What’s New in Pituitary Tumor Research?

Research into pituitary tumors is taking place in many university hospitals, medical centers, and other institutions around the world.

Research on pituitary tumor causes

Doctors now have a better understanding of the genetic basis of pituitary tumors. This is already leading to improvements in genetic testing for people who are suspected of having multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I (MEN1) or other syndromes. This work is also helping doctors better understand non-functioning adenomas, such as those that don't respond to somatostatin drugs, which may lead to new treatments for these tumors. This might also make it possible to identify genes and markers that could help doctors know whether a benign pituitary adenoma will likely go on to spread and become a pituitary carcinoma (cancer).

Research on tests for pituitary tumors

Imaging tests such as MRI scans continue to improve, leading to better accuracy in finding and determining the size of new tumors and those that come back after treatment. Studies are now looking at whether using MRI during surgery might help to more completely remove tumors. New scans , are also being tested in clinical trials.

Research on treating pituitary tumors

Surgical techniques are improving, allowing doctors to remove tumors with fewer complications than ever before. Studies are now looking at what's the best surgery for different types and sizes of tumors, as well as ways to combine surgical techniques or use 2-staged surgery to get better results. Robotic surgery is also being looked at as a way to reach these tumors and limit side effects. Surgery is often used to treat pituitary tumors, and doctors are looking at ways to remove the tumor, but spare as much of the pituitary gland as possible. This may mean fewer hormone issues after surgery and could give patients a better quality of life.

Radiation therapy techniques are improving as well, letting doctors focus radiation more precisely on tumors and limiting the damage to nearby normal tissues.

New ways of using radiation therapy are also being studied. For instance, doctors are using radioactive implants put right into the tumors. They're also looking at whether radiation after surgery helps keep pituitary tumors from coming back.

Progress is being made in the medicines used to treat both pituitary tumors and the side effects of some other forms of treatment. For instance, studies are looking at whether steroid treatment is really needed when surgery is done for tumors that cause a decrease in the hormone ACTH. (This can lead to low levels of the steroids your body makes and can cause serious side effects.)

Researchers are also studying some newer drugs. An example is lapatinib (Tykerb), a drug that targets a protein called HER2, which is found in large amounts on some fast-growing cells (including some pituitary tumor cells). This drug is already used to treat breast cancer, and it is now being studied for use against pituitary tumors. Temozolomide (Temodar ) is another example. It's a drug used to treat certain brain tumors. It's now being studied to see if it can help treat and improve outcomes in aggressive pituitary tumors.

Because many of the drugs used to treat these tumors must be taken for the rest of a person's life, researchers are trying to make some of these drugs into forms that are easier to use. Octreotide is a drug commonly used to treat certain pituitary tumors. It's give as a shot 3 times a day. Clinical studies are looking at whether a newly created pill form of octreotide works as well.

Many other drugs are also being studied in clinical trials.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Revised: November 2, 2017

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