The role of radiation therapy in the management of non-functioning pituitary adenomas

J Endocrinol Invest. 2011 Sep;34(8):623-9. doi: 10.3275/7618. Epub 2011 Mar 22.


Surgical removal of non-functioning pituitary adenoma (NFPA) is the first-choice therapeutic option, but radical removal of the tumor cannot be accomplished in all patients. The best strategy to prevent regrowth of NFPA is still a matter of debate. Adjuvant radiotherapy is very effective in reducing recurrence rate after incomplete removal of NFPA, but concerns still exist about long-term toxicity of radiation. Different modalities have been developed to irradiate the pituitary region. One major distinction is between radiation techniques that deliver the total dose in multiple sessions using 3 fixed radiation beams and radiosurgical equipment that delivers the total dose to the target volume in a single treatment session. Progression-free survival of patients with NFPA treated by adjuvant radiotherapy is well above 90% at 5 yr in most studies and diminishes only slightly at 10 yr. Very few studies have a more prolonged follow-up. In comparison, the 5- and 10-yr estimated recurrence rate without adjuvant radiotherapy ranged from 15% to 51% and from 44% to 78%, respectively. Complications of radiation include rare but severe side-effects, such as secondary brain neoplasm, optic neuropathy, cerebrovascular accidents, and more frequent but less severe complications, such as pituitary deficiency. Optimal management of patients with residual or recurring NFPA after surgical debulking can be achieved through the judicious use of different treatment options, necessitating close cooperation between neurosurgeons, endocrinologists, and radiation oncologists.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Pituitary Gland / radiation effects
  • Pituitary Gland / surgery
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / surgery
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / instrumentation
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome