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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.

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.

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Razan Abou Ziki, Romain Teinturier, Yakun Luo, Catherine Cerutti, Jean-Marc Vanacker, Coralie Poulard, Thomas Bachelot, Mona Diab-Assaf, Isabelle Treilleux, Chang Xian Zhang, and Muriel Le Romancer

Menin, encoded by the MEN1 gene, has been identified as a critical factor regulating ESR1 transcription, playing an oncogenic role in ER+ breast cancer (BC) cells. Here, we further dissected the consequences of menin inactivation in ER+ BC cells by focusing on factors within two major pathways involved in BC, mTOR and MYC. MEN1 silencing in MCF7 and T-47D resulted in an increase in phosphor-p70S6K1, phosphor-p85S6K1 and phosphor-4EBP1 expression. The use of an AKT inhibitor inhibited the activation of S6K1 and S6RP triggered by MEN1 knockdown (KD). Moreover, MEN1 silencing in ER+ BC cells led to increased formation of the eIF4E and 4G complex. Clinical studies showed that patients with menin-low breast cancer receiving tamoxifen plus everolimus displayed a trend toward better overall survival. Importantly, MEN1 KD in MCF7 and T-47D cells led to reduced MYC expression. ChIP analysis demonstrated that menin bound not only to the MYC promoter but also to its 5’ enhancer. Furthermore, E2-treated MEN1 KD MCF7 cells displayed a decrease in MYC activation, suggesting its role in estrogen-mediated MYC transcription. Finally, expression data mining in tumors revealed a correlation between the expression of MEN1 mRNA and that of several mTORC1 components and targets and a significant inverse correlation between MEN1 and two MYC inhibitory factors, MYCBP2 and MYCT1, in ER+ BC. The current work thus highlights altered mTORC1 and MYC pathways after menin inactivation in ER+ BC cells, providing insight into the crosstalk between menin, mTORC1 and MYC in ER+ BC.

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Charlotte Nys, Yu-Lun Lee, Heleen Roose, Freya Mertens, Ellen De Pauw, Hiroto Kobayashi, Raf Sciot, Marie Bex, Georges Versyck, Steven De Vleeschouwer, Johannes Van Loon, Emma Laporte, and Hugo Vankelecom

Pituitary tumorigenesis is highly prevalent and causes major endocrine disorders. Hardly anything is known on the behavior of the local stem cells in this pathology. Here, we explored the stem cells’ biology in mouse and human pituitary tumors using transcriptomic, immunophenotyping and organoid approaches. In the prolactinoma-growing pituitary of dopamine receptor D2 knock-out mice, the stem cell population displays an activated state in terms of proliferative activity and distinct cytokine/chemokine phenotype. Organoids derived from the tumorous glands’ stem cells recapitulated these aspects of the stem cells’ activation nature. Upregulated cytokines, in particular interleukin-6, stimulated the stem cell-derived organoid development and growth process. In human pituitary tumors, cells typified by expression of stemness markers, in particular SOX2 and SOX9, were found present in a wide variety of clinical tumor types, also showing a pronounced proliferative status. Organoids efficiently developed from human tumor samples, displaying a stemness phenotype as well as tumor-specific expression fingerprints. Transcriptomic analysis revealed fading of cytokine pathways at organoid development and passaging, but their reactivation did not prove capable of rescuing early organoid expansion and passageability arrest. Taken together, our study revealed and underscored an activated phenotype of the pituitary-resident stem cells in tumorigenic glands and tumors. Our findings pave the way to defining the functional position of the local stem cells in pituitary tumor pathogenesis, at present barely known. Deeper insight can lead to more efficient and targeted clinical management, currently still not satisfactorily.

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Ziwei Zhang, Menglian Li, Jianjun Wang, Mengsi Liu, Huan Chen, Yuan Lou, Yijie Wang, Qi Sun, Dalong Zhu, Ping Li, and Yan Bi

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare malignancy with a poor prognosis and challenging management. The present study aimed to investigate the expression of programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) and V-domain Ig-containing suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA) in ACC and their associations with clinicopathological features and survival outcomes. Immunohistochemistry was performed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens from 54 ACC patients. Chi-square/Fisher’s exact tests or independent samples t/Mann–Whitney U tests were performed to assess correlations between immunoscores and clinicopathological parameters. The Kaplan–Meier method and Cox regression were conducted for survival analysis and to identify independent predictors of overall (OS) and disease-free (DFS) survival. Results showed that VISTA was expressed in tumor cells (TCs) and tumor-infiltrating immune cells (TICs) in 81.5% (44/54) and 40.7% (22/54) of the patients, respectively. PD-L1 positivity was found in either TCs or TICs in 11.1% (6/54) of the patients. Patients with positive VISTA expression in TCs had a higher tumor stage (56.9% vs 20%, P  = 0.036) and Ki-67 index (30.50 ± 23.51% vs 14.76 ± 11.75%, P  = 0.006). However, PD-L1 positivity in either TCs or TICs had no association with patient clinicopathological features. A higher VISTA expression intensity, a larger area and a higher immunoscore were associated with increased risks of disease progression and overall mortality, but PD-L1 expression in TCs or TICs was not associated with OS or DFS. In conclusion, positive TC VISTA expression was correlated with pathological parameters related to malignancy in ACC patients. This finding provides novel evidence of the value of VISTA, in addition to PD-L1, as an immunotherapeutic target in ACC.

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Mirela Diana Ilie, Alexandre Vasiljevic, Emmanuel Jouanneau, and Gérald Raverot

Once temozolomide has failed, there is no recommended treatment option for pituitary carcinomas and aggressive pituitary tumors. Immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) represent the most recent therapeutic avenue, having raised hope with the publication of the first successful case in 2018. Here, we present an overview of immunotherapy in pituitary carcinomas and aggressive pituitary tumors, starting with the rationale for using ICIs and the implications of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in anterior pituitary tumors, followed by a systematic review of all published cases, analyzing both treatment response and potential predictors of response and finishing with research and clinical perspectives. Seven corticotroph and four lactotroph tumors have been so far treated with ICIs. Corticotroph tumors showed radiological partial response in 57% of cases, followed by stable disease in 29% of cases, which was accompanied by biochemical partial or complete response in 83% of cases. Half of lactotroph tumors showed radiological complete or partial response, accompanied by biochemical complete response in 33% of the cases. In the case of a dissociate response, continuation of immunotherapy combined with local treatment represents a good option. At this time, a high tumor mutational burden appears to be the most promising predictive marker of response. MMR deficiency does not guarantee a response. Negative PD-L1 staining should not preclude ICIs administration. Therefore, ICIs are a promising option after temozolomide failure. This review highlights key clinical aspects that can already be implemented into practice and also discusses tumor biology concepts and perspectives expected to improve immunotherapy outcomes.

Open access

Anna Angelousi, Aimee R Hayes, Eleftherios Chatzellis, Gregory A Kaltsas, and Ashley B Grossman

Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a rare malignancy comprising 1–2% of all thyroid cancers in the United States. Approximately 20% of cases are familial, secondary to a germline RET mutation, while the remaining 80% are sporadic and also harbour a somatic RET mutation in more than half of all cases. Up to 15–20% of patients will present with distant metastatic disease, and retrospective series report a 10-year survival of 10–40% from time of first metastasis. Historically, systemic therapies for metastatic MTC have been limited, and cytotoxic chemotherapy has demonstrated poor objective response rates. However, in the last decade, targeted therapies, particularly multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), have demonstrated prolonged progression-free survival in advanced and progressive MTC. Both cabozantinib and vandetanib have been approved as first-line treatment options in many countries; nevertheless, their use is limited by high toxicity rates and dose reductions are often necessary. New generation TKIs, such as selpercatinib or pralsetinib, that exhibit selective activity against RET, have recently been approved as a second-line treatment option, and they exhibit a more favourable side-effect profile. Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy or immune checkpoint inhibitors may also constitute potential therapeutic options in specific clinical settings. In this review, we aim to present all current therapeutic options available for patients with progressive MTC, as well as new or as yet experimental treatments.

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Ophélie Delcorte, Julie Craps, Siam Mahibullah, Catherine Spourquet, Ludovic D’Auria, Patrick Van Der Smissen, Chantal Dessy, Etienne Marbaix, Michel Mourad, and Christophe E Pierreux

Differential diagnosis of thyroid cancer and benign nodules is still one of the most challenging issues in the field of endocrinology. To overcome overdiagnosis of papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) and the consecutive overtreatment of multinodular diseases, the search for easily accessible, sensitive and accurate biomarkers is critical. Several micro-RNAs (miRNAs) freely circulating in peripheral blood or enclosed in extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been proposed as potential biomarkers from non-invasive liquid biopsies. However, protocols are rarely comparable and conflicting data exist in the literature. In this work, we aimed to assess the diagnostic value of six micro-RNAs by comparing their expression in thyroid tissue to their abundance in bulk plasma and in plasma-EVs, before and after thyroid surgery. Plasma-EVs were isolated using a sequential density- and size-based fractionation, followed by in-depth characterization, confirming EV purity. Micro-RNA levels were measured by RT-qPCR in thyroid tissue, plasma and plasma-EVs. Among the six candidates, only miR-146b-5p and miR-21a-5p displayed a significant differential abundance in purified plasma-derived EVs from patients with PTC and benign disease. However, no difference could be demonstrated in bulk plasma through our cohort of patients. Overall, our work supports the use of a well-defined protocol of plasma-EV miRNAs purification for biomarker discovery, rather than the use of freely circulating miRNAs in bulk plasma. Our work also demonstrates that standardized pre-analytical and analytical procedures as well as optimized EV-miRNAs detection methods are essential.

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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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Feng Xu, Yali Ling, Jingjing Yuan, Qin Zeng, Lusha Li, Dexing Dai, Xuedi Xia, Ruoman Sun, Ran Zhang, and Zhongjian Xie

Differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC) is the most common endocrine malignancy and highly expresses the receptor for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D). However, it is unclear whether 1,25(OH)2D regulates DTC proliferation and differentiation. Here, we found that 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibited proliferation but not differentiation of the DTC cells. Notably, CYP27B1was elevated in DTC cells and 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D3) reduced DTC cell proliferation. Knockdown of VDR did not affect the anti-proliferative effects of 1,25(OH)2D3. However, knockdown of CCAAT enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBPβ)abolished 1,25(OH)2D3-suppressed DTC cell proliferation. In addition, 1,25(OH)2D3 induced phosphorylation and translocation of C/EBPβto the nucleus from the cytoplasm. However, inhibition of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) abrogated 1,25(OH)2D3-induced phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of C/EBPβas well as 1,25(OH)2D3-suppressed DTC cell proliferation. Knockdown of C/EBPβreduced the expression of Notch3. Knockdown of Notch3 blocked 1,25(OH)2D3-suppressed DTC cell proliferation. In the DTC cell-derived xenograft SCID mouse, knockdown of C/EBPβmarkedly increased tumor growth and proliferation and decreased apoptosis. In DTC patients, C/EBPβwas predominantly located in the cytoplasm of DTC cells in the tumor tissue when compared with adjacent non-cancerous tissue in which C/EBPβis located in the nucleus. In conclusion, C/EBPβstimulated Notch3signaling via the p38 MAPK-dependent pathway mediates the inhibitory effect of 1,25(OH)2D on DTC cell proliferation.