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Fady Hannah-Shmouni, Annabel Berthon, Fabio R Faucz, Juan Medina Briceno, Andrea Gutierrez Maria, Andrew Demidowich, Mirko Peitzsch, Jimmy Masjkur, Fidéline Bonnet-Serrano, Anna Vaczlavik, Jérôme Bertherat, Martin Reincke, Graeme Eisenhofer, and Constantine A Stratakis

Biochemical characterization of primary bilateral macronodular adrenocortical hyperplasia (PBMAH) by distinct plasma steroid profiles and its putative correlation to disease has not been previously studied. LC-MS/MS–based steroid profiling of 16 plasma steroids was applied to 36 subjects (22 females, 14 males) with PBMAH, 19 subjects (16 females, 3 males) with other forms of adrenal Cushing's syndrome (ACS), and an age and sex-matched control group. Germline ARMC5 sequencing was performed in all PBMAH cases. Compared to controls, PBMAH showed increased plasma 11-deoxycortisol, corticosterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, 18-hydroxycortisol, and aldosterone, but lower progesterone, DHEA, and DHEA-S with distinct differences in subjects with and without pathogenic variants in ARMC5. Steroids that showed isolated differences included cortisol and 18-oxocortisol with higher (P < 0.05) concentrations in ACS than in controls and aldosterone with higher concentrations in PBMAH when compared to controls. Larger differences in PBMAH than with ACS were most clear for corticosterone, but there were also trends in this direction for 18-hydroxycortisol and aldosterone. Logistic regression analysis indicated four steroids – DHEA, 11-deoxycortisol, 18-oxocortisol, and corticosterone – with the most power for distinguishing the groups. Discriminant analyses with step-wise variable selection indicated correct classification of 95.2% of all subjects of the four groups using a panel of nine steroids; correct classification of subjects with and without germline variants in ARMC5 was achieved in 91.7% of subjects with PBMAH. Subjects with PBMAH show distinctive plasma steroid profiles that may offer a supplementary single-test alternative for screening purposes.

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Rossella Libè, Amato Fratticci, and Jérôme Bertherat

Adrenocortical cancer (ACC) is a rare tumor with a poor prognosis. By contrast, benign adrenocortical tumors are frequent, underlying the importance of a correct diagnosis of malignancy of such tumors. ACC can be diagnosed by the investigation of endocrine signs of steroid excess, symptoms due to tumor growth or an adrenal incidentaloma. Hormonal investigations demonstrate in most ACC steroid oversecretion, the dominant characteristics being a co-secretion of cortisol and androgens. Imaging by CT-scan or MRI shows a large heterogeneous tumor with a low fat content. Careful pathological investigation with the assessment of the Weiss score is important for the diagnosis of malignancy. Molecular markers can also be helpful and in the future might be important for prognosis. Tumors localized to the adrenal gland (McFarlane stages 1 and 2) have a better outcome than invasive and metastatic tumors (stages 3 and 4). Tumor removal by a specialized team is crucial for treatment and should always aim at complete removal. In patients with metastatic or progressive disease, medical treatment is started with mitotane that requires a close monitoring of its blood level. Surgery is indicated when possible for local recurrence but also in some cases of metastasis. Local treatment (radiofrequency, chemoembolization, and radiation therapy) can have some indications for metastatic disease. In patients with disease progression cytotoxic chemotherapy can be used. Despite the best care, the overall prognosis of ACC is poor with a 5-year survival rate below 30% in most series. Therefore, progress in the understanding of the pathophysiology of ACC is important. Despite the rarity of ACC, significant advances have been made in the understanding of its pathogenesis the last decade. These progresses came mainly from the study of the genetics of ACC, both at the germline level in rare familial diseases, and at the somatic level by the study of molecular alterations in sporadic tumors. These advances underline the importance of genetic alterations in ACC development and point-out to various chromosomal regions (2, 11p15, 11q, 17p13) and genes (IGF-II, p53, β-catenin, ACTH receptor). This review will summarize these advances as well as the current clinical management of ACC.

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Yu-fang Bi, Rui-xin Liu, Lei Ye, Hai Fang, Xiao-ying Li, Wei-qing Wang, Ji Zhang, Kan-Kan Wang, Lei Jiang, Ting-wei Su, Zhong-yuan Chen, and Guang Ning

Although there has been increased knowledge about the molecular biology of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), little is known about thymic carcinoids and even less about those with excessive hormone disorders, such as ectopic ACTH syndrome. This study was designed to gain insights into the molecular networks underlying the tumorigenesis of thymic carcinoids with ACTH secretion. By an approach integrating cDNA microarray and methods of computational biology, we compare gene expression profile between ACTH-producing thymic carcinoids and the normal thymus. In total, there are 63 biological categories increased and 108 decreased in thymic carcinoids. Cell proliferation was stimulated, which may explain the relatively uncontrolled cell growth of the tumor. Dysregulation of the Notch-signaling pathway was likely to be underlying the neuroendocrine features of this type of tumors. Moreover, inhibition of immunity and increased neuropeptide signaling molecules (POMC and its sorting molecule CPE) made the clinical manifestation reasonable and thus validated the array data. In conclusion, thymic carcinoids have a distinct gene expression pattern from the normal thymus, and they are characterized by deregulations of a series of biofunctions, which may be involved in the development of NETs. Hence, this study has provided not only a detailed comprehension of the molecular pathogenesis of thymic carcinoids with ectopic ACTH syndrome, but also a road map to approach thymic NETs at the system level.

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M J Reed, R W Cheng, P A Beranek, and V H T James

There is evidence that the free, biologically active fraction of sex steroids in the plasma, is increased in subjects with endocrine-dependent tumours. However, little is known about factors which influence the distribution of these hormones in plasma. In order to investigate this, cortisol (14 μM) was infused, or ACTH (Synacthen, 250 μg, i.v.) was injected into male subjects and this resulted in a significant decrease (up to 38% from basal values) in the fraction of testosterone not bound to sex-hormone binding globulin (non-SHBG bound testosterone). The decrease in the non-SHBG bound testosterone fraction was accompanied by an increase (up to 20% from basal values) in the non-SHBG bound oestradiol fraction after ACTH injection. No significant changes in the unbound concentrations of testosterone or oestradiol were detected. The addition of cortisol (250 nM) to a plasma pool obtained from male subjects resulted in a similar decrease in the non-SHBG bound testosterone
Open access

Paula Sommer, Rachel L Cowen, Andrew Berry, Ann Cookson, Brian A Telfer, Kaye J Williams, Ian J Stratford, Paul Kay, Anne White, and David W Ray

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive tumor, associated with ectopic ACTH syndrome. We have shown that SCLC cells are glucocorticoid receptor (GR) deficient, and that restoration of GR expression confers glucocorticoid sensitivity and induces apoptosis in vitro. To determine the effects of GR expression in vivo, we characterized a mouse SCLC xenograft model that secretes ACTH precursor peptides, and so drives high circulating corticosterone concentrations (analogous to the ectopic ACTH syndrome). Infection of SCLC xenografts with GR-expressing adenovirus significantly slowed tumor growth compared with control virus infection. Time to fourfold initial tumor volume increased from a median of 9 days to 16 days (P=0.05; n=7 per group). Post-mortem analysis of GR-expressing tumors revealed a threefold increase in apoptotic (TUNEL positive) cells (P<0.01). Infection with the GR-expressing adenovirus caused a significant reduction in Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL transcripts. Furthermore, in both the GR-expressing adenovirus-infected cells and tumors, a significant number of uninfected cells underwent apoptosis, supporting a bystander cell killing effect. Therefore, GR expression is pro-apoptotic for human SCLCs in vivo, as well as in vitro, suggesting that loss of GR confers a survival advantage to SCLCs.

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A L Ogilvy-Stuart and S M Shalet

INTRODUCTION A child with an endocrine tumour may present clinically with the effects of a mass lesion, a hormone excess state or hormone deficiencies. Medical awareness of a hormone deficiency tends to lag behind that of a mass lesion. For example, the diagnosis of a tumour in the hypothalamic-pituitary region such as a craniopharyngioma is nearly always precipitated by severe persistent headache or visual loss, even though short stature and pituitary hormone deficiencies are usually already present. Production of excess hormone by a tumour may modify growth and sexual development in a number of ways including, precocious or delayed pubertal development, virilization, feminization, gynaecomastia, gigantism and Cushing's syndrome. Fortunately, endocrine tumours, with the exception of neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system, are uncommon in childhood. Thus pituitary tumours account for only 1% of all intracranial tumours in children but 10%18% in adults. PINEAL TUMOURS AND SUPRASELLAR GERMINOMAS CNS
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Laura C Hernández-Ramírez, Ryhem Gam, Nuria Valdés, Maya B Lodish, Nathan Pankratz, Aurelio Balsalobre, Yves Gauthier, Fabio R Faucz, Giampaolo Trivellin, Prashant Chittiboina, John Lane, Denise M Kay, Aggeliki Dimopoulos, Stephan Gaillard, Mario Neou, Jérôme Bertherat, Guillaume Assié, Chiara Villa, James L Mills, Jacques Drouin, and Constantine A Stratakis

The CABLES1 cell cycle regulator participates in the adrenal–pituitary negative feedback, and its expression is reduced in corticotropinomas, pituitary tumors with a largely unexplained genetic basis. We investigated the presence of CABLES1 mutations/copy number variations (CNVs) and their associated clinical, histopathological and molecular features in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD). Samples from 146 pediatric (118 germline DNA only/28 germline and tumor DNA) and 35 adult (tumor DNA) CD patients were screened for CABLES1 mutations. CNVs were assessed in 116 pediatric CD patients (87 germline DNA only/29 germline and tumor DNA). Four potentially pathogenic missense variants in CABLES1 were identified, two in young adults (c.532G > A, p.E178K and c.718C > T, p.L240F) and two in children (c.935G > A, p.G312D and c.1388A > G, and p.D463G) with CD; no CNVs were found. The four variants affected residues within or close to the predicted cyclin-dependent kinase-3 (CDK3)-binding region of the CABLES1 protein and impaired its ability to block cell growth in a mouse corticotropinoma cell line (AtT20/D16v-F2). The four patients had macroadenomas. We provide evidence for a role of CABLES1 as a novel pituitary tumor-predisposing gene. Its function might link two of the main molecular mechanisms altered in corticotropinomas: the cyclin-dependent kinase/cyclin group of cell cycle regulators and the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway. Further studies are needed to assess the prevalence of CABLES1 mutations among patients with other types of pituitary adenomas and to elucidate the pituitary-specific functions of this gene.

Free access

Dorota Dworakowska and Ashley B Grossman

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem disorder characterised by the development of multiple hamartomas in numerous organs. It is caused by mutations of two tumour suppressor genes, TSC1 on chromosome 9q34 and TSC2 on chromosome 16p13.3, which encode for hamartin and tuberin respectively. The interaction between these two proteins, the tuberin–hamartin complex, has been shown to be critical to multiple intracellular signalling pathways, especially those controlling cell growth and proliferation. TSC may affect skin, central nervous system, kidneys, heart, eyes, blood vessels, lung, bone and gastrointestinal tract. Small series and case reports have documented that in tuberous sclerosis patients many endocrine system alterations might occur, affecting the function of the pituitary, parathyroid and other neuroendocrine tissue. There have been scattered reports of the involvement of such tissue in the pathological process of TSC, but no systematic review as to whether this is a true association. We have therefore systematically assessed all available published literature in this area. We conclude that there may be an association with pituitary and parathyroid tumours, and two recent descriptions of Cushing's disease are especially intriguing. However, the evidence seems more firm in the case of islet cell tumours, particularly insulinomas. As these latter may cause changes in mental state that may be confused with the cerebral manifestations of TSC per se, it is particularly important for physicians working with these patients to be aware of the putative and indeed likely association.

Free access

Odelia Cooper, George Vlotides, Hidenori Fukuoka, Mark I Greene, and Shlomo Melmed

The role of ErbB family in discreet pituitary functions is reviewed. Several ErbB receptor ligands, EGF, TGFα, and heregulin are differentially expressed in normal gonadotroph and lacto-somatotroph lineages, and other elements of the anterior pituitary. ErbB receptors, i.e. EGFR and ErbB2, are also localized to the anterior pituitary with preferential EGFR lactosomatotroph expression. EGF regulates CRH and ACTH secretion and corticotroph proliferation as well as exhibiting autocrine and paracrine effects on gonadotrophs and on lactosomatotroph proliferation, gene and protein expression, and hormonal secretion. EGF and EGFR are expressed in both functioning and non-functioning pituitary adenomas, with higher expression in more aggressive tumor subtypes. ErbB2 receptor is detected in all tumor subtypes, particularly in invasive tumors. ErbB tyrosine kinase inhibitors regulate hormonal secretion, cell morphology, and proliferation in lacto-somatotroph tumors, reflecting the emerging application of targeted pituitary therapeutics.

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Tomoko Sekiya, Marcello D Bronstein, Katiuscia Benfini, Viviane C Longuini, Raquel S Jallad, Marcio C Machado, Tatiana D Goncalves, Luciana H Osaki, Leonardo Higashi, Jose Viana-Jr, Claudio Kater, Misu Lee, Sara Molatore, Guilherme Francisco, Roger Chammas, Michel S Naslavsky, David Schlesinger, Patricia Gama, Yeda A O Duarte, Maria Lucia Lebrão, Mayana Zatz, Osorio Meirelles, Bernardo Liberman, Maria Candida B V Fragoso, Sergio P A Toledo, Natalia S Pellegata, and Rodrigo A Toledo


Germline mutations in p27 kip1 are associated with increased susceptibility to multiple endocrine neoplasias (MEN) both in rats and humans; however, the potential role of common polymorphisms of this gene in endocrine tumor susceptibility and tumorigenesis remains mostly unrecognized. To assess the risk associated with polymorphism rs2066827 (p27-V109G), we genotyped a large cohort of Brazilian patients with sporadic endocrine tumors (pituitary adenomas, n=252; pheochromocytomas, n=125; medullary thyroid carcinoma, n=51; and parathyroid adenomas, n=19) and 885 population-matched healthy controls and determined the odds ratios and 95% CIs. Significant associations were found for the group of patients with pituitary adenomas (P=0.01), particularly for those with ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas (P=0.005). In contrast, no association was found with GH-secreting pituitary tumors alone or with the sporadic counterpart of MEN2-component neoplasias. Our in vitro analyses revealed increased colony formation and cell growth rate for an AtT20 corticotropin mouse cell line overexpressing the p27-V109G variant compared with cells transfected with the WT p27. However, the genotypic effects in genetic and in vitro approaches were divergent. In accordance with our genetic data showing specificity for ACTH-secreting pituitary tissues, the overexpression of p27-V109G in a GH3 somatotropin rat cell line resulted in no difference compared with the WT. Pituitary tumors are one of the major clinical components of syndromes associated with the p27 pathogenic mutations MENX and MEN4. Our genetic and in vitro data indicate that the common polymorphism rs2066827 may play a role in corticotropinoma susceptibility and tumorigenesis through a molecular mechanism not fully understood thus far.