BACKGROUND: Pituitary carcinomas are rare but aggressive and require maximally coordinated multimodal therapies. For refractory tumors, unresponsive to temozolomide (TMZ), therapeutic options are limited. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) may be considered for treatment as illustrated in the present case report.
CASE: We report a patient with ACTH-secreting pituitary carcinoma, progressive after multiple lines of therapy including chemotherapy with TMZ, who demonstrated disease stabilization by a combination of ipilimumab (anti-CTLA-4) and nivolumab (anti-PD-1) ICI therapy.
DISCUSSION: Management of pituitary carcinoma beyond TMZ remains ill-defined and relies on case reports. TMZ creates, due to hypermutation, more immunogenic tumors and subsequently potential candidates for ICI therapy. This case report adds support to the possible role of ICI in the treatment of pituitary carcinoma.
CONCLUSION: ICI therapy could be a promising treatment option for pituitary carcinoma, considering the mechanisms of TMZ-induced hypermutation with increased immunogenicity, pituitary expression of CTLA-4 and PD-L1, and the frequent occurrence of hypophysitis as a side effect of ICI therapy.