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Trisha Dwight, Edward Kim, Karine Bastard, Diana E Benn, Graeme Eisenhofer, Susan Richter, Massimo Mannelli, Elena Rapizzi, Aleksander Prejbisz, Mariola Pęczkowska, Karel Pacak, and Roderick Clifton-Bligh

Mosaic or somatic EPAS1 mutations are associated with a range of phenotypes including pheochromocytoma and/or paraganglioma (PPGL), polycythemia and somatostatinoma. The pathogenic potential of germline EPAS1 variants however is not well understood. We report a number of germline EPAS1 variants occurring in patients with PPGL, including a novel variant c.739C>A (p.Arg247Ser); a previously described variant c.1121T>A (p.Phe374Tyr); several rare variants, c.581A>G (p.His194Arg), c.2353C>A (p.Pro785Thr) and c.2365A>G (p.Ile789Val); a common variant c.2296A>C (p.Thr766Pro). We performed detailed functional studies to understand their pathogenic role in PPGL. In transient transfection studies, EPAS1/HIF-2α p.Arg247Ser, p.Phe374Tyr and p.Pro785Thr were all stable in normoxia. In co-immunoprecipitation assays, only the novel variant p.Arg247Ser showed diminished interaction with pVHL. A direct interaction between HIF-2α Arg247 and pVHL was confirmed in structural models. Transactivation was assessed by means of a HRE-containing reporter gene in transiently transfected cells, and significantly higher reporter activity was only observed with EPAS1/HIF-2α p.Phe374Tyr and p.Pro785Thr. In conclusion, three germline EPAS1 variants (c.739C>A (p.Arg247Ser), c.1121T>A (p.Phe374Tyr) and c.2353C>A (p.Pro785Thr)) all have some functional features in common with somatic activating mutations. Our findings suggest that these three germline variants are hypermorphic alleles that may act as modifiers to the expression of PPGLs.

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Vincenzo Condello, Filomena Cetani, Maria Denaro, Liborio Torregrossa, Elena Pardi, Paolo Piaggi, Simona Borsari, Anello Marcello Poma, Lucia Anna Muscarella, Paolo Graziano, Maria Grazia Chiofalo, Andrea Repaci, Giovanni Tallini, Francesco Boi, Gabriele Materazzi, Fulvio Basolo, and Claudio Marcocci

Parathyroid carcinoma (PC) is one of the rarest and aggressive malignancies of the endocrine system. In some instances, the histological diagnosis remains uncertain unless there is evidence of gross local invasion or secondary spread. The identification of molecular markers could improve the diagnostic accuracy of these lesions. The expression of 740 genes involved in the tumor progression processes was assessed in 8 parathyroid adenomas (PAs), 17 non-metastatic and 10 metastatic PCs using NanoString technology. Clustering analysis and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) were interrogated to compare the gene expression profiles among the three analyzed groups and to evaluate the potential role of differentially expressed genes, respectively. The 103 differentially expressed genes between metastatic PCs and PAs are able to discriminate perfectly the two groups from a molecular point of view. The molecular signatures identified in non-metastatic PCs vs PAs and in metastatic PCs vs non-metastatic PCs comparisons, although with some exceptions, seem to be histotype-specific IPA reveals that hepatic fibrosis/hepatic stellate cell activation and GP6 signaling pathway are involved in malignant behavior of parathyroid tumors, whereas the activation of the HOTAIR regulatory pathway are involved in the metastatization process. Our investigation identified differentially expressed genes in non-metastatic PCs mainly encoding ECM proteins and in metastatic PCs driving endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition or encoding mediators of angiogenesis. The identified genes might be promising molecular markers potentially useful in the clinical practice for the early diagnosis and prognosis of PC.

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Arun Mouli Kolinjivadi, Siao Ting Chong, and Joanne Ngeow

Co-ordinated oscillation of mammalian circadian clock and cell cycle is essential for cellular and organismal homeostasis. Existing preclinical, epidemiological, molecular and biochemical evidence reveals a robust interplay between circadian clock, genome instability and cancer. Furthermore, recent investigations have demonstrated that the alterations in circadian clock perturb genome stability by modulating the cell-cycle timing, altering DNA replication fork progression, influencing DNA damage response (DDR) and DNA repair efficiency. In this review, we examine the most recent findings from different eukaryotic model systems and discuss the functional interaction between circadian factors with key DNA replication, DDR and DNA repair genes.

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Eliot B Blatt, Noa Kopplin, Shourya Kumar, Ping Mu, Suzanne D Conzen, and Ganesh V Raj

Prostate cancer (PCa) and breast cancer (BCa) are both hormone-dependent cancers that require the androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor (ER, ESR1) for growth and proliferation, respectively. Endocrine therapies that target these nuclear receptors (NRs) provide significant clinical benefit for metastatic patients. However, these therapeutic strategies are seldom curative and therapy resistance is prevalent. Because the vast majority of therapy-resistant PCa and BCa remain dependent on the augmented activity of their primary NR driver, common mechanisms of resistance involve enhanced NR signaling through overexpression, mutation, or alternative splicing of the receptor, coregulator alterations, and increased intracrine hormonal synthesis. In addition, a significant subset of endocrine therapy-resistant tumors become independent of their primary NR and switch to alternative NR or transcriptional drivers. While these hormone-dependent cancers generally employ similar mechanisms of endocrine therapy resistance, distinct differences between the two tumor types have been observed. In this review, we compare and contrast the most frequent mechanisms of antiandrogen and antiestrogen resistance, and provide potential therapeutic strategies for targeting both advanced PCa and BCa.

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Eva Hadadi and Hervé Acloque

The circadian rhythm is a major environmental regulator of plants and animal physiology. The alternation of days and nights is translated at the cell and tissue level thanks to a molecular machinery, called the circadian clock. This clock controls in particular numerous endocrine functions, and its imbalances can have serious consequences on homeostasis. This is particularly true for the development of endocrine-related cancers, like breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Circadian rhythm disorder (CRD) not only affects key hormone levels (including oestrogen, melatonin, insulin, glucagon, cortisol) but also favours a pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive phenotype in the tumour microenvironment. This particular aspect is conducive to epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of solid epithelial tumours and cancer cell dissemination. It also favours resistance to chemo- and immunotherapy. Here, we discuss the current knowledge on this crosstalk between CRD, EMT and the immune microenvironment in endocrine-related cancers and its consequences for the development of efficient therapies.

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V Craig Jordan

Following the discovery and approval of the oral contraceptive, the pharmaceutical industry sought new opportunities for the regulation of reproduction. The discovery of the first non-steroidal anti-oestrogen MER25, with antifertility properties in laboratory animals, started a search for ‘morning-after pills’. There were multiple options in the 1960s, however, one compound ICI 46,474 was investigated, but found to induce ovulation in subfertile women. A second option was to treat stage IV breast cancer. Although the patent for ICI 46,474 was awarded in the early 1960s in the UK and around the world, a patent in the USA was denied on the basis that the claims for breast cancer treatment were not supported by evidence. A trial at the Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute in Manchester, published in 1971, showed activity compared with alternatives: high-dose oestrogen or androgen treatment, but the US Patent Office was unswayed until 1985! The future of tamoxifen to be, was in the balance in 1972 but the project went forward as an orphan drug looking for applications and a translational research strategy was needed. Today, tamoxifen is known as the first targeted therapy in cancer with successful applications to treat all stages of breast cancer, male breast cancer, and the first medicine for the reduction of breast cancer incidence in high-risk pre- and post-menopausal women. This is the unlikely story of how an orphan medicine changed medical practice around the world, with millions of women’s lives extended.

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Matthew D Ringel

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Simon Faillot, Thomas Foulonneau, Mario Néou, Stéphanie Espiard, Simon Garinet, Anna Vaczlavik, Anne Jouinot, Windy Rondof, Amandine Septier, Ludivine Drougat, Karine Hécale-Perlemoine, Bruno Ragazzon, Marthe Rizk-Rabin, Mathilde Sibony, Fidéline Bonnet-Serrano, Jean Guibourdenche, Rosella Libé, Lionel Groussin, Bertrand Dousset, Aurélien de Reyniès, Jérôme Bertherat, and Guillaume Assié

Benign adrenal tumors cover a spectrum of lesions with distinct morphology and steroid secretion. Current classification is empirical. Beyond a few driver mutations, pathophysiology is not well understood. Here, a pangenomic characterization of benign adrenocortical tumors is proposed, aiming at unbiased classification and new pathophysiological insights. Benign adrenocortical tumors (n = 146) were analyzed by transcriptome, methylome, miRNome, chromosomal alterations and mutational status, using expression arrays, methylation arrays, miRNA sequencing, SNP arrays, and exome or targeted next-generation sequencing respectively. Pathological and hormonal data were collected for all tumors. Pangenomic analysis identifies four distinct molecular categories: (1) tumors responsible for overt Cushing, gathering distinct tumor types, sharing a common cAMP/PKA pathway activation by distinct mechanisms; (2) adenomas with mild autonomous cortisol excess and non-functioning adenomas, associated with beta-catenin mutations; (3) primary macronodular hyperplasia with ARMC5 mutations, showing an ovarian expression signature; (4) aldosterone-producing adrenocortical adenomas, apart from other benign tumors. Epigenetic alterations and steroidogenesis seem associated, including CpG island hypomethylation in tumors with no or mild cortisol secretion, miRNA patterns defining specific molecular groups, and direct regulation of steroidogenic enzyme expression by methylation. Chromosomal alterations and somatic mutations are subclonal, found in less than 2/3 of cells. New pathophysiological insights, including distinct molecular signatures supporting the difference between mild autonomous cortisol excess and overt Cushing, ARMC5 implication into the adreno-gonadal differentiation faith, and the subclonal nature of driver alterations in benign tumors, will orient future research. This first genomic classification provides a large amount of data as a starting point.

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Corinne Gérard, Marie Lagarde, Flora Poizat, Sandrine Oziel-Taieb, Vincent Garcia, Catherine Roche, Patricia Niccoli, Anne Barlier, and David Romano

Although there is evidence of a significant rise of neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) incidence, current treatments are largely insufficient due to somewhat poor knowledge of these tumours. Despite showing differentiated features, NENs exhibit therapeutic resistance to most common treatments, similar to other cancers in many instances. Molecular mechanisms responsible for this resistance phenomenon are badly understood. We aimed at identifying signalling partners responsible of acquired resistance to treatments in order to develop novel therapeutic strategies. We engineered QGP-1 cells resistant to current leading treatments, the chemotherapeutic agent oxaliplatin and the mTor inhibitor everolimus. Cells were chronically exposed to the drugs and assessed for acquired resistance by viability assay. We used microarray-based kinomics to obtain highthroughput kinase activity profiles from drug sensitive vs resistant cells and identified ‘hit’ kinases hyperactivated in drug-resistant cells, including kinases from FGFR family, cyclin-dependant kinases and PKCs in oxaliplatin-resistant (R-Ox) QGP-1 cells. We then validated these ‘hit’ kinases and observed that ERK signalling is specifically enhanced in QGP-1 R-Ox cells. Finally, we assessed drug-resistant cells sensitivity to pharmacological inhibition of ‘hit’ kinases or their signalling partners. We found that FGFR inhibition markedly decreased ERK signalling and cell viability in QGP-1 R-Ox cells. These results suggest that the FGFR/ERK axis is hyperactivated in response to oxaliplatin-based chemotherapeutic strategy. Thus, this sensitive approach, based on the study of kinome activity, allows identifying potential candidates involved in drug resistance in NENs and may be used to broadly investigate markers of NENs therapeutic response.