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Thomas G Papathomas, Lindsey Oudijk, Ellen C Zwarthoff, Edward Post, Floor A Duijkers, Max M van Noesel, Leo J Hofland, Patrick J Pollard, Eamonn R Maher, David F Restuccia, Richard A Feelders, Gaston J H Franssen, Henri J Timmers, Stefan Sleijfer, Wouter W de Herder, Ronald R de Krijger, Winand N M Dinjens, and Esther Korpershoek

Hotspot mutations in the promoter of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene have been recently reported in human cancers and proposed as a novel mechanism of telomerase activation. To explore TERT promoter mutations in tumors originating from the adrenal gland and extra-adrenal paraganglia, a set of 253 tumors (38 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs), 127 pheochromocytomas (PCCs), 18 extra-adrenal paragangliomas (ea PGLs), 37 head and neck PGLs (HN PGLs), and 33 peripheral neuroblastic tumors) was selected along with 16 human neuroblastoma (NBL) and two ACC cell lines to assess TERT promoter mutations by the Sanger sequencing method. All mutations detected were confirmed by a SNaPshot assay. Additionally, 36 gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) were added to explore an association between TERT promoter mutations and SDH deficiency. TERT promoter mutations were found in seven out of 289 tumors and in three out of 18 human cell lines; four C228T mutations in 38 ACCs (10.5%), two C228T mutations in 18 ea PGLs (11.1%), one C250T mutation in 36 GISTs (2.8%), and three C228T mutations in 16 human NBL cell lines (18.75%). No mutation was detected in PCCs, HN PGLs, neuroblastic tumors as well as ACC cell lines. TERT promoter mutations preferentially occurred in a SDH-deficient setting (P=0.01) being present in three out of 47 (6.4%) SDH-deficient tumors vs zero out of 171 (0%) SDH-intact tumors. We conclude that TERT promoter mutations occur in ACCs and ea PGLs. In addition, preliminary evidence indicates a potential association with the acquisition of TERT promoter mutations in SDH-deficient tumors.

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Maria Cristina De Martino, Richard A Feelders, Wouter W de Herder, Peter M van Koetsveld, Fadime Dogan, Joseph A M J L Janssen, A Marlijn Waaijers, Claudia Pivonello, Steven W J Lamberts, Annamaria Colao, Ronald R de Krijger, Rosario Pivonello, and Leo J Hofland

The mTOR pathway has recently been suggested as a new potential target for therapy in adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs). The aim of the current study is to describe the expression of the mTOR pathway in normal adrenals (NAs) and pathological adrenals and to explore whether there are correlation between the expression of these proteins and the in vitro response to sirolimus. For this purpose, the MTOR, S6K1 (RPS6KB1), and 4EBP1 (EIF4EBP1) mRNA expression were evaluated in ten NAs, ten adrenal hyperplasias (AHs), 17 adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs), and 17 ACCs by qPCR, whereas total(t)/phospho(p)-MTOR, t/p-S6K, and t/p-4EBP1 protein expression were assessed in three NAs, three AHs, six ACAs, and 20 ACCs by immunohistochemistry. The effects of sirolimus on cell survival and/or cortisol secretion in 12 human primary cultures of adrenocortical tumors (ATs) were also evaluated. In NAs and AHs, layer-specific expression of evaluated proteins was observed. S6K1 mRNA levels were lower in ACCs compared with NAs, AHs, and ACAs (P<0.01). A subset of ATs presented a moderate to high staining of the evaluated proteins. Median t-S6K1 protein expression in ACCs was lower than that in ACAs (P<0.01). Moderate to high staining of p-S6K1 and/or p-4EBP1 was observed in most ATs. A subset of ACCs not having moderate to high staining had a higher Weiss score than others (P<0.029). In primary AT cultures, sirolimus significantly reduced cell survival or cortisol secretion only in sporadic cases. In conclusion, these data suggest the presence of an activated mTOR pathway in a subset of ATs and a possible response to sirolimus only in certain ACC cases.

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Tullio Florio, Federica Barbieri, Renato Spaziante, Gianluigi Zona, Leo J Hofland, Peter M van Koetsveld, Richard A Feelders, Günter K Stalla, Marily Theodoropoulou, Michael D Culler, Jesse Dong, John E Taylor, Jacques-Pierre Moreau, Alexandru Saveanu, Ginette Gunz, Henry Dufour, and Philippe Jaquet

Dopamine D2 and somatostatin receptors (sstrs) were reported to affect non-functioning pituitary adenoma (NFPA) proliferation in vitro. However, the reported results differ according to the experimental conditions used. We established an experimental protocol allowing reproducible evaluation of NFPA cell proliferation in vitro, to test and compare the antiproliferative effects of dopamine and somatostatin analogs (alone or in combination) with the activity of the dopamine–somatostatin chimeric molecule BIM-23A760. The protocol was utilized by four independent laboratories, studying 38 fibroblast-deprived NFPA cell cultures. Cells were characterized for GH, POMC, sstr1–sstr5, total dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) (in all cases), and D2 receptor long and short isoforms (in 15 out of 38 cases) mRNA expression and for α-subunit, LH, and FSH release. D2R, sstr3, and sstr2 mRNAs were consistently observed, with the dominant expression of D2R (2.9±2.6 copy/copy β-glucuronidase; mean±s.e.m.), when compared with sstr3 and sstr2 (0.6±1.0 and 0.3±0.6 respectively). BIM-23A760, a molecule with high affinity for D2R and sstr2, significantly inhibited [3H]thymidine incorporation in 23 out of 38 (60%) NFPA cultures (EC50=1.2 pM and E max=−33.6±3.7%). BIM-23A760 effects were similar to those induced by the selective D2R agonist cabergoline that showed a statistically significant inhibition in 18 out of 27 tumors (compared with a significant inhibition obtained in 17 out of 27 tumors using BIM-23A760, in the same subgroup of adenomas analyzed), while octreotide was effective in 13 out of 27 cases. In conclusion, superimposable data generated in four independent laboratories using a standardized protocol demonstrate that, in vitro, chimeric dopamine/sstr agonists are effective in inhibiting cell proliferation in two-thirds of NFPAs.

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Aura D Herrera-Martínez, Rosanna van den Dungen, Fadime Dogan-Oruc, Peter M van Koetsveld, Michael D Culler, Wouter W de Herder, Raúl M Luque, Richard A Feelders, and Leo J Hofland

Control of symptoms related to hormonal hypersecretion by functioning neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is challenging. New therapeutic options are required. Since novel in vitro tumor models seem to better mimic the tumor in vivo conditions, we aimed to study the effect of somatostatin and dopamine receptor agonists (octreotide and cabergoline, respectively) and novel somatostatin-dopamine chimeric multi-receptor drugs (BIM-065, BIM-23A760) using 2D (monolayer) and 3D (spheroids) cultures. Dose–response studies in 2D and 3D human pancreatic NET cell cultures (BON-1 and QGP-1) were performed under serum-containing and serum-deprived conditions. Cell proliferation, somatostatin and dopamine receptor expression (SSTs and D2R), apoptosis, lactate dehydrogenase, as well as serotonin and chromogranin A (CgA) release were assessed. The following results were obtained. 3D cultures of BON-1/QGP-1 allowed better cell survival than 2D cultures in serum-deprived conditions. SSTs and D2R mRNA levels were higher in the 3D model vs 2D model. Octreotide/cabergoline/BIM-065/BIM-23A760 treatment did not affect cell growth or spheroid size. In BON-1 2D-cultures, only BIM-23A760 significantly inhibited CgA release –this effect being more pronounced in 3D cultures. In BON-1 2D cultures, cabergoline/BIM-065/BIM-23A760 treatment decreased serotonin release (maximal effect up to 40%), being this effect again more potent in 3D cultures (up to 67% inhibition; with BIM-23A760 having the most potent effects). In QGP-1, cabergoline/BIM-065 treatment decreased serotonin release only in the 3D model. In conclusion, cultures of NET 3D spheroids represent a promising method for evaluating cell proliferation and secretion in NET cell-line models. Compared to 2D models, 3D models grow relatively serum independent. In 3D model, SST-D2R multi-receptor targeting drugs inhibit CgA and serotonin secretion, but not NET cell growth.