Pituitary adenomas are associated with a variety of clinical manifestations resulting from excessive hormone secretion and tumor mass effects, and require a multidisciplinary management approach. This article discusses the treatment modalities for the management of patients with a prolactinoma, Cushing's disease and acromegaly, and summarizes the options for medical therapy in these patients.
First-line treatment of prolactinomas is pharmacotherapy with dopamine agonists; recent reports of cardiac valve abnormalities associated with this class of medication in Parkinson's disease has prompted study in hyperprolactinemic populations. Patients with resistance to dopamine agonists may require other treatment.
First-line treatment of Cushing's disease is pituitary surgery by a surgeon with experience in this condition. Current medical options for Cushing's disease block adrenal cortisol production, but do not treat the underlying disease. Pituitary-directed medical therapies are now being explored. In several small studies, the dopamine agonist cabergoline normalized urinary free cortisol in some patients. The multi-receptor targeted somatostatin analogue pasireotide (SOM230) shows promise as a pituitary-directed medical therapy in Cushing's disease; further studies will determine its efficacy and safety. Radiation therapy, with medical adrenal blockade while awaiting the effects of radiation, and bilateral adrenalectomy remain standard treatment options for patients not cured with pituitary surgery.
In patients with acromegaly, surgery remains the first-line treatment option when the tumor is likely to be completely resected, or for debulking, especially when the tumor is compressing neurovisual structures. Primary therapy with somatostatin analogues has been used in some patients with large extrasellar tumors not amenable to surgical cure, patients at high surgical risk and patients who decline surgery. Pegvisomant is indicated in patients who have not responded to surgery and other medical therapy, although there are regional differences in when it is prescribed.
In conclusion, the treatment of patients with pituitary adenomas requires a multidisciplinary approach. Dopamine agonists are an effective first-line medical therapy in most patients with a prolactinoma, and somatostatin analogues can be used as first-line therapy in selected patients with acromegaly. Current medical therapies for Cushing's disease primarily focus on adrenal blockade of cortisol production, although pasireotide and cabergoline show promise as pituitary-directed medical therapy for Cushing's disease; further long-term evaluation of efficacy and safety is important.