Posts Tagged ‘pituitary gland’

Pituitary Tumors – Types, Treatments and More

pituitary glandYou or someone you know has been diagnosed with a Pituitary Tumor. So what’s next?

First, virtually all pituitary tumors are benign, that is to say they are not cancers, which is usually what comes to mind when the diagnosis “tumor” is made. They are certainly growths, hence the name tumor, and left untreated usually will get bigger. This will likely cause more symptoms and may become more complicated to treat.

The pituitary gland is a very important organ, so much so that it is called the “master gland” because it literally controls the functions of all the other endocrine (hormone-producing) glands such as the thyroid, adrenal, testis and ovaries, while also having a very key role in regulating metabolism and growth. In fact, without the pituitary or replacements for what it produces, life as we know it would not be possible. However, the pituitary is quite small, about a half-inch or the size of a kidney bean, and is located at the center of the base of the brain surrounded by very important anatomic structures.

Population studies suggest that pituitary tumors occur in about one-sixth of the population, but not all of these are symptomatic, and comprise about one-tenth of all brain tumors.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of pituitary tumors – those that are functionally-active, i.e. they produce one or more hormones in excess. Examples include, excess steroids (Cushing’s Disease), excess growth hormone (Acromegaly or Gigantism) or excess prolactin (Prolactinoma). The other category is functionally inactive, that may in fact lead to hormone deficiencies in addition to causing problems with vision as they grow. These medical conditions are relatively rare and not commonly encountered by the average physician, therefore if the diagnosis is suspected; referral to a specialist is usually made so the appropriate diagnostic tests and therapies can be initiated. These Pituitary centers will have an experienced team of key specialists, such as pituitary endocrinologists for diagnosis and medical treatment, neuroradiologists to interpret the images from MRI, neurophthalmologists who examine effects on vision, pituitary tumor neurosurgeon and ENT surgeons who jointly perform the critical surgery that may be required, as well as a host of other specialists to maximize the best outcomes.

Treatment options include medications for some functioning tumors, surgical removal of the tumor, highly-focused radiotherapy or sometimes close observation when treatment is not deemed necessary.

Most pituitary centers of excellence also have on-going clinical trials and active research programs that are advancing the field of pituitary tumor science, medicine and surgery.

For more information on how we are advancing the treatment of pituitary disorders, visit the Emory Pituitary Center website.

About Dr. Oyesiku

Nelson Oyesiku, MDNelson M. Oyesiku, MD, PhD, FACS, serves as Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Neurosurgery Director, Molecular Neurosurgery and Biotechnology Laboratory Program Director, Neurosurgery Residency Program Clinic and Co-Director of the Emory Pituitary Center. His clinical research focus is the surgical treatment and molecular biology of pituitary tumors. Dr Oyesiku has performed more than 1,500 surgeries for pituitary tumors and is one of a few surgeons in the U.S. and worldwide (and the first in Georgia) utilizing advanced 3-D endoscopic surgery for resection of pituitary tumors. This technology provides the surgeon with improved spatial resolution making surgery safer.

Dr. Oyesiku partners with Adriana Ioachimescu, MD, PhD, and a team of clinicians who collaborate in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with pituitary tumors at Emory’s Pituitary /Neuroendocrine Center. The Emory Pituitary/NeuroendocrineCenter has a nationwide and worldwide referral base and provides patients with comprehensive and personalized medical and surgical management of pituitary disorders. Specialists in Endocrinology, Neurosurgery, Neuroradiology, Neurophthalmology, Radiation Oncology, and ENT collaborate to provide state-of-the-art as well as novel advances in care and translational research.

Mice Stem Cell Study Shows Promise for Hypopituitarism Treatment

Pituitary Gland

Hypopituitarism, also known as an underactive pituitary gland,  is a condition that affects the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, in which the pituitary gland does not produce normal amounts of some or all of its hormones. Symptoms of hypopituitarism vary depending on which hormone is no longer being produced by the pituitary gland.

Treatments for hypopituitarism also vary. If the condition is caused as the result of a pituitary tumor, surgery may be needed for treatment. In some cases, hormone therapy is what’s needed to effectively treat hypopituitarism.

However, in the November 2011 issue of Nature, a new report shows promise for the future of hypopituitarism treatment. Japanese scientists successfully treated hypopituitary mice by transplanting pituitary gland tissue they grew from embryonic mice stem cells. After the hypopitiutary mice received the transplanted cells, they began to produce hormones they were previously missing.

Researchers used the mouse stem cells arranged in a three dimensional culture and grew pituitary tissue over the course of three weeks from that culture. The resulting tissue contained all five cell types found in a normal pituitary gland.

Using such technology as a possible treatment for humans suffering from hypopituitarism is not an immediately viable option. Scientists caution that is it unlikely that pituitary tissue grown in labs will behave like functioning pituitary glands. The hope is that someday, treatment for patients with pituitary disorders will be feasible via growing pituitary tissues from the patient’s own tissue.

“If and when the technology becomes developed for humans, it will require the skills of an experienced team of a pituitary endocrinologist and neurosurgeon working together with other specialists in a dedicated pituitary center to fully realize the potential opportunity for patients with pituitary hormonal deficiency,” says Dr. Nelson M. Oyesiku, Co-Director Emory Pituitary Center.

For more information on hypopituitarism, or the endocrinology & neurosurgery treatment teams at Emory, visit the Emory Pituitary website.