Pituitary tumors are the most common primary intracranial neoplasms. Although most pituitary tumors are considered typically benign, others can cause severe and progressive disease. The principal aims of pituitary tumor treatment are the elimination or reduction of the tumor mass, normalization of hormone secretion and preservation of remaining pituitary function. In spite of major advances in the therapy of pituitary tumors, for some of the most difficult tumors, current therapies that include medical, surgical and radiotherapeutic methods are often unsatisfactory and there is a need to develop new treatment strategies. Gene therapy, which uses nucleic acids as drugs, has emerged as an attractive therapeutic option for the treatment of pituitary tumors that do not respond to classical treatment strategies if the patients become intolerant to the therapy. The development of animal models for pituitary tumors and hormone hypersecretion has proven to be critical for the implementation of novel treatment strategies and gene therapy approaches. Preclinical trials using several gene therapy approaches for the treatment of anterior pituitary diseases have been successfully implemented. Several issues need to be addressed before clinical implementation becomes a reality, including the development of more effective and safer viral vectors, uncovering novel therapeutic targets and development of targeted expression of therapeutic transgenes. With the development of efficient gene delivery vectors allowing long-term transgene expression with minimal toxicity, gene therapy will become one of the most promising approaches for treating pituitary adenomas.
Keywords: Pituitary tumorigenesis, viral vectors, prolactinoma, somatotroph adenoma, Cushing's syndrome
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