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G M Besser, P Burman, and A F Daly

Background: Multimodal therapy for acromegaly affords adequate disease control for many patients; however, there remains a subset of individuals that exhibit treatment-resistant disease. The issue of treatment-resistant pituitary tumor growth remains relatively under-explored.

Methods: We assessed the literature for relevant data regarding the surgical, medical and radiotherapeutic treatment of acromegaly in order to identify the factors that were predictive of aggressive or treatment-resistant pituitary tumor behavior in acromegaly and undertook an assessment of the rates of failure to control tumor progression with available treatment modalities.

Results: Young age at diagnosis, large tumor size, high growth hormone secretion and certain histological markers are predictors of future aggressive tumor behavior in acromegaly. Significant tumor regrowth occurs in less than 10% of cases thought to be cured surgically, whereas failure to control tumor growth is seen in less than 1% of patients receiving radiotherapy. Somatostatin analogs induce a variable degree of tumor shrinkage in acromegaly but up to 2.2% of somatostatin analog-treated tumors continue to grow. Relative to other therapies, limited data are available for pegvisomant, but these indicate that persistent tumor growth occurs in 1.6–2.9% of cases followed up regularly with serial magnetic resonance imaging scans.

Conclusions: Treatment-resistant tumor progression occurs in a small minority of patients with acromegaly, regardless of treatment modality. Young patients with large tumors or those with high pre-treatment levels of growth hormone particularly warrant close monitoring for continued tumor progression during treatment for acromegaly.

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M Giusti, G Delitala, G Marini, B Uggias, P Sessarego, GM Besser, A Grossman, and G Giordano

The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of the guanyl derivative of the opioid analogue D-ala2,MePhe4-Met-enkephalin-(o)-ol (G-DAMME) on pituitary secretion in healthy elderly men. Nine healthy elderly men (65–88 years) and 10 young adults (20–30 years) were studied. GH, PRL, gonadotropins, cortisol (to evaluate the effect on ACTH) and TSH were measured after G-DAMME (0.25 mg iv) or placebo administration. In elderly men, the GH response to G-DAMME was reduced or absent, while prompt GH release was found in all young men. G-DAMME lowered LH levels in young men but not in elderly men. No significant variations in FSH levels after G-DAMME and placebo were noted in either group of subjects. A similar and significant rise in PRL and TSH, and a fall in cortisol, after G-DAMME was observed in both elderly and young adults. We have demonstrated that the sensitivity to opioid modulation by G-DAMME on PRL, TSH and cortisol secretion is unchanged with aging. On the other hand, the data indicate that LH and GH responsiveness to G-DAMME change with age.

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A growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) has recently been extracted and synthesised, and appears to be identical to human hypothalamic GHRH.

Immunoreactive GHRH is found in the venous blood of normal subjects and GH-deficient children, but is probably not hypothalamic in origin and therefore not important in GH regulation. GHRH is a potent specific stimulator of GH secretion in man, and provides a valuable diagnostic test in differentiating hypothalamic from pituitary causes of GH deficiency.

Preliminary data suggests that GHRH may promote linear growth in some GH deficient children. GHRH may well prove an important alternative therapy for GH deficient children especially if depot preparations or intranasal administration prove effective.

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G. M. Besser, R. Hall, A. V. Schally, D. H. Coy, and S. R. Bloom

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K. S. L. Lam, A. Grossman, P. Bouloux, P. L. Drury, and G. M. Besser

Abstract. The effect of naloxone on the neurohumoral responses to acute sympathetic stimulation by sustained hand-grip in normal man was investigated. Six normal males were studied fasting at 08.30 h, on two occasions at 7-day intervals, with each subject sustaining 30% of his maximal hand-grip on a hand dynamometer for 5 min. Naloxone (8 mg bolus) in 20 ml normal saline, or saline alone, was given 5 min before hand-grip in a randomised double-blind cross-over trial. Blood was sampled for plasma renin activity, serum aldosterone and plasma catecholamines. The study was repeated in the absence of hand-grip. Sustained hand-grip produced significant elevations in mean blood-pressure, circulating adrenaline, noradrenaline and aldosterone. Naloxone, which had no effect on basal catecholamines, plasma renin activity or aldosterone, significantly enhanced the responses in plasma adrenaline, plasma renin activity and serum aldosterone to hand-grip. The increments in blood pressure and noradrenaline were not affected. These results suggest that endogenous opioids modulate the response of the sympathoadrenal and renin-aldosterone systems to acute sympathetic stimulation by a mild stress in man.

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R. C. Castro, J. G. H. Vieira, A. R. Chacra, G. M. Besser, A. B. Grossman, and A. M.J. Lengyel


Obese patients are characterised by several neuroendocrine abnormalities, including characteristically a decrease in growth hormone responsiveness to GH-releasing hormone. In normal subjects, the GH response to GHRH is enhanced by the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, pyridostigmine. We have studied the effect of this drug on GH secretion in gross obesity. Twelve obese patients were studied (mean weight 156% of ideal) and compared with a group of 8 normal volunteers. Each subject was initially studied on two occasions, in random order, with GHRH (1–29) NH2 100 μg iv alone and following pretreatment with pyridostigmine 120 mg orally one hour prior to GHRH. In obese patients, the GH response to GHRH was significantly blunted when compared to controls (GH peak: 20 ± 4 vs 44 ± 16 μg/l; mean ± sem). After pyridostigmine, the response to GHRH was enhanced in the obese subjects, but remained significantly reduced compared to non-obese subjects treated with GHRH and pyridostigmine (GH peak: 30 ± 5 vs 77 ± 20 μg/l, respectively). In 6 subjects, higher doses of GHRH or pyridostigmine did not further increase GH responsiveness in obese patients. Our results suggest that obese patients have a disturbed cholinergic control of GH release, probably resulting from increased somatostatinergic tone. This disturbed regulation may be responsible, at least in part, for the blunted GH responses to provocative stimuli.

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F M Swords, J P Monson, G M Besser, S L Chew, W M Drake, A B Grossman, and P N Plowman


We report the use of ‘gamma knife’ (GK) radiosurgery in 25 patients with pituitary adenomas not cured despite conventional therapy, including external beam radiotherapy.

Patients and methods

All patients had previously received conventional radiotherapy for a mean of 11.8 years prior to receiving GK; 23 out of 25 had also undergone pituitary surgery on at least one occasion. Seventeen had hyperfunctioning adenomas that still required medical therapy without an adequate biochemical control – ten somatotroph adenomas, six corticotroph adenomas and one prolactinoma, while eight patients had non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs).


Following GK, mean GH fell by 49% at 1 year in patients with somatotroph tumours. Serum IGF1 fell by 32% at 1 year and by 38% at 2 years. To date, 80% of the patients with acromegaly have achieved normalisation of IGF1, and 30% have also achieved a mean GH level of <1.8 ng/ml correlating with normalised mortality. A total of 75% NFPAs showed disease stabilisation or shrinkage post GK. The patient with a prolactinoma showed a dramatic response: 75% reduction in prolactin at 2 years, with a marked shrinkage on magnetic resonance imaging. The results in corticotroph adenomas were variable. Prior to GK, 72% of the patients were panhypopituitary, and 42% of the remainder have developed new anterior pituitary hormone deficiencies to date. No other adverse events have been detected at a mean follow-up of 36.4 months.


These data indicate that GK is a safe and effective adjunctive treatment for patients with NFPAs and acromegaly not satisfactorily controlled with surgery and radiotherapy.

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G. Benker, C. H. Mortimer, A. Chait, P. J. Lowry, G. M. Besser, D. H. Coy, A. Kastin, and A. V. Schally

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L F Chan, H L Storr, P N Plowman, L A Perry, G M Besser, A B Grossman, and M O Savage

Background/objective: Pituitary radiotherapy (RT) is an effective second-line treatment for paediatric Cushing’s disease (CD). Although the short-term effects of pituitary RT are well documented, there are less data on possible long-term sequelae. We report the long-term anterior pituitary function in a cohort of paediatric CD patients treated with pituitary RT.

Patients and methods: Between 1983 and 2006, 12 paediatric CD patients (10 males and 2 females) of mean age 11.4 years at diagnosis (range 6.4–17.4) underwent second-line pituitary RT (45 Gy in 25 fractions), following unsuccessful transsphenoidal surgery. Out of 12, 11 patients were cured by RT (cure interval 0.13–2.86 years) defined by mean serum cortisol of <150 nmol/l on 5-point day curve and midnight sleeping cortisol of <50 nmol/l. Long-term data are available for six male patients, who received RT at the age of 7.0–17.6 years. The mean follow-up from the completion of RT was 10.5 years (6.6–16.5).

Results: At a mean of 1.0 year (0.11–2.54) following RT, GH deficiency (peak GH <1–17.9 mU/l) was present in five out of six patients. On retesting at a mean of 9.3 years (7.6–11.3) after RT, three out of four patients were GH sufficient (peak GH 19.2–50.4 mU/l). Other anterior pituitary functions including serum prolactin in five out of six patients were normal on follow-up. All the six patients had testicular volumes of 20–25 ml at the age of 14.5–28.5 years.

Conclusion: This series of patients illustrates the absence of serious long-term pituitary deficiency after RT and emphasises the importance of continued surveillance.

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W M Drake, R A Loureiro, C Parkinson, J P Monson, G M Besser, and P J Trainer

Objective: Pegvisomant, a modified growth hormone (GH) molecule, is a novel medical therapy for acromegaly that functions as a GH receptor antagonist. Serum GH cannot be used as a marker of disease activity in patients taking this form of therapy, partly because GH levels rise on pegvisomant and partly because the drug cross-reacts with many routine GH assays. The purpose of this study was to assess the time for which it is necessary to discontinue pegvisomant prior to biochemical reassessment of acromegaly.

Design and methods: This was a retrospective study of 13 patients (seven male, median age 61 years, range 43–77) enrolled in two separate, open-label studies of the efficacy and tolerability of pegvisomant in the treatment of acromegaly. All had been taking a stable dose of pegvisomant (median dose 15 mg daily, range 10–30) as monotherapy for at least 3 months before discontinuing the drug. After discontinuation of pegvisomant, serum IGF-I was measured at 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks in all patients. Serum GH (single sample) was measured in nine patients at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks, but not at baseline on account of the cross-reactivity of pegvisomant with the GH assay.

Results: Mean serum IGF-I rose from 210±105 ng/ml (s.d.) at baseline to 392±175 ng/ml at 2 weeks after discontinuation of pegvisomant (P < 0.0001). Although there was no statistically significant change in mean serum IGF-I beyond 2 weeks (412±181, 392±152 and 399±150 ng/ml at 4, 6 and 8 weeks respectively; P = 0.13 (2 vs 4 weeks), 0.31 (4 vs 6 weeks) and 0.46 (6 vs 8 weeks), serum IGF-I rose by more than twice the interassay coefficient of variation (CV) in two of the 13 patients between weeks 2 and 4. The standard deviation of the difference in serum IGF-I between time points was calculated. The values declined from 118% (weeks 0–2) 17%, 19.7% and 10% (weeks 2–4, 4–6 and 6–8 respectively). The expected measure if there was no systematic change in base would be 15% (1.4 ×interassay CV). Mean serum GH was virtually unchanged at 2–8 weeks after cessation of pegvisomant therapy.

Conclusions: These results suggest that the activity of acromegaly may be assessed by serum IGF-I levels 6 weeks after the discontinuation of pegvisomant.