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Arthur S Tischler and Judith Favier

Experimental models for pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma are needed for basic pathobiology research and for preclinical testing of drugs to improve treatment of patients with these tumors, especially patients with metastatic disease. The paucity of models reflects the rarity of the tumors, their slow growth, and their genetic complexity. While there are no human cell line or xenograft models that faithfully recapitulate the genotype or phenotype of these tumors, the past decade has shown progress in development and utilization of animal models, including a mouse and a rat model for SDH-deficient pheochromocytoma associated with germline Sdhb mutations. There are also innovative approaches to preclinical testing of potential treatments in primary cultures of human tumors. Challenges with these primary cultures include how to account for heterogeneous cell populations that will vary depending on the initial tumor dissociation and how to distinguish drug effects on neoplastic vs normal cells. The feasible duration for maintaining cultures must also be balanced against time required to reliably assess drug efficacy. Considerations potentially important for all in vitro studies include species differences, phenotype drift, changes that occur in the transition from tissue to cell culture, and the O2 concentration in which cultures are maintained.

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Sophie Moog, Charlotte Lussey-Lepoutre, and Judith Favier

Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGL) are rare neuroendocrine tumors arising from the adrenal medulla or extra-adrenal paraganglia. Around 40% of all cases are caused by a germline mutation in a susceptibility gene, half of which being found in an SDHx gene (SDHA, SDHB, SDHC, SDHD or SDHAF2). They encode the four subunits and assembly factor of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), a mitochondrial enzyme involved both in the tricarboxylic acid cycle and electron transport chain. SDHx mutations lead to the accumulation of succinate, which acts as an oncometabolite by inhibiting iron(II) and alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases thereby regulating the cell’s hypoxic response and epigenetic processes. Moreover, SDHx mutations induce cell metabolic reprogramming and redox imbalance. Major discoveries in PPGL pathophysiology have been made since the initial discovery of SDHD gene mutations in 2000, improving the understanding of their biology and patient management. It indeed provides new opportunities for diagnostic tools and innovative therapeutic targets in order to improve the prognosis of patients affected by these rare tumors, in particular in the context of metastatic diseases associated with SDHB mutations. This review first describes an overview of the pathophysiology and then focuses on clinical implications of the epigenetic and metabolic reprogramming of SDH-deficient PPGL.

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Sophie Moog, Betty Salgues, Yasmine Braik-Djellas, Thomas Viel, Daniel Balvay, Gwennhael Autret, Estelle Robidel, Anne-Paule Gimenez-Roqueplo, Bertrand Tavitian, Charlotte Lussey-Lepoutre, and Judith Favier

Therapies for metastatic SDHB-dependent pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma (PPGL) are limited and poorly efficient. New targeted therapies and identification of early non-invasive biomarkers of response are thus urgently needed for these patients. We characterized an in vivo allograft model of spontaneously immortalized murine chromaffin cells (imCC) with inactivation of the Sdhb gene by dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) and 18FDG-PET. We evaluated the response to several therapies: IACS-010759 (mitochondrial respiratory chain complex I inhibitor), sunitinib (tyrosine kinase inhibitor with anti-angiogenic activity), talazoparib (poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor) combined or not to temozolomide (alkylating agent), pharmacological inhibitors of HIF2a (PT2385 and PT2977 (belzutifan)) and molecular inactivation of HIF2a (imCC Sdhb−/− shHIF2a). Multimodal imaging was performed, including magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to monitor the level of succinate in vivo. The allografted model of Sdhb−/− imCC reflected SDHB-deficient tumors, with increased angiogenesis and a particular avidity for 18FDG. After 14 days of treatment, IACS-010759, sunitinib and talazoparib at high doses allowed a significant reduction of the tumor volumes. In contrast to the tumor growth inhibition observed in Sdhb−/− shHIF2a imCC tumors, pharmacological inhibitors of HIF2a (PT2385 and belzutifan) showed no antitumor action in this model, alone or in combination with sunitinib. 1H-MRS, but not DCE-MRI, enabled the monitoring response to sunitinib, which was the best treatment in this study, promoting a decrease in succinate levels detected in vivo. This study paves the way for new therapeutic options and reveals a potential new early biomarker of response to treatment in SDHB-dependent PPGL.

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Francesca Branzoli, Betty Salgues, Małgorzata Marjańska, Marie Laloi-Michelin, Philippe Herman, Lauriane Le Collen, Brigitte Delemer, Julien Riancho, Emmanuelle Kuhn, Christel Jublanc, Nelly Burnichon, Laurence Amar, Judith Favier, Anne-Paule Gimenez-Roqueplo, Alexandre Buffet, and Charlotte Lussey-Lepoutre

Germline mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) are frequently involved in pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL) development and were implicated in patients with the ‘3PAs’ syndrome (associating pituitary adenoma (PA) and PPGL) or isolated PA. However, the causality link between SDHx mutation and PA remains difficult to establish, and in vivo tools for detecting hallmarks of SDH deficiency are scarce. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) can detect succinate in vivo as a biomarker of SDHx mutations in PGL. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the causality link between PA and SDH deficiency in vivo using 1H-MRS as a novel noninvasive tool for succinate detection in PA. Three SDHx-mutated patients suffering from a PPGL and a macroprolactinoma and one patient with an apparently sporadic non-functioning pituitary macroadenoma underwent MRI examination at 3 T. An optimized 1H-MRS semi-LASER sequence (TR = 2500 ms, TE = 144 ms) was employed for the detection of succinate in vivo. Succinate and choline-containing compounds were identified in the MR spectra as single resonances at 2.44 and 3.2 ppm, respectively. Choline compounds were detected in all the tumors (three PGL and four PAs), while a succinate peak was only observed in the three macroprolactinomas and the three PGL of SDHx-mutated patients, demonstrating SDH deficiency in these tumors. In conclusion, the detection of succinate by 1H-MRS as a hallmark of SDH deficiency in vivo is feasible in PA, laying the groundwork for a better understanding of the biological link between SDHx mutations and the development of these tumors.