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Paola Sperone, Anna Ferrero, Fulvia Daffara, Adriano Priola, Barbara Zaggia, Marco Volante, Daniele Santini, Bruno Vincenzi, Giuseppe Badalamenti, Chiara Intrivici, Sabrina Del Buono, Silvia De Francia, Emmanouil Kalomirakis, Riccardo Ratti, Alberto Angeli, Luigi Dogliotti, Mauro Papotti, Massimo Terzolo, and Alfredo Berruti

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare neoplasm characterized by poor prognosis. First-line systemic treatments in advanced disease include mitotane, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy. Studies evaluating second-line therapy options have obtained disappointing results. This trial assessed the activity and toxicity of gemcitabine plus metronomic fluoropyrimidines in heavily pretreated advanced ACC patients. From 1998 to 2008, 28 patients with advanced ACC progressing after mitotane plus one or two systemic chemotherapy lines were enrolled. They received a combination of i.v. gemcitabine (800 mg/m2, on days 1 and 8, every 21 days) and i.v. 5-fluorouracil protracted infusion (200 mg/m2/daily without interruption until progression) in the first six patients, or oral capecitabine (1500 mg/daily) in the subsequent patients. Mitotane administration was maintained in all cases. The rate of non-progressing patients after 4 months of treatment was 46.3%. A complete response was observed in 1 patient (3.5%); 1 patient (3.5%) obtained a partial regression, 11 patients (39.3%) obtained a disease stabilization and 15 patients (53.7%) progressed. Treatment was well tolerated, with grade III and IV toxicities consisting of leukopenia in six patients (21.4%), thrombocytopenia in one patient (3.5%), and mucositis in one patient (3.5%). Median time to progression and overall survival in the patient population were 5.3 (range: 1–43) and 9.8 months (range: 3–73) respectively. Gemcitabine plus metronomic fluoropyrimidines is a well-tolerated and moderately active regimen in heavily pretreated ACC patients.

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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.

Free access

Wiebke Fenske, Hans-Ullrich Völker, Patrick Adam, Stefanie Hahner, Sarah Johanssen, Sebastian Wortmann, Melanie Schmidt, Michael Morcos, Hans-Konrad Müller-Hermelink, Bruno Allolio, and Martin Fassnacht

Owing to the rarity of adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) no prognostic markers have been established beyond stage and resection status. Accelerated glycolysis is a characteristic feature of cancer cells and in a variety of tumour entities key factors in glucose metabolism like glucose transporter 1 and 3 (GLUT1 and -3), transketolase like-1 enzyme (TKTL1) and pyruvate kinase type M2 (M2-PK) are overexpressed and of prognostic value. Therefore, we investigated the role of these factors in ACC. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed on tissue microarrays of paraffin-embedded tissue samples from 167 ACCs, 15 adrenal adenomas and 4 normal adrenal glands. Expression was correlated with baseline parameters and clinical outcome. GLUT1 and -3 were expressed in 33 and 17% of ACC samples respectively, but in none of the benign tumours or normal adrenals glands. By contrast, TKTL1 and M2-PK were detectable in all benign tissues and the vast majority of ACCs. GLUT1 expression was strongly associated with prognosis in univariate and multivariate analysis (P<0.01), whereas GLUT3, TKTL1 and M2-PK did not correlate with clinical outcome. Patients with strong GLUT1 staining showed a considerably higher overall mortality (hazard ratio (HR) 6.34 (95% confidence interval 3.10–12.90) compared with patients with no GLUT1 staining. When analysing patients in their early stages and advanced disease separately, similar results were obtained. HR for survival was 5.31 (1.80–15.62) in patients with metatastic ACC and in patients after radical resection the HR for disease-free survival was 6.10 (2.16–16.94). In conclusion, GLUT1 is a highly promising stage-independent, prognostic marker in ACC.

Free access

Michaela Luconi, Monica Mangoni, Stefania Gelmini, Giada Poli, Gabriella Nesi, Michela Francalanci, Nicola Pratesi, Giulia Cantini, Adriana Lombardi, Monica Pepi, Tonino Ercolino, Mario Serio, Claudio Orlando, and Massimo Mannelli

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare aggressive tumor with a poor prognosis. The lack of a specific and effective medical treatment is due to the poor knowledge of the mechanisms underlying tumor growth. Research on potential drugs able to specifically interfere with tumor proliferation is essential to develop more efficacious therapies. We evaluated for the first time the in vivo effect of rosiglitazone (RGZ), an anti-diabetic drug with in vitro anti-tumor properties, on ACC proliferation in a xenograft model obtained by s.c. injection of human ACC H295R cells in athymic mice. When the tumor size reached 5 mm, animals were allocated to 5 mg/kg RGZ- or water-treated groups. Tumor volume was measured twice a week. A significant reduction of tumor growth in RGZ versus control (control) group was observed and was already maximal following 17 day treatment (1−T/C=75.4% (43.7–93.8%)). After 31 days of treatment, mice were killed and tumor analyzed. Tumor histological evaluation revealed characteristics of invasiveness, richness in small vessels and mitotic figures in control group, while RGZ group tumors presented non infiltrating borders, few vessels, and many apoptotic bodies. Tumor immunohistochemistry showed that Ki-67 was reduced in RGZ versus control group. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR demonstrated a significant reduction in the expression of angiogenic (VEGF), vascular (CD31), proliferation (BMI-1), and anti-apoptotic (Bcl-2) genes in RGZ versus control group tumors. The same inhibitory effects were confirmed in in vitro RGZ-treated H295R. Our findings support and expand the role of RGZ in controlling ACC proliferation and angiogenesis in vivo and in vitro.

Free access

Anand Pathak, Douglas R Stewart, Fabio R Faucz, Paraskevi Xekouki, Sara Bass, Aurelie Vogt, Xijun Zhang, Joseph Boland, Meredith Yeager, Jennifer T Loud, Katherine L Nathanson, Katherine A McGlynn, Constantine A Stratakis, Mark H Greene, and Lisa Mirabello

Germline inactivating mutations of isoform 4 of phosphodiesterase (PDE) 11A (coded by the PDE11A gene) have been associated with familial adrenocortical tumors and familial testicular cancer. Testicular tissue is unique in expressing all four isoforms of PDE11A. In a prior candidate gene study of 94 familial testicular germ cell tumor (TGCT) subjects, we identified a significant association between the presence of functionally abnormal variants in PDE11A and familial TGCT risk. To validate this novel observation, we sequenced the PDE11A coding region in 259 additional TGCT patients (both familial and sporadic) and 363 controls. We identified 55 PDE11A variants: 20 missense, four splice-site, two nonsense, seven synonymous, and 22 intronic. Ten missense variants were novel; nine occurred in transcript variant 4 and one in transcript variant 3. Five rare mutations (p.F258Y, p.G291R, p.V820M, p.R545X, and p.K568R) were present only in cases and were significantly more common in cases vs controls (P=0.0037). The latter two novel variants were functionally characterized and shown to be functionally inactivating, resulting in reduced PDE activity and increased cAMP levels. In further analysis of this cohort, we focused on white participants only to minimize confounding due to population stratification. This study builds upon our prior reports implicating PDE11A variants in familial TGCT, provides the first independent validation of those findings, extends that work to sporadic testicular cancer, demonstrates that these variants are uncommonly but reproducibly associated with TGCT, and refines our understanding regarding which specific inactivating PDE11A variants are most likely to be associated with TGCT risk.

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

Susanna Vuorenoja, Bidut Prava Mohanty, Johanna Arola, Ilpo Huhtaniemi, Jorma Toppari, and Nafis A Rahman

Lytic peptide Hecate (23-amino acid (AA)) fused with a 15-AA fragment of human chorionic gonadotropin-β (CG-β), Hecate-CGβ conjugate (H-CGβ-c) selectively binds to and destroys tumor cells expressing LH/chorionic gonadotropin receptor (Lhcgr). Transgenic mice (6.5 month old) expressing SV40 T-antigen under the inhibin-α promoter (inhα/Tag) presenting with Lhcgr expressing adrenal tumors were treated either with H-CGβ-c, GnRH antagonist (GnRH-a), estradiol (E2; only females) or their combinations for 1 month. We expected that GnRH-a or E2 in combination with H-CGβ-c could improve the treatment efficacy especially in females by decreasing circulating LH and eliminating the potential competition of serum LH with the H-CGβ-c. GnRH-a and H-CGβ-c treatments were successful in males (adrenal weights 14±2.8 mg and 60±26 vs 237±59 mg in controls; P<0.05). Histopathologically, GnRH-a apparently destroyed the adrenal parenchyma leaving only the fibrotic capsule with few necrotic foci. In females, H-CGβ-c was totally ineffective, whereas GnRH-a (19±5 mg) or E2 (77±50 mg) significantly reduced the adrenal weights compared with controls (330±70 mg). Adrenal morphometry, cell proliferation markers, post-treatment suppression of serum progesterone, and quantitative RT-PCR of GATA-4, Lhcgr, and GATA-6 further supported the positive outcome. H-CGβ-c selectively killed the Lhcgr expressing tumor cells, whereas GnRH-a blocked tumor progression through gonadotropin suppression, emphasizing the gonadotropin dependency of these adrenocortical tumors. If extrapolated to humans, H-CGβ-c could be considered for the treatment of gonadotropin-dependent adrenal tumors in males, whereas in females gonadotropin suppression, but not H-CGβ-c, would work better.

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

Yunhui Cheng, Raili Emilia Kerppola, and Tom Klaus Kerppola

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) generally has poor prognosis. Existing treatments provide limited benefit for most patients with locally advanced or metastatic tumors. We investigated the mechanisms for the cytotoxicity, xenograft suppression, and adrenalytic activity of ATR-101 (PD132301-02), a prospective agent for ACC treatment. Oral administration of ATR-101 inhibited the establishment and impeded the growth of ACC-derived H295R cell xenografts in mice. ATR-101 induced H295R cell apoptosis in culture and in xenografts. ATR-101 caused mitochondrial hyperpolarization, reactive oxygen release, and ATP depletion within hours after exposure, followed by cytochrome c release, caspase-3/7 activation, and membrane permeabilization. The increase in mitochondrial membrane potential occurred concurrently with the decrease in cellular ATP levels. When combined with ATR-101, lipophilic free radical scavengers suppressed the reactive oxygen release, and glycolytic precursors prevented the ATP depletion, abrogating ATR-101 cytotoxicity. ATR-101 directly inhibited F1F0-ATPase activity and suppressed ATP synthesis in mitochondrial fractions. ATR-101 administration to guinea pigs caused oxidized lipofuscin accumulation in the zona fasciculata layer of the adrenal cortex, implicating reactive oxygen release in the adrenalytic effect of ATR-101. These results support the development of ATR-101 and other adrenalytic compounds for the treatment of ACC.