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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.

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Clotilde Sparano, Yann Godbert, Marie Attard, Christine Do Cao, Slimane Zerdoud, Nathalie Roudaut, Charlotte Joly, Amandine Berdelou, Julien Hadoux, Livia Lamartina, Martin Schlumberger, and Sophie Leboulleux

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare lethal disease. Lenvatinib is an off-label therapeutic option for ATC in most countries, except in Japan. The aim of this multicenter retrospective survey was to analyze the efficacy and the toxicity profile of off-label lenvatinib treatment in all adults advanced ATC patients, in France. Of the 23 patients analysed (14 males; mean age 64 years), 15 were pure ATC and 8 were mixed tumors (i.e. with a differentiated or poorly differentiated component). Prior treatments included neck external beam irradiation in 74%, at least one line of chemotherapy in 22 cases, two lines of chemotherapy in 11 patients, other TKI in 4 cases. A central RECIST assessment was performed. Since lenvatinib initiation, median PFS was 2.7 months (95% CI; 1.9–3.5) and median OS was 3.1 months (95% CI; 0.6–5.5). OS was significantly longer in case of mixed tumors compared with pure ATC (6.3 vs 2.7 months, P = 0.026). Best tumor response was partial response in two cases and stable disease in seven. Clinical improvement was achieved in seven patients. Lethal adverse events occurred in three patients, consisting in haemoptysis in two cases and pneumothorax in one case. Among long-surviving ATC patients (>6 months), four underwent biopsy of distant metastasis, revealing poorly differentiated histology; three of them had initial mixed ATC histology. Efficacy of lenvatinib appears limited, although pure vs mixed ATC disclose differences in disease aggressiveness and treatment response. Long-surviving ATC patients might benefit from biopsy of persistent disease, searching for histological transition or molecular target.

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Margo Dona, Selma Waaijers, Susan Richter, Graeme Eisenhofer, Jeroen Korving, Sarah M Kamel, Jeroen Bakkers, Elena Rapizzi, Richard J Rodenburg, Jan Zethof, Marnix Gorissen, Gert Flik, Peter M T Deen, and Henri J L M Timmers

Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) caused by mutations in the B-subunit of the succinate dehydrogenase (SDHB) have the highest metastatic rate among PPGLs, and effective systemic therapy is lacking. To unravel underlying pathogenic mechanisms, and to evaluate therapeutic strategies, suitable in vivo models are needed. The available systemic Sdhb knock-out mice cannot model the human PPGL phenotype: heterozygous Sdhb mice lack a disease phenotype, and homozygous Sdhb mice are embryonically lethal. Using CRISPR/cas9 technology, we introduced a protein-truncating germline lesion into the zebrafish sdhb gene. Heterozygous sdhb mutants were viable and displayed no obvious morphological or developmental defects. Homozygous sdhb larvae were viable, but exhibited a decreased lifespan. Morphological analysis revealed incompletely or non-inflated swim bladders in homozygous sdhb mutants at day 6. Although no differences in number and ultrastructure of the mitochondria were observed. Clear defects in energy metabolism and swimming behavior were observed in homozygous sdhb mutant larvae. Functional and metabolomic analyses revealed decreased mitochondrial complex 2 activity and significant succinate accumulation in the homozygous sdhb mutant larvae, mimicking the metabolic effects observed in SDHB-associated PPGLs. This is the first study to present a vertebrate animal model that mimics metabolic effects of SDHB-associated PPGLs. This model will be useful in unraveling pathomechanisms behind SDHB-associated PPGLs. We can now study the metabolic effects of sdhb disruption during different developmental stages and develop screening assays to identify novel therapeutic targets in vivo. Besides oncological syndromes, our model might also be useful for pediatric mitochondrial disease caused by loss of the SDHB gene.

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Chiara Verdelli, Irene Forno, Annamaria Morotti, Riccardo Maggiore, Gilberto Mari, Leonardo Vicentini, Stefano Ferrero, Elisabetta Kuhn, Valentina Vaira, and Sabrina Corbetta

Tumors of the parathyroid glands are highly vascularized and display a microRNA (miRNA) profile divergent from normal parathyroid glands (PaNs). Angiogenic miRNAs, namely miR-126-3p, miR-126-5p, and miR-296-5p, have been found downregulated in parathyroid tumors. Here, we show that miR-126-3p expression levels are reduced in parathyroid adenomas (PAds; n = 12) compared with PaNs (n = 4). In situ hybridization (ISH) of miR-126-3p and miR-296-5p in 10 PAds show that miR-126-3p is expressed by endothelial cells lining the walls of great vessels and by cells within the thin stroma surrounding acinar structures. At variance, miR-296-5p was detectable in most PAd epithelial cells. Combining ISH for miR-126-3p with immunohistochemistry for the endothelial and mesenchymal markers CD34, CD31 and α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA), we could identify that miR-126-3p is localized in the αSMA-positive thin stroma. Further, miR-126-3p-expressing cells are enriched in the CD34-positive stromal cells surrounding epithelial cell acinar structures, a cellular pattern consistent with tumor-associated myofibroblasts (TAMs). In line with this, CD34-positive cells, sorted by FACS from PAds tissues, express miR-126-3p at higher levels than CD34-negative cells, suggesting that miR-126-3p downregulation promotes the endothelial-to-αSMA+ mesenchymal transition. In human mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow (hBM-MSCs), a model of TAMs, the co-culture with PAds-derived cells for 5 days decreases miR-126-3p, while it increases VEGFA expression. At variance, adrenomedullin (ADM) expression is unaffected. Finally, overexpression of the miR-126-3p mimic in both hBM-MSCs and PAds-derived explants downregulates VEGFA expression levels. In conclusion, miR-126-3p is expressed by both endothelial cells and TAMs in PAds, and its downregulation promotes neoangiogenesis, possibly through VEGFA overexpression.

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Marcela Rassi-Cruz, Andrea G Maria, Fabio R Faucz, Edra London, Leticia A P Vilela, Lucas S Santana, Anna Flavia F Benedetti, Tatiana S Goldbaum, Fabio Y Tanno, Vitor Srougi, Jose L Chambo, Maria Adelaide A Pereira, Aline C B S Cavalcante, Francisco C Carnevale, Bruna Pilan, Luiz A Bortolotto, Luciano F Drager, Antonio M Lerario, Ana Claudia Latronico, Maria Candida B V Fragoso, Berenice B Mendonca, Maria Claudia N Zerbini, Constantine A Stratakis, and Madson Q Almeida

Abstract

Familial primary aldosteronism (PA) is rare and mostly diagnosed in early-onset hypertension (HT). However, ‘sporadic’ bilateral adrenal hyperplasia (BAH) is the most frequent cause of PA and remains without genetic etiology in most cases. Our aim was to investigate new genetic defects associated with BAH and PA. We performed whole-exome sequencing (paired blood and adrenal tissue) in six patients with PA caused by BAH that underwent unilateral adrenalectomy. Additionally, we conducted functional studies in adrenal hyperplastic tissue and transfected cells to confirm the pathogenicity of the identified genetic variants. Rare germline variants in phosphodiesterase 2A (PDE2A) and 3B (PDE3B) genes were identified in three patients. The PDE2A heterozygous variant (p.Ile629Val) was identified in a patient with BAH and early-onset HT at 13 years of age. Two PDE3B heterozygous variants (p.Arg217Gln and p.Gly392Val) were identified in patients with BAH and HT diagnosed at 18 and 33 years of age, respectively. A strong PDE2A staining was found in all cases of BAH in zona glomerulosa and/or micronodules (that were also positive for CYP11B2). PKA activity in frozen tissue was significantly higher in BAH from patients harboring PDE2A and PDE3B variants. PDE2A and PDE3B variants significantly reduced protein expression in mutant transfected cells compared to WT. Interestingly, PDE2A and PDE3B variants increased SGK1 and SCNN1G/ENaCg at mRNA or protein levels. In conclusion, PDE2A and PDE3B variants were associated with PA caused by BAH. These novel genetic findings expand the spectrum of genetic etiologies of PA.

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Stephanie Metcalf, Belinda J Petri, Traci Kruer, Benjamin Green, Susan Dougherty, James L Wittliff, Carolyn M Klinge, and Brian F Clem

Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer (ER+ BC) is the most common form of breast carcinoma accounting for approximately 70% of all diagnoses. Although ER-targeted therapies have improved survival outcomes for this BC subtype, a significant proportion of patients will ultimately develop resistance to these clinical interventions, resulting in disease recurrence. Phosphoserine aminotransferase 1 (PSAT1), an enzyme within the serine synthetic pathway (SSP), has been previously implicated in endocrine resistance. Therefore, we determined whether expression of SSP enzymes, PSAT1 or phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH), affects the response of ER+ BC to 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT) treatment. To investigate a clinical correlation between PSAT1, PHGDH, and endocrine resistance, we examined microarray data from ER+ patients who received tamoxifen as the sole endocrine therapy. We confirmed that higher PSAT1 and PHGDH expression correlates negatively with poorer outcomes in tamoxifen-treated ER+ BC patients. Next, we found that SSP enzyme expression and serine synthesis were elevated in tamoxifen-resistant compared to tamoxifen-sensitive ER+ BC cells in vitro. To determine relevance to endocrine sensitivity, we modified the expression of either PSAT1 or PHGDH in each cell type. Overexpression of PSAT1 in tamoxifen-sensitive MCF-7 cells diminished 4-OHT inhibition on cell proliferation. Conversely, silencing of either PSAT1 or PHGDH resulted in greater sensitivity to 4-OHT treatment in LCC9 tamoxifen-resistant cells. Likewise, the combination of a PHGDH inhibitor with 4-OHT decreased LCC9 cell proliferation. Collectively, these results suggest that overexpression of serine synthetic pathway enzymes contribute to tamoxifen resistance in ER+ BC, which can be targeted as a novel combinatorial treatment option.

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Pedro Weslley Rosario, Tiara Grossi Rocha, and Gabriela Franco Mourão

In thyroid nodules (TN) submitted to fine-needle aspiration (FNA), Bethesda categories III and IV are considered ‘indeterminate’ cytology. This result corresponds to 10–25% of all FNAs and the risk of malignancy (RoM) ranges from 10% to 30% for category III and from 15% to 40% for category IV. This review analyzed the practical applicability of accessible imaging method in the management of patients with cytologically indeterminate TN > 1 cm (ITN). When ITN are highly suspicious on ultrasonography (US), the RoM supports surgical indication even in the absence of additional tests. The same can be applied to ITN of intermediate suspicion but with elevated stiffness on elastography. Follow-up without additional tests is acceptable in the case of ITN with low-risk cytology and low-suspicion appearance on US and elastography (if obtained). In the case of ITN without highly suspicious US appearance, 123I scintigraphy may be obtained in patients with TSH < 1–1.5 mIU/L to rule out hyperfunctioning nodules before requesting diagnostic methods that are more expensive and less accessible. In addition, in ITN with not very suspicious US appearance, 18FDG-PET may be obtained. If this method does not reveal nodular uptake, the risk of the nodule corresponding to a macrocarcinoma is sufficiently low in order to allow follow-up. The positive predictive value of focal nodular uptake on 18FDG-PET depends on the pre-test RoM, cytological findings, and maximum SUV. There is currently no evidence for the use of CT, MRI or imaging using 99mTc-MIBI to define the nature of ITN.

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Lisa K Philp, Anja Rockstroh, Melanie Lehman, Martin C Sadowski, Nenad Bartonicek, John D Wade, Laszlo Otvos Jr, and Colleen C Nelson

Adiponectin is an adipokine originally identified as dysregulated in obesity, with a key role in insulin sensitisation and in maintaining systemic energy balance. However, adiponectin is progressively emerging as having aberrant signalling in multiple disease states, including prostate cancer (PCa). Circulating adiponectin is lower in patients with PCa than in non-malignant disease, and inversely correlates with cancer severity. More severe hypoadiponectinemia is observed in advanced PCa than in organ-confined disease. Given the crossover between adiponectin signalling and several cancer hallmark pathways that influence PCa growth and progression, we hypothesised that targeting dysregulated adiponectin signalling may inhibit tumour growth and progression. We, therefore, aimed to test the efficacy of correcting the hypoadiponectinemia and dysregulated adiponectin signalling observed in PCa, a world-first PCa therapeutic approach, using peptide adiponectin receptor (ADIPOR) agonist ADP355 in mice bearing subcutaneous LNCaP xenografts. We demonstrate significant evidence for PCa growth inhibition by ADP355, which slowed tumour growth and delayed progression of serum PCa biomarker, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), compared to vehicle. ADP355 conferred a significant advantage by increasing time on treatment with a delayed ethical endpoint. mRNA sequencing and protein expression analyses of tumours revealed ADP355 PCa growth inhibition may be through altered cellular energetics, cellular stress and protein synthesis, which may culminate in apoptosis, as evidenced by the increased apoptotic marker in ADP355-treated tumours. Our findings highlight the efficacy of ADP355 in targeting classical adiponectin-associated signalling pathways in vivo and provide insights into the promising future for modulating adiponectin signalling through ADIPOR agonism as a novel anti-tumour treatment modality.

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Jean-Pierre Bayley and Peter Devilee

This review describes human and rodent-derived cell lines and xenografts developed over the last five decades that are suitable or potentially suitable models for paraganglioma–pheochromocytoma research. We outline the strengths and weaknesses of various models and emphasize the recurring theme that, despite the major challenges involved, more effort is required in the search for valid human and animal cell models of paraganglioma–pheochromocytoma, particularly those relevant to cancers carrying a mutation in one of the succinate dehydrogenase genes. Despite many setbacks, the recent development of a potentially important new model, the RS0 cell line, gives reason for optimism regarding the future of models in the paraganglioma–pheochromocytoma field. We also note that classic approaches to cell line derivation such as SV40-mediated immortalization and newer approaches such as organoid culture or iPSCs have been insufficiently explored. As many existing cell lines have been poorly characterized, we provide recommendations for reporting of paraganglioma and pheochromocytoma cell lines, including the strong recommendation that cell lines are made widely available via the ATCC or a similar cell repository. Basic research in paraganglioma–pheochromocytoma is currently transitioning from the analysis of genetics to the analysis of disease mechanisms and the clinically exploitable vulnerabilities of tumors. A successful transition will require many more disease-relevant human and animal models to ensure continuing progress.