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Yulong Li, Jianhua Zhang, Poorni R Adikaram, James Welch, Bin Guan, Lee S Weinstein, Haobin Chen, and William F Simonds

Mutation of the CDC73 gene, which encodes parafibromin, has been linked with parathyroid cancer. However, no correlation between genotypes of germline CDC73 mutations and the risk of parathyroid cancer has been known. In this study, subjects with germline CDC73 mutations were identified from the participants of two clinical protocols at National Institutes of Health (Discovery Cohort) and from the literature (Validation Cohort). The relative risk of developing parathyroid cancer was analyzed as a function of CDC73 genotype, and the impact of representative mutations on structure of parafibromin was compared between genotype groups. A total of 419 subjects, 68 in Discovery Cohort and 351 in Validation Cohort, were included. In both cohorts, percentages of CDC73 germline mutations that predicted significant conformational disruption or loss of expression of parafibromin (referred as ‘high-impact mutations’) were significantly higher among the subjects with parathyroid cancers compared to all other subjects. The Kaplan–Meier analysis showed that high-impact mutations were associated with a 6.6-fold higher risk of parathyroid carcinoma compared to low-impact mutations, despite a similar risk of developing primary hyperparathyroidism between two groups. Disruption of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of parafibromin is directly involved in predisposition to parathyroid carcinoma, since only the mutations impacting this domain were associated with an increased risk of parathyroid carcinoma. Structural analysis revealed that a conserved surface structure in the CTD is universally disrupted by the mutations affecting this domain. In conclusion, high-impact germline CDC73 mutations were found to increase risk of parathyroid carcinoma by disrupting the CTD of parafibromin.

Free access

Tim J Takkenkamp, Mathilde Jalving, Frederik J H Hoogwater, and Annemiek M E Walenkamp

Immunotherapy in the form of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) has transformed the treatment landscape in numerous types of advanced cancer. However, the majority of patients do not benefit from this treatment modality. Although data are scarce, in general, patients with low-grade neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) do not benefit from treatment with ICIs in contrast to patients with neuroendocrine carcinoma, in which a small subgroup of patients may benefit. Low- and intermediate-grade NETs predominantly lack factors associated with response to ICIs treatment, like immune cell infiltration, and have an immunosuppressive tumour metabolism and microenvironment. In addition, because of its potential influence on the response to ICIs, major interest has been shown in the tryptophan-degrading enzymes indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) and tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO). These enzymes work along the kynurenine pathway that deplete tryptophan in the tumour microenvironment. IDO and TDO are especially of interest in NETs since some tumours produce serotonin but the majority do not, which potentially deplete the precursor tryptophan. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the immune tumour microenvironment of neuroendocrine tumours and implications for treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. We also discuss (targetable) factors in the NET tumour microenvironment that potentially modulate the anti-cancer immune response.

Free access

Jack Junjie Chan, Yirong Sim, Samuel Guan Wei Ow, Joline Si Jing Lim, Grace Kusumawidjaja, Qingyuan Zhuang, Ru Xin Wong, Fuh Yong Wong, Veronique Kiak Mien Tan, and Tira Jing Ying Tan

The ensuing COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented and daunting challenges to the routine delivery of oncological and supportive care to patients with breast cancer. Considerations include the infective risk of patients who are inherently immunosuppressed from their malignancy and therapies, long-term oncological outcomes from the treatment decisions undertaken during this extraordinary period, and diverted healthcare resources to support a coordinated whole-of-society outbreak response. In this review, we chronicle the repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak on breast cancer management in Singapore and describe our approach to triaging and prioritising care of breast tumours. We further propose adaptations to established clinical processes and practices across the different specialties involved in breast oncology, with references to the relevant evidence base or expert consensus guidelines. These recommendations have been developed within the unique context of Singapore’s public healthcare sector. They can serve as a resource to guide breast cancer management for future contingencies in this city-state, while certain elements therein may be extrapolatable to other medical systems during this global public health emergency.

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Derek Raghavan, Antoinette R Tan, E Shannon Story, Earle F Burgess, Laura Musselwhite, Edward S Kim, and Peter E Clark

Substantial management changes in endocrine-related malignancies have been required as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a draconian reduction in the screening of asymptomatic subjects, delay in planned surgery and radiotherapy for primary tumors deemed to be indolent, and dose reductions and/or delays in initiation of some systemic therapies. An added key factor has been a patient-initiated delay in the presentation because of the fear of viral infection. Patterns of clinical consultation have changed, including a greater level of virtual visits, physical spacing, masking, staffing changes to ensure a COVID-free population and significant changes in patterns of family involvement. While this has occurred to improve safety from COVID-19 infection, the implications for cancer outcomes have not yet been defined. Based on prior epidemics and financial recessions, it is likely that delayed presentation and treatment of high-grade malignancy will be associated with worse cancer outcomes. Cancer patients are also at increased risk from COVID-19 infection compared to the general population. Pandemic management strategies for patients with tumors of breast, prostate, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal gland are reviewed.

Open access

Xiyuan Zhang, Fabia de Oliveira Andrade, Hansheng Zhang, Idalia Cruz, Robert Clarke, Pankaj Gaur, Vivek Verma, and Leena Hilakivi-Clarke

Over 50% of women at a childbearing age in the United States are overweight or obese, and this can adversely affect their offspring. We studied if maternal obesity-inducing high fat diet (HFD) not only increases offspring’s mammary cancer risk but also impairs response to antiestrogen tamoxifen. Female rat offspring of HFD and control diet-fed dams, in which estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) mammary tumors were induced with the carcinogen 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA), exhibited similar initial responses to antiestrogen tamoxifen. However, after tamoxifen therapy was completed, almost all (91%) tumors recurred in HFD offspring, compared with only 29% in control offspring. The increase in local mammary tumor recurrence in HFD offspring was linked to an increase in the markers of immunosuppression (Il17f, Tgfβ1, VEGFR2) in the tumor microenvironment (TME). Protein and mRNA levels of the major histocompatibility complex II (MHC-II), but not MHC-I, were reduced in the recurring DMBA tumors of HFD offspring. Further, infiltration of CD8+ effector T cells and granzyme B+ (GZMB+) cells were lower in their recurring tumors. To determine if maternal HFD can pre-program similar changes in the TME of allografted E0771 mammary tumors in offspring of syngeneic mice, flow cytometry analysis was performed. E0771 mammary tumor growth was significantly accelerated in the HFD offspring, and a reduction in the numbers of GZMB and non-significant reduction of interferon γ (IFNγ) secreting CD8+ T cells in the TME was seen. Thus, consumption of a HFD during pregnancy increases susceptibility of the female rat and mouse offspring to tumor immune suppression and mammary tumor growth and recurrence.

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Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Kate E Lines, Shani Avniel-Polak, Chas Bountra, and Rajesh V Thakker

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) occur usually as sporadic tumours; however, rarely, they may arise in the context of a hereditary syndrome, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), an autosomal dominant disorder characterised by the combined development of pancreatic NENs (pNENs) together with parathyroid and anterior pituitary tumours. The therapeutic decision for sporadic pNENs patients is multi-disciplinary and complex: based on the grade and stage of the tumor, various options (and their combinations) are considered, such as surgical excision (either curative or for debulking aims), biological drugs (somatostatin analogues), targeted therapies (mTOR inhibitors or tyrosine kinases (TK)/receptors inhibitors), peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT), chemotherapy, and liver-directed therapies. However, treatment of MEN1-related NENs’ patients is even more challenging, as these tumours are usually multifocal with co-existing foci of heterogeneous biology and malignant potential, rendering them more resistant to the conventional therapies used in their sporadic counterparts, and therefore associated with a poorer prognosis. Moreover, clinical data using standard therapeutic options in MEN1-related NENs are scarce. Recent preclinical studies have identified potentially new targeted therapeutic options for treating MEN1-associated NENs, such as epigenetic modulators, Wnt pathway-targeting β-catenin antagonists, Ras signalling modulators, Akt/mTOR signalling modulators, novel somatostatin receptors analogues, anti-angiogenic drugs, as well as MEN1 gene replacement therapy. The present review aims to summarize these novel therapeutic opportunities for NENs developing in the context of MEN1 syndrome, with an emphasis on pancreatic NENs, as they are the most frequent ones studied in MEN1-NENs models to date; moreover, due to the recent shifting nomenclature of ‘pituitary adenomas’ to ‘pituitary neuroendocrine neoplasms’, relevant data on MEN1-pituitary tumours, when appropriate, are briefly described.

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Michael Wagner, Melinda Wuest, Ana Lopez-Campistrous, Darryl Glubrecht, Jennifer Dufour, Hans-Soenke Jans, Frank Wuest, and Todd P W McMullen

Targeted therapy is increasingly used to manage metastatic papillary thyroid cancer. The focus of the present study was to examine glucose metabolism and tumor responses for thyroid cancer xenografts expressing the glycolytic pathway modulators platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) and BRAFV600E. Radiolabelled glucose derivative [18F]FDG was used to analyze the effects of PDGFR blockade with imatinib, BRAF blockade with vemurafenib, as well as combined PDGFR and BRAF blockade in vitro and in vivo with PET. Dynamic PET data was correlated with immunohistochemistry staining and kinetic analysis for facilitative glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) and hexokinase-II (HK2). Vemurafenib decreased [18F]FDG uptake in BCPAP cells in vitro; however, it was increased by ~70% with imatinib application to BCPAP cells. This metabolic response to tyrosine kinase inhibition required BRAFV600E as it was not seen in cell lines lacking mutated BRAF (TPC1). In xenografts, imatinib therapy in BCPAP thyroid tumour-bearing mice significantly increased [18F]FDG uptake and retention (>30%) in BCPAP tumours with PDGFRβ or both (α+β) isoforms. Kinetic analysis revealed that the increased glucose uptake is a consequence of increased phosphorylation and intracellular trapping of [18F]FDG confirmed by an increase in HK2 protein expression and activity, but not GLUT1 activity. BRAF inhibition alone, or combined PDGFR and BRAF inhibition, reduced (~60%) [18F]FDG uptake in both types of BCPAP (β or α+β) tumours. In terms of tumour growth, combination therapy with imatinib and vemurafenib led to a near abolition of the tumors (~90% reduction), but single therapy for BCPAP with PDGFRα expression was much less effective. In summary, imatinib led to a paradoxical increase of [18F]FDG uptake in xenografts that was reversed through BRAFV600E inhibition. The present data show that metabolic reprogramming in thyroid cancer occurs as a consequence of BRAF-mediated upregulation of HK2 expression that may permit tumour growth with isolated blockade of upstream tyrosine kinase receptors.

Free access

Ashley K Clift and Andrea Frilling

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NEN) are a class of tumours heterogeneous in terms of their anatomical sites of origin and clinical behaviour. Outdated perspectives of indolence have been superseded by appreciation for their myriad clinical challenges, such as the high rates of regional and distant metastases at initial diagnosis, lack of clarity on optimal treatment strategies/sequencing, and incompletely elucidated genetic/other pathophysiological drivers. The first randomised controlled trials in this arena were published approximately a decade ago – since then, increased understanding of the genetic drivers and signalling pathway perturbations in these tumours have suggested promise for precision therapy influenced by an individual tumour’s molecular sub-type, but this is yet to be realised for manifold reasons. In this article, the authors review the genetic landscapes as currently understood for selected forms of NEN and discuss the current and developing evidence to support the use of genetic information to influence therapy. They provide a critical assessment of the potential limitations of using such approaches and also posit avenues for future developments in this arena.

Free access

Pamela Brock, Jennifer L Geurts, Paulien Van Galen, Erica Blouch, James Welch, Amy Kunz, Lauren Desrosiers, Jennifer Gauerke, and Samuel Hyde

The Genetic Counseling Working Group from the 16th International Workshop on Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN 2019) convened to discuss contemporary challenges and opportunities in the area of genetic counseling for individuals and families affected by hereditary endocrine neoplasia syndromes. As healthcare professionals with multidisciplinary training in human genetics, risk assessment, patient education, psychosocial counseling, and research methodology, genetic counselors bring a unique perspective to working toward addressing these challenges and identifying their subsequent opportunities. This Working Group focused on the following broad areas: (1) genetic counseling resources for endocrine neoplasias, (2) candidate gene discovery, (3) implications of increasingly sensitive and expansive genetic testing technologies for both the germline and the tumors, and (4) situating clinical diagnoses for hereditary endocrine neoplasia syndromes in the context of present-day knowledge.