Stereotactic radiation therapy in pituitary adenomas, is it better than conventional radiation therapy?

Monica Livia Gheorghiu, M. Fleseriu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Pituitary radiotherapy (RT) has undergone important progress in the last decades due to the development of new stereotactic techniques which provide more precise tumour targeting with less overall radiation received by the adjacent brain structures. Pituitary surgery is usually first-line therapy in most patients with nonfunctioning (NFPA) and functioning adenomas (except for prolactinomas and large growth hormone (GH) secreting adenomas), while RT is used as second or third-line therapy. The benefits of RT (tumour volume control and, in functional tumours, decreased hormonal secretion) are hampered by the long latency of the effect and the potential side effects. This review presents the updates in the efficacy and safety of the new stereotactic radiation techniques in patients with NFPA, GH-, ACTH- or PRL-secreting pituitary adenomas. Methods. A systematic review was performed using PubMed and articles/abstracts and reviews detailing RT in pituitary adenomas from 2000 to 2017 were included. Results. Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and fractionated stereotactic RT (FSRT) provide high rates of tumour control i.e. stable or decrease in tumour size, in all types of pituitary adenomas (median 92 - 98%) at 5 years. Endocrinological remission is however significantly lower: 44-52% in acromegaly, 54-64% in Cushing’s disease and around 30% in prolactinomas at 5 years. The rate of new hypopituitarism varies from 10% to 50% at 5 years in all tumour types and as expected increases with the duration of follow-up (FU). The risk for other radiation-induced complications is usually low (0-5% for new visual deficits, cranial nerves damage or brain radionecrosis and extremely low for secondary brain tumours), however longer FU is needed to determine rates of secondary tumours. Notably, in acromegaly, there may be a higher risk for stroke with FSRT. Conclusion. Stereotactic radiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for patients with persistent or recurrent pituitary adenomas after unsuccessful surgery (especially if residual tumour is enlarging) and/or resistance or unavailability of medical therapy. Comparison with conventional radiation therapy (CRT) is rather difficult, due to the substantial heterogeneity of the studies. In order to evaluate the potential brain-sparing effect of the new stereotactic techniques, suggested by the current data, long-term studies evaluating secondary morbidity and mortality are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-490
Number of pages15
JournalActa Endocrinologica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Fractionated radiotherapy
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Stereotactic radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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