Updates in the outcomes of radiation therapy for Cushing's disease

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Mar;35(2):101514. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2021.101514. Epub 2021 Mar 10.


External radiation therapy (RT) directed to the pituitary gland is generally recommended in patients with Cushing's disease (CD) as adjuvant to transsphenoidal surgery, among other second-line therapies offered to patients with residual or recurrent hypercortisolism (i.e., medical treatment, repeat surgery or bilateral adrenalectomy). RT is effective for the control of tumor growth, even in invasive tumors and in Nelson's syndrome. Progress in radiation stereotactic techniques lead to improved tumor targeting and radiation delivery, thus sparing the adjacent brain structures. Stereotactic RT is associated with a 55-65% rate of cortisol normalization after several months to a few years and potentially with a lower risk of long-term complications, compared with conventional RT. Cortisol-lowering medical therapy is recommended while awaiting the radiation effects. Hypopituitarism is the most frequent side-effect, damage to optic or cranial nerves or second brain tumors are rarely reported. This review presents the updates in the efficacy and safety of the stereotactic radiation techniques in CD patients. Practical points which should be considered by the clinician before recommending RT are also presented.

Keywords: Cushing’s disease; Nelson’s syndrome; fractionated radiotherapy; radiation therapy; radiosurgery; stereotactic radiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenalectomy
  • Cushing Syndrome* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Nelson Syndrome* / surgery
  • Pituitary ACTH Hypersecretion* / radiotherapy
  • Pituitary ACTH Hypersecretion* / surgery
  • Pituitary Gland