Cushing's disease is a challenging neuroendocrine disorder. Although resection remains the primary treatment option for most patients, the disease persists if there is residual or recurrent tumor. Stereotactic radiosurgery has been used to treat patients with persistent Cushing's disease after a prior resection. The authors report on the long-term risks and benefits of radiosurgery for Cushing's disease.
A retrospective review of a prospectively collected database of radiosurgery patients was undertaken at the University of Virginia. All patients with Cushing's disease treated with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) were identified. Those without at least 12 months of clinical and radiological follow-up were excluded from this analysis. Rates of endocrine remission, tumor control, and adverse events were assessed. Statistical methods were used to identify favorable and unfavorable prognostic factors.
Ninety-six patients with the required follow-up data were identified. The mean tumor margin dose was 22 Gy. The median follow-up was 48 months (range 12–209.8 months). At the last follow-up, remission of Cushing's disease occurred in 70% of patients. The median time to remission among all patients was 16.6 months (range 1–165.7 months). The median time to remission in those who had temporarily stopped taking ketoconazole at the time of GKS was 12.6 months, whereas it was 21.8 months in those who continued to receive ketoconazole (p < 0.012). Tumor control was achieved in 98% of patients. New loss of pituitary function occurred in 36% of patients. New or worsening cranial neuropathies developed in 5 patients after GKS, with the most common involving cranial nerves II and III.
Gamma Knife surgery offers a high rate of tumor control and a reasonable rate of endocrine remission in patients with Cushing's disease. The cessation of cortisol-lowering medications around the time of GKS appears to result in a more rapid rate of remission. Delayed hypopituitarism and endocrine recurrence develop in a minority of patients and underscore the need for long-term multidisciplinary follow-up.