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S G Creemers, P M van Koetsveld, F J van Kemenade, T G Papathomas, G J H Franssen, F Dogan, E M W Eekhoff, P van der Valk, W W de Herder, J A M J L Janssen, R A Feelders, and L J Hofland

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare malignancy with a poor prognosis. Discrimination of ACCs from adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs) is challenging on both imaging and histopathological grounds. High IGF2 expression is associated with malignancy, but shows large variability. In this study, we investigate whether specific methylation patterns of IGF2 regulatory regions could serve as a valuable biomarker in distinguishing ACCs from ACAs. Pyrosequencing was used to analyse methylation percentages in DMR0, DMR2, imprinting control region (ICR) (consisting of CTCF3 and CTCF6) and the H19 promoter. Expression of IGF2 and H19 mRNA was assessed by real-time quantitative PCR. Analyses were performed in 24 ACCs, 14 ACAs and 11 normal adrenals. Using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis, we evaluated which regions showed the best predictive value for diagnosis of ACC and determined the diagnostic accuracy of these regions. In ACCs, the DMR0, CTCF3, CTCF6 and the H19 promoter were positively correlated with IGF2 mRNA expression (P<0.05). Methylation in the most discriminating regions distinguished ACCs from ACAs with a sensitivity of 96%, specificity of 100% and an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.997±0.005. Our findings were validated in an independent cohort of 9 ACCs and 13 ACAs, resulting in a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 92%. Thus, methylation patterns of IGF2 regulatory regions can discriminate ACCs from ACAs with high diagnostic accuracy. This proposed test may become the first objective diagnostic tool to assess malignancy in adrenal tumours and facilitate the choice of therapeutic strategies in this group of patients.

Free access

Susanna Vuorenoja, Adolfo Rivero-Müller, Adam J Ziecik, Ilpo Huhtaniemi, Jorma Toppari, and Nafis A Rahman

Novel strategies are needed for the treatment of adrenocortical tumors that are usually resistant to chemotherapy. Hecate, a 23-amino acid lytic peptide, was conjugated to the 15-amino acid (81–95) fragment of the human chorionic gonadotropin β (CGβ) chain, which would selectively kill cancer cells expressing the LH receptor (LHR) sparing the normal ones with LHR. To prove the principle that Hecate-CGβ conjugate may eradicate tumors ectopically expressing plasma membrane receptors, transgenic (TG) inhibin α-subunit promoter (inhα)/Simian Virus 40 T-antigen mice, expressing LHR in their adrenal gland tumors, were used as the experimental model. Wild-type control littermates and TG mice with adrenal tumors were treated with either Hecate or Hecate-CGβ conjugate at the age of 6.5 months for 3 weeks and killed 7 days after the last treatment. The Hecate-CGβ conjugate reduced the adrenal tumor burden significantly in TG male but not in female mice, in comparison with Hecate-treated mice. Hecate-CGβ conjugate treatment did not affect normal adrenocortical function as the serum corticosterone level between Hecate and Hecate-CGβ conjugate groups were similar. The mRNA and protein expressions of GATA-4 and LHR colocalized only in tumor area, and a significant downregulation of gene expression was found after the Hecate-CGβ conjugate in comparison with Hecate- and/or non-treated adrenal tumors by western blotting. This finding provides evidence for a selective destruction of the tumor cells by the Hecate-CGβ conjugate. Hereby, our findings support the principle that Hecate-CGβ conjugate is able to specifically destroy tumor cells that ectopically express LHR.

Free access

Elisa Roca, Alfredo Berruti, Silviu Sbiera, Ida Rapa, Ester Oneda, Paola Sperone, Cristina L Ronchi, Laura Ferrari, Salvatore Grisanti, Antonina Germano, Barbara Zaggia, Giorgio Vittorio Scagliotti, Martin Fassnacht, Marco Volante, Massimo Terzolo, and Mauro Papotti

Topoisomerase II alpha (TOP2A) and thymidylate synthase (TS) are known prognostic parameters in several tumors and also predictors of efficacy of anthracyclines, topoisomerase inhibitors and fluoropirimidines, respectively. Expression of TOP2A and TS mRNA was assessed in 98 patients with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) and protein expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry in a subset of 39 tumors. Ninety-two patients were radically resected for stage II–III disease and 38 of them received adjuvant mitotane. Twenty-six patients with metastatic disease received the EDP-M (etoposide, doxorubicin, Adriamycin, cisplatin plus mitotane). TOP2A and TS expression in ACC tissue was directly correlated with the clinical data. Both markers were not associated with either disease free survival (DFS) or overall survival (OS) in multivariate analyses and failed to be associated to mitotane efficacy. Disease response or stabilization to EDP-M treatment was observed in 12/17 (71%) and 1/9 (11%) patients with high and low TOP2A expressing tumors (P = 0.0039) and 9/13 (69%) and 4/13 (31%) patients with high and low TS expressing ACC, respectively (P = 0.049). High TOP2A expression was significantly associated with longer time to progression (TTP) after EDP-M. TOP2A and TS proteins assessed by immunohistochemistry significantly correlated with mRNA expression. Immunohistochemical TOP2A expression was associated with a non-significant better response and longer TTP after EDP-M. TOP2A and TS were neither prognostic nor predictive of mitotane efficacy in ACC patients. The predictive role of TOP2A expression of EDP-M activity suggests a significant contribution of Adriamycin and etoposide for the efficacy of the EDP scheme.

Free access

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

Cristina L Ronchi, Silviu Sbiera, Barbara Altieri, Sonja Steinhauer, Vanessa Wild, Michaela Bekteshi, Matthias Kroiss, Martin Fassnacht, and Bruno Allolio

Previous SNP array analyses have revealed genomic alterations of the Notch pathway as being the most frequent abnormality in adrenocortical tumors (ACTs). The aim of the present study was to evaluate the expression of components of Notch signaling in ACTs and to correlate them with clinical outcome. The mRNA expression of JAG1, NOTCH1, and selected target genes of NOTCH1 (HES1, HES5, and HEY2) was evaluated in 80 fresh frozen samples (28 normal adrenal glands (NAGs), 24 adenomas (ACAs), and 28 carcinomas (ACCs)) by quantitative RT-PCR. Immunohistochemistry was performed in 221 tissues on paraffin slides (16 NAGs, 27 ACAs, and 178 ACCs) for JAG1, activated NOTCH1 (aNOTCH1), and HEY2. An independent ACC validation cohort (n=77) was then also investigated. HEY2 mRNA expression was higher in ACCs than it was in ACAs (P<0.05). The protein expression of all of the factors was high (H-score 2–3) in a larger proportion of ACCs as compared to ACAs and NAGs (JAG1 in 27, 15, and 10%; aNOTCH1 in 13, 8, and 0%; HEY2 in 66, 61, and 33% respectively, all P<0.001). High JAG1 expression was associated with earlier tumor stages and lower numbers of metastases in ACCs (both P=0.08) and favorably impacted overall and progression-free survival (PFS) (131 vs 30 months, hazard ratio (HR) 0.45, and 37 vs 9 months, HR 0.51, both P<0.005). This impact on overall survival (OS) was confirmed in the validation cohort. No such association was observed for aNOTCH1 or HEY2. In conclusion, different components of the Notch1 signaling pathway are overexpressed in ACCs, which suggests a role for the pathway in malignant transformation. However, JAG1 is overexpressed in a subgroup of ACCs with a better clinical outcome.

Free access

Lucas Leite Cunha, Marjory Alana Marcello, Vinicius Rocha-Santos, and Laura Sterian Ward

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are agents that act by inhibiting the mechanisms of immune escape displayed by various cancers. The success of immune checkpoint inhibitors against several tumors has promoted a new treatment strategy in clinical oncology, and this has encouraged physicians to increase the number of patients who receive the immune checkpoint therapy. In the present article, we review the main concepts regarding immune checkpoint mechanisms and how cancer disrupts them to undergo immune escape. In addition, we describe the most essential concepts related to immune checkpoint inhibitors. We critically review the literature on preclinical and clinical studies of the immune checkpoint inhibitors as a treatment option for thyroid cancer, ovarian carcinoma, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, adrenocortical carcinoma and neuroendocrine tumors. We present the challenges and the opportunities of using immune checkpoint inhibitors against these endocrine malignancies, highlighting the breakthroughs and pitfalls that have recently emerged.

Free access

Vassiliki Kotoula, Elias Sozopoulos, Helen Litsiou, Galinos Fanourakis, Triantafyllia Koletsa, Gerassimos Voutsinas, Sophia Tseleni-Balafouta, Constantine S Mitsiades, Axel Wellmann, and Nicholas Mitsiades

The serine/threonine kinase B-Raf plays a key role in the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK pathway that relays extracellular signals for cell proliferation and survival. Several types of human malignancies harbor activating BRAF mutations, most frequently a V600E substitution. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a transmembrane tyrosine kinase (TK) receptor that mediates proliferation and survival signaling, is expressed in a wide variety of normal and neoplastic tissues. EGFR inhibitors have produced objective responses in patients with non-small cell lung carcinomas harboring activating EGFR TK domain somatic mutations. We evaluated the presence of mutations in BRAF (exons 11 and 15), KRAS (exons 1 and 2), NRAS (exons 1 and 2), and EGFR (exons 18–21) in adrenal carcinomas (35 tumor specimens and two cell lines) by DNA sequencing. BRAF mutations were found in two carcinomas (5.7%). Four carcinomas (11.4%) carried EGFR TK domain mutations. One specimen carried a KRAS mutation, and another carried two NRAS mutations. No mutations were found in the two adrenocortical cell lines. BRAF- and EGFR-mutant tumor specimens exhibited stronger immunostaining for the phosphorylated forms of the MEK and ERK kinases than their wild-type counterparts. EGFR-mutant carcinomas exhibited increased phosphorylation of EGFR (Tyr 992) compared with wild-type carcinomas. We conclude that BRAF, RAS, and EGFR mutations occur in a subset of human adrenocortical carcinomas. Inhibitors of the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK and EGFR pathways represent candidate targeted therapies for future clinical trials in carefully selected patients with adrenocortical carcinomas harboring respective activating mutations.

Free access

Enzo Lalli and Michaela Luconi

Endocrine tumors have the peculiarity to become clinically evident not only due to symptoms related to space occupation by the growing lesion, similarly to most other tumors, but also, and most often, because of their specific hormonal secretion, which significantly contributes to their pathological burden. Malignant endocrine tumors, in addition, have the ability to produce distant metastases. Here, we critically review the current knowledge about mechanisms and biomarkers characterizing the metastatic process in adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC), a rare endocrine malignancy with a high risk of relapse and metastatization even when the primary tumor is diagnosed and surgically removed at an early stage. We highlight perspectives of future research in the domain and possible new therapeutic avenues based on targeting factors having an important role in the metastatic process of ACC.

Free access

David J Gross, Gabriel Munter, Menachem Bitan, Tali Siegal, Alberto Gabizon, Ronny Weitzen, Ofer Merimsky, Aliza Ackerstein, Asher Salmon, Avishai Sella, and Shimon Slavin

Group-author : The Israel Glivec in Solid Tumors Study Group

Imatinib mesylate (IM), a small molecule that is a selective inhibitor of the ABL, platelet derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR-R) and stem cell ligand receptor (c-kit) tyrosine kinases (TK). IM was also found to inhibit the TK activity of BCR/ABL fusion protein produced in chronic myelogenous leukemia, with marked clinical activity against the disease. Since both PDGF-R and c-kit both having a putative role in tumorigenesis, we investigated the efficacy and safety of the use of IM in patients with endocrine tumors unresponsive to conventional therapies that expressed c-kit and/or PDGF-R (within the framework of a comprehensive phase II multi-center study of IM in patients with solid tumors). IM was initiated at a dose of 400 mg/day, with possible dose escalation within 1 week to 600 mg/day and an option to raise the dose to 800 mg/day in the event of progression and in the absence of safety concerns for a period of up to 12 months. Between September 2002 and July 2003, 15 adult patients with disseminated endocrine tumors were recruited as follows: medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC, n = 6); adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC, n = 4); malignant pheochromocytoma (pheo, n = 2); carcinoid (non-secreting, n = 2), neuroendocrine tumor (NET, n = 1). No objective responses were observed. MTC – disease progression in 4 patients, and treatment discontinuation in 2 patients due to adverse events; ACC – disease progression in 3 patients, and treatment discontinuation in 1 patient due to severe psychiatric adverse event; Pheo – disease progression in 2 patients; Carcinoid – stable disease in 1 patient (6.5 months), and disease progression in 1 patient; NET – disease progression in 1 patient. IM does not appear to be useful for treatment of malignant endocrine tumors, also causing significant toxicity in this patient population.

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Isadora Pontes Cavalcante, Anna Vaczlavik, Ludivine Drougat, Claudimara Ferini Pacicco Lotfi, Karine Perlemoine, Christopher Ribes, Marthe Rizk-Rabin, Eric Clauser, Maria Candida Barisson Villares Fragoso, Jérôme Bertherat, and Bruno Ragazzon

ARMC5 (Armadillo repeat containing 5 gene) was identified as a new tumor suppressor gene responsible for hereditary adrenocortical tumors and meningiomas. ARMC5 is ubiquitously expressed and encodes a protein which contains a N-terminal Armadillo repeat domain and a C-terminal BTB (Bric-a-Brac, Tramtrack and Broad-complex) domain, both docking platforms for numerous proteins. At present, expression regulation and mechanisms of action of ARMC5 are almost unknown. In this study, we showed that ARMC5 interacts with CUL3 requiring its BTB domain. This interaction leads to ARMC5 ubiquitination and further degradation by the proteasome. ARMC5 alters cell cycle (G1/S phases and cyclin E accumulation) and this effect is blocked by CUL3. Moreover, missense mutants in the BTB domain of ARMC5, identified in patients with multiple adrenocortical tumors, are neither able to interact and be degraded by CUL3/proteasome nor alter cell cycle. These data show a new mechanism of regulation of the ARMC5 protein and open new perspectives in the understanding of its tumor suppressor activity.