INTRODUCTION: Somatotroph pituitary tumours are often resistant to first-generation somatostatin analogues and can invade the surrounding structures, limiting the chances of curative surgery. Recent studies suggested that the immune microenvironment and pro-angiogenic factors can influence neuroendocrine tumour prognosis. In this study, we aimed to investigate the prognostic role of immune cell-specific markers and endocan, a proteoglycan involved in neoangiogenesis and cell adhesion, in a cohort of acromegaly patients who underwent pituitary surgery as first-line treatment.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Sixty four eligible subjects were identified. CD4+, CD8+ and CD68+ cells and endocan expression were evaluated by immunohistochemistry and results correlated with clinical and neuroradiological findings. Responsiveness to somatostatin analogues was assessed in patients with persistent disease following surgery.
RESULTS: The number of CD8+ lymphocytes was significantly lower in tumours with cavernous sinus invasion (median 0.2/HPF, IQR: 2.2) compared with those without cavernous sinus invasion (median 2.4/HPF, IQR: 2.3; P = 0.04). Tumours resistant to first-generation somatostatin analogues had lower CD8+ lymphocytes (median 1/HPF, IQR: 2.4) compared with responders (median 2.4/HPF, IQR: 2.9; P = 0.005). CD4+ lymphocytes were observed sporadically. The number of CD68+ macrophages and the endothelial or tumour cell endocan expression did not differ based on tumour size, cavernous sinus invasion or treatment responsiveness.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests that a lower number of CD8+ lymphocytes is associated with cavernous sinus invasion and resistance to treatment with first-generation somatostatin analogues in acromegaly patients. These results highlight a potential role of the tumour immune microenvironment in determining the prognosis of somatotroph pituitary tumours.