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Brian Harding, Manuel C Lemos, Anita A C Reed, Gerard V Walls, Jeshmi Jeyabalan, Michael R Bowl, Hilda Tateossian, Nicky Sullivan, Tertius Hough, William D Fraser, Olaf Ansorge, Michael T Cheeseman, and Rajesh V Thakker

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized in man by parathyroid, pancreatic, pituitary and adrenal tumours. The MEN1 gene encodes a 610-amino acid protein (menin) which is a tumour suppressor. To investigate the in vivo role of menin, we developed a mouse model, by deleting Men1 exons 1 and 2 and investigated this for MEN1-associated tumours and serum abnormalities. Men1 +/− mice were viable and fertile, and 220 Men1 +/− and 94 Men1 +/+ mice were studied between the ages of 3 and 21 months. Survival in Men1 +/− mice was significantly lower than in Men1 +/+ mice (<68% vs >85%, P<0.01). Men1 +/− mice developed, by 9 months of age, parathyroid hyperplasia, pancreatic tumours which were mostly insulinomas, by 12 months of age, pituitary tumours which were mostly prolactinomas, and by 15 months parathyroid adenomas and adrenal cortical tumours. Loss of heterozygosity and menin expression was demonstrated in the tumours, consistent with a tumour suppressor role for the Men1 gene. Men1 +/− mice with parathyroid neoplasms were hypercalcaemic and hypophosphataemic, with inappropriately normal serum parathyroid hormone concentrations. Pancreatic and pituitary tumours expressed chromogranin A (CgA), somatostatin receptor type 2 and vascular endothelial growth factor-A. Serum CgA concentrations in Men1 +/− mice were not elevated. Adrenocortical tumours, which immunostained for 3-β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, developed in seven Men1 +/− mice, but resulted in hypercorticosteronaemia in one out of the four mice that were investigated. Thus, these Men1 +/− mice are representative of MEN1 in man, and will help in investigating molecular mechanisms and treatments for endocrine tumours.

Free access

Yulong Li and William F Simonds

Familial syndromes of hyperparathyroidism, including multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A), and the hyperparathyroidism-jaw tumor (HPT-JT), comprise 2–5% of primary hyperparathyroidism cases. Familial syndromes of hyperparathyroidism are also associated with a range of endocrine and nonendocrine tumors, including potential malignancies. Complications of the associated neoplasms are the major causes of morbidities and mortalities in these familial syndromes, e.g., parathyroid carcinoma in HPT-JT syndrome; thymic, bronchial, and enteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors in MEN1; and medullary thyroid cancer and pheochromocytoma in MEN2A. Because of the different underlying mechanisms of neoplasia, these familial tumors may have different characteristics compared with their sporadic counterparts. Large-scale clinical trials are frequently lacking due to the rarity of these diseases. With technological advances and the development of new medications, the natural history, diagnosis, and management of these syndromes are also evolving. In this article, we summarize the recent knowledge on endocrine neoplasms in three familial hyperparathyroidism syndromes, with an emphasis on disease characteristics, molecular pathogenesis, recent developments in biochemical and radiological evaluation, and expert opinions on surgical and medical therapies. Because these familial hyperparathyroidism syndromes are associated with a wide variety of tumors in different organs, this review is focused on those endocrine neoplasms with malignant potential.

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Alexander J Cole, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Deborah J Marsh

Ubiquitination has traditionally been viewed in the context of polyubiquitination that is essential for marking proteins for degradation via the proteasome. Recent discoveries have shed light on key cellular roles for monoubiquitination, including as a post-translational modification (PTM) of histones such as histone H2B. Monoubiquitination plays a significant role as one of the largest histone PTMs, alongside smaller, better-studied modifications such as methylation, acetylation and phosphorylation. Monoubiquitination of histone H2B at lysine 120 (H2Bub1) has been shown to have key roles in transcription, the DNA damage response and stem cell differentiation. The H2Bub1 enzymatic cascade involves E3 RING finger ubiquitin ligases, with the main E3 generally accepted to be the RNF20–RNF40 complex, and deubiquitinases including ubiquitin-specific protease 7 (USP7), USP22 and USP44. H2Bub1 has been shown to physically disrupt chromatin strands, fostering a more open chromatin structure accessible to transcription factors and DNA repair proteins. It also acts as a recruiting signal, actively attracting proteins with roles in transcription and DNA damage. H2Bub1 also appears to play central roles in histone cross-talk, influencing methylation events on histone H3, including H3K4 and H3K79. Most significantly, global levels of H2Bub1 are low to absent in advanced cancers including breast, colorectal, lung and parathyroid, marking H2Bub1 and the enzymes that regulate it as key molecules of interest as possible new therapeutic targets for the treatment of cancer. This review offers an overview of current knowledge regarding H2Bub1 and highlights links between dysregulation of H2Bub1-associated enzymes, stem cells and malignancy.

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Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Kate E Lines, Shani Avniel-Polak, Chas Bountra, and Rajesh V Thakker

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) occur usually as sporadic tumours; however, rarely, they may arise in the context of a hereditary syndrome, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), an autosomal dominant disorder characterised by the combined development of pancreatic NENs (pNENs) together with parathyroid and anterior pituitary tumours. The therapeutic decision for sporadic pNENs patients is multi-disciplinary and complex: based on the grade and stage of the tumor, various options (and their combinations) are considered, such as surgical excision (either curative or for debulking aims), biological drugs (somatostatin analogues), targeted therapies (mTOR inhibitors or tyrosine kinases (TK)/receptors inhibitors), peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT), chemotherapy, and liver-directed therapies. However, treatment of MEN1-related NENs’ patients is even more challenging, as these tumours are usually multifocal with co-existing foci of heterogeneous biology and malignant potential, rendering them more resistant to the conventional therapies used in their sporadic counterparts, and therefore associated with a poorer prognosis. Moreover, clinical data using standard therapeutic options in MEN1-related NENs are scarce. Recent preclinical studies have identified potentially new targeted therapeutic options for treating MEN1-associated NENs, such as epigenetic modulators, Wnt pathway-targeting β-catenin antagonists, Ras signalling modulators, Akt/mTOR signalling modulators, novel somatostatin receptors analogues, anti-angiogenic drugs, as well as MEN1 gene replacement therapy. The present review aims to summarize these novel therapeutic opportunities for NENs developing in the context of MEN1 syndrome, with an emphasis on pancreatic NENs, as they are the most frequent ones studied in MEN1-NENs models to date; moreover, due to the recent shifting nomenclature of ‘pituitary adenomas’ to ‘pituitary neuroendocrine neoplasms’, relevant data on MEN1-pituitary tumours, when appropriate, are briefly described.

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F Lumachi, P Zucchetta, S Varotto, F Polistina, G Favia, and D D'Amico

In primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT), parathyroidectomy is the treatment of choice, but anatomic variations of ectopic glands may cause surgical failure. Reliable preoperative noninvasive localization procedures would have a positive impact on the operative time and increase recovery rate. We retrospectively evaluated 186 patients with pHPT who were studied before successful parathyroidectomy by double tracer scintigraphy (99mTc-pertechnetate+201TI chloride or 99mTc-pertechnetate +99mTc-sestamibi, 160 patients), ultrasonography (148 patients) and computerized tomography (CT) scan (92 patients). During bilateral neck exploration, 159 (85.5%) single adenomas, 6 (3.2%) parathyroid carcinomas, and 3 (1.6%) double adenomas were found. Moreover, 18 (9.7%) patients had diffuse chief cells parathyroid hyperplasia. Removed parathyroid glands were in ectopic sites in 41 (22.0%) cases, mainly localized in the upper mediastinum or behind the esophagus. The overall sensitivity was 83.5 and 85.2% for 99mTc-pertechnetate+201TI chloride and 99mTc-pertechnetate+99mTc-sestamibi scintigraphy respectively, 80.4% for CT scan and 81.1% for ultrasonography. In patients with ectopic glands, sensitivity was 81.2, 79.5, 73.3 and 81.6% respectively. In 36 out of 41 patients with ectopic glands in whom the removed parathyroids were correctly localized, mean operative time was 95 min, and in 5 patients without preoperative localization it was 260 min. In conclusion, in pHPT, preoperative localization of an enlarged parathyroid is helpful, especially in ectopic adenomas and in anatomic variations in location, and it has been proved to reduce operative time and morbidity rate.

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Anna Angelousi, Krystallenia I Alexandraki, George Kyriakopoulos, Marina Tsoli, Dimitrios Thomas, Gregory Kaltsas, and Ashley Grossman

Endocrine organs are metastatic targets for several primary cancers, either through direct extension from nearby tumour cells or dissemination via the venous, arterial and lymphatic routes. Although any endocrine tissue can be affected, most clinically relevant metastases involve the pituitary and adrenal glands with the commonest manifestations being diabetes insipidus and adrenal insufficiency respectively. The most common primary tumours metastasing to the adrenals include melanomas, breast and lung carcinomas, which may lead to adrenal insufficiency in the presence of bilateral adrenal involvement. Breast and lung cancers are the most common primaries metastasing to the pituitary, leading to pituitary dysfunction in approximately 30% of cases. The thyroid gland can be affected by renal, colorectal, lung and breast carcinomas, and melanomas, but has rarely been associated with thyroid dysfunction. Pancreatic metastasis can lead to exo-/endocrine insufficiency with renal carcinoma being the most common primary. Most parathyroid metastases originate from breast and lung carcinomas and melanoma. Breast and colorectal cancers are the most frequent ovarian metastases; prostate cancer commonly affects the testes. In the presence of endocrine deficiencies, glucocorticoid replacement for adrenal and pituitary involvement can be life saving. As most metastases to endocrine organs develop in the context of disseminated disease, surgical resection or other local therapies should only be considered to ameliorate symptoms and reduce tumour volume. Although few consensus statements can be made regarding the management of metastases to endocrine tissues because of the heterogeneity of the variable therapies, it is important that clinicians are aware of their presence in diagnosis.

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Arthur Varoquaux, Electron Kebebew, Fréderic Sebag, Katherine Wolf, Jean-François Henry, Karel Pacak, and David Taïeb

The vagus nerve (cranial nerve X) is the main nerve of the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. Vagal paragangliomas (VPGLs) are a prime example of an endocrine tumor associated with the vagus nerve. This rare, neural crest tumor constitutes the second most common site of hereditary head and neck paragangliomas (HNPGLs), most often in relation to mutations in the succinate dehydrogenase complex subunit D (SDHD) gene. The treatment paradigm for VPGL has progressively shifted from surgery to abstention or therapeutic radiation with curative-like outcomes. Parathyroid tissue and parathyroid adenoma can also be found in close association with the vagus nerve in intra or paravagal situations. Vagal parathyroid adenoma can be identified with preoperative imaging or suspected intraoperatively by experienced surgeons. Vagal parathyroid adenomas located in the neck or superior mediastinum can be removed via initial cervicotomy, while those located in the aortopulmonary window require a thoracic approach. This review particularly emphasizes the embryology, molecular genetics, and modern imaging of these tumors.

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F Lumachi, M Ermani, S Basso, P Zucchetta, N Borsato, and G Favia

A series of 253 consecutive patients with proved primary hyperparathyroidism due to parathyroid tumours was reviewed. There were 68 (26.9%) men and 185 (73.1%) women, with a median age of 57 years (range 13-82 years). All patients, prior to successful parathyroidectomy, underwent one or more preoperative localization procedures such as: neck ultrasonography (US) in 191 (75.5%), (201)Tl/(99m)Tc-pertechnetate subtraction scintigraphy (TPS) in 144 (56.9%), CT scan in 92 (36.4%), (99m)Tc-sestamibi/(99m)Tc-pertechnetate subtraction scintigraphy (MPS) in 90 (35.6%), selective venous sampling (SVS) with parathyroid hormone (PTH) assay in 30 (11.9%), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 6 (2.4%) patients. The results were compared with operative and histological findings that showed 235 (92.9%) solitary parathyroid adenomas, 13 (5.1%) carcinomas and 5 (2.0%) double adenomas. Sensitivity and positive predictive value were 82.9% and 93.8% for US, 83.6% and 91.8% for TPS, 81.3% and 98.7% for CT scan, 85.1% and 96.1% for MPS, 65.4% and 80.9% for SVS, and 80.0% and 80.0% for MRI respectively. No different results (P=NS) were found using US, TPS, MPS or CT scan, whereas SVS and MRI sensitivity was lower (P<0.05). The combination of MPS and US was 94.0% sensitive (P<0.05) but when TPS, CT scan or MRI were also used overall sensitivity did not improve significantly (P=NS). In conclusion, MPS should be used as the starting preoperative localization procedure, while US and MPS together represent the most reliable noninvasive localization tool. If MPS and US are negative or not in agreement, further studies are not cost-effective and the patient should undergo bilateral neck exploration.

Free access

Tirtha K Das and Ross L Cagan

Twenty-five years ago, RET was identified as the primary driver of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) syndrome. MEN2 is characterized by several transformation events including pheochromocytoma, parathyroid adenoma and, especially penetrant, medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Overall, MTC is a rare but aggressive type of thyroid cancer for which no effective treatment currently exists. Surgery, radiation, radioisotope treatment and chemotherapeutics have all shown limited success, and none of these approaches have proven durable in advanced disease. Non-mammalian models that incorporate the oncogenic RET isoforms associated with MEN2 and other RET-associated diseases have been useful in delineating mechanisms underlying disease progression. These models have also identified novel targeted therapies as single agents and as combinations. These studies highlight the importance of modeling disease in the context of the whole animal, accounting for the complex interplay between tumor and normal cells in controlling disease progression as well as response to therapy. With convenient access to whole genome sequencing data from expanded thyroid cancer patient cohorts, non-mammalian models will become more complex, sophisticated and continue to complement future mammalian studies. In this review, we explore the contributions of non-mammalian models to our understanding of thyroid cancer including MTC, with a focus on Danio rerio and Drosophila melanogaster (fish and fly) models.

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Michael A Hahn, Viive M Howell, Anthony J Gill, Adele Clarkson, Graham Weaire-Buchanan, Bruce G Robinson, Leigh Delbridge, Oliver Gimm, Wolfgang D Schmitt, Bin T Teh, and Deborah J Marsh

The tumor suppressor HRPT2/CDC73 is mutated in constitutive DNA from patients with the familial disorder hyperparathyroidism–jaw tumor syndrome and in ∼70% of all parathyroid carcinomas. In a number of HRPT2 mutant tumors however, expression of the encoded protein parafibromin is lost in the absence of a clear second event such as HRPT2 allelic loss or the presence of a second mutation in this tumor suppressor gene. We sought to determine whether hypermethylation of a 713 bp CpG island extending 648 nucleotides upstream of the HRPT2 translational start site and 65 nucleotides into exon 1 might be a mechanism contributing to the loss of expression of parafibromin in parathyroid tumors. Furthermore, we asked whether mutations might be present in the 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) of HRPT2. We investigated a pool of tissue from 3 normal parathyroid glands, as well as 15 individual parathyroid tumor samples including 6 tumors with known HRPT2 mutations, for hypermethylation of the HRPT2 CpG island. Methylation was not identified in any specimens despite complete loss of parafibromin expression in two parathyroid carcinomas with a single detectable HRPT2 mutation and retention of the wild-type HRPT2 allele. Furthermore, no mutations of a likely pathogenic nature were identified in the 5′-UTR of HRPT2. These data strongly suggest that alternative mechanisms such as mutation in HRPT2 intronic regions, additional epigenetic regulation such as histone modifications, or other regulatory inactivation mechanisms such as targeting by microRNAs may play a role in the loss of parafibromin expression.