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Open access

Tiantian Liu, Taylor C Brown, C Christofer Juhlin, Adam Andreasson, Na Wang, Martin Bäckdahl, James M Healy, Manju L Prasad, Reju Korah, Tobias Carling, Dawei Xu, and Catharina Larsson

The telomerase reverse transcriptase gene (TERT) encodes the reverse transcriptase component of the telomerase complex, which is essential for telomere stabilization and cell immortalization. Recent studies have demonstrated a transcriptional activation role for the TERT promoter mutations C228T and C250T in many human cancers, as well as a role in aggressive disease with potential clinical applications. Although telomerase activation is known in adrenal tumors, the underlying mechanisms are not established. We assessed C228T and C250T TERT mutations by direct Sanger sequencing in tumors of the adrenal gland, and further evaluated potential associations with clinical parameters and telomerase activation. A total of 199 tumors were evaluated, including 34 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC), 47 adrenocortical adenomas (ACA), 105 pheochromocytomas (PCC; ten malignant and 95 benign), and 13 abdominal paragangliomas (PGL; nine malignant and four benign). TERT expression levels were determined by quantitative RT-PCR. The C228T mutation was detected in 4/34 ACCs (12%), but not in any ACA (P=0.028). C228T was also observed in one benign PCC and in one metastatic PGL. The C250T mutation was not observed in any case. In the ACC and PGL groups, TERT mutation-positive cases exhibited TERT expression, indicating telomerase activation; however, since expression was also revealed in TERT WT cases, this could denote additional mechanisms of TERT activation. To conclude, the TERT promoter mutation C228T is a recurrent event associated with TERT expression in ACCs, but rarely occurs in PGL and PCC. The involvement of the TERT gene in ACC represents a novel mutated gene in this entity.

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

Sandra Rodríguez-Rodero, Elías Delgado-Álvarez, Agustín F Fernández, Juan L Fernández-Morera, Edelmiro Menéndez-Torre, and Mario F Fraga

Aberrant epigenetics is a hallmark of cancer, and endocrine-related tumors are no exception. Recent research has been identifying an ever-growing number of epigenetic alterations in both genomic DNA methylation and histone post-translational modification in tumors of the endocrine system. Novel microarray and ultra-deep sequencing technologies have allowed the identification of genome-wide epigenetic patterns in some tumor types such as adrenocortical, parathyroid, and breast carcinomas. However, in other cancer types, such as the multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes and thyroid cancer, tumor information is limited to candidate genes alone. Future research should fill this gap and deepen our understanding of the functional role of these alterations in cancer, as well as defining their possible clinical uses.

Free access

Sara Jung, Zoltan Nagy, Martin Fassnacht, Gerard Zambetti, Max Weiss, Martin Reincke, Peter Igaz, Felix Beuschlein, and Constanze Hantel

Systemic therapy of adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is limited by heterogeneous tumor response and adverse effects. Recently, we demonstrated anti-tumor activity of LEDP-M (etoposide, liposomal doxorubicin, liposomal cisplatin, mitotane), a liposomal variant of EDP-M (etoposide, doxorubicin, cisplatin, mitotane). To improve the therapeutic efficacy and off-target profiles of the clinical gold standard EDP-M, we investigated liposomal EDP-M regimens in different preclinical settings and in a small number of ACC patients with very advanced disease. Short- and long-term experiments were performed on two ACC models (SW-13 and SJ-ACC3) in vivo. We evaluated the anti-tumoral effects and off-target profiles of EDP-M, LEDP-M and a novel regimen L(l)EDP-M including liposomal etoposide. Furthermore, the role of plasma microRNA-210 as a therapeutic biomarker and first clinical data were assessed. Classical and liposomal protocols revealed anti-proliferative efficacy against SW-13 (EDP-M P < 0.01; LEDP-M: P < 0.001; L(l)EDP-M: P < 0.001 vs controls), whereas in SJ-ACC3, only EDP-M (P < 0.05 vs controls) was slightly effective. Long-term experiments in SW-13 demonstrated anti-tumor efficacy for all treatment schemes (EDP-M: P < 0.01, LEDP-M: P < 0.05, L(l)EDP-M P < 0.001 vs controls). The analysis of pre-defined criteria leading to study termination revealed significant differences for control (P < 0.0001) and EDP-M (P = 0.003) compared to L(l)EDP-M treatment. Raising its potential for therapy monitoring, we detected elevated levels of circulating microRNA-210 in SW-13 after LEDP-M treatment (P < 0.05). In contrast, no comparable effects were detectable for SJ-ACC3. However, overall histological evaluation demonstrated improved off-target profiles following liposomal regimens. The first clinical data indicate improved tolerability of liposomal EDP-M, thus confirming our results. In summary, liposomal EDP-M regimens represent promising treatment options to improve clinical treatment of ACC.

Free access

Régia Caroline Peixoto Lira, Paola Fernanda Fedatto, David Santos Marco Antonio, Letícia Ferro Leal, Carlos Eduardo Martinelli, Margaret de Castro, Silvio Tucci, Luciano Neder, Leandra Ramalho, Ana Luiza Seidinger, Izilda Cardinalli, Maria José Mastellaro, José Andres Yunes, Silvia Regina Brandalise, Luiz Gonzaga Tone, Sonir Roberto Rauber Antonini, and Carlos Alberto Scrideli

Deregulation of the IGF system observed in human tumors indicates a role in malignant cell transformation and in tumor cell proliferation. Although overexpression of the IGF2 and IGF1R genes was described in adrenocortical tumors (ACTs), few studies reported their profiles in pediatric ACTs. In this study, the IGF2 and IGF1R expression was evaluated by RT-qPCR according to the patient’s clinical/pathological features in 60 pediatric ACT samples, and IGF1R protein was investigated in 45 samples by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Whole transcriptome and functional assays were conducted after IGF1R inhibition with OSI-906 in NCI-H295A cell line. Significant IGF2 overexpression was found in tumor samples when compared with non-neoplastic samples (P<0.001), significantly higher levels of IGF1R in patients with relapse/metastasis (P=0.031) and moderate/strong IGF1R immunostaining in 62.2% of ACTs, but no other relationship with patient survival and clinical/pathological features was observed. OSI-906 treatment downregulated genes associated with MAPK activity, induced limited reduction of cell viability and increased the apoptosis rate. After 24h, the treatment also decreased the expression of genes related to the steroid biosynthetic process, the protein levels of the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR), and androgen secretion in cell medium, supporting the role of IGF1R in steroidogenesis of adrenocortical carcinoma cells. Our data showed that the IGF1R overexpression could be indicative of aggressive ACTs in children. However, in vitro treatments with high concentrations of OSI-906 (>1μM) showed limited reduction of cell viability, suggesting that OSI-906 alone could not be a suitable therapy to abolish carcinoma cell growth.

Free access

Debbie L Hay, Christopher S Walker, and David R Poyner

Adrenomedullin (AM), adrenomedullin 2 (AM2/intermedin) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) are members of the calcitonin family of peptides. They can act as growth or survival factors for a number of tumours, including those that are endocrine-related. One mechanism through which this occurs is stimulating angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. AM is expressed by numerous tumour types and for some cancers, plasma AM levels can be correlated with the severity of the disease. In cancer models, lowering AM content or blocking AM receptors can reduce tumour mass. AM receptors are complexes formed between a seven transmembrane protein, calcitonin receptor-like receptor and one of the two accessory proteins, receptor activity-modifying proteins (RAMPs) 2 or 3 to give the AM1 and AM2 receptors respectively. AM also has affinity at the CGRP receptor, which uses RAMP1. Unfortunately, due to a lack of selective pharmacological tools or antibodies to distinguish AM and CGRP receptors, the precise receptors and signal transduction pathways used by the peptides are often uncertain. Two other membrane proteins, RDC1 and L1/G10D (the ‘ADMR’), are not currently considered to be genuine CGRP or AM receptors. In order to properly evaluate whether AM or CGRP receptor inhibition has a role in cancer therapy, it is important to identify which receptors mediate the effects of these peptides. To effectively distinguish AM1 and AM2 receptors, selective receptor antagonists need to be developed. The development of specific CGRP receptor antagonists suggests that this is now feasible.

Free access

S G Creemers, L J Hofland, E Korpershoek, G J H Franssen, F J van Kemenade, W W de Herder, and R A Feelders

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare disease with a poor prognosis. Discrimination between ACCs and adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs) remains challenging, with the current gold standard being the Weiss score, consisting of several histopathological characteristics. However, new markers like Ki67, a marker for proliferation, and the staining of reticulins are promising not only as it comes to identifying malignancy but also as prognostic markers in patients with ACC. Currently, surgery is still the only curative treatment for ACC. Mitotane, an adrenolytic drug, is used in the adjuvant setting and in case of metastatic or advanced disease. Patients with progressive disease are frequently treated with mitotane, alone or in combination with etoposide, doxorubicine and cisplatin. Radiotherapy is indicated in selected cases. The low response rates and high toxicity of the systemic therapies emphasize the need for markers that enable the identification of responders and non-responders. Consequently, research is focusing on predictive factors varying from the expression of DNA repair genes to clinical patient characteristics. Subgroups of ACC with different prognosis have been identified based on transcriptome characteristics. As a conclusion from large molecular studies, ACCs appear to harbor many abnormalities compared to ACAs. Altered pathways driving ACC pathogenesis include the IGF, TP53 and the Wnt signaling pathway, allowing these as new potential targets for medical therapy. However, despite efforts in preclinical and clinical studies investigating efficacy of targeting these pathways, most novel therapies appear to be effective in only a subset of patients with ACC. New treatment concepts are therefore urgently needed.

Free access

Erwan Thouënnon, Alice Pierre, Yannick Tanguy, Johann Guillemot, Destiny-Love Manecka, Marlène Guérin, L'houcine Ouafik, Mihaela Muresan, Marc Klein, Jérôme Bertherat, Hervé Lefebvre, Pierre-François Plouin, Laurent Yon, and Youssef Anouar

Pheochromocytomas are catecholamine-producing tumors which are generally benign, but which can also present as or develop into malignancy. Molecular pathways of malignant transformation remain poorly understood. Pheochromocytomas express various trophic peptides which may influence tumoral cell behavior. Here, we investigated the expression of trophic amidated peptides, including pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP), neuropeptide Y (NPY), and adrenomedullin (AM), and their receptors in benign and malignant pheochromocytomas in order to assess their potential role in chromaffin cell tumorigenesis and malignant transformation. PACAP, NPY, and AM are expressed in the majority of pheochromocytomas studied; NPY exhibiting the highest mRNA levels relative to reference genes. Although median gene expression or peptide levels were systematically lower in malignant compared to benign tumors, no statistically significant difference was found. Among all the receptors of these peptides that were analyzed, only the AM receptor RDC1 displayed a differential expression between benign and malignant pheochromocytomas. This receptor exhibited a fourfold higher expression in malignant than in benign tumors. AM and stromal cell-derived factor 1, which has also been described as a ligand for RDC1, increased the number of human pheochromocytoma cells in primary culture and exerted anti-apoptotic activity on rat pheochromocytoma PC12 cells. In addition, RDC1 gene silencing decreased the number of viable PC12 cells. This study shows the expression of several trophic peptides and their receptors in benign and malignant pheochromocytomas, and suggests that AM and its RDC1 receptor could be involved in chromaffin cell tumorigenesis through pro-survival effects. Therefore, AM and RDC1 may represent valuable targets for the treatment of malignant pheochromocytomas.

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.