The natural history and treatment of non-functioning pituitary adenomas (non-functioning PitNETs)

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2020 Oct;27(10):R375-R390. doi: 10.1530/ERC-20-0136.

Abstract

Non-functioning pituitary adenomas, recently alternatively termed pituitary neuroendocrine tumours (NFpitNETs), are mostly benign neoplasms that are not associated with a hormonal hypersecretory syndrome. The clinical spectrum of NFpitNETs varies from completely asymptomatic to the development of panhypopituitarism and manifestations attributed to mass effects on nearby structures. NFpitNETs follow generally an indolent course, but in 5-10% of cases they exhibit more aggressive behaviour, characterised by rapid growth, invasiveness and early recurrence. The initial size of the adenoma, the presence of symptoms and the histological subtype are related to the natural course of NFpitNETs. Active surveillance is usually the strategy of choice in the case of an asymptomatic NFpitNET, while surgical resection is recommended in case of visual and/or neurological abnormalities or rapid tumour growth. Based on previous and emerging data, approximately 50% of patients show tumour growth, while 20% of patients with NF-macroadenomas on active surveillance may require further intervention during a follow-up period of 7 years. Adjuvant radiotherapy is usually considered for large residual tumours or recurrent and/or aggressive adenomas, but there is evidence that medical therapy, especially with cabergoline, can occasionally be beneficial, whereas newer molecular agents are under investigation. Thus, while highly effective medical therapy is awaited, a move towards a more conservative approach seems appropriate, at least until we have better molecular markers of progressiveness.

Keywords: management; mortality; natural history; non-functioning pituitary adenomas; prognosis; surgery; temozolomide; tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome