O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase immunoexpression in nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas

Are progressive tumors potential candidates for temozolomide treatment?


  • We thank Brigitte Hammer-Schmiedel and Irene Leisser for technical assistance with preparation of tissue specimens.



Currently, no effective alternative treatment exists for progressive, regrowing, nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) that are resistant to conventional multimodality therapy. Temozolomide (TMZ) was proposed as a treatment option for pituitary carcinomas and aggressive pituitary adenomas. Recently, it was suggested that the responsiveness of pituitary tumors to TMZ depends on the immunoexpression of O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT). Therefore, the authors of this report assessed MGMT expression in a series of patients with progressive, regrowing NFPAs to evaluate whether TMZ may serve as alternative treatment option.


On the basis of postoperative magnetic resonance imaging, 45 patients with NFPAs were allocated to either a group with progressive, regrowing tumors (n = 24) or a tumor-free group (n = 21), which served as a control. MGMT expression was assessed semiquantitatively by immunohistochemistry (low expression was defined as ≤50% immunostained adenoma cells, and high expression was defined as >50% immunostained adenoma cells) and was compared between the 2 groups.


At the time of initial surgery, low MGMT expression was observed in 12 of 24 patients (50%) in the study group with progressive, regrowing NFPAs. In the control group of tumor-free patients, only 5 of 21 patients (24%) exhibited low MGMT expression. A comparable distribution of MGMT expression was observed in the specimens from repeat surgeries. A shorter interval to second surgery was observed in patients who had low MGMT expression.


The current data has suggested that half of the patients with progressive, regrowing NFPAs exhibit low MGMT expression and are potential candidates for treatment with TMZ. These findings provide a rationale for the use of TMZ as an alternative treatment approach in this subgroup if conventional therapy, including reoperation, radiosurgery, and radiotherapy, fails. Cancer 2009. © 2009 American Cancer Society.