Summary: In July 2017, a 35-year-old woman was referred to our care for treatment of a large pituitary mass with an unusually high growth rate. She presented with right-sided ptosis and diplopia (n. III palsy), increasing retrobulbar pain and vertigo. Although laboratory investigations were consistent with acromegaly, she exhibited no clear phenotypic traits. During transsphenoidal surgery aimed at biopsy, typical adenomatous tissue was encountered, upon which it was decided to proceed to debulking. Histopathological analysis demonstrated a poorly differentiated plurihormonal Pit-1-positive adenoma with focal growth hormone (GH) and prolactin positivity, positive SSTR2 staining and a Ki-67 of 20-30%. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination revealed a large tumour remnant within the sella invading the right cavernous sinus with total encasement of the internal carotid artery and displacement of the right temporal lobe. As a consequence, she was treated additionally with radiotherapy, and a long-acting first-generation somatostatin analogue was prescribed. Subsequently, the patient developed secondary hypocortisolism and diabetes mellitus despite adequate suppression of GH levels. In September 2019, her symptoms recurred. Laboratory evaluations indicated a notable loss of biochemical control, and MRI revealed tumour progression. Lanreotide was switched to pasireotide, and successful removal of the tumour remnant and decompression of the right optic nerve was performed. She received adjuvant treatment with temozolomide resulting in excellent biochemical and radiological response after three and six courses. Symptoms of right-sided ptosis and diplopia remained. Evidence for systemic therapy in case of tumour progression after temozolomide is currently limited, although various potential targets can be identified in tumour tissue.
Learning points: Poorly differentiated plurihormonal Pit-1-positive adenoma is a potentially aggressive subtype of pituitary tumours. This subtype can express somatostatin receptors, allowing treatment with somatostatin analogues. A multidisciplinary approach involving an endocrinologist, neurosurgeon, pituitary pathologist, neuroradiologist, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist is key for the management of patients with aggressive pituitary tumours, allowing the successful application of multimodality treatment. Temozolomide is first-line chemotherapy for aggressive pituitary tumours and carcinomas. Further development of novel targeted therapies, such as peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-targeted therapy, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors, is needed.