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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.

Open access

Helene Myrtue Nielsen, Alexandre How-Kit, Carole Guerin, Frederic Castinetti, Hans Kristian Moen Vollan, Catherine De Micco, Antoine Daunay, David Taieb, Peter Van Loo, Celine Besse, Vessela N Kristensen, Lise Lotte Hansen, Anne Barlier, Frederic Sebag, and Jörg Tost

Overexpression of insulin growth factor 2 (IGF2) is a hallmark of adrenocortical carcinomas and pheochromocytomas. Previous studies investigating the IGF2/H19 locus have mainly focused on a single molecular level such as genomic alterations or altered DNA methylation levels and the causal changes underlying IGF2 overexpression are still not fully established. In the current study, we analyzed 62 tumors of the adrenal gland from patients with Conn's adenoma (CA, n=12), pheochromocytomas (PCC, n=10), adrenocortical benign tumors (ACBT, n=20), and adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC, n=20). Gene expression, somatic copy number variation of chr11p15.5, and DNA methylation status of three differential methylated regions of the IGF2/H19 locus including the H19 imprinting control region were integratively analyzed. IGF2 overexpression was found in 85% of the ACCs and 100% of the PCCs compared to 23% observed in CAs and ACBTs. Copy number aberrations of chr11p15.5 were abundant in both PCCs and ACCs but while PCCs retained a diploid state, ACCs were frequently tetraploid (7/19). Loss of either a single allele or loss of two alleles of the same parental origin in tetraploid samples resulted in a uniparental disomy-like genotype. These copy number changes correlated with hypermethylation of the H19 ICR suggesting that the lost alleles were the unmethylated maternal alleles. Our data provide conclusive evidence that loss of the maternal allele correlates with IGF2 overexpression in adrenal tumors and that hypermethylation of the H19 ICR is a consequence thereof.

Free access

S G Creemers, P M van Koetsveld, W W De Herder, F Dogan, G J H Franssen, R A Feelders, and L J Hofland

Chemotherapy for adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) has limited efficacy and is accompanied by severe toxicity. This lack of effectiveness has been associated with high tumoral levels of the multidrug resistance (MDR) pump P-glycoprotein (P-gp), encoded by the MDR1 gene. In this study, effects of P-gp inhibition on the sensitivity of ACC cells to cytotoxic drugs were evaluated. MDR1 mRNA and P-gp expression were determined in human adrenal tissues and cell lines. H295R, HAC15 and SW13 cells were treated with mitotane, doxorubicin, etoposide, cisplatin and streptozotocin, with or without the P-gp inhibitors verapamil and tariquidar. Cell growth and surviving fraction of colonies were assessed. MDR1 mRNA and P-gp protein expression were lower in ACCs than in adrenocortical adenomas (P < 0.0001; P < 0.01, respectively). MDR1 and P-gp expression were positively correlated in ACC (P < 0.0001, ρ = 0.723). Mitotane, doxorubicin, cisplatin and etoposide dose dependently inhibited cell growth in H295R, HAC15 and SW13. Tariquidar, and in H295R also verapamil, increased the response of HAC15 and H295R to doxorubicin (6.3- and 7.5-fold EC50 decrease in H295R, respectively; all P < 0.0001). Sensitivity to etoposide was increased in H295R and HAC15 by verapamil and tariquidar (all P < 0.0001). Findings were confirmed when assessing colony formation. We show that cytotoxic drugs, except streptozotocin, used for ACC treatment, inhibit ACC cell growth and colony formation at clinically achievable concentrations. P-gp inhibition increases sensitivity to doxorubicin and etoposide, suggesting that MDR1 is involved in sensitivity to these drugs and could be a potential target for cytotoxic treatment improvement in ACC.

Free access

Alfred King-yin Lam

Adrenal lipomatous tumour is a group of adrenal tumours with a significant component of adipose tissue. According to the current World Health Organization (WHO) classification of tumours of endocrine organs, adrenal myelolipoma is the only entity amongst the group of tumours being described. In the literature, other more recently documented adrenal lipomatous tumours included 24 lipomas, 32 teratomas and 16 angiomyolipomas. Rare fatty tumours of the adrenal gland comprised liposarcoma, hibernoma, adrenocortical tumours with fat component and rare adrenal tumours with fat component. Myelolipoma comprises approximately 3% of primary adrenal tumour. It is noted more commonly in females and in the right adrenal gland. Approximately 40 bilateral myelolipomas were reported. The tumour is most frequently recorded in patients between fifth and seventh decades of life. Adrenal lipomas are often seen in males and in the right adrenal gland. They were commonly noted in patients in the sixth decade of life. The diagnosis could only be possible on examination of the surgically removed specimen. Adrenal teratomas were more common in females and with a bimodal age distribution. Slightly over 60% of the patients with adrenal teratoma are symptomatic. Adrenal angiomyolipomas were often symptomatic, more common in females and in the fifth decades of life. To conclude, adrenal lipomatous tumour is uncommon. They are often benign and non-functional. It is important to recognize the features of this group of lipomatous tumours in the adrenal gland as they are being detected on increasing incidence as a result of the wide-spread use of modern imaging modalities.

Free access

B Wängberg, A Khorram-Manesh, S Jansson, B Nilsson, O Nilsson, C E Jakobsson, S Lindstedt, A Odén, and H Ahlman

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare tumour disease with sinister prognosis also after attempts to radical surgery; better prognosis is seen for low-stage tumours. Adjuvant treatment with the adrenolytic drug mitotane has been attempted, but not proven to prevent from recurrence. The drug may offer survival advantage in case of recurrence. The aim of this single-centre study (1979–2007) of 43 consecutive patients was to evaluate the long-term survival after active surgical treatment combined with monitored mitotane (to reduce side effects of the drug). The series is unique, since all patients were offered a period of mitotane as adjuvant or palliative treatment; six patients refused mitotane. Despite a high proportion of high-stage tumours (67%), the complete resection rate was high (77%). The disease-specific 5-year survival was high (64.1%); very high for patients with low-stage tumours without evident relation to mitotane levels. Patients with high-stage tumours had a clear survival advantage with mitotane levels above a threshold of 14 mg/l in serum. The hazard ratio for patients with high mitotane levels versus all patients indicates a significant effect of the drug. The results indicate that adjuvant mitotane may be the standard of care for patients with high-stage ACC after complete resection.

Free access

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.

Free access

D E Schteingart, G M Doherty, P G Gauger, T J Giordano, G D Hammer, M Korobkin, and F P Worden

Adrenocortical carcinomas are rare, highly malignant tumors that account for only 0.2% of deaths due to cancer. Given the limited number of patients seen in most medical centers with this diagnosis, series usually reported are small and clinical trials not randomized or blinded. In an attempt to answer important questions concerning the management of patients with adrenal cancer, a consensus conference was organized and held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, 11–13 September 2003, with the participation of an international group of physicians who had reported on the largest series of patients with this disease and who had recognized basic and clinical research expertise in adrenal cortical cancer. Totally 43 questions were addressed by the presenters and recommendations discussed in plenary and breakout sessions. Evidence for the recommendations of this conference was at the 2–4+ level and based on available literature and participants’ experience.

In addition to setting up guidelines in specific areas of the diagnosis and treatment of adrenal cancer, the conference recommended and initiated the planning of an international prospective trial for treatment of patients with adrenal cancer in stages III and IV. In terms of new therapies, first trials of dendritic cell therapy in human subjects with adrenal cancer have been started, but it is too early to comment on efficacy. Different strategies of immunotherapy, including DNA vaccination are currently being tried in animal models. There are no clinical gene therapy trials for human adrenal cortical cancer. The adrenals are a preferred target for adenovirus and the results of gene therapy in preclinical studies are promising. In addition, there is evidence that histone deacetylase inhibitors can further enhance the rate of adenoviral infectivity in human adrenal cancer cells. Testing of retroviral vectors, non-viral vectors, small interfering RNA technology, and combined approaches could be performed in various laboratories. Anti-angiogenic substances have only been applied in preclinical studies. The use of these and other agents in the treatment of adrenal cancer should be hypothesis-driven and based on a thorough analysis of tumor biology.

Free access

Constanze Hantel, Sara Jung, Thomas Mussack, Martin Reincke, and Felix Beuschlein

Owing to high relapse rates and early metastatic spread, prognosis in adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) patients remains poor, highlighting the importance of developing new treatment alternatives for them. Recently, polychemotherapy regimens including etoposide, doxorubicin, and cisplatin together with mitotane (EDP-M) have been defined as the standard treatment for late-stage disease patients. Nevertheless, the administration of conventional cytostatic drugs is associated with severe and dose-limiting side effects. In an attempt to optimize existing clinical treatment regimens, in this study, we investigated the therapeutic efficacy of EDP-M in comparison with that of a paclitaxel-modified scheme (paclitaxel, doxorubicin, cisplatin plus mitotane (PDP-M)) in preclinical in vitro and in vivo models. In addition, based on an extraordinary uptake phenomenon of liposomes in ACC cells, we further evaluated liposomal variants of these protocols (etoposide, liposomal doxorubicin, liposomal cisplatin plus mitotane (LEDP-M) and nab-paclitaxel, liposomal doxorubicin, liposomal cisplatin plus mitotane (LPDP-M)). In vitro, PDP-M was more potent in the induction of apoptosis and inhibition of cell viability as well as cell proliferation than EDP-M. Following the administration of a single therapeutic cycle, we further demonstrated that LEDP-M and LPDP-M exerted significant antitumoral effects in vivo, which were not as evident upon EDP-M and PDP-M treatments. These results were confirmed in a long-term experiment, in which the highest and sustained antitumoral effects were observed for LEDP-M. In summary, liposomal cytostatic substances could represent a promising option that deserves testing in appropriate clinical protocols for the treatment of ACC patients.

Free access

A Falchetti and M L Brandi

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasias type 1 (MEN 1) and type 2 (MEN 2) represent complex inherited (autosomal dominant traits) syndromes characterized by occurrence of distinct proliferative disorders of endocrine tissues, varying from hyperplasia to adenoma and carcinoma.

MEN 1 syndrome is characterized by parathyroid gland, anterior pituitary and endocrine pancreas tumors. Other endocrine and non endocrine tumors, such as carcinoids, lipomas, pinealomas, adrenocortical and thyroid follicular tumors, have been also described in MEN 1 patients occurring at higher frequency than in general population (Brandi ML et al. 1987). Recently also a spinal ependymoma has been found in a patient with MEN 1 syndrome (Kato H et al 1997)

MEN 2 syndromes recognize three main clinical entities, MEN 2A, characterized by medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and pheochromocytoma (PHEO); MEN 2B that exhibits MTC, usually developing sooner than the MEN 2A- associated one, pheochromocytoma, multiple neuromas of gastroenteric mucosa, myelinated corneal nerves (Gorlin RJ et al. 1968) and a typical marphanoid habitus; and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma only (FMTC) featuring by families with at least four members with MTC and no objective evidence of pheochromocytoma and parathyroid disease on screening of affected and at-risk members, as stated by the International RET Mutation Consortium (Larsson C et al. 1994).

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants of the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (to MLB), from CNR/PF ACRO (INV. 95.00316 PF 39) and by MURST 60% (to MLB).