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Kimberly Perez, Heather Jacene, Jason L Hornick, Chao Ma, Nuno Vaz, Lauren K Brais, Holly Alexander, William Baddoo, Kristina Astone, Edward D Esplin, John Garcia, Daniel M Halperin, Matthew H Kulke, and Jennifer A Chan

Malignant pheochromocytomas (PHEOs)/paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare tumors for which clinical outcomes remain poorly defined and therapeutic options are limited. Approximately 27% carry pathogenic germline succinate dehydrogenase (SDHx) mutations; the presence of such mutations has been correlated with response to temozolomide (TMZ). We aimed to investigate the association between germline mutations in SDHx and response to TMZ. We retrospectively identified patients with metastatic malignant PHEO/PGLs treated with TMZ- based chemotherapy at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute between 2003 and 2020. The correlation between response by Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) 1.1 and PET Response Criteria in Solid Tumors (PERCIST) and the presence of SDHx mutations in the germline and tumor was evaluated. Nineteen patients received TMZ. Seventeen underwent germline assessment: 9 (53%) carried a pathogenic SDHx germline mutation. Fifteen patients were evaluable for response by RECIST 1.1: 6 (40%) partial response, 4 (27%) stable disease, and 5 (33%) progressive disease. Overall median progression-free survival was 2.2 years. Three-year overall survival (OS) was 58%. Median PFS was 1.3 years and 5.5 years for carriers and non-carriers, respectively and OS was 1.5 years and not estimable for carriers and non-carriers, respectively. The response by PERCIST criteria in nine patients correlated with the RECIST 1.1 assessment. Our series represents one of the largest analyses of patients with malignant PHEOs/PGLs treated with TMZ who have available germline data. The incidence of pathogenic germline SDHx mutations was similar to what has been previously published, though our analysis suggests that there may be a limited association between response to TMZ and pathogenic germline SDHx mutations.

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Takaya Kodama, Kenji Oki, Yu Otagaki, Ryuta Baba, Akira Okada, Kiyotaka Itcho, Kazuhiro Kobuke, Gaku Nagano, Haruya Ohno, Nobuyuki Hinata, Koji Arihiro, Celso E Gomez-Sanchez, Masayasu Yoneda, and Noboru Hattori

DNA methylation and demethylation regulate the transcription of genes. DNA methylation-associated gene expression of adrenal steroidogenic enzymes may regulate cortisol production in cortisol-producing adenoma (CPA). We aimed to determine the DNA methylation levels of all genes encoding steroidogenic enzymes involved in CPA. Additionally, the aims were to clarify the DNA methylation-associated gene expression and evaluate the difference of CPA genotype from others using DNA methylation data. Twenty-five adrenal CPA and six nonfunctioning adrenocortical adenoma (NFA) samples were analyzed. RNA sequencing and DNA methylation array were performed. The methylation levels at 118 methylation sites of the genes were investigated, and their methylation and mRNA levels were subsequently integrated. Among all the steroidogenic enzyme genes studied, CYP17A1 gene was mainly found to be hypomethylated in CPA compared to that in NFA, and the Benjamini-Hochberg procedure demonstrated that methylation levels at two sites in the CYP17A1 gene body were statistically significant. PRKACA mutant CPAs predominantly exhibited hypomethylation of CYP17A1 gene compared with the GNAS mutant CPAs. Inverse associations between CYP17A1 methylation in three regions of the gene body and its mRNA levels were observed in the NFAs and CPAs. In applying clustering analysis using CYP17A1 methylation and mRNA levels, CPAs with PRKACA mutation were differentiated from NFAs and CPAs with a GNAS mutation. We demonstrated that CPAs exhibited hypomethylation of the CYP17A1 gene body in CPA, especially in the PRKACA mutant CPAs. Methylation of CYP17A1 gene may influence its transcription levels.

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Esra Karslioglu French, Alyaksandr V Nikitski, Linwah Yip, Marina N Nikiforova, Yuri E Nikiforov, and Sally E Carty

EIF1AX gene mutations are reported in both benign and malignant thyroid tumors, with unclear outcomes when detected preoperatively. The aim of this study was to determine the features and outcomes of thyroid nodules with various types of mutation identified in cytologic (fine-needle aspiration) samples on preoperative ThyroSeq testing and with surgical outcomes. In this single-institution retrospective study of 31 consecutive patients, 77% were female and nodule size ranged from 1.5 to 9.4 cm with widely varying cytologic and TI-RADS ultrasound categorizations. Among two main mutational hotspots, 55% were located in exon 2 and 45% at the intron 5/exon 6 splice site. On histology, 45% of -positive nodules were cancer/noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP) including 19% encapsulated follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinoma, 10% follicular carcinoma, 10% anaplastic carcinoma (ATC), and 7% NIFTP. Almost half (48%) of patients had one or more coexisting mutations, most frequently RAS. The prevalence of cancer/NIFTP was 80% for mutation with coexisting molecular alteration vs 13% with an isolated mutation (P  = 0.0002). Cancer probability was associated with mutation type and was 64% for splice-site mutation and 29% for non-splice mutation (P = 0.075). All 3 nodules with EIF1AX+RAS+TERT+TP53 mutations were ATC. In summary, in this study, all nodules with an isolated non-splice mutation were benign, one-third of those with an isolated splice mutation were cancer, and most nodules with coexisting with RAS or other alterations were malignant. These findings suggest that clinical management decisions for patients with EIF1AX-mutant nodules should consider both the type of mutation and its co-occurrence with other genetic alterations.

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Justin C Brown, Kathleen Sturgeon, David B Sarwer, Andrea B Troxel, Angela M DeMichele, Crystal S Denlinger, and Kathryn H Schmitz

Insufficient physical activity and obesity are associated with an increased risk of cancer recurrence and death in breast cancer survivors. Sex steroid hormones may mediate these associations. This study tested the hypothesis that exercise and diet, as compared to control, favorably change sex steroid hormones. This analysis of data from a subset of participants in a 2 × 2 factorial trial compares 269 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who were insufficiently physically active and had overweight or obesity and were randomized to one of four treatment groups for 52 weeks: control, exercise alone, diet alone, or exercise plus diet. Secondary sex steroid hormone endpoints included estradiol, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and testosterone. Treatment effects were quantified using a mixed model for repeated measures. Compared to control, exercise alone did not significantly change estradiol (−1.9%; 95% CI: −12.6, 8.8), SHBG (2.4%; 95% CI: −9.9, 14.6), or testosterone (1.2%; 95% CI: −12.2, 14.5). Compared to control, diet alone did not significantly change estradiol (−7.8%; 95% CI: −17.6, 1.9), SHBG (8.2%; 95% CI: −4.2, 20.6), or testosterone (−0.8%; 95% CI: −13.6, 12.0). Compared to control, exercise plus diet did not significantly change estradiol (−6.3%; 95% CI: −16.3, 3.6), SHBG (8.8%; 95% CI: −4.0, 21.7), or testosterone (−5.3%; 95% CI: −18.0, 7.4). In postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who were insufficiently physically active and had overweight or obesity, randomization to exercise alone, diet alone, or exercise plus diet did not statistically significantly change sex steroid hormone concentrations at week 52.

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Anastasia Alataki and Mitch Dowsett

Endocrine therapies are the main treatment strategies for the clinical management of hormone-dependent breast cancer. Despite prolonged time to recurrence in the adjuvant setting and the initial clinical responses in the metastatic setting, many patients eventually encounter tumour relapse due to acquired resistance to these agents. Other patients experience a lack of tumour regression at the beginning of treatment indicating de novo resistance that significantly limits its efficacy in the clinic. There is compelling evidence that human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) overexpression contributes to resistance to endocrine therapies in oestrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. ER+/HER2+ tumours comprise about 10% of all breast cancer cases and about 60% of the whole set of HER2+ tumours. Most patients with primary ER+/HER2+ disease will receive antibody-based HER2-targeted therapy, but this is generally for no more than one year while endocrine treatment is usually for at least 5 years. A number of HER2-kinase inhibitors are also now in clinical use or in clinical trials, and the interaction of these with endocrine treatment may differ from that of antibody treatment. In this review article, we aim to summarise knowledge on molecular mechanisms of breast cancer resistance to endocrine therapies attributable to the impact of HER2 signalling on endocrine sensitivity, to discuss data from clinical trials addressing the role of HER2 in the development of endocrine resistance in the metastatic, neoadjuvant and adjuvant settings and to explore rational new therapeutic strategies.

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Adriana Albani, Luis Gustavo Perez-Rivas, Sicheng Tang, Julia Simon, Kristin Elisabeth Lucia, Paula Colón-Bolea, Jochen Schopohl, Sigrun Roeber, Michael Buchfelder, Roman Rotermund, Jörg Flitsch, Jun Thorsteinsdottir, Jochen Herms, Günter Stalla, Martin Reincke, and Marily Theodoropoulou

Cushing’s disease is a rare but devastating and difficult to manage condition. The somatostatin analogue pasireotide is the only pituitary-targeting pharmaceutical approved for the treatment of Cushing’s disease but is accompanied by varying efficacy and potentially severe side effects. Finding means to predict which patients are more likely to benefit from this treatment may improve their management. More than half of corticotroph tumours harbour mutations in the USP8 gene, and there is evidence of higher somatostatin receptor 5 (SSTR5) expression in the USP8-mutant tumours. Pasireotide has a high affinity for SSTR5, indicating that these tumours may be more sensitive to treatment. To test this hypothesis, we examined the inhibitory action of pasireotide on adrenocorticotrophic hormone synthesis in primary cultures of human corticotroph tumour with assessed USP8 mutational status and in immortalized murine corticotroph tumour cells overexpressing human USP8 mutants frequent in Cushing’s disease. Our in vitro results demonstrate that pasireotide exerts a higher antisecretory response in USP8-mutant corticotroph tumours. Overexpressing USP8 mutants in a murine corticotroph tumour cell model increased endogenous somatostatin receptor 5 (Sstr5) transcription. The murine Sstr5 promoter has two binding sites for the activating protein 1 (AP-1) and USP8 mutants possibly to mediate their action by stimulating AP-1 transcriptional activity. Our data corroborate the USP8 mutational status as a potential marker of pasireotide response and describe a potential mechanism through which USP8 mutants may regulate SSTR5 gene expression.

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Debora L S Danilovic, George B Coura-Filho, Giulianna M Recchia, Luciana A Castroneves, Suemi Marui, Carlos A Buchpiguel, Ana O Hoff, and Peter Kopp

Radioiodine (RAI) is selectively recommended for intermediate-risk differentiated thyroid carcinomas (DTC). The information gleaned from pretherapy stimulated thyroglobulin levels (sTg) and diagnostic 131I whole-body scans (DxWBS) to guide therapy remains controversial. The present study aimed at evaluating the impact of preablation sTg and DxWBS in the management of intermediate-risk DTC. A retrospective analysis of 301 intermediate-risk DTC patients submitted to total thyroidectomy and RAI therapy was performed. Pretherapy sTg and DxWBS and post-therapy WBS (RxWBS) findings were analyzed and compared to outcomes. Fifty-two patients (17.3%) had metastases diagnosed by DxWBS and/or RxWBS. The DxWBS identified 10.6% of patients with functioning metastases, including unexpected distant metastases. If combined with SPECT-CT, DxWBS detected RAI-avid metastases more frequently, particularly lymph node metastases (13.1% vs 4.2% planar WBS, P = 0.015). The DxWBS findings modified patient management in 8.3%. A pretherapy sTg <1 ng/mL was associated with a low false-negative rate for the presence of metastases (5.2%), and its performance in excluding metastasis was improved by a negative DxWBS (2.7% of patients with both negative exams had metastases in RxWBS). A sTg <1 ng/mL predicted statistically significant lower rates of recurrent/persistent disease and biochemical/structural incomplete responses. In conclusion, preablation sTg and DxWBS contribute to the detection of unknown or persistent metastatic disease in intermediate-risk DTC patients. A sTg <1 ng/mL in combination with a negative DxWBS is highly suggestive of the absence of remaining malignant disease, and one may consider deferring RAI ablation if both exams are negative. A stunning effect is rarely observed and it does not impair proper treatment of metastases.

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Razan Abou Ziki, Romain Teinturier, Yakun Luo, Catherine Cerutti, Jean-Marc Vanacker, Coralie Poulard, Thomas Bachelot, Mona Diab-Assaf, Isabelle Treilleux, Chang Xian Zhang, and Muriel Le Romancer

Menin, encoded by the MEN1 gene, has been identified as a critical factor regulating ESR1 transcription, playing an oncogenic role in ER+ breast cancer (BC) cells. Here, we further dissected the consequences of menin inactivation in ER+ BC cells by focusing on factors within two major pathways involved in BC, mTOR and MYC. MEN1 silencing in MCF7 and T-47D resulted in an increase in phosphor-p70S6K1, phosphor-p85S6K1 and phosphor-4EBP1 expression. The use of an AKT inhibitor inhibited the activation of S6K1 and S6RP triggered by MEN1 knockdown (KD). Moreover, MEN1 silencing in ER+ BC cells led to increased formation of the eIF4E and 4G complex. Clinical studies showed that patients with menin-low breast cancer receiving tamoxifen plus everolimus displayed a trend toward better overall survival. Importantly, MEN1 KD in MCF7 and T-47D cells led to reduced MYC expression. ChIP analysis demonstrated that menin bound not only to the MYC promoter but also to its 5’ enhancer. Furthermore, E2-treated MEN1 KD MCF7 cells displayed a decrease in MYC activation, suggesting its role in estrogen-mediated MYC transcription. Finally, expression data mining in tumors revealed a correlation between the expression of MEN1 mRNA and that of several mTORC1 components and targets and a significant inverse correlation between MEN1 and two MYC inhibitory factors, MYCBP2 and MYCT1, in ER+ BC. The current work thus highlights altered mTORC1 and MYC pathways after menin inactivation in ER+ BC cells, providing insight into the crosstalk between menin, mTORC1 and MYC in ER+ BC.

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Charlotte Nys, Yu-Lun Lee, Heleen Roose, Freya Mertens, Ellen De Pauw, Hiroto Kobayashi, Raf Sciot, Marie Bex, Georges Versyck, Steven De Vleeschouwer, Johannes Van Loon, Emma Laporte, and Hugo Vankelecom

Pituitary tumorigenesis is highly prevalent and causes major endocrine disorders. Hardly anything is known on the behavior of the local stem cells in this pathology. Here, we explored the stem cells’ biology in mouse and human pituitary tumors using transcriptomic, immunophenotyping and organoid approaches. In the prolactinoma-growing pituitary of dopamine receptor D2 knock-out mice, the stem cell population displays an activated state in terms of proliferative activity and distinct cytokine/chemokine phenotype. Organoids derived from the tumorous glands’ stem cells recapitulated these aspects of the stem cells’ activation nature. Upregulated cytokines, in particular interleukin-6, stimulated the stem cell-derived organoid development and growth process. In human pituitary tumors, cells typified by expression of stemness markers, in particular SOX2 and SOX9, were found present in a wide variety of clinical tumor types, also showing a pronounced proliferative status. Organoids efficiently developed from human tumor samples, displaying a stemness phenotype as well as tumor-specific expression fingerprints. Transcriptomic analysis revealed fading of cytokine pathways at organoid development and passaging, but their reactivation did not prove capable of rescuing early organoid expansion and passageability arrest. Taken together, our study revealed and underscored an activated phenotype of the pituitary-resident stem cells in tumorigenic glands and tumors. Our findings pave the way to defining the functional position of the local stem cells in pituitary tumor pathogenesis, at present barely known. Deeper insight can lead to more efficient and targeted clinical management, currently still not satisfactorily.

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Ziwei Zhang, Menglian Li, Jianjun Wang, Mengsi Liu, Huan Chen, Yuan Lou, Yijie Wang, Qi Sun, Dalong Zhu, Ping Li, and Yan Bi

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare malignancy with a poor prognosis and challenging management. The present study aimed to investigate the expression of programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) and V-domain Ig-containing suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA) in ACC and their associations with clinicopathological features and survival outcomes. Immunohistochemistry was performed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens from 54 ACC patients. Chi-square/Fisher’s exact tests or independent samples t/Mann–Whitney U tests were performed to assess correlations between immunoscores and clinicopathological parameters. The Kaplan–Meier method and Cox regression were conducted for survival analysis and to identify independent predictors of overall (OS) and disease-free (DFS) survival. Results showed that VISTA was expressed in tumor cells (TCs) and tumor-infiltrating immune cells (TICs) in 81.5% (44/54) and 40.7% (22/54) of the patients, respectively. PD-L1 positivity was found in either TCs or TICs in 11.1% (6/54) of the patients. Patients with positive VISTA expression in TCs had a higher tumor stage (56.9% vs 20%, P  = 0.036) and Ki-67 index (30.50 ± 23.51% vs 14.76 ± 11.75%, P  = 0.006). However, PD-L1 positivity in either TCs or TICs had no association with patient clinicopathological features. A higher VISTA expression intensity, a larger area and a higher immunoscore were associated with increased risks of disease progression and overall mortality, but PD-L1 expression in TCs or TICs was not associated with OS or DFS. In conclusion, positive TC VISTA expression was correlated with pathological parameters related to malignancy in ACC patients. This finding provides novel evidence of the value of VISTA, in addition to PD-L1, as an immunotherapeutic target in ACC.