Pharmacological management of acromegaly: a current perspective

Neurosurg Focus. 2010 Oct;29(4):E14. doi: 10.3171/2010.7.FOCUS10168.


Acromegaly is a chronic disorder of enhanced growth hormone (GH) secretion and elevated insulin-like growth factor–I (IGF-I) levels, the most frequent cause of which is a pituitary adenoma. Persistently elevated GH and IGF-I levels lead to substantial morbidity and mortality. Treatment goals include complete removal of the tumor causing the disease, symptomatic relief, reduction of multisystem complications, and control of local mass effect. While transsphenoidal tumor resection is considered first-line treatment of patients in whom a surgical cure can be expected, pharmacological therapy is playing an increased role in the armamentarium against acromegaly in patients unsuitable for or refusing surgery, after failure of surgical treatment (inadequate resection, cavernous sinus invasion, or transcapsular intraarachnoid invasion), or in select cases as primary treatment. Three broad drug classes are available for the treatment of acromegaly: somatostatin analogs, dopamine agonists, and GH receptor antagonists. Somatostatin analogs are considered as the first-line pharmacological treatment of acromegaly, although efficacy varies among the different formulations. Octreotide long-acting release (LAR) appears to be more efficacious than lanreotide sustained release (SR). Lanreotide Autogel (ATG) has been shown to result in similar biological control as octreotide LAR, and there may be a benefit in switching from one to the other in some cases of treatment failure. The novel multireceptor somatostatin analog pasireotide, currently in Phase II clinical trials, also shows promise in the treatment of acromegaly. Dopamine agonists have been the earliest and most widely used agents in the treatment of acromegaly but have been found to be less effective than somatostatin analogs. In this class of drugs, cabergoline has shown greater efficacy and tolerability than bromocriptine. Dopamine agonists have the advantage of oral administration, resulting in increased use in select patient groups. Selective GH receptor antagonists, such as pegvisomant, act by blocking the effects of GH, resulting in decreased IGF-I production despite persistent elevation of GH serum levels. Thus far, tumor growth has not been a concern during pegvisomant therapy. However, combination treatment with somatostatin analogs may counteract these effects. The authors discuss the latest guidelines for biochemical cure and highlight the efficacy of combination therapy. In addition, the effects of pharmacological presurgical treatment on surgical outcome are explored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acromegaly / drug therapy*
  • Acromegaly / metabolism
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Human Growth Hormone / analogs & derivatives
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Octreotide / therapeutic use*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / therapeutic use
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Somatostatin / analogs & derivatives
  • Somatostatin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • lanreotide
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Somatostatin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • pasireotide
  • pegvisomant
  • Octreotide