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Potential of Gene Therapy for the Treatment of Pituitary Tumors

[ Vol. 4 , Issue. 1 ]


R. G. Goya, D. K. Sarkar, O. A. Brown and C. B. Herenu   Pages 79 - 87 ( 9 )


Pituitary adenomas constitute the most frequent neuroendocrine pathology, comprising up to 15% of primary intracranial tumors. Current therapies for pituitary tumors include surgery and radiotherapy, as well as pharmacological approaches for some types. Although all of these approaches have shown a significant degree of success, they are not devoid of unwanted side effects, and in most cases do not offer a permanent cure. Gene therapy-the transfer of genetic material for therapeutic purposes-has undergone an explosive development in the last few years. Within this context, the development of gene therapy approaches for the treatment of pituitary tumors emerges as a promising area of research. We begin by presenting a brief account of the genesis of prolactinomas, with particular emphasis on how estradiol induces prolactinomas in animals. In so doing, we discuss the role of each of the recently discovered growth inhibitory and growth stimulatory substances and their interactions in estrogen action. We also evaluate the cell-cell communication that may govern these growth factor interactions and subsequently promote the growth and survival of prolactinomas. Current research efforts to implement gene therapy in pituitary tumors include the treatment of experimental prolactinomas or somatomammotropic tumors with adenoviral vector-mediated transfer of the suicide gene for the herpes simplex type 1 (HSV1) thymidine kinase, which converts the prodrug ganciclovir into a toxic metabolite. In some cases, the suicide transgene has been placed under the control of pituitary cell-type specific promoters, like the human prolactin or human growth hormone promoters. Also, regulatable adenoviral vector systems are being assessed in gene therapy approaches for experimental pituitary tumors. In a different type of approach, an adenoviral vector, encoding the human retinoblastoma suppressor oncogene, has been successfully used to rescue the phenotype of spontaneous pituitary tumors of the pars intermedia in mice. We close the article by discussing the future of molecular therapies. We point out that although, gene therapy represents a key step in the development of molecular medicine, it has inherent limitations. As a consequence, it is our view that at some point, genetic therapies will have to move from exogenous gene transfer (i.e. gene therapy) to endogenous gene repair. This approach will call for radically new technologies, such as nanotechnology, whose present state of development is outlined.


gene therapy, viral vectors, pituitary tumors, estrogen


INIBIOLP Faculty of Medicine, UNLP CC 455 1900 La Plata, Argentina.

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