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Hilke Buurman and Wolfgang Saeger

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine pituitary adenomas in a series of postmortem pituitaries by use of modern technologies of immunostaining, to classify the adenomas according to the current WHO classification and to analyse the possible associations to the available clinical data.

Methods: In this study, pituitaries of 3048 autopsy cases obtained from autopsy series of the years 1991–2004 were examined.

Results: A total of 334 pituitary adenomas were found in 316 pituitaries. One hundred and thirty-two sparsely granulated prolactin cell adenomas (39.5%), 75 null cell adenomas (22.5%) and 31 oncocytomas were diagnosed. Forty-six ACTH cell adenomas (13.8%, 27 densely granulated, 19 sparsely granulated) and one adenoma composed of Crooke’s cells were detected. Twenty-two gonadotroph cell adenomas (6.6%), seven GH cell adenomas (four sparsely granulated, three densely granulated), one mixed GH cell–PRL cell adenoma, two TSH cell adenomas, five plurihormonal adenoma type I, four plurihormonal adenoma type II and two α-subunit-only adenomas were seen. Six adenomas remained unclassified because the tissue was not contained in all sections for immunohistochemistry. Seventeen pituitaries included multiple tumours. The overall tumour size ranged from 0.1 to 20 mm in diameter. Among 76 adenomas (22.7%), which had a tumour size of ≥ 3 mm, only three tumours were macroadenomas corresponding to a tumour size of more than 10 mm. The evaluation of the available clinical data showed 99 cases of hypertension, 65 cases of diabetes mellitus, six patients with hyperthyroidism and four with hypothyroidism. No symptoms of adenohypophyseal hormone hypersecretion were reported. The statistical correlations to clinical data were discussed.

Conclusions: Adenomas in postmortem pituitaries differ from those in surgical series in proportion of adenoma types and biological behaviour.

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Tina Weber, Wolfgang Saeger and Dieter K. Lüdecke

Abstract. In a series of 124 pituitary adenomas displaying oncocytic alterations, we studied the degree of oncocytic transformation by light microcopical and morphometrical means for semiquantitative analysis. We established three groups with different percentages of oncocytically transformed cells for comparison of clinical and immunocytochemical data. Of the patients, 32.3% exposed adenomas with less than 50% oncocytic alterations (group I), whereas 22.6% showed tumours with oncocytic transformations between 51% and 75% (group II). Oncocytic parts consisting of more than 75% of the tumour cells were found in 41.1% of the patients (group III). All three groups differed in the rate of immunocytochemically positive cases, but not in sex distribution, tumour size, and rate of recurrency. Immunocytochemical analyses for PRL and GH (81 vs 78 adenomas) showed a decline of immunohistochemically positive adenomas with increasing proportions of oncocytic transformation for both hormones. Whereas in group I 38% of the adenomas were PRL-positive and 15% GH-positive, group III displayed only 9% PRL-positive and 3% GH-positive adenomas. The results display the correlation between the increasing volume of oncocytic transformation and its effect on decreasing hormone content in pituitary adenomas.

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Matthias Riedel, Joachim Noldus, Wolfgang Saeger and Dieter K. Lüdecke

Abstract. In 204 patients with sellar lesions and isolated hyperprolactinaemia we analysed and compared many different morphological, immunocytochemical, hormonal, and clinical data for a differentiation of primary (Prl produced by a tumour) and secondary (Prl elevation by PIF inhibition) hyperprolactinaemia. We found Prl-positive pituitary adenomas with primary hyperprolactinaemia in 62.7% and a secondary Prl elevation with different alterations in 37.3% (Prl-negative adenomas 28.9%, craniopharyngeomas 5%, and non-tumourous conditions 3.4%). In secondary hyperprolactinaemia the Prl values did not exceed 130 μg/l, higher levels indicated Prl-producing adenomas with a high probability. In patients with Prl elevation below 130 μg/l the clinical and sometimes the morphological analysis were not sufficient for a differentiation. Here immunocytochemical studies are necessary for a clear classification of hyperprolactinaemia.

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Ursula Plöckinger, Michael Bäder, Werner Hopfenmüller, Wolfgang Saeger and Hans-Jürgen Quabbe


The value of somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS) to predict the effect of somatostatin analog therapy on pituitary adenomas is not clear, due to the use of different radiopharmaceuticals (123I-Tyr3-octreotide and 111In-pentetreotide) and the small number of patients in previous studies. We used 111In-pentetreotide scintigraphy in 49 patients in order to (i) correlate SRS results with basal tumor volume as well as volume- and hormone-response to 3 months of octreotide therapy (Oct-Tx), (ii) identify tumor remnants after incomplete surgery and (iii) evaluate any correlation with immunohistology. Twenty-five patients had a GH-secreting adenoma (GH-A, 15 prior to intended surgery, 10 with persistent/recurrent disease after previous therapy). Twenty-four patients had a clinically nonfunctioning adenoma (NF-A). For SRS, planar and single photon emission computer tomographic images (SPECT) were recorded 4 h and 24 h post injection. SRS grading was as follows: GO, no uptake; Gl, uptake comparable to normal pituitary; G2, increased uptake; G3, very intense uptake. G2/3 was seen in 8/25 GH-A and in 12/24 NF-A. Pretreatment tumor volume (magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) tended to be related to 111In-pentetreotide uptake in GH-A with a tumor visible on MRI (G0/1 (n=10) vs G2/3 (n=8): 3·6±1·9 vs 10·±6·5 cm3 (mean±s.e.), P=0·051), but not in NF-A (g0/1 (n=12) vs G2/3 (n=12): 17·0±10·1 vs 14·3±3·6 cm3). SRS did not identify a tumor remnant in the 7 MRI-negative patients with persistent post-operative acromegaly. Basal GH (6-h profile) and IGF-I in GH-A did not correlate with SRS results (G0/1 (n=17) vs G2/3 (n=8), GH: 32·3±18·2 vs 29·3±7·4 μg/l, IGF-I: 851±80 vs 1038±153 μg/l). During Oct-Tx of GH-A neither tumor shrinkage nor GH suppression was related to SRS results. In 6 NF-A classified as gonadotropinomas (by their plasma glycoprotein hormone or α-subunit concentrations, basally and/or in response to TRH) 111In-pentetreotide uptake was not different from that of the non-gonadotropin/non-secreting adenomas. SRS results were not related to the immunohistological subtype in 22 GH-A (monohormonal, mixed somatotrope/lactotrope, plurihormonal) or in 22 NF-A (null-cell adenomas, gonadotropinomas, silent hormonal adenomas). We conclude that 111In-pentetreotide SRS reflects tumor volume poorly in GH-A and not at all in NF-A. It does not predict the effect of Oct-Tx on the volume of both GH-A and NF-A, nor on the GH concentration in GH-A. 111In-pentetreotide SRS is unable to identify postoperative tumor remnants not visible on MRI.

European Journal of Endocrinology 136 369–376

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Wolfgang Saeger, Dieter K Lüdecke, Michael Buchfelder, Rudolf Fahlbusch, Hans-Jürgen Quabbe and Stephan Petersenn

In 1996, the German Registry of Pituitary Tumors was founded by the Pituitary Section of the German Society of Endocrinology as a reference center for collection and consultant pathohistological studies of pituitary tumors. The experiences of the first 10 years of this registry based on 4122 cases will herein be reported. The data supplement former collections of the years 1970–1995 with 3480 surgically removed tumors or lesions of the pituitary region. The cases were studied using histology, immunostainings and in some cases also molecular pathology or electron microscopy. The adenomas were classified according to the current World Health Organization classification in the version of 2004. From 1996 on 3489 adenomas (84.6%), 5 pituitary carcinomas (0.12%), 133 craniophar-yngiomas (3.2%), 39 meningiomas (0.94%), 25 metastases (0.6%), 22 chordomas (0.5%), 115 cystic non-neoplastic lesions (2.8%), and 46 inflammatory lesions (1.1%, 248 other lesions or normal tissue (6.0%)) were collected by us. The adenomas (100%) were classified into densely granulated GH cell adenomas (9.2%), sparsely granulated GH cell adenomas (6.3%), sparsely granulated prolactin (PRL) cell adenomas (8.9%), densely granulated PRL cell adenomas (0.3%), mixed GH/PRL cell adenomas (5.2%), mammosomatotropic adenomas (1.1%), acidophilic stem cell adenomas (0.2%), densely granulated ACTH cell adenomas (7.2%), sparsely granulated ACTH cell adenomas (7.9%), Crooke cell adenomas (0.03%), TSH cell adenomas (1.5%), FSH/LH cell adenomas (24.8%), null cell adenomas (19.3%), null cell adenoma, oncocytic variant (5.8%), and plurihormonal adenomas (1.3%). Following the WHO classification of 2004, the new entity ‘atypical adenoma’ was found in 12 cases in 2005. Various prognostic parameters and clinical implications are discussed.

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Gesche Tallen, Susanne Fehr, Wolfgang Saeger, Holger Uhlig and Dieter K Lüdecke

A non-isotopic in situ hybridization method with digoxigenin-labelled probes was used to examine growth hormone (GH), prolactin (PRL) and human β-chorionic gonadotropin (β-hCG(LH)) gene expression in 63 pituitary tumours in acromegaly and 20 adenomas in hyperprolactinaemia. hCG and LH were detected simultaneously because of the extensive homology (more than 90%) of their mRNA sequences (1). A comparison with former results obtained with 35S-labelled probes shows the value of the easier and faster non-isotopic method. Additionally, immunohistochemical data are included to give even more evidence for the synthesis of the respective hormones by the tumour cells. In all 63 adenomas in acromegaly, GH mRNA was revealed in 59 PRL mRNA and in 36 β-hCG(LH) mRNA. A positive immunostaining for GH was found in all, for PRL in 40, and for β-hCG(LH) in 34 adenomas. The comparison of the two in situ hybridization methods revealed no differences concerning GH mRNA detection, but not all tumours positive after non-isotopic PRL and β-hCG(LH) mRNA detection showed signals with the radioactive method. Referring to the 20 PRL-secreting adenomas, PRL gene expression was demonstrable in all, GH mRNA in 12, and β-hCG(LH) mRNA in 2 cases. Comparing the positive results of immunohistochemistry with those of in situ hybridization, correspondence was found in 19 cases for PRL, in 5 cases for GH and in no case for β-hCG(LH).

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Luis G Pérez-Rivas, Marily Theodoropoulou, Troy H Puar, Julia Fazel, Mareike R Stieg, Francesco Ferraù, Guillaume Assié, Monica R Gadelha, Timo Deutschbein, Maria C Fragoso, Benno Kusters, Wolfgang Saeger, Jürgen Honegger, Michael Buchfelder, Márta Korbonits, Jérôme Bertherat, Günter K Stalla, Ad R Hermus, Felix Beuschlein and Martin Reincke


Somatic mutations in the ubiquitin-specific protease 8 (USP8) gene are frequent in corticotroph tumors causing Cushing’s disease (CD). Corticotroph tumor progression, the so-called Nelson’s syndrome (NS), is a potentially life-threatening complication of bilateral adrenalectomy in patients with refractory CD that is caused by the development of an ACTH-secreting tumor of the pituitary gland. Whether USP8 alterations are also present in progressive Nelson’s tumors has not been studied in detail so far.

Design and Methods

Retrospective, multicenter study involving tumors from 33 patients with progressive corticotroph tumors (29 females) and screening for somatic mutations on the mutational hotspot of the USP8 gene in the exon 14 with Sanger sequencing.


Fifteen out of 33 tumors (45%) presented with a mutation in the exon 14 of USP8, with c.2159C>A (p.Pro720Gln) being the most frequent (9/33), followed by c.2155_2157delTCC (p.Ser718del, 4/33) and c.2152T>C (p.Ser718Pro, 2/33). This prevalence is similar to that previously reported for CD. Mutations were found exclusively in females. Other variables, such as age at diagnosis with NS, body mass index, hyperpigmentation, visual field defects, adenoma size or mortality, did not significantly differ between patients with wild-type and mutant tumors. Patients with USP8 mutant tumors exhibited higher levels of plasma ACTH after surgery (median: 640 vs 112 pg/mL, P = 0.03). No differences were observed in ACTH normalization (<50 pg/mL) and tumor control after surgery for Nelson’s tumor.


Somatic mutations in USP8 are common in Nelson’s tumors, indicating that they do not drive the corticotroph tumor progression that leads to NS, and may be associated with a less favorable biochemical outcome after surgery for Nelson’s tumor.