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Isobel C Mouat, Kei Omata, Andrew S McDaniel, Namita G Hattangady, Debnita Talapatra, Andi K Cani, Daniel H Hovelson, Scott A Tomlins, William E Rainey, Gary D Hammer, Thomas J Giordano and Tobias Else

Several somatic mutations specific to aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) have been described. A small proportion of adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs) are associated with hyperaldosteronism, either primary aldosteronism or hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism. However, it is unknown whether they harbor mutations of the same spectrum as APAs. The objective of this study is to describe the clinical phenotype and molecular genotype of ACCs with hyperaldosteronism, particularly the analysis for common APA-associated genetic changes. Patients were identified by retrospective chart review at a specialized referral center and by positive staining for CYP11B2 of tissue microarrays. Twenty-five patients with ACC and hyperaldosteronism were initially identified by retrospective chart review, and tissue for further analysis was available on 13 tumors. Seven patients were identified by positive staining for CYP11B2 in a tissue microarray, of which two were already identified in the initial chart review. Therefore, a total number of 18 patients with a diagnosis of ACC and features of either primary aldosteronism or hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism were therefore included in the final study. Mutational status for a select list of oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes and genes known to carry mutations in APAs were analyzed by next-generation sequencing. Review of clinical data suggested autonomous aldosterone production in the majority of cases, while for some cases, hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism was the more likely mechanism. The mutational landscape of ACCs associated with hyperaldosteronism was not different from ACCs with a different hormonal phenotype. None of the ACCs harbored mutations of known APA-associated genes, suggesting an alternative mechanism conferring aldosterone production.

Open access

Jonathan W Nyce

We recently reported our detection of an anthropoid primate-specific, ‘kill switch’ tumor suppression system that reached its greatest expression in humans, but that is fully functional only during the first twenty-five years of life, corresponding to the primitive human lifespan that has characterized the majority of our species' existence. This tumor suppression system is based upon the kill switch being triggered in cells in which p53 has been inactivated; such kill switch consisting of a rapid, catastrophic increase in ROS caused by the induction of irreversible uncompetitive inhibition of glucose-6- phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), which requires high concentrations of both inhibitor (DHEA) and G6P substrate. While high concentrations of intracellular DHEA are readily available in primates from the importation and subsequent de-sulfation of circulating DHEAS into p53-affected cells, both an anthropoid primate-specific sequence motif (GAAT) in the glucose-6-phosphatase (G6PC) promoter, and primate-specific inactivation of de novo synthesis of vitamin C by deletion of gulonolactone oxidase (GLO) were required to enable accumulation of G6P to levels sufficient to enable irreversible uncompetitive inhibition of G6PD. Malignant transformation acts as a counterforce opposing vertebrate speciation, particularly increases in body size and lifespan that enable optimized exploitation of particular niches. Unique mechanisms of tumor suppression that evolved to enable niche exploitation distinguish vertebrate species, and prevent one vertebrate species from serving as a valid model system for another. This here-to-fore unrecognized element of speciation undermines decades of cancer research data, using murine species, which presumed universal mechanisms of tumor suppression, independent of species. Despite this setback, the potential for pharmacological reconstitution of the kill switch tumor suppression system that distinguishes our species suggests that ‘normalization’ of human cancer risk, from its current 40% to the 4% of virtually all other large, long-lived species, represents a realistic near-term goal.

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M Cives, J Strosberg, S Al Diffalha and D Coppola

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown promising results in different cancers, and correlation between immune infiltration, expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) by tumor cells and response to immunotherapy has been reported. There is limited knowledge regarding the immune microenvironment of small bowel (SB) neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). This work was aimed at characterizing the immune landscape of SB NETs. Expression of PD-L1 and programmed death-1 (PD-1) was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in 102 surgically resected, primary NETs of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Extent and characteristics of the tumor-associated immune infiltrate were also assessed and investigated in their prognostic potential. We detected the expression of PD-L1 in ≥1 and ≥50% of tumor cells in 40/102 (39%; 95% CI, 30–49%) and 14/102 (14%; 95% CI, 8–22%) cases respectively. Intratumor host immune response was apparently absent in 35/102 cases (34%; 95% CI, 25–44%), mild to moderate in 46/102 samples (45%, 95% CI, 35–55%), intense in 21/102 tumors (21%, 95% CI, 13–30%). Expression of PD-L1 and extent of immune infiltration were significantly higher in duodenal NETs as compared with jejunal/ileal NETs. A marked peritumoral host response was organized as ectopic lymph node-like structures in 18/102 cases (18%; 95% CI, 11–26%). Neither PD-L1 expression nor the degree of immune infiltration showed any prognostic significance. Overall, the immune landscape of SB NETs is heterogeneous, with adaptive immune resistance mechanisms prevailing in duodenal NETs. Clinical trials of immune checkpoint inhibitors should take into account the immune heterogeneity of SB NETs.

Open access

Xianhui Ruan, Xianle Shi, Qiman Dong, Yang Yu, Xiukun Hou, Xinhao Song, Xi Wei, Lingyi Chen and Ming Gao

There is no effective treatment for patients with poorly differentiated papillary thyroid cancer or anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC). Anlotinib, a multi-kinase inhibitor, has already shown antitumor effects in various types of carcinoma in a phase I clinical trial. In this study, we aimed to better understand the effect and efficacy of anlotinib against thyroid carcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo. We found that anlotinib inhibits the cell viability of papillary thyroid cancer and ATC cell lines, likely due to abnormal spindle assembly, G2/M arrest, and activation of TP53 upon anlotinib treatment. Moreover, anlotinib suppresses the migration of thyroid cancer cells in vitro and the growth of xenograft thyroid tumors in mice. Our data demonstrate that anlotinib has significant anticancer activity in thyroid cancer, and potentially offers an effective therapeutic strategy for patients of advanced thyroid cancer type.

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Lingfan Xu, Enze Ma, Tao Zeng, Ruya Zhao, Yulei Tao, Xufeng Chen, Jeff Groth, Chaozhao Liang, Hailiang Hu and Jiaoti Huang

ATM is a well-known master regulator of double strand break (DSB) DNA repair and the defective DNA repair has been therapeutically exploited to develop PARP inhibitors based on the synthetic lethality strategy. ATM mutation is found with increased prevalence in advanced metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying ATM mutation-driving disease progression are still largely unknown. Here, we report that ATM mutation contributes to the CRPC progression through a metabolic rather than DNA repair mechanism. We showed that ATM deficiency generated by CRISPR/Cas9 editing promoted CRPC cell proliferation and xenograft tumor growth. ATM deficiency altered cellular metabolism and enhanced Warburg effect in CRPC cells. We demonstrated that ATM deficiency shunted the glucose flux to aerobic glycolysis by upregulating LDHA expression, which generated more lactate and produced less mitochondrial ROS to promote CRPC cell growth. Inhibition of LDHA by siRNA or inhibitor FX11 generated less lactate and accumulated more ROS in ATM-deficient CRPC cells and therefore potentiated the cell death of ATM-deficient CRPC cells. These findings suggest a new therapeutic strategy for ATM-mutant CRPC patients by targeting LDHA-mediated glycolysis metabolism, which might be effective for the PARP inhibitor resistant mCRPC tumors.

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Han-Wei Lin, Ying-Cheng Chiang, Nai-Yun Sun, Yu-Li Chen, Chi-Fang Chang, Yi-Jou Tai, Chi-An Chen and Wen-Fang Cheng

The role of chitinase-3-like protein 1 (CHI3L1) in ovarian cancer and the possible mechanisms were elucidated. CHI3L1 is a secreted glycoprotein and associated with inflammation, fibrosis, asthma, extracellular tissue remodeling and solid tumors. Our previous study showed CHI3L1 could be a potential prognostic biomarker for epithelial ovarian cancer and could protect cancer cells from apoptosis. Therefore, clinical data and quantitation of CHI3L1 of ovarian cancer patients, tumor spheroid formation, side-population assays, Aldefluor and apoptotic assays, ELISA, RT-PCR, immunoblotting and animal experiments were performed in two ovarian cancer cells lines, OVCAR3 and CA5171, and their CHI3L1-overexpressing and -knockdown transfectants. High expression of CHI3L1 was associated with poor outcome and chemoresistance in ovarian cancer patients. The mRNA expression of CHI3L1 in CA5171 ovarian cancer stem-like cells was 3-fold higher than in CA5171 parental cells. CHI3L1 promoted the properties of ovarian cancer stem-like cells including generating more and larger tumor spheroids and a higher percentage of ALDH+ in tumor cells and promoting resistance to cytotoxic drug-induced apoptosis. CHI3L1 could induce both the Akt (essential) and Erk signaling pathways, and then enhance expression of β-catenin followed by SOX2, and finally promote tumor spheroid formation and other properties of ovarian cancer stem-like cells. OVCAR3 CHI3L1-overexpressing transfectants were more tumorigenic in vivo, whereas CA5171 CHI3L1-knockdown transfectants were not tumorigenic in vivo. CHI3L1 critically enhances the properties of ovarian cancer stem-like cells. CHI3L1 or CHI3L1-regulated signaling pathways and molecules could be potential therapeutic targets in ovarian cancer.

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Veronica Vella, Maria Luisa Nicolosi, Patrizia Cantafio, Michele Massimino, Rosamaria Lappano, Paolo Vigneri, Roberto Ciuni, Pietro Gangemi, Andrea Morrione, Roberta Malaguarnera and Antonino Belfiore

Patients with thyroid cancers refractory to radioiodine (RAI) treatment show a limited response to various therapeutic options and a low survival rate. The recent use of multikinase inhibitors has also met limited success. An alternative approach relies on drugs that induce cell differentiation, as the ensuing increased expression of the cotransporter for sodium and iodine (NIS) may partially restore sensitivity to radioiodine. The inhibition of the ERK1/2 pathway has shown some efficacy in this context. Aggressive thyroid tumors overexpress the isoform-A of the insulin receptor (IR-A) and its ligand IGF-2; this IGF-2/IR-A loop is associated with de-differentiation and stem-like phenotype, resembling RAI-refractory tumors. Importantly, IR-A has been shown to be positively modulated by the non-integrin collagen receptor DDR1 in human breast cancer. Using undifferentiated human thyroid cancer cells, we now evaluated the effects of DDR1 on IGF-2/IR-A loop and on markers of cell differentiation and stemness. DDR1 silencing or downregulation caused significant reduction of IR-A and IGF-2 expression, and concomitant increased levels of differentiation markers (NIS, Tg, TSH, TPO). Conversely, markers of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (Vimentin, Snail-2, Zeb1, Zeb2 and N-Cadherin) and stemness (OCT-4, SOX-2, ABCG2 and Nanog) decreased. These effects were collagen independent. In contrast, overexpression of either DDR1 or its kinase-inactive variant K618A DDR1-induced changes suggestive of less differentiated and stem-like phenotype. Collagen stimulation was uneffective. In conclusion, in poorly differentiated thyroid cancer, DDR1 silencing or downregulation blocks the IGF-2/IR-A autocrine loop and induces cellular differentiation. These results may open novel therapeutic approaches for thyroid cancer.

Open access

Fabia O Andrade, Wei Yu, Xiyuan Zhang, Elissa Carney, Rong Hu, Robert Clarke, Kevin FitzGerald and Leena Hilakivi-Clarke

Resistance to endocrine therapy remains a clinical challenge in the treatment of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. We investigated if adding a traditional Asian herbal mixture consisting of 12 herbs, called Jaeumkanghwa-tang (JEKHT), to tamoxifen (TAM) therapy might prevent resistance and recurrence in the ER+ breast cancer model of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-exposed Sprague Dawley rats. Rats were divided into four groups treated as follows: 15 mg/kg TAM administered via diet as TAM citrate (TAM only); 500 mg/kg JEKHT administered via drinking water (JEKHT only group); TAM + JEKHT; and no treatment control group. The study was replicated using two different batches of JEKHT. In both studies, a significantly higher proportion of ER+ mammary tumors responded to TAM if animals also were treated with JEKHT. The risk of local recurrence also was reduced. JEKHT alone was mostly ineffective. In addition, JEKHT prevented development of premalignant endometrial lesions in TAM treated rats. Co-treatment of antiestrogen resistant LCC9 human breast cancer cells with 1.6 mg/ml JEKHT reversed their TAM resistance in dose response studies in vitro. Several traditional herbal medicine preparations can exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and may increase antitumor immune activities in the tumor microenvironment. In the tumors of rats treated with both JEKHT and TAM, expression of Il-6, Foxp3/T regulatory cell (Treg) marker, and Tgfβ1 that activates Tregs were significantly downregulated compared with TAM only group. These findings indicate that JEKHT may prevent TAM-induced evasion of tumor immune responses.

Open access

Simon Linder, Henk G van der Poel, Andries M Bergman, Wilbert Zwart and Stefan Prekovic

The androgen receptor drives the growth of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. This has led to the development of multiple novel drugs targeting this hormone-regulated transcription factor, such as enzalutamide – a potent androgen receptor antagonist. Despite the plethora of possible treatment options, the absolute survival benefit of each treatment separately is limited to a few months. Therefore, current research efforts are directed to determine the optimal sequence of therapies, discover novel drugs effective in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and define patient subpopulations that ultimately benefit from these treatments. Molecular studies provide evidence on which pathways mediate treatment resistance and may lead to improved treatment for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. This review provides, firstly a concise overview of the clinical development, use and effectiveness of enzalutamide in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, secondly it describes translational research addressing enzalutamide response vs resistance and lastly highlights novel potential treatment strategies in the enzalutamide-resistant setting.