of acromegaly. Dopamine agonists also may be used but are not as effective as octreotide (approximately 30% of somatotropinomas respond).
The resection via a transsphenoidal approach is able to induce a long-term remission of acromegaly, with low risk of recurrence and complications. Endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal approach is more suitable than microscopic technique in macroadenomas and adenomas with suprasellar extension 2).
The most widely used criteria for neurosurgical outcome assessment were combined measurements of IGF-1 and GH levels after oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) 3 months after surgery. Ninety-eight percent of respondents stated that primary treatment with somatostatin receptor ligands (SRLs) was indicated at least sometime during the management of acromegaly patients. In nearly all centers (96%), the use of pegvisomant monotherapy was restricted to patients who had failed to achieve biochemical control with SRL therapy. The observation that most centers followed consensus statement recommendations encourages the future utility of these workshops aimed to create uniform management standards for acromegaly 5)
Current pharmacotherapy includes somatostatin analogs (SAs) and GH receptor antagonist; the former consists of lanreotide Autogel (ATG) and octreotide long-acting release (LAR), and the latter refers to pegvisomant. As primary medical therapy, lanreotide ATG and octreotide LAR can be supplied in a long-lasting formulation to achieve biochemical control of GH and IGF-1 by subcutaneous injection every 4-6 weeks. Lanreotide ATG and octreotide LAR provide an effective medical treatment, whether as a primary or secondary therapy, for the treatment of GH-secreting pituitary adenoma; however, to maximize benefits with the least cost, several points should be emphasized before the application of SAs. A comprehensive assessment, especially of the observation of clinical predictors and preselection of SA treatment, should be completed in advance. A treatment process lasting at least 3 months should be implemented to achieve a long-term stable blood concentration. More satisfactory surgical outcomes for noninvasive macroadenomas treated with presurgical SA may be achieved, although controversy of such adjuvant therapy exists. Combination of SA and pegvisomant or cabergoline shows advantages in some specific cases. Thus, an individual treatment program should be established for each patient under a full evaluation of the risks and benefits 6).