A combined opiate agonist and antagonist treatment reduces prolactin secreting pituitary tumor growth

George Maglakelidze, Olivia Wynne, Dipak K. Sarkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Prolactin secreting pituitary adenomas (prolactinomas) is the most common pituitary tumors in humans. Animal studies have identified aggressive prolactinoma development in fetal alcohol exposed rats. We have recently identified a combination treatment of a μ opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone and a δ opioid receptor agonist D-Ala2-,N-Me-Phe4,Gly-ol Enkephalin (DPDPE) increases innate immune function. In this study, we tested whether naltrexone and DPDPE combination therapy is useful to control pituitary tumor growth. Fetal alcohol exposed and control Fischer 344 female rats at 60 days of age were ovariectomized and received an estrogen implant to induce prolactinomas. Six weeks after the estrogen implant, these animals received treatments of naltrexone and DPDPE or saline. The growth of the pituitary tumor prior to and after opioidergic agent treatments was visualized using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). At the end of the treatment, pituitary weights, plasma prolactin and splenic levels of cytotoxic factors were determined. Both imaging data and weight data indicated that the volume and the weight of the pituitary were increased more after estrogen treatment in animals exposed to fetal alcohol than control. Naltrexone and DPDPE treatment reduced the weight and volume of the pituitary gland and plasma levels of prolactin in both fetal alcohol exposed and control-fed animals. The treatment of opioidergic agents also increased the levels of cytotoxic factors in the spleen. These data provide a novel possibility in treating pituitary tumors using a combination therapy of naltrexone and DPDPE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-232
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cell Communication and Signaling
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • Estradiol
  • Fetal alcoho
  • NK cells
  • Opioidergic drugs
  • Pituitary prolactin secreting tumors

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