Aggressive pituitary tumors are rare tumors that arise from the pituitary, a gland which is at the base of the skull. Most pituitary tumors that require treatment can be effectively treated with drugs that regulate hormones, surgery, and radiation. Aggressive pituitary tumors are the rare tumors that grow in spite of optimal treatment with surgery and radiation. Growth of these tumors can cause significant neurologic symptoms including vision loss, double vision, face numbness and pain, and a droopy eyelid. These tumors may spread to other areas along the brain or spinal cord, or to other parts of the body outside of the central nervous system; when this occurs, they are then referred to as pituitary carcinomas.
Managing and treating aggressive pituitary tumors requires a highly specialized multidisciplinary team of doctors that includes a neuro-oncologist, radiation oncologist, a nuclear as well as interventional radiologist, neurosurgeon, neuro-ophthalmologist, and neuro-endocrinologist.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has a multidisciplinary team with experience in handling these rare, difficult-to-treat tumors and we also lead clinical trials investigating new approaches to managing these tumors.
Specialized Pituitary Tumor Treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering
Our team will work to develop a tailored plan for your pituitary cancer, which may include a combination of the following treatments:
- Radiation therapy: Advanced forms of targeted radiation including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and proton radiation therapy allow second courses of radiation to be offered with greater safety.
- Surgery: Repeat surgery through the nose (transsphenoidal) or through the skull (transcranial) may relieve neurologic symptoms.
- Chemotherapy: Several chemotherapies are used in the treatment of aggressive pituitary tumors. The most common chemotherapy is a drug called temozolomide.
- Hormonal therapies: Hormonal therapies are often needed for hormonal over secretion and tumor control.
- Nuclear medicine: Pituitary tumors can be better visualized, and potentially treated, with radiotracers.
Clinical trials can offer treatment options that are not otherwise available when other treatments haven’t worked. At MSK, we have clinical trials which are currently enrolling new patients and your care team can help determine if these are right for you.
- Genomic Profiling in Cancer Patients: This study’s purpose is to determine the genetic changes that drive pituitary tumors, including genetic changes that may be targeted with drugs. We are also trying to understand how genetic changes in these tumors effect its response to experimental cancer treatment. Anyone with an aggressive pituitary tumor, whether or not a patient at MSK, is eligible to participate in this study through the Make-an-IMPACT initiative.
- A Phase II Study of Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab Immunotherapy in Patients with Aggressive Pituitary Tumors: This study compares the safety and efficacy of two immunotherapy drugs which boost the body’s natural defenses against cancer. Researchers are assessing their investigational use, since they are typically used to treat melanoma and other cancers, when used together in patients with pituitary tumors that grow despite radiation and surgery.
Aggressive Pituitary Tumor Treatment Team
Our interdisciplinary care team works together to review your particular tumor and develop the best and most coordinated care plan for treatment depending on your needs.
To schedule an appointment with the Multidisciplinary Pituitary and Skull Base Tumor Center, call us on our direct line at 212-639-3935, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, ET, Monday through Friday.