Silent corticotroph adenomas

Pituitary. 2018 Apr;21(2):183-193. doi: 10.1007/s11102-018-0864-8.


Purpose: Silent corticotroph adenomas (SCAs) present clinically as non-functioning adenomas (NFAs) but are immunopositive for adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) without biochemical and clinical manifestation of hypercortisolism. Pathologic examination of resected NFAs that demonstrate positive ACTH and/or TPIT expression confirms its corticotroph lineage. SCAs comprise up to 20% of NFAs and exhibit a higher rate of recurrence. Studies of molecular mechanisms have generated multiple hypotheses on SCA tumorigenesis, pathophysiology, and growth that as yet remain to be proven. An improved understanding of their pathologic and clinical characteristics is needed.

Methods: A literature review was performed using PubMed to identify research reports and clinical case series on SCAs.

Results: Up to date findings regarding epidemiology, mechanisms of pathogenesis, differentiation, progression, and growth, as well as clinical presentation, postoperative course, and treatment options for patients with SCAs are presented. Pooled results demonstrate that 25-40% of cases show cavernous sinus invasion, preoperative hypopituitarism, new-onset hypopituitarism, and recurrence.

Conclusion: This article reviews the incidence, molecular pathology, and clinical behavior of these unique non-functioning pituitary corticotroph adenomas, and highlights the need for rigorous monitoring for recurrences and hypopituitarism in patients with SCAs.

Keywords: Cushing; Nonfunctioning; Pituitary adenoma; Silent corticotroph.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ACTH-Secreting Pituitary Adenoma / epidemiology
  • ACTH-Secreting Pituitary Adenoma / pathology
  • Adenoma / epidemiology
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology