Dopamine Resistance of Prolactinomas

Pituitary. 2003;6(1):19-27. doi: 10.1023/a:1026225625897.


Resistance to dopamine agonists can be defined with respect to failure to normalize PRL levels and failure to decrease tumor size by > or = 50%. Using these definitions, failure to normalize PRL levels is seen in 24% of those treated with bromocriptine, 13% of those treated with pergolide and 11% of those treated with cabergoline. Failure to achieve at least a 50% reduction in tumor size occurs in about one-third of those treated with bromocriptine and 10-15% of those treated with pergolide or cabergoline. Studies of in vitro cell preparations show that the D2 receptors of resistant tumors are decreased in number but have normal affinity. Treatment approaches for resistant patients include switching to another dopamine agonist and raising the dose of the drug as long as there is continued response to the dose increases and no adverse effects. Transsphenoidal surgery can also be done. If fertility is desired, clomiphene, gonadotropins, and GnRH are also options. If fertility is not desired, estrogen replacement may be used unless there is a macroadenoma, in which case control of tumor growth is also an issue and dopamine agonists are generally necessary. However, in many cases modest or even no reduction may be acceptable long-term as long as there is not tumor growth. Hormone replacement (estrogen or testosterone) may cause a decrease in efficacy of the dopamine agonist so that it must be carried out cautiously. Reduction of endogenous estrogen, use of selective estrogen receptor modulators, and aromatase inhibitors are potential experimental approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bromocriptine / therapeutic use*
  • Cabergoline
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Ergolines / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prolactinoma / drug therapy*


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Ergolines
  • Bromocriptine
  • Cabergoline