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January 7, 2011

World’s tallest man to undergo Gamma Knife radiosurgery at UVA

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At over eight feet tall, Sultan Kosen holds the Guinness World Records® title as the Tallest Living Man. Even though he is 27 years old, he continues to grow. He has a condition known as acromegaly , which develops when a benign tumor of the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. If the condition begins before puberty it can also lead to gigantism, as is the case with Kosen.

Mr. Kosen received excellent treatment in Turkey, including 2 pituitary operations, radiation therapy and medical therapy. However, the medical therapy was not effective and when he was seen in May by UVA professor of medicine and neurosurgery Dr. Mary Lee Vance , his medication was changed to another drug that has a better chance of controlling his disease. Another operation was not recommended, because his pituitary tumor had invaded areas that cannot be operated upon. With the combination of the new medication and a focused radiation treatment with the Gamma knife, there is the possibility that Kosen’s condition will be controlled and there will eventually be a cure. UVA neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Sheehan will perform the Gamma Knife Radiosurgery at the UVA Medical Center on Thursday, August 19.


UVA is one of the world’s leading centers for the treatment of pituitary patients. UVA’s Gamma Knife Center has been very successful in treating a large number of patients with pituitary tumors. UVA’s extensive experience has enabled its neurosurgeons and endocrinologists to lead the way in shaping current treatment protocols for acromegaly patients. For more information on Gamma Knife, go to .

What is acromegaly?

The name “acromegaly” comes from the Greek words for extremities and enlargement. Acromegaly is a rare disease that causes gradual changes, often over many years. It is a condition that results from too much growth hormone being released into the body. Acromegaly usually affects middle-aged adults and is considered a chronic disease. Because the symptoms of acromegaly develop slowly over time, the diagnosis can often be delayed, sometimes for up to a decade.

What causes acromegaly?

Acromegaly is generally caused by a noncancerous growth called a tumor or an adenoma located on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized structure located in the front of the brain, behind the eyes. The pituitary gland secretes many hormones, such as growth hormone, that control growth, metabolism, and reproductive activity. In acromegaly, the pituitary tumor secretes a high level of growth hormone, causing the enlargement of many body parts, such as the hands and feet. If the tumor begins to secrete growth hormone before puberty it can lead to gigantism, as is the case with Sultan Kosen.

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