Pituitary magnetic resonance imaging predictive role in the therapeutic response of growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenomas

Fabio Tortora, Alberto Negro, Ludovica F. S. Grasso, Annamaria Colao, Rosario Pivonello, Alessandra Splendiani, Luca Brunese, Ferdinando Caranci


Growth hormone (GH)-secreting pituitary adenomas, responsible for the development of acromegaly, are the second most frequent type of secreting pituitary adenomas and are characterized by very variable T2-weighted signal intensity on pituitary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Previous data have demonstrated a correlation between T2-weighted tumor signal intensity and response to therapy with conventional somatostatin analogs (SSA) in patients with acromegaly. The aim of the current retrospective study was to investigate the correlation between the T2-weighted tumor signal on diagnostic pituitary MRI and both biochemical and radiological response to first-line SSA therapy. Twenty-two naive patients with acromegaly were eligible for the study. On diagnostic pituitary MRI, 16 (72.7%) adenomas were T2-hypointense and 6 (27.2%) T2-hyperintense. After 12 months of SSA therapy, IGF-I levels decreased by more than 50% from baseline in 62.5% of patients with T2-hypointense and 33.3% of patients with T2-hyperintense tumor signal, respectively (P=0.03). Moreover, GH levels decreased by more than 80% from baseline in 81.3% and 33.3% of patients with T2-hypointense and T2-hyperintense tumor signal (P=0.02). A significant tumor volume reduction (≥20%) was observed in 75% of the T2-hypointense and 33.3% of the T2-hyperintense adenomas (P=0.001). In conclusion, in naive patients with acromegaly, first-line SSA therapy is associated with a better biochemical response and greater tumor shrinkage in T2-hypointense compared to T2-hyperintense adenomas. Therefore, T2-weighted sequences of pituitary MRI can help to classify GH-secreting pituitary adenomas into a T2-hypointense and T2-hyperintense type and, therefore, to identify patients who can better respond to first-line SSA therapy.