Rare disease day: uncovering novel treatments for pituitary tumour

Tomorrow, the rarest day of the year, is Rare Disease Day. On this occasion, we turn the spotlight on a rare intracranial disease: aggressive pituitary tumours.

Rare diseases rarely get much publicity. One might say it’s understandable because they are rare, but that also makes it unfair. There are over 6,000 identified rare diseases, and 1 in 20 people will suffer from one at some point in their life. Yet most rare diseases have limited or no cure. Because they are generally under-recognised, they are also under-researched.

Such is the case for aggressive pituitary tumours. Largely unknown amongst the general public, pituitary tumours are abnormal growths in the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, and disrupt the balance of hormones in the body – and people’s lives. In rare cases, the tumour can be aggressive. It means it is rapidly growing, associated with high morbidity and mortality, and unfortunately is more resistant to the usual lines of treatment. Patients with pituitary carcinoma, the rarest form of pituitary tumour, can have a mortality rate of up to 60 % one year after diagnosis.

This is why A/Prof Ann McCormack, together with pituitary fellow Lydia Lamb, are investigating novel treatment options for aggressive pituitary tumours, with a focus on immunotherapy. While immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of numerous cancers, there has been very little research on the role of immunotherapy in treating aggressive pituitary tumours.




Supported by the St Vincent’s Clinic Foundation, A/Prof Ann McCormack and Lydia Lamb are exploring uncharted territory to better understand the immune system in pituitary tumours, how it relates to their aggressive behaviour, and to better predict their response to immunotherapy. By expanding the strong potential of immunotherapy, this research could offer life-changing options and hope for patients suffering from this disease.

This project is an example of vital research work we fund to enable meaningful and tangible impact on people’s health and lives. Help the Foundation continue to support advanced research where the needs are highest.