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Jacob A Quaytman, Yuri E Nikiforov, Marina N Nikiforova, and Elena Morariu

The incidence of cancer in thyroid nodules carrying germline or somatic phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) mutations is not well-defined. This study characterizes the clinical and histopathologic features of thyroid nodules with preoperatively detected PTEN mutations and their impact on management. Thyroid nodules with PTEN mutations on molecular testing of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) specimens from November 2017 to July 2020 at our institution were included. Demographic and clinicopathologic data were obtained through retrospective chart review. We identified 49 PTEN mutation-positive nodules from 48 patients. Surveillance was pursued for 28 patients and surgery for 20 patients. There were 14 follicular adenomas (FA), 4 oncocytic adenomas, 1 oncocytic hyperplastic nodule, and 1 encapsulated follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinoma (EFVPTC). The EFVPTC had two somatic PTEN mutations, an NRAS mutation, and was a low-risk tumor with capsular but no angiolymphatic invasion. Four patients, all with multiple nodules, had PTEN hamartoma syndrome (PHTS) with germline mutations or a clinical diagnosis of Cowden syndrome (CS); two had surgery finding FAs, and one previously had follicular carcinoma removed. Among surveillance patients, 1/20 had a significant increase in the size of the thyroid nodule and underwent repeat FNA, and no thyroid malignancy was found with a mean of 1.77 years of follow-up (range 1.00–2.78). Thyroid nodules with isolated somatic PTEN mutations are primarily benign and unlikely to grow at a high rate, at least on short-term follow-up. About 8% of patients with PTEN mutations may have PHTS or CS, which should be suspected in younger patients with multiple thyroid nodules.

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Manuel D Gahete, Natalia Herman-Sanchez, Antonio C Fuentes-Fayos, Juan L Lopez-Canovas, and Raúl M Luque

The dysregulation of the splicing process has emerged as a novel hallmark of metabolic and tumor pathologies. In breast cancer (BCa), which represents the most diagnosed cancer type among women worldwide, the generation and/or dysregulation of several oncogenic splicing variants have been described. This is the case of the splicing variants of HER2, ER, BRCA1, or the recently identified by our group, In1-ghrelin and SST5TMD4, which exhibit oncogenic roles, increasing the malignancy, poor prognosis, and resistance to treatment of BCa. This altered expression of oncogenic splicing variants has been closely linked with the dysregulation of the elements belonging to the macromolecular machinery that controls the splicing process (spliceosome components and the associated splicing factors). In this review, we compile the current knowledge demonstrating the altered expression of splicing variants and spliceosomal components in BCa, showing the existence of a growing body of evidence supporting the close implication of the alteration in the splicing process in mammary tumorigenesis.

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Michaela Kuhlen, Pascal Mier, Marina Kunstreich, Lienhard Lessel, Dominik Schneider, Ines Brecht, Denis M Schewe, Michael C Frühwald, Peter Vorwerk, and Antje Redlich

Adjuvant treatment with mitotane and chemotherapy is recommended for paediatric advanced and metastatic adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC). Yet, questions on the indication, dosage, and length of therapy are unanswered. Data from the German Paediatric Oncology Haematology-Malignant Endocrine Tumour studies were analysed retrospectively for patients receiving mitotane during first- and/or second-line therapy. Forty-three patients were identified (median age: 7.5 years (range: 0.2–17.8); 29 female) with median follow-up of 2.2 years (range: 0.04–12.71). Three-year overall (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) were 44.9% and 28.5%, respectively. Eleven of 43 patients received mitotane as neoadjuvant treatment, and 4/11 tumours reached partial remission (PR). Twenty-seven of 43 patients received mitotane combined with chemotherapy in an adjuvant setting resulting in PR of measurable target lesions in 5/13 patients. Metastatic disease (hazard ratio (HR): 3.2; 95% CI: 1.2–18.6; P = 0.018), duration of mitotane treatment <9 months (HR: 5.6; 95% CI: 1.9–16.9; P = 0.002), and not achieving drug target range (TR) (HR: 28.5; 95% CI: 5.4–150.3; P < 0.001) significantly impacted as negative prognostic factors upon PFS and OS (metastatic disease: HR: 4.9; 95% CI: 1.6–15.5; P = 0.006; duration of mitotane treatment: HR: 7.0: 95% CI 1.9–26.0; P = 0.004; TR not reached: HR: 13.5; 95% CI 3.6–50.3; P < 0.001). Cox regression determined the risk of event decreasing by 10.4% for each month of mitotane treatment (P = 0.015). Re-treatment with mitotane after first-line treatment proved ineffective. The duration of mitotane treatment and reaching mitotane TR significantly impacted survival. Improving the efficacy of mitotane, including appropriate indications, needs to be evaluated in prospective randomized trials.

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Luming Wu, Jing Xie, Yan Qi, Tingwei Su, Lei Jiang, Weiwei Zhou, Yiran Jiang, Cui Zhang, Xu Zhong, Yanan Cao, and Weiqing Wang

Adrenal incidentalomas are the most frequent human neoplasms. Recent genomic investigations on functional adrenocortical tumors have demonstrated that somatic mutations in PRKACA and KCNJ5 responsible for the development of adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs) are associated with hypercortisolism and aldosteronism, respectively. Several studies have identified CTNNB1 mutations in ACAs and have been mostly involved in the tumorigenesis of non-functional ACA (NFACA). However, integrated genomic characterization of NFACAs is lacking. In the current study, we utilized pan-genomic methods to comprehensively analyze 60 NFACA samples. A total of 1264 somatic mutations in coding regions among the 60 samples were identified, with a median of 15 non-silent mutations per tumor. Twenty-two NFACAs (36.67%) had genetic alterations in CTNNB1. We also identified several somatic mutations in genes of the cAMP/PKA pathway and KCNJ5. Histone modification genes (KMT2A, KMT2C, and KMT2D) were altered in 10% of cases. Germline mutations of MEN1 and RET were also found. Finally, by comparison of our transcriptome data with those available in the TCGA, we illustrated the molecular characterization of NFACA. We revealed the genetic profiling and molecular landscape of NFACA. Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation as shown ssby nuclear and/or cytoplasmic β-catenin accumulation is frequent, occurring in about one–third of ACA cases. cytochrome P450 enzymes could be markers to reveal the functional status of adrenocortical tumors. These observations strongly suggest the involvement of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in benign adrenal tumorigenesis and possibly in the regulation of steroid secretion.

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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.

Open access

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.

Open access

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.