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James F Powers, Brent Cochran, James D Baleja, Hadley D Sikes, Xue Zhang, Inna Lomakin, Troy Langford, Kassi Taylor Stein and Arthur S Tischler

We describe a unique patient-derived xenograft (PDX) and cell culture model of succinate dehydrogenase-deficient gastrointestinal stromal tumor (SDH-deficient GIST), a rare mesenchymal tumor that can occur in association with paragangliomas in hereditary and non-hereditary syndromes. This model is potentially important for what it might reveal specifically pertinent to this rare tumor type and, more broadly, to other types of SDH-deficient tumors. The primary tumor and xenografts show a very high proliferative fraction, and distinctive morphology characterized by tiny cells with marked autophagic activity. It is likely that these characteristics resulted from the combination of the germline SDHB mutation and a somatic KRAS G12D mutation. The most broadly relevant findings to date concern oxygen and oxidative stress. In paragangliomas harboring SDHx mutations, both hypoxic signaling and oxidative stress are putative drivers of tumor growth. However, there are no models for SDH-deficient paragangliomas. This related model is the first from a SDHB-mutated human tumor that can be experimentally manipulated to study mechanisms of oxygen effects and novel treatment strategies. Our data suggest that tumor growth and survival require a balance between protective effects of hypoxic signaling vs deleterious effects of oxidative stress. While reduced oxygen concentration promotes tumor cell survival, a further survival benefit is achieved with antioxidants. This suggests potential use of drugs that increase oxidative stress as novel therapies. In addition, autophagy, which has not been reported as a major finding in any type of SDH-deficient tumor, is a potential target of agents that might trigger autophagic cell death.

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Thomas Cuny, Wouter de Herder, Anne Barlier and Leo J Hofland

Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs) represent a group of heterogeneous tumors whose incidence increased over the past few years. Around half of patients already present with metastatic disease at the initial diagnosis. Despite extensive efforts, cytotoxic and targeted therapies have provided only limited efficacy for patients with metastatic GEP-NETs, mainly due to the development of a certain state of resistance. One factor contributing to both the failure of systemic therapies and the emergence of an aggressive tumor phenotype may be the tumor microenvironment (TME), comprising dynamic and adaptative assortment of extracellular matrix components and non-neoplastic cells, which surround the tumor niche. Accumulating evidence shows that the TME can simultaneously support both tumor growth and metastasis and contribute to a certain state of resistance to treatment. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge of the TME of GEP-NETs and discuss the current therapeutic agents that target GEP-NETs and those that could be of interest in the (near) future.

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S Prekovic, T Van den Broeck, S Linder, M E van Royen, A B Houtsmuller, F Handle, S Joniau, W Zwart and F Claessens

Prostate cancer (PCa) is among the most common adult malignancies, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men. As PCa is hormone dependent, blockade of the androgen receptor (AR) signaling is an effective therapeutic strategy for men with advanced metastatic disease. The discovery of enzalutamide, a compound that effectively blocks the AR axis and its clinical application has led to a significant improvement in survival time. However, the effect of enzalutamide is not permanent, and resistance to treatment ultimately leads to development of lethal disease, for which there currently is no cure. This review will focus on the molecular underpinnings of enzalutamide resistance, bridging the gap between the preclinical and clinical research on novel therapeutic strategies for combating this lethal stage of prostate cancer.

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Adel T Aref, Andrew D Vincent, Michael E O’Callaghan, Sean A Martin, Peter D Sutherland, Andrew J Hoy, Lisa M Butler and Gary A Wittert

Obese men have lower serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) than comparably aged lean men, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of obesity on PSA and the potential contributing mechanisms. A cohort of 1195 men aged 35 years and over at recruitment, with demographic, anthropometric (BMI, waist circumference (WC)) and serum hormone (serum testosterone, estradiol (E2)) PSA and hematology assessments obtained over two waves was assessed. Men with a history of prostate cancer or missing PSA were excluded, leaving 970 men for the final analysis. Mixed-effects regressions and mediation analyses adjusting for hormonal and volumetric factors explore the potential mechanisms relating obesity to PSA. After adjusting for age, PSA levels were lower in men with greater WC (P = 0.001). In a multivariable model including WC, age, E2/testosterone and PlasV as predictors, no statistically significant associations were observed between with PSA and either WC (P = 0.36) or PlasV (P = 0.49), while strong associations were observed with both E2/testosterone (P < 0.001) and age (P < 0.001). In the mediation analyses with PlasV as the mediator, the average causal mediation effect (ACME) explained roughly 20% of the total effect of WC on PSA (P = 0.31), while when E2/testosterone is a mediator, the ACME explained roughly 50% of the effect (P < 0.001). Our findings indicate that lower PSA levels in obese men, as compared to normal weight men, can be explained both by hormonal changes (elevated E2/testosterone ratio) and hemodilution. Hormonal factors therefore represent a substantial but underappreciated mediating pathway.

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Xiaqing Xu, Meimei Si, Honggang Lou, Youyou Yan, Yunxi Liu, Hong Zhu, Xiaoe Lou, Jian Ma, Difeng Zhu, Honghai Wu, Bo Yang, Haoshu Wu, Ling Ding and Qiaojun He

Accumulating clinical evidence indicates that diabetic liver cancer patients are less sensitive to intra-arterial chemotherapy than non-diabetic cancer patients. However, the underlying mechanism remains largely uncharacterized. Here, we report that hyperglycemia inhibits AMPK pathway and subsequently reduces adriamycin (ADR)-induced DNA damage, resulting in decreased chemotherapeutic sensitivity of ADR. HepG2 and Bel-7402 cells were treated with ADR in various glucose conditions and then subjected to cell proliferation assay and apoptosis. The IC50 of ADR greatly increased with the increasing concentration of glucose (15 ± 4 nM to 93 ± 39 nM in HepG2, 78 ± 8 nM to 1310 ± 155 nM in Bel-7402). Both FACs and Western blot analysis indicated that high concentration of glucose protected cells from ADR-induced apoptosis. Mouse hepatoma H22 xenografts were established both in db/db diabetic mice and STZ-induced diabetic mice. The inhibitory effect in tumor growth of ADR was significantly reduced in diabetic mice, which could be recovered by insulin therapy. Hyperglycemia greatly ameliorated AMPK activation and H2AX expression caused by ADR treatment. Pretreatment with compound C or AMPK silencing eliminated hyperglycemia reduced cytotoxicity of ADR. However, the impaired cytotoxicity in hyperglycemia was recovered by treatment with AMPK activator AICAR. This study indicates that hyperglycemia impairs the chemotherapeutic sensitivity of ADR by downregulating AMPK pathway and reducing ADR-induced DNA damage.

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Jonathan W Nyce

The activation of TP53 is well known to exert tumor suppressive effects. We have detected a primate-specific adrenal androgen-mediated tumor suppression system in which circulating DHEAS is converted to DHEA specifically in cells in which TP53 has been inactivated. DHEA is an uncompetitive inhibitor of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), an enzyme indispensable for maintaining reactive oxygen species within limits survivable by the cell. Uncompetitive inhibition is otherwise unknown in natural systems because it becomes irreversible in the presence of high concentrations of substrate and inhibitor. In addition to primate-specific circulating DHEAS, a unique, primate-specific sequence motif that disables an activating regulatory site in the glucose-6-phosphatase (G6PC) promoter was also required to enable function of this previously unrecognized tumor suppression system. In human somatic cells, loss of TP53 thus triggers activation of DHEAS transport proteins and steroid sulfatase, which converts circulating DHEAS into intracellular DHEA, and hexokinase which increases glucose-6-phosphate substrate concentration. The triggering of these enzymes in the TP53-affected cell combines with the primate-specific G6PC promoter sequence motif that enables G6P substrate accumulation, driving uncompetitive inhibition of G6PD to irreversibility and ROS-mediated cell death. By this catastrophic ‘kill switch’ mechanism, TP53 mutations are effectively prevented from initiating tumorigenesis in the somatic cells of humans, the primate with the highest peak levels of circulating DHEAS. TP53 mutations in human tumors therefore represent fossils of kill switch failure resulting from an age-related decline in circulating DHEAS, a potentially reversible artifact of hominid evolution.

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Dorota Dworakowska and Ashley B Grossman

Pituitary adenomas are unique in multiple ways. They are rarely malignant in terms of metastases; yet, they may be aggressive. Their cancerous potential is defined in a classic oncological way by the ability to metastasise, and therefore, it has been crucial to differentiate this process from aggressive behaviour, characterised as a particularly invasive and/or recurrent behaviour and resistance to common modalities of therapy. Recently, however, important changes have been introduced to the diagnosis and management of aggressive and malignant pituitary tumours including the 4th edition of the World Health Organization (WHO) classification for endocrine tumours (2017) as well as ESE Clinical Guidelines (2018), although an attempt to establish predictive and/or prognostic markers of clinical aggressiveness remains difficult. In this review, we focus on a group of pituitary tumours causing significant problems in clinical practice and requiring multidisciplinary input. We summarise updates in definitions of tumour invasiveness, aggressiveness and malignant transformation, as well as histological classification, and emphasise the new considerations regarding aggressive and malignant potential and its relationship to therapeutic strategies.

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Juan Pablo Petiti, Liliana del Valle Sosa, Florencia Picech, Gabriela Deisi Moyano Crespo, Jean Zander Arevalo Rojas, Pablo Anibal Pérez, Carolina Beatriz Guido, Carolina Leimgruber, María Eugenia Sabatino, Pedro García, Verónica Bengio, Francisco Roque Papalini, Paula Estario, Celina Berhard, Marcos Villarreal, Silvina Gutiérrez, Ana Lucía De Paul, Jorge Humberto Mukdsi and Alicia Inés Torres

In pituitary adenomas, early recurrences and resistance to conventional pharmacotherapies are common, but the mechanisms involved are still not understood. The high expression of epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) signal observed in human pituitary adenomas, together with the low levels of the antimitogenic transforming growth factor beta receptor 2 (TBR2), encouraged us to evaluate the effect of the specific HER2 inhibition with trastuzumab on experimental pituitary tumor cell growth and its effect on the antiproliferative response to TGFB1. Trastuzumab decreased the pituitary tumor growth as well as the expression of ERK1/2 and the cell cycle regulators CCND1 and CDK4. The HER2/ERK1/2 pathway is an attractive therapeutic target, but its intricate relations with other signaling modulators still need to be unraveled. Thus, we investigated possible cross-talk with TGFB signaling, which has not yet been studied in pituitary tumors. In tumoral GH3 cells, co-incubation with trastuzumab and TGFB1 significantly decreased cell proliferation, an effect accompanied by a reduction in ERK1/2 phosphorylation, an increase of SMAD2/3 activation. In addition, through immunoprecipitation assays, a diminution of SMAD2/3-ERK1/2 and an increase SMAD2/3–TGFBR1 interactions were observed when cells were co-incubated with trastuzumab and TGFB1. These findings indicate that blocking HER2 by trastuzumab inhibited pituitary tumor growth and modulated HER2/ERK1/2 signaling and consequently the anti-mitogenic TGFB1/TBRs/SMADs cascade. The imbalance between HER2 and TGFBRs expression observed in human adenomas and the response to trastuzumab on experimental tumor growth may make the HER2/ERK1/2 pathway an attractive target for future pituitary adenoma therapy.

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S Kato, M F Liberona, J Cerda-Infante, M Sánchez, J Henríquez, C Bizama, M L Bravo, P Gonzalez, R Gejman, J Brañes, K García, C Ibañez, G I Owen, J C Roa, V Montecinos and M A Cuello

Cell plasticity of ‘stem-like’ cancer-initiating cells (CICs) is a hallmark of cancer, allowing metastasis and cancer progression. Here, we studied whether simvastatin, a lipophilic statin, could impair the metastatic potential of CICs in high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGS-ovC), the most lethal among the gynecologic malignancies. qPCR, immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry were used to assess simvastatin effects on proteins involved in stemness and epithelial-mesenchymal cell plasticity (EMT). Its effects on tumor growth and metastasis were evaluated using different models (e.g., spheroid formation and migration assays, matrigel invasion assays, 3D-mesomimetic models and cancer xenografts). We explored also the clinical benefit of statins by comparing survival outcomes among statin users vs non-users. Herein, we demonstrated that simvastatin modifies the stemness and EMT marker expression patterns (both in mRNA and protein levels) and severely impairs the spheroid assembly of CICs. Consequently, CICs become less metastatic in 3D-mesomimetic models and show fewer ascites/tumor burden in HGS-ovC xenografts. The principal mechanism behind statin-mediated effects involves the inactivation of the Hippo/YAP/RhoA pathway in a mevalonate synthesis-dependent manner. From a clinical perspective, statin users seem to experience better survival and quality of life when compared with non-users. Considering the high cost and the low response rates obtained with many of the current therapies, the use of orally or intraperitoneally administered simvastatin offers a cost/effective and safe alternative to treat and potentially prevent recurrent HGS-ovCs.

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Elke Tatjana Aristizabal Prada, Gerald Spöttl, Julian Maurer, Michael Lauseker, Eva Jolanthe Koziolek, Jörg Schrader, Ashley Grossman, Karel Pacak, Felix Beuschlein, Christoph Joseph Auernhammer and Svenja Nölting

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (panNETs) are often inoperable at diagnosis. The mTORC1 inhibitor everolimus has been approved for the treatment of advanced NETs. However, the regular development of resistance to everolimus limits its clinical efficacy. We established two independent everolimus-resistant panNET (BON1) cell lines (BON1 RR1, BON1 RR2) to find potential mechanisms of resistance. After 24 weeks of permanent exposure to 10 nM everolimus, BON1 RR1 and BON1 RR2 showed stable resistance with cellular survival rates of 96.70% (IC50 = 5200 nM) and 92.30% (IC50 = 2500 nM), respectively. The control cell line showed sensitivity to 10 nM everolimus with cellular survival declining to 54.70% (IC50 = 34 nM). Both resistant cell lines did not regain sensitivity over time and showed persistent stable resistance after a drug holiday of 13 weeks. The mechanisms of resistance in our cell line model included morphological adaptations, G1 cell cycle arrest associated with reduced CDK1(cdc2) expression and decreased autophagy. Cellular migration potential was increased and indirectly linked to c-Met activation. GSK3 was over-activated in association with reduced baseline IRS-1 protein levels. Specific GSK3 inhibition strongly decreased BON1 RR1/RR2 cell survival. The combination of everolimus with the PI3Kα inhibitor BYL719 re-established everolimus sensitivity through GSK3 inhibition and restoration of autophagy. We suggest that GSK3 over-activation combined with decreased baseline IRS-1 protein levels and decreased autophagy may be a crucial feature of everolimus resistance, and hence, a possible therapeutic target.