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Open access

Emilia Sbardella, George Farah, Ahmed Fathelrahman, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are a common intracranial neoplasm, usually demonstrating a benign phenotype. They can be classified according to pathological, radiological or clinical behaviour as typical, atypical or carcinomas, invasive or noninvasive, and aggressive or nonaggressive. Prolactinomas account for 40–60% of all pituitary adenomas, with dopamine agonists representing the first-line treatment and surgery/radiotherapy reserved for drug intolerance/resistance or in neuro-ophthalmological emergencies. We present the case of a 62-year-old man with an apparently indolent prolactin-secreting macroadenoma managed with partial resection and initially showing a biochemical response to cabergoline. Five years later, the tumour became resistant to cabergoline, despite a substantial increase in dosage, showing rapid growth and causing worsening of vision. The patient then underwent two further transsphenoidal operations and continued on high-dose cabergoline; despite these interventions, the tumour continued enlarging and prolactin increased to 107 269 U/L. Histology of the third surgical specimen demonstrated features of aggressive behaviour (atypical adenoma with a high cell proliferation index) not present in the tumour removed at the first operation. Subsequently, he was referred for radiotherapy aiming to control tumour growth.

Learning points:

  • The development of secondary resistance to dopamine agonists (DAs) is a serious sign as it may be associated with de-differentiation of the prolactinoma and thus of aggressive or malignant transformation.
  • Significant de-differentiation of the adenoma documented on consecutive histologies suggests a possible transition to malignancy.
  • A combination of histological ‘alarm’ features associated with persistent growth and escape from DAs treatment in recurrent adenomas should alert clinicians and demands close follow-up.
  • A multidisciplinary approach by pathologists, endocrinologists and neurosurgeons is essential.
Open access

J Bukowczan, K Lois, M Mathiopoulou, A B Grossman and R A James

Summary

Giant prolactinomas are rare tumours of the pituitary, which typically exceed 40 mm in their largest dimension. Impairment of higher cognitive function has been noted post-operatively after transcranial surgery and as a long-term consequence of the radiotherapy treatment. However, there has been little that is reported on such disturbances in relation to the tumour per se, and to our knowledge, there has been none in terms of responsivity to dopamine agonist therapy and shrinkage in these tumours. We present a case of successful restoration of severely impaired cognitive functions achieved safely after significant adenoma involution with medical treatment alone.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas can be present with profound cognitive defects.
  • Dopamine agonists remain in the mainstay first-line treatment of giant prolactinomas.
  • Mechanisms of the reversible cognitive impairment associated with giant prolactinoma treatment appear to be complex and remain open to further studies.
  • Young patients with giant prolactinomas mandate genetic testing towards familial predisposition.