Purpose Treatment of acromegaly has undergone important progress in the last 20 years mainly due to the development of new medical options and advances in surgical techniques. Pituitary surgery is usually first-line therapy, and medical treatment is indicated for persistent disease, while radiation (RT) is often used as third-line therapy. The benefits of RT (tumor volume control and decreased hormonal secretion) are hampered by the long latency of the effect and the high risk of adverse effects. Stereotactic RT methods have been developed with the aim to provide more precise targeting of the tumor with better control of the radiation dose received by the adjacent brain structures. The purpose of this review is to present the updates in the efficacy and safety of pituitary RT in acromegalic patients, with an emphasis on the new stereotactic radiation techniques. Methods A systematic review was performed using PubMed and articles/abstracts and reviews detailing RT in acromegaly from 2000 to 2016 were included. Results Stereotactic radiosurgery and fractionated stereotactic RT (FSRT) for patients with persistent active acromegaly after surgery and/or during medical therapy provide comparable high rates of tumor control, i.e. stable or decrease in size of the tumor in 93-100% of patients at 5-10 years and endocrinological remission in 40-60% of patients at 5 years. Hypofractionated RT is an optimal option for tumors located near the optic structures, due to its lower toxicity for the optic nerves compared to single-dose radiosurgery. The rate of new hypopituitarism varies from 10 to 50% at 5 years and increases with the duration of follow-up. The risk for other radiation-induced complications is usually low (0-5% for new visual deficits, cranial nerves damage or brain radionecrosis and 0-1% for secondary brain tumors) and risk of stroke may be higher in FSRT. Conclusion Although the use of radiotherapy in patients with acromegaly has decreased with advances in medical treatments, it remains an effective treatment option after unsuccessful surgery and/or resistance or unavailability of medical therapy. Long-term studies evaluating secondary morbidity and mortality rate after the new stereotactic techniques are needed, in order to evaluate their potential brain-sparing effect.
Keywords: Acromegaly; Fractionated radiotherapy; Hypofractionated radiosurgery; Hypopituitarism; Radiosurgery; Stereotactic radiotherapy.