Cushing's syndrome (CS) is a severe endocrine disorder characterized by chronic cortisol excess due to an ACTH-secreting pituitary adenoma, ectopic ACTH production, or a cortisol-producing adrenal neoplasia. Regardless of the underlying cause, untreated CS is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. Surgery is the primary therapy for all causes of CS, but surgical failure and ineligibility of the patient to undergo surgery necessitate alternative treatment modalities. The role of medical therapy in CS has been limited because of lack of efficacy or intolerability. In recent years, however, new targets for medical therapy have been identified, both at the level of the pituitary gland (e.g. somatostatin, dopamine, and epidermal growth factor receptors) and the adrenal gland (ectopically expressed receptors in ACTH-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia). In this review, results of preclinical and clinical studies with drugs that exert their action through these molecular targets, as well as already established medical treatment options, will be discussed.
R van der Pas, W W de Herder, L J Hofland, and R A Feelders
Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Kate E Lines, Shani Avniel-Polak, Chas Bountra, and Rajesh V Thakker
Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) occur usually as sporadic tumours; however, rarely, they may arise in the context of a hereditary syndrome, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), an autosomal dominant disorder characterised by the combined development of pancreatic NENs (pNENs) together with parathyroid and anterior pituitary tumours. The therapeutic decision for sporadic pNENs patients is multi-disciplinary and complex: based on the grade and stage of the tumor, various options (and their combinations) are considered, such as surgical excision (either curative or for debulking aims), biological drugs (somatostatin analogues), targeted therapies (mTOR inhibitors or tyrosine kinases (TK)/receptors inhibitors), peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT), chemotherapy, and liver-directed therapies. However, treatment of MEN1-related NENs’ patients is even more challenging, as these tumours are usually multifocal with co-existing foci of heterogeneous biology and malignant potential, rendering them more resistant to the conventional therapies used in their sporadic counterparts, and therefore associated with a poorer prognosis. Moreover, clinical data using standard therapeutic options in MEN1-related NENs are scarce. Recent preclinical studies have identified potentially new targeted therapeutic options for treating MEN1-associated NENs, such as epigenetic modulators, Wnt pathway-targeting β-catenin antagonists, Ras signalling modulators, Akt/mTOR signalling modulators, novel somatostatin receptors analogues, anti-angiogenic drugs, as well as MEN1 gene replacement therapy. The present review aims to summarize these novel therapeutic opportunities for NENs developing in the context of MEN1 syndrome, with an emphasis on pancreatic NENs, as they are the most frequent ones studied in MEN1-NENs models to date; moreover, due to the recent shifting nomenclature of ‘pituitary adenomas’ to ‘pituitary neuroendocrine neoplasms’, relevant data on MEN1-pituitary tumours, when appropriate, are briefly described.
Kirsten L Dennison, Nyssa Becker Samanas, Quincy Eckert Harenda, Maureen Peters Hickman, Nicole L Seiler, Lina Ding, and James D Shull
The ACI rat model of 17β-estradiol (E2)-induced mammary cancer is highly relevant for use in establishing the endocrine, genetic, and environmental bases of breast cancer etiology and identifying novel agents and strategies for preventing breast cancer. E2 treatment rapidly induces mammary cancer in female ACI rats and simultaneously induces pituitary lactotroph hyperplasia and adenoma. The pituitary tumors can result in undesired morbidity, which compromises long-term studies focused on mammary cancer etiology and prevention. We have defined the genetic bases of susceptibility to E2-induced mammary cancers and pituitary tumors and have utilized the knowledge gained in these studies to develop a novel inbred rat strain, designated ACWi, that retains the high degree of susceptibility to E2-induced mammary cancer exhibited by ACI rats, but lacks the treatment-related morbidity associated with pituitary lactotroph hyperplasia/adenoma. When treated with E2, female ACWi rats developed palpable mammary cancer at a median latency of 116 days, an incidence of 100% by 161 days and exhibited an average of 15.6 mammary tumors per rat following 196 days of treatment. These parameters did not differ from those observed for contemporaneously treated ACI rats. None of the E2-treated ACWi rats were killed before the intended experimental end point due to any treatment-related morbidity other than mammary cancer burden, whereas 20% of contemporaneously treated ACI rats exhibited treatment-related morbidity that necessitated premature killing. The ACWi rat strain is well suited for use by those in the research community, focusing on breast cancer etiology and prevention.
Anne-Lise Lecoq, Say Viengchareun, Mirella Hage, Jérôme Bouligand, Jacques Young, Audrey Boutron, Philippe Zizzari, Marc Lombès, Philippe Chanson, and Peter Kamenický
Germline mutations in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein (AIP) gene predispose humans to pituitary adenomas through unknown molecular mechanisms. The best-known interacting partner of AIP is the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor that mediates the effects of xenobiotics implicated in carcinogenesis. As 75% of AIP mutations disrupt the physical and/or functional interaction with AhR, we postulated that the tumorigenic potential of AIP mutations might result from altered AhR signaling. We evaluated the impact of AIP mutations on the AhR signaling pathway, first in fibroblasts from AIP-mutated patients with pituitary adenomas, by comparison with fibroblasts from healthy subjects, then in transfected pituitary GH3 cells. The AIP protein level in mutated fibroblasts was about half of that in cells from healthy subjects, but AhR expression was unaffected. Gene expression analyses showed significant modifications in the expression of the AhR target genes CYP1B1 and AHRR in AIP-mutated fibroblasts, both before and after stimulation with the endogenous AhR ligand kynurenine. Kynurenine increased Cyp1b1 expression to a greater extent in GH3 cells overexpressing wild type compared with cells expressing mutant AIP. Knockdown of endogenous Aip in these cells attenuated Cyp1b1 induction by the AhR ligand. Both mutant AIP expression and knockdown of endogenous Aip affected the kynurenine-dependent GH secretion of GH3 cells. This study of human fibroblasts bearing endogenous heterozygous AIP mutations and transfected pituitary GH3 cells shows that AIP mutations affect the AIP protein level and alter AhR transcriptional activity in a gene- and tissue-dependent manner.
Christina Wei and Elizabeth C Crowne
Endocrine abnormalities are common among childhood cancer survivors. Abnormalities of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPAA) are relatively less common, but the consequences are severe if missed. Patients with tumours located and/or had surgery performed near the hypothalamic–pituitary region and those treated with an accumulative cranial radiotherapy dose of over 30 Gy are most at risk of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) deficiency. Primary adrenal insufficiency may occur in patients with tumours located in or involving one or both adrenals. The effects of adjunct therapies also need to be considered, particularly, new immunotherapies. High-dose and/or prolonged courses of glucocorticoid treatment can result in secondary adrenal insufficiency, which may take months to resolve and hence reassessment is important to ensure patients are not left on long-term replacement steroids inappropriately. The prevalence and cumulative incidences of HPAA dysfunction are difficult to quantify because of its non-specific presentation and lack of consensus regarding its investigations. The insulin tolerance test remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of central cortisol deficiency, but due to its risks, alternative methods with reduced diagnostic sensitivities are often used and must be interpreted with caution. ACTH deficiency may develop many years after the completion of oncological treatment alongside other pituitary hormone deficiencies. It is essential that health professionals involved in the long-term follow-up of childhood cancer survivors are aware of individuals at risk of developing HPAA dysfunction and implement appropriate monitoring and treatment.
Dorota Dworakowska and Ashley B Grossman
Pituitary adenomas are unique in multiple ways. They are rarely malignant in terms of metastases; yet, they may be aggressive. Their cancerous potential is defined in a classic oncological way by the ability to metastasise, and therefore, it has been crucial to differentiate this process from aggressive behaviour, characterised as a particularly invasive and/or recurrent behaviour and resistance to common modalities of therapy. Recently, however, important changes have been introduced to the diagnosis and management of aggressive and malignant pituitary tumours including the 4th edition of the World Health Organization (WHO) classification for endocrine tumours (2017) as well as ESE Clinical Guidelines (2018), although an attempt to establish predictive and/or prognostic markers of clinical aggressiveness remains difficult. In this review, we focus on a group of pituitary tumours causing significant problems in clinical practice and requiring multidisciplinary input. We summarise updates in definitions of tumour invasiveness, aggressiveness and malignant transformation, as well as histological classification, and emphasise the new considerations regarding aggressive and malignant potential and its relationship to therapeutic strategies.
Fateme Salehi, Kalman Kovacs, Bernd W Scheithauer, Ricardo V Lloyd, and Michael Cusimano
Pituitary tumor-transforming gene (PTTG) was only recently discovered. Its overexpression occurs in a wide variety of endocrine and non-endocrine tumors, including ones of pituitary, thyroid, ovary, breast, prostate, lung, esophagus, colon, and the central nervous system. It affects tumor invasiveness and recurrence in several systems, functions as a securin during cell cycle progression, and inhibits premature sister chromatid separation. PTTG is involved in multiple cellular pathways, including proliferation, DNA repair, transformation, angiogenesis induction, invasion, and the induction of genetic instability. In thyroid carcinomas, PTTG expression is a marker of invasiveness. PTTG is overexpressed in most pituitary adenomas, where it appears to correlate with recurrence and angiogenesis. Increasing evidence also points to the role of PTTG in endocrine organ development. For example, PTTG knockout mice show defective pancreatic β-cell proliferation. Herein, we review the current knowledge regarding PTTG-mediated pathways based on evidence from in vivo and in vitro studies as well as knockout mice models. We also summarize the issue of PTTG expression and its correlation with clinicopathologic parameters in patients with neoplasms, particularly of endocrine organs. In addition, we discuss in vitro and in vivo therapeutic models targeting PTTG overexpression.
B M Arafah and M P Nasrallah
Pituitary tumors are frequently encountered intracranial neoplasms. They present with a variety of clinical manifestations that include symptoms and signs of excessive hormone secretion by the tumor, signs of hormone deficits by the normal pituitary gland and others related to expansion of the tumor mass and the resulting compression of surrounding structures such as the optic chiasm and cranial nerves. Advances in molecular biology, immunocytochemical staining and imaging, and the introduction of new treatment options have improved our understanding of the natural history of these adenomas and their management. Available treatments include surgical, medical and radiation therapy. Although the primary treatment for each tumor type may vary, it is important to consider all available options and select the most applicable for that patient. The interaction of all members of management team, including the primary care provider, the endocrinologist and the neurosurgeon in selecting the treatment course can only improve therapeutic outcome. Regardless of the initial choice of treatment,follow-up of all patients should be maintained indefinitely. The managing physician should be familiar with the natural history and long-term complications of pituitary adenomas, and with the side effects of treatments given over the years.
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.
M L Jaffrain-Rea, D Di Stefano, G Minniti, V Esposito, A Bultrini, E Ferretti, A Santoro, L Faticanti Scucchi, A Gulino, and G Cantore
Pituitary tumours are usually benign neoplasia, but may have a locally aggressive or malignant evolution. This study aimed to identify factors which mostly influence their proliferative activity, in order to clarify its value for clinical and research purposes. The proliferative index was determined in a prospective series of 132 pituitary tumours as the percentage of monoclonal antibody MIB-1-immunopositive cells and referred to as the MIB-1 labelling index (LI). Its distribution was analysed according to both univariate and multivariate models. A life-threatening pituitary tumour is presented separately. The mean LI was 1.24+/-1.59%, with significant differences between clinically secreting (CS) and clinically non-secreting (CNS) adenomas. In CS adenomas (n=65), LI was highly variable and markedly influenced by pre-operative pharmacological treatment (0.80+/-1.03 vs 2.06+/-2.39% in treated vs untreated cases, P=0.009); it decreased with patient's age (P=0.025, r=0.28) and increased with tumour volume and invasiveness. The influence of pre-operative treatment and macroscopic features on LI in this group was confirmed by multivariate analysis. In CNS adenomas (n=67), LI distribution was less variable than in CS adenomas (P<0.0001), it was age-independent and correlations with tumour volume, invasiveness or recurrence did not reach significance. In a rapidly growing parasellar tumour, the mean LI was 24% at first surgery and exceeded 50% at second surgery performed 4 months later. LI should be interpreted according to hormone secretion and pre-operative treatment. Unusually high LI values deserve particular attention.