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Jonathan Nyce

Androgens play a fundamental role in the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19, inducing both the ACE-2 receptor to which SARS-CoV-2 binds to gain entry into the cell, and TMPRS22, the transmembrane protease that primes the viral spike protein for efficient infection. The United States stands alone among developed nations in permitting one androgen, oral DHEA, to be freely available OTC and online as a ‘dietary supplement’. DHEA is widely used by males in the US to offset the age-related decline in circulating androgens. This fact may contribute to the disparate statistics of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in this country. In regulatory antithesis, every other developed nation regulates DHEA as a controlled substance. DHEA is an extremely potent inhibitor of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), with uniquely unstable uncompetitive inhibition kinetics. This has particular relevance to COVID-19 because G6PD-deficient human cells have been demonstrated to be exceptionally sensitive to infection by human coronavirus. Because DHEA is lipophilic and freely passes into cells, oral DHEA bypasses the normal controls regulating androgen biology and uncompetitive G6PD inhibition. DHEA’s status as a ‘dietary supplement’ means that no clinical trials demonstrating safety have been performed, and, in the absence of physician supervision, no data on adverse events have been collected. During the current pandemic, the unrestricted availability of oral DHEA as a ‘dietary supplement’ cannot be considered safe without proof from placebo-controlled clinical trials that it is not contributing to the severity of COVID-19. US physicians may therefore wish to query their patients’ use of DHEA.

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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 3/1/2016-3/17/2020 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 .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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Qi-Chang Wan and Bin Ji

We read with interest the article by Rosario et al., which summarized the practical applicability of accessible imaging method in the management of thyroid nodules with indeterminate cytologically (TNIC) (Rosario, et al. 2021). For 18F-FDG-PET, it was stated that “a nodule characterized by low or absent 18F-FDG uptake is considered at a very low risk of malignance”, and “thyroidectomy can be excluded if these tests suggest benignity”. We respectfully want to share a different opinion based on our previous work.

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Tim Schauer, Anne-Sophie Mazzoni, Anna Henriksson, Ingrid Demmelmaier, Sveinung Berntsen, Truls Raastad, Karin Nordin, Bente Klarlund Pedersen, and Jesper Frank 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 six 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 (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α 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 IL-6, IL-8, IL-10 and TNF-α post-treatment followed by significant declines, except for IL-8, until post-intervention were observed with no difference for CRP or IL-1β. 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 TNF-α (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 TNF-α immediately post-treatment compared to LMI, potentially protecting against chemotherapy related inflammation.

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Zhi-yuan Pang, Yun-tao Wei, Mu-yan Shang, Shuang Li, Yang Li, Quan-xiu Jin, Zhi-xuan Liao, Ming-ke Cui, Xiao-yan Liu, and Qiang Zhang

Aberrant leptin signaling and overexpression of fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) are both implicated in the pathogenesis of letrozole resistance in breast cancer (BCa), but it remains unknown whether these two pathways are involved in letrozole resistance in a coordinated manner. Here, we demonstrate that expression levels of the pre-B-cell leukemia homeobox transcription factor 3 (PBX3), a pioneer factor that governs divergent biological processes, were significantly upregulated in letrozole-resistant BCa cells and tissues, and this upregulation correlated to a poorer progression-free survival in patients. By leveraging a patient-derived xenograft model with pharmacological approaches, we demonstrated that leptin activated PBX3 expression in a STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3)–dependent manner. Our loss- and gain-of-function study further showed that PBX3 attenuated response to letrozole by potentiating BCa cell survival and anchorage–independent growth in BCa cells. By profiling BCa cells with ectopic PBX3 expression, we revealed that PBX3 conferred letrozole resistance via transactivation of the FGFR1 signaling, and this molecular event must coordinate a synergistic transcription activation programs through interacting with MTA1-HDAC2 (metastasis associated 1-histone deacetylase 2) complex. Overall, the available data reveal a novel role of leptin/PBX3 cascade linking energy homeostasis (i.e. hyperleptinemia) and endocrine therapy failure (i.e. letrozole resistance) in BCa.

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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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Mintallah Haider, Satya Das, Taymeyah Al-Toubah, Eleonora Pelle, Ghassan El-Haddad, and Jonathan Strosberg

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) using 177Lu-DOTATATE has been approved for the treatment of gastroenteropancreatic NETs. An understanding of benefits and risks is important for the appropriate implementation of this therapy. This review summarizes study data supporting the use of radiolabeled somatostatin analogs for the treatment of advanced NETs and highlights risks, including potential toxicities in specific populations. Key ongoing clinical trials, including randomized studies, are designed to better define the position of PRRT within the broader therapeutic landscape. Preclinical and early-phase human studies are focused on the development of novel somatostatin-receptor agonists and antagonists, new radionuclides, and radiosensitizing combination therapies.

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Elena Stauffer, Peter Weber, Theresa Heider, Claudia Dalke, Andreas Blutke, Axel Walch, Gerald Burgstaller, Nikko Brix, Kirsten Lauber, Horst Zitzelsberger, Kristian Unger, and Martin Selmansberger

Thyroid carcinoma incidence rates in western societies are among the fastest rising, compared to all malignant tumors over the past two decades. While risk factors such as age and exposure to ionizing radiation are known, early-state carcinogenic processes or pre-lesions are poorly understood or unknown. This study aims at the identification and characterization of early-state radiation-associated neoplastic processes by histologic and transcriptomic analyses of thyroid tissues derived from a mouse model. Comprehensive histological examination of 246 thyroids (164 exposed, 82 non-exposed) was carried out. Proliferative and normal tissues from exposed cases and normal tissue from non-exposed cases were collected by laser-capture microdissection, followed by RNAseq transcriptomic profiling using a low input 3`-library preparation protocol, differential gene expression analysis and functional association by Gene Set Enrichment Analysis. Nine exposed samples exhibited proliferative lesions, while none of the non-exposed samples showed histological abnormalities, indicating an association of ionizing radiation exposure with histological abnormalities. Activated immune response signaling and deregulated metabolic processes were observed in irradiated tissue with normal histology compared to normal tissue from non-exposed samples. Proliferative lesions compared to corresponding normal tissues showed enrichment for mainly proliferation-associated gene sets. Consistently, proliferative lesion samples from exposed mice showed elevated proliferation-associated signaling and deregulated metabolic processes compared to normal samples from non-exposed mice. Our findings suggest that a molecular deregulation may be detectable in histologically normal thyroid tissues and in early proliferative lesions in the frame of multi-step progression from irradiated normal tissue to tumorous lesions.

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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.