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.