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Ewan M Stephenson, Laura E J Usselmann, Vinay Tergaonkar, David M Virshup, and Robert Dallmann

Circadian rhythms regulate a vast array of physiological and cellular processes, as well as the hormonal milieu, to keep our cells synchronised to the light–darkness cycle. Epidemiologic studies have implicated circadian disruption in the development of breast and other cancers, and numerous clock genes are dysregulated in human tumours. Here we review the evidence that circadian rhythms, when altered at the molecular level, influence cancer growth. We also note some common pitfalls in circadian-cancer research and how they might be avoided to maximise comparable results and minimise misleading data. Studies of circadian gene mutant mice, and human cancer models in vitro and in vivo, demonstrate that clock genes can impact tumourigenesis. Clock genes influence important cancer-related pathways, ranging from p53-mediated apoptosis to cell cycle progression. Confusingly, clock dysfunction can be both pro- or anti-tumourigenic in a model and cell type-specific manner. Due to this duality, there is no canonical mechanism for clock interaction with tumourigenic pathways. To understand the role of the circadian clock in patients’ tumours requires analysis of the molecular clock status compared to healthy tissue. Novel mathematical approaches are under development, but this remains largely aspirational, and is hampered by a lack of temporal information in publicly available datasets. Current evidence broadly supports the notion that the circadian clock is important for cancer biology. More work is necessary to develop an overarching model of this connection. Future studies would do well to analyse the clock network in addition to alterations in single clock genes.

Open access

Isabel Mayayo-Peralta, Wilbert Zwart, and Stefan Prekovic

Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is a key homeostatic regulator involved in governing immune response, neuro-integration, metabolism and lung function. In conjunction with its pivotal role in human biology, GR action is critically linked to pathology of various disease types, including cancer. While pharmacological activation of GR has been used for treatment of various liquid cancers, its role in solid cancers is less clearly defined and seems to be cancer-type dependent. This review focuses on the molecular aspects of GR biology, spanning the structural and functional basis of response to glucocorticoids, as well as how this transcription factor operates in cancer, including the implications in disease development, progression and drug resistance.

Free access

Pedro Weslley Rosario, Marina Carvalho Souza Côrtes, and Gabriela Franco Mourão

Antithyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb) are present in up to 25% of patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma on initial postoperative assessment. Detectable concentrations of TgAb even below the manufacturer’s cut-off can interfere with serum thyroglobulin (Tg) determination. When Tg is quantified using an immunometric assay (IMA) (hereafter referred to as Tg-IMA), this interference results in underestimated values of Tg. Although promising, more clinical trials evaluating the capacity of liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry and of new assays to detect elevated Tg in patients with TgAb and structural disease are necessary, particularly when Tg is undetectable by a second-generation IMA (Tg-2GIMA). Neck ultrasonography (US) should be performed in patients submitted to total thyroidectomy and with negative Tg-IMA but with detectable TgAb more than 6 months after initial therapy. In patients treated with 131I, comparison of TgAb concentrations obtained before this treatment is useful to estimate the risk of disease and to guide the investigation. If initial assessment does not reveal any persistent tumor, the repetition of US is recommended while TgAb persist. Significant elevation of TgAb requires extended investigation. On the other hand, patients with negative Tg-IMA and US without abnormalities who exhibit a reduction > 50% in TgAb generally do not require investigation. Although TgAb can interfere with Tg, the management and follow-up of patients submitted to total thyroidectomy with borderline TgAb can probably be the same as those recommended for patients without TgAb if Tg-2GIMA and US indicate an excellent response to therapy. Currently, the presence/absence or the trend of TgAb levels cannot be considered in the follow-up of patients submitted to lobectomy.

Open access

Adam Stenman, Samuel Backman, Klara Johansson, Johan O. Paulsson, Peter Stalberg, Jan Zedenius, and C. Christofer Juhlin

Pediatric papillary thyroid carcinoma (pPTCs) are often indolent tumors with excellent long-term outcome, although subsets of cases are clinically troublesome and recur. Although generally thought to exhibit similar molecular aberrancies as their counterpart tumors in adults, the pan-genomic landscape of clinically aggressive pPTCs has not been previously described. In this study, five pairs of primary and synchronously metastatic pPTC from patients with high-risk phenotypes were characterized using parallel whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing. Primary tumors and their metastatic components displayed an exceedingly low number of coding somatic mutations and gross chromosomal alterations overall, with surprisingly few shared mutational events. Two cases exhibited one established gene fusion event each (SQSTM1-NTRK3 and NCOA4-RET) in both primary and metastatic tissues, and one case each was positive for a BRAF V600E mutation and a germline truncating CHEK2 mutation respectively. One single case was without apparent driver events and was considered a genetic orphan. Non-coding mutations in cancer-associated regions were generally not present. By expressional analyses, fusion-driven primary and metastatic pPTC clustered separately from the mutation-driven cases and the sole genetic orphan. We conclude that pPTCs are genetically indolent tumors with exceedingly stable genomes. Several mutations found exclusively in the metastatic samples may represent novel genetic events that drive the metastatic behavior, and the differences in mutational compositions suggest early clonal divergence between primary tumors and metastases. Moreover, an overrepresentation of mutational and expressional dysregulation of immune regulatory pathways was noted among fusion-positive pPTC metastases, suggesting that these tumors might facilitate spread through immune evasive mechanisms.

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Nitya Raj, Youyun Zheng, Haley Hauser, Joanne Chou, Johnathan Rafailov, Jad Bou-Ayache, Peter Sawan, Jamie Chaft, Jennifer Chan, Kimberly Perez, Charles Rudin, Laura Tang, and Diane Reidy-Lagunes

The mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor everolimus is an established therapy for well-differentiated (WD) foregut neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). Pre-clinical data demonstrates a potential synergistic role for cyclin dependent kinase 4/6 inhibition and everolimus to treat this disease. In this phase II multicenter study, patients with advanced foregut WDNETs received combination ribociclib and everolimus until confirmed disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. The first 12 patients received ribociclib 300 mg three weeks in a row with a 1 week break and everolimus 2.5 mg daily (recommended phase II dose). Due to unexpected hematologic and infectious toxicities, the trial was put on hold, modified, and an additional 9 patients received ribociclib 200 mg and everolimus 2.5 mg daily. The primary end point was progression-free survival. Archived pre-treatment tumor was profiled by next-generation sequencing to evaluate for genomic markers of drug response. Twenty-one patients were treated (median age, 56; range, 24 to 77). The study did not meet the pre-specified criteria to advance to stage two. No patients experienced an objective response. Thirteen patients (62%) experienced stable disease. Median progression-free survival was 7.7 months (95% CI, 2.8 months to not reached). Eleven of the first 12 patients (92%) developed grade 2 or more myelosuppression. Ten patients (84%) experienced treatment interruption and 8 patients (67%) required dose reduction. Genetic testing in archival tumor tissue samples failed to identify a predictive biomarker of disease stabilization. The combination of ribociclib and everolimus had insufficient activity to warrant further investigation in foregut WDNETs.

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Carla Colombo, Marina Muzza, Gabriele Pogliaghi, Sonia Palazzo, Guia Vannucchi, Leonardo Vicentini, Luca Persani, Giacomo Gazzano, and Laura Fugazzola

Cytology is the gold standard method for the differential diagnosis of thyroid nodules, though 25–30% of them are classified as indeterminate. We aimed to set up a ‘thyroid risk score’ (TRS) to increase the diagnostic accuracy in these cases. We prospectively tested 135 indeterminate thyroid nodules. The pre-surgical TRS derived from the sum of the scores assigned at cytology, EU-TIRADS classification, nodule measurement, and molecular characterization, which was done by our PTC-MA assay, a customized array able to cost-effectively evaluate 24 different genetic alterations including point mutations and gene fusions. The risk of malignancy (ROM) increased paralleling the score: in the category >4 and ≤ 6 (low suspicion), >6 ≤ 8 (intermediate suspicion), and >8 (high suspicion); ROM was 10, 47 and 100%, respectively. ROC curves selected the score >6.5 as the best threshold to differentiate between malignant and benign nodules (P < 0.001). The TRS > 6.5 had a better performance than the single parameters evaluated separately, with an accuracy of 77 and 82% upon inclusion of noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features among malignant or benign cases, respectively. In conclusion, for the first time, we generated a score combining a cost-effective molecular assay with already validated tools, harboring different specificities and sensitivities, for the differential diagnosis of indeterminate nodules. The combination of different parameters reduced the number of false negatives inherent to each classification system. The TRS > 6.5 was highly suggestive for malignancy and retained a high accuracy in the identification of patients to be submitted to surgery.

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Satya Das, Liping Du, Aimee Schad, Shikha Jain, Aaron Jessop, Chirayu Shah, David Eisner, Dana Cardin, Kristen Ciombor, Laura Goff, Marques Bradshaw, Dominique Delbeke, Martin Sandler, and Jordan Berlin

We developed a clinical score (CS) at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) that we hoped would predict outcomes for patients with progressive well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) receiving therapy with Lutetium-177 (177Lu)-DOTATATE. Patients under consideration for 177Lu-DOTATATE between March 1, 2016 and March 17, 2020 at VICC were assigned a CS prospectively. The CS included 5 categories: available treatments for tumor type outside of 177Lu-DOTATATE, prior systemic treatments, patient symptoms, tumor burden in critical organs and presence of peritoneal carcinomatosis. The primary outcome of the analysis was progression-free survival (PFS). To evaluate the effect of the CS on PFS, a multivariable Cox regression analysis was performed adjusting for tumor grade, primary tumor location, and the interaction between 177Lu-DOTATATE doses received (zero, 1–2, 3–4) and CS. A total of 91 patients and 31 patients received 3–4 doses and zero doses of 177Lu-DOTATATE, respectively. On multivariable analysis, in patients treated with 3–4 doses of 177Lu-DOTATATE, for each 1-point increase in CS, the estimated hazard ratio (HR) for PFS was 2.0 (95% CI 1.61–2.48). On multivariable analysis, in patients who received zero doses of 177Lu-DOTATATE, for each 1-point increase in CS, the estimated HR for PFS was 1.22 (95% CI 0.91–1.65). Among patients treated with 3–4 doses of 177Lu-DOTATATE, those with lower CS experienced improved PFS with the treatment compared to patients with higher CS. This PFS difference, based upon CS, was not observed in patients who did not receive 177Lu-DOTATATE, suggesting the predictive utility of the score.

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Saya Ahmad, Myrthe R Naber, Rachel H Giles, Gerlof D Valk, and Rachel S van Leeuwaarde

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) in Von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) disease have a relatively good prognosis. However, a subset of pNETs metastasize and significantly contribute to VHL-related mortality. Evidence-based guidelines are needed for timely detection, management and intervention of these tumors. However, the value of several diagnostic tools is controversial, and evidence-based management strategies are lacking. This systematic review aims to update current literature on diagnostic and management strategies of pNETs in VHL and proposes evidence-based recommendations. The databases of PubMed/Medline, Embase and Web of Science were systematically searched to identify relevant studies. Studies were screened independently and cross-checked by two authors to assess eligibility for inclusion. Eighty-four articles were eligible for full text reading, and thirteen were critically appraised using the modified Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies or modified Quality in Prognostic Studies tool. Six studies assessed the diagnostic value of imaging modalities, five focused on the optimal timing for surgical intervention, and one article studied the growth rate of pNETs. Quality of the available evidence was determined using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations tool. Studies recommended CT or MRI as the primary screening modalities for pNETs. For detection of metastases, 68Gallium-DOTATATE/TOC PET/CT is advised. For pNETs <2 cm a watch-and-wait approach is recommended, while for pNETs ≥2.5 cm surgical resection is advised. Due to limited data, no strong recommendations on surveillance could be proposed.

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Tim Schauer, Anne-Sophie Mazzoni, Anna Henriksson, Ingrid Demmelmaier, Sveinung Berntsen, Truls Raastad, Karin Nordin, Bente K Pedersen, and Jesper F Christensen

Exercise training has been hypothesized to lower the inflammatory burden for patients with cancer, but the role of exercise intensity is unknown. To this end, we compared the effects of high-intensity (HI) and low-to-moderate intensity (LMI) exercise on markers of inflammation in patients with curable breast, prostate and colorectal cancer undergoing primary adjuvant cancer treatment in a secondary analysis of the Phys-Can randomized trial (NCT02473003). Sub-group analyses focused on patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Patients performed 6 months of combined aerobic and resistance exercise on either HI or LMI during and after primary adjuvant cancer treatment. Plasma taken at baseline, immediately post-treatment and post-intervention was analyzed for levels of interleukin 1 beta (IL1B), IL6, IL8, IL10, tumor-necrosis factor alpha (TNFA) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Intention-to-treat analyses of 394 participants revealed no significant between-group differences. Regardless of exercise intensity, significant increases of IL6, IL8, IL10 and TNFA post-treatment followed by significant declines, except for IL8, until post-intervention were observed with no difference for CRP or IL1B. Subgroup analyses of 154 patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy revealed that CRP (estimated mean difference (95% CI): 0.59 (0.33; 1.06); P  = 0.101) and TNFA (EMD (95% CI): 0.88 (0.77; 1); P  = 0.053) increased less with HI exercise post-treatment compared to LMI. Exploratory cytokine co-regulation analysis revealed no difference between the groups. In patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy, HI exercise resulted in a lesser increase of CRP and TNFA immediately post-treatment compared to LMI, potentially protecting against chemotherapy-related inflammation.

Open access

Georgios Kostopoulos, Ioannis Doundoulakis, Christina Antza, Emmanouil Bouras, Krishnarajah Nirantharakumar, Dimitrios Tsiachris, G. Neil Thomas, Gregory Y. H. Lip, and Konstantinos A. Toulis

Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) represents the most common form of thyroid neoplasms and is becoming increasingly prevalent. Evidence suggests a possible relationship between DTC diagnosis and subsequent atrial fibrillation (AF). If confirmed, this may present an alarming health risk (AF) in an otherwise condition with a relatively good prognosis (DTC). The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to provide for the first time a pooled estimate of AF incidence in DTC patients in comparison to healthy controls. A detailed search in electronic databases, clinical trial registries and grey literature was performed to identify studies reporting the incidence of AF in DTC patients. Newcastle-Ottawa quality assessment scale was used to assess study quality. We used a random effects (RE) generalized linear mixed model (GLMM) in pooling of individual studies and also calculated a prediction interval for the estimate of a new study. Six observational studies met the eligibility criteria, which included totally 187,754 patients with DTC and 199,770 healthy controls. The median follow-up period was 4.3 to 18.8 years; the incidence rate of AF was 4.86 (95% CI, 3.29 to 7.17, I2= 96%) cases per 1000 person-years, while the incidence rate ratio was 1.54(95%CI, 1.44 to 1.65, I2 = 0%, 95%PI, 1.33 to 1.78).This is the first meta-analysis to confirm that patients with DTC are at a high risk for developing AF, which may be attributed to a state of iatrogenic hyperthyroidism due to long-term thyrotropin suppression therapy.