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Arthur Varoquaux, Yann le Fur, Alessio Imperiale, Antony Reyre, Marion Montava, Nicolas Fakhry, Izzie-Jacques Namer, Guy Moulin, Karel Pacak, Maxime Guye, and David Taïeb

Paragangliomas (PGLs) can be associated with mutations in genes of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Succinate dehydrogenase (SDHx) mutations are the prime examples of genetically determined TCA cycle defects with accumulation of succinate. Succinate, which acts as an oncometabolite, can be detected by ex vivo metabolomics approaches. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential role of proton magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy (1H-MRS) for identifying SDHx-related PGLs in vivo and noninvasively. Eight patients were prospectively evaluated with single voxel 1H-MRS. MR spectra from eight tumors (four SDHx-related PGLs, two sporadic PGLs, one cervical schwannoma, and one cervical neurofibroma) were acquired and interpreted qualitatively. Compared to other tumors, a succinate resonance peak was detected only in SDHx-related tumor patients. Spectra quality was considered good in three cases, medium in two cases, poor in two cases, and uninterpretable in the latter case. Smaller lesions had lower spectra quality compared to larger lesions. Jugular PGLs also exhibited a poorer spectra quality compared to other locations. 1H-MRS has always been challenging in terms of its technical requisites. This is even more true for the evaluation of head and neck tumors. However, 1H-MRS might be added to the classical MR sequences for metabolomic characterization of PGLs. In vivo detection of succinate might guide genetic testing, characterize SDHx variants of unknown significance (in the absence of available tumor sample), and even optimize a selection of appropriate therapies.

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Jay S Fonte, Jeremyjones F Robles, Clara C Chen, James Reynolds, Millie Whatley, Alexander Ling, Leilani B Mercado-Asis, Karen T Adams, Victoria Martucci, Tito Fojo, and Karel Pacak

The purpose of this study was to present the characteristics and outcome of patients with proven pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma who had false-negative iodine-123 metaiodobenzylguanidine single photon emission computed tomography (123I-MIBG SPECT). Twenty-one patients with false-negative 123I-MIBG SPECT (7 males, 14 females), aged 13–55 years (mean: 41.40 years), were included. We classified them as nonmetastatic or metastatic according to the stage of the disease at the time of false-negative 123I-MIBG SPECT study, the location and size of the tumor, plasma and urinary catecholamine and metanephrine levels, genetic mutations, and outcome in terms of occurrence and progression of metastases and death. Thirteen patients were evaluated for metastatic tumors, while the remaining eight were seen for nonmetastatic disease. All primary tumors and multiple metastatic foci did not show avid 123I-MIBG uptake regardless of the tumor diameter. The majority of patients had extraadrenal tumors with hypersecretion of normetanephrine or norepinephrine. SDHB mutations were present in 52% (n=11) of cases, RET mutation in 4% (n=1), and the rest were apparently sporadic. Twenty-four percent (n=5) had metastatic disease on initial presentation. Fourteen patients were followed for 3–7 years. Of them, 71% (n=10) had metastatic disease and the majority had SDHB mutations. Nine are still alive, while five (four with SDHB) died due to metastatic disease. We concluded that false-negative 123I-MIBG SPECT is frequently related to metastatic tumors and usually due to SDHB mutations with unfavorable prognosis. We therefore recommend that patients with false-negative 123I-MIBG SPECT be tested for SDHB mutations and undergo more regular and close follow-up.

Free access

Vanessa D'Antongiovanni, Serena Martinelli, Susan Richter, Letizia Canu, Daniele Guasti, Tommaso Mello, Paolo Romagnoli, Karel Pacak, Graeme Eisenhofer, Massimo Mannelli, and Elena Rapizzi

Pheochromocytomas (Pheos) and paragangliomas (PGLs) are neuroendocrine tumors. Approximately 30–40% of Pheos/PGLs are due to germline mutations in one of the susceptibility genes, including those encoding the succinate dehydrogenase subunits A-D (SDHA-D). Up to 2/3 of patients affected by SDHB mutated Pheo/PGL develop metastatic disease with no successful cure at present. Here, for the first time, we evaluated the effects of SDHB silencing in a three dimension (3D) culture using spheroids of a mouse Pheo cell line silenced or not (wild type/wt/control) for the SDHB subunit. We investigated the role of the microenvironment on spheroid growth and migration/invasion by co-culturing SDHB-silenced or wt spheroids with primary cancer-activated fibroblasts (CAFs). When spheroids were co-cultured with fibroblasts, SDHB-silenced cells showed a significant increase in matrigel invasion as demonstrated by the computation of the migratory areas (P < 0.001). Moreover, cells detaching from the SDHB-silenced spheroids moved collectively, unlike the cells of wt spheroids that moved individually. Additionally, SDHB-silenced spheroids developed long filamentous formations along which clusters of cells migrated far away from the spheroid, whereas these structures were not present in wt spheroids. We found that lactate, largely secreted by CAFs, plays a specific role in promoting migration only of SDHB-silenced cells. In this study, we demonstrated that SDHB silencing per se increases tumor cell migration/invasion and that microenvironment, as represented by CAFs, plays a pivotal role in enhancing collective migration/invasion in Pheo SDHB-silenced tumor cells, suggesting their role in increasing the tumor metastasizing potential.

Free access

Elke Tatjana Aristizabal Prada, Gerald Spöttl, Julian Maurer, Michael Lauseker, Eva Jolanthe Koziolek, Jörg Schrader, Ashley Grossman, Karel Pacak, Felix Beuschlein, Christoph Joseph Auernhammer, and Svenja Nölting

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (panNETs) are often inoperable at diagnosis. The mTORC1 inhibitor everolimus has been approved for the treatment of advanced NETs. However, the regular development of resistance to everolimus limits its clinical efficacy. We established two independent everolimus-resistant panNET (BON1) cell lines (BON1 RR1, BON1 RR2) to find potential mechanisms of resistance. After 24 weeks of permanent exposure to 10 nM everolimus, BON1 RR1 and BON1 RR2 showed stable resistance with cellular survival rates of 96.70% (IC50 = 5200 nM) and 92.30% (IC50 = 2500 nM), respectively. The control cell line showed sensitivity to 10 nM everolimus with cellular survival declining to 54.70% (IC50 = 34 nM). Both resistant cell lines did not regain sensitivity over time and showed persistent stable resistance after a drug holiday of 13 weeks. The mechanisms of resistance in our cell line model included morphological adaptations, G1 cell cycle arrest associated with reduced CDK1(cdc2) expression and decreased autophagy. Cellular migration potential was increased and indirectly linked to c-Met activation. GSK3 was over-activated in association with reduced baseline IRS-1 protein levels. Specific GSK3 inhibition strongly decreased BON1 RR1/RR2 cell survival. The combination of everolimus with the PI3Kα inhibitor BYL719 re-established everolimus sensitivity through GSK3 inhibition and restoration of autophagy. We suggest that GSK3 over-activation combined with decreased baseline IRS-1 protein levels and decreased autophagy may be a crucial feature of everolimus resistance, and hence, a possible therapeutic target.

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Eva Szarek, Evan R Ball, Alessio Imperiale, Maria Tsokos, Fabio R Faucz, Alessio Giubellino, François-Marie Moussallieh, Izzie-Jacques Namer, Mones S Abu-Asab, Karel Pacak, David Taïeb, J Aidan Carney, and Constantine A Stratakis

Carney triad (CTr) describes the association of paragangliomas (PGL), pulmonary chondromas, and gastrointestinal (GI) stromal tumors (GISTs) with a variety of other lesions, including pheochromocytomas and adrenocortical tumors. The gene(s) that cause CTr remain(s) unknown. PGL and GISTs may be caused by loss-of-function mutations in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) (a condition known as Carney–Stratakis syndrome (CSS)). Mitochondrial structure and function are abnormal in tissues that carry SDH defects, but they have not been studied in CTr. For the present study, we examined mitochondrial structure in human tumors and GI tissue (GIT) of mice with SDH deficiency. Tissues from 16 CTr tumors (n=12), those with isolated GIST (n=1), and those with CSS caused by SDHC (n=1) and SDHD (n=2) mutations were studied by electron microscopy (EM). Samples of GIT from mice with a heterozygous deletion in Sdhb (Sdhb + /−, n=4) were also studied by EM. CTr patients presented with mostly epithelioid GISTs that were characterized by plump cells containing a centrally located, round nucleus and prominent nucleoli; these changes were almost identical to those seen in the GISTs of patients with SDH. In tumor cells from patients, regardless of diagnosis or tumor type, cytoplasm contained an increased number of mitochondria with a ‘hypoxic’ phenotype: mitochondria were devoid of cristae, exhibited structural abnormalities, and were of variable size. Occasionally, mitochondria were small and round; rarely, they were thin and elongated with tubular cristae. Many mitochondria exhibited amorphous fluffy material with membranous whorls or cystic structures. A similar mitochondrial hypoxic phenotype was seen in Sdhb + /− mice. We concluded that tissues from SDH-deficient tumors, those from mouse GIT, and those from CTr tumors shared identical abnormalities in mitochondrial structure and other features. Thus, the still-elusive CTr defect(s) is(are) likely to affect mitochondrial function, just like germline SDH-deficiency does.

Free access

Graeme Eisenhofer, Karel Pacak, Thanh-Truc Huynh, Nan Qin, Gennady Bratslavsky, W Marston Linehan, Massimo Mannelli, Peter Friberg, Stefan K Grebe, Henri J Timmers, Stefan R Bornstein, and Jacques W M Lenders

Phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are highly heterogeneous tumours with variable catecholamine biochemical phenotypes and diverse hereditary backgrounds. This analysis of 18 catecholamine-related plasma and urinary biomarkers in 365 patients with PPGLs and 846 subjects without PPGLs examined how catecholamine metabolomic profiles are impacted by hereditary background and relate to variable hormone secretion. Catecholamine secretion was assessed in a subgroup of 156 patients from whom tumour tissue was available for measurements of catecholamine contents. Among all analytes, the free catecholamine O-methylated metabolites measured in plasma showed the largest tumour-related increases relative to the reference group. Patients with tumours due to multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) showed similar catecholamine metabolite and secretory profiles to patients with adrenaline-producing tumours and no evident hereditary background. Tumours from these three patient groups contained higher contents of catecholamines, but secreted the hormones at lower rates than tumours that did not contain appreciable adrenaline, the latter including PPGLs due to von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) gene mutations. Large increases of plasma dopamine and its metabolites additionally characterised patients with PPGLs due to the latter mutations, whereas patients with NF1 were characterised by large increases in plasma dihydroxyphenylglycol and dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, the deaminated metabolites of noradrenaline and dopamine. This analysis establishes the utility of comprehensive catecholamine metabolite profiling for characterising the distinct and highly diverse catecholamine metabolomic and secretory phenotypes among different groups of patients with PPGLs. The data further suggest developmental origins of PPGLs from different populations of chromaffin cell progenitors.

Free access

Lucia Martiniova, Shiromi M Perera, Frederieke M Brouwers, Salvatore Alesci, Mones Abu-Asab, Amanda F Marvelle, Dale O Kiesewetter, David Thomasson, John C Morris, Richard Kvetnansky, Arthur S Tischler, James C Reynolds, Antonio Tito Fojo, and Karel Pacak

[131I]meta-iodobenzylguanidine ([131I]MIBG) is the most commonly used treatment for metastatic pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma. It enters the chromaffin cells via the membrane norepinephrine transporter; however, its success has been modest. We studied the ability of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors to enhance [123I]MIBG uptake by tumors in a mouse metastatic pheochromocytoma model. HDAC inhibitors are known to arrest growth, induce differentiation and apoptosis in various cancer cells, and further inhibit tumor growth. We report the in vitro and in vivo effects of two HDAC inhibitors, romidepsin and trichostatin A, on the uptake of [3H]norepinephrine, [123I]MIBG, and [18F]fluorodopamine in a mouse model of metastatic pheochromocytoma. The effects of both inhibitors on norepinephrine transporter activity were assessed in mouse pheochromocytoma (MPC) cells by using the transporter-blocking agent desipramine and the vesicular-blocking agent reserpine. HDAC inhibitors increased [3H]norepinephrine, [123I]MIBG, and [18F]fluorodopamine uptake through the norepinephrine transporter in MPC cells. In vivo, inhibitor treatment resulted in significantly increased uptake of [18F]fluorodopamine positron emission tomography (PET) in pheochromocytoma liver metastases (19.1±3.2% injected dose per gram of tumor (%ID/g) compared to liver metastases in pretreatment scans 5.9±0.6%; P<0.001). Biodistribution analysis after inhibitors treatment confirmed the PET results. The uptake of [123I]MIBG was significantly increased in liver metastases 9.5±1.1% compared to 3.19±0.4% in untreated control liver metastases (P<0.05). We found that HDAC inhibitors caused an increase in the amount of norepinephrine transporter expressed in tumors. HDAC inhibitors may enhance the therapeutic efficacy of [131I]MIBG treatment in patients with advanced malignant pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma.

Free access

Tomáš Zelinka, Henri J L M Timmers, Anna Kozupa, Clara C Chen, Jorge A Carrasquillo, James C Reynolds, Alexander Ling, Graeme Eisenhofer, Ivica Lazúrová, Karen T Adams, Millie A Whatley, Jiří Widimský Jr, and Karel Pacak

We performed a retrospective analysis of 71 subjects with metastatic pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma (30 subjects with mutation of succinate dehydrogenase enzyme subunit B (SDHB) gene and 41 subjects without SDHB mutation). Sixty-nine percent presented with bone metastases (SDHB +/−: 77% vs 63%), 39% with liver metastases (SDHB +/−: 27% vs 47%), and 32% with lung metastases (SDHB +/−: 37% vs 29%). The most common sites of bone involvement were thoracic spine (80%; SDHB+/−: 83% vs 77%), lumbar spine (78%; SDHB +/−: 78% vs 75%), and pelvic and sacral bones (78%; SDHB +/−: 91% vs 65%, P=0.04). Subjects with SDHB mutation also showed significantly higher involvement of long bones (SDHB +/−: 78% vs 30%, P=0.007) than those without the mutation. The best overall sensitivity in detecting bone metastases demonstrated positron emission tomography (PET) with 6-[18F]-fluorodopamine ([18F]-FDA; 90%), followed by bone scintigraphy (82%), computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (CT/MRI; 78%), 2-[18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose ([18F]-FDG) PET (76%), and scintigraphy with [123/131I]-metaiodobenzylguanidine (71%). In subjects with SDHB mutation, imaging modalities with best sensitivities for detecting bone metastases were CT/MRI (96%), bone scintigraphy (95%), and [18F]-FDG PET (92%). In subjects without SDHB mutations, the modality with the best sensitivity for bone metastases was [18F]-FDA PET (100%). In conclusion, bone scintigraphy should be used in the staging of patients with malignant pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma, particularly in patients with SDHB mutations. As for PET imaging, [18F]-FDG PET is highly recommended in SDHB mutation patients, whereas [18F]-FDA PET is recommended in patients without the mutation.

Free access

Frederieke M Brouwers, Sven Gläsker, Amanda F Nave, Alexander O Vortmeyer, Irina Lubensky, Steven Huang, Mones S Abu-Asab, Graeme Eisenhofer, Robert J Weil, Deric M Park, W Marston Linehan, Karel Pacak, and Zhengping Zhuang

Pheochromocytomas are catecholamine-producing tumors that can occur in the context of von Hippel–Lindau syndrome (VHL) and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). Pheochromocytomas in these two syndromes differ in histopathological features, catecholamine metabolism, and clinical phenotype. To further investigate the nature of these differences, we compared the global protein expressions of 8 MEN2A-associated pheochromocytomas with 11 VHL-associated pheochromocytomas by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis proteomic profiling followed by sequencing and identification of differentially expressed proteins. Although both types of pheochromocytoma shared similarities in their protein expression patterns, the expression of several proteins was distinctly different between VHL- and MEN2A-associated pheochromocytomas. We identified several of these differentially expressed proteins. One of the proteins with higher expression in MEN2-associated tumors was chromogranin B, of which the differential expression was confirmed by western blot analysis. Our results expand the evidence for proteomic differences between these two tumor entities, and suggest that VHL-associated pheochromocytomas may be deficient in fundamental machinery for catecholamine storage. In light of these new findings, as well as existing evidence for differences between both types of pheochromocytomas, we propose that these tumors may have different developmental origins.

Free access

Hans K Ghayee, Bas Havekes, Eleonora P M Corssmit, Graeme Eisenhofer, Stephen R Hammes, Zahid Ahmad, Alexander Tessnow, Ivica Lazúrová, Karen T Adams, Antonio T Fojo, Karel Pacak, and Richard J Auchus

Extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas, otherwise known as paragangliomas (PGLs), account for about 20% of catecholamine-producing tumors. Catecholamine excess and mutations in the genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) are frequently found in patients with PGLs. Only 2% of PGLs are found in the mediastinum, and little is known about genetic alterations in patients with mediastinal PGLs, catecholamine production by these tumors, or their clinical behavior. We hypothesized that most mediastinal PGLs are associated with germ line SDHx mutations, norepinephrine and/or dopamine excess, and aggressive behavior. The objective of this study was to characterize genetic, biochemical, and clinical data in a series of ten patients with mediastinal PGLs. All ten primary mediastinal PGL patients had germ line SDHx mutations, six in SDHB, and four in SDHD genes. Chest or back pain were the most common presenting symptoms (five patients), and catecholamines and/or their metabolites were elevated in seven patients. Additional tumors included head and neck PGLs in four patients, pheochromocytoma in one patient, and bladder PGL in another. Metastatic disease was documented in six patients (60%), and a concurrent abdominal mass was found in one patient. We conclude that mediastinal PGLs are strongly associated with SDHB and SDHD gene mutations, noradrenergic phenotype, and aggressive behavior. The present data suggest that all patients with mediastinal PGLs should be screened for SDHx gene mutations, regardless of age.