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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.

Open access

Diana E Benn, Bruce G Robinson, and Roderick J Clifton-Bligh

The paraganglioma (PGL) syndromes types 1–5 are autosomal dominant disorders characterized by familial predisposition to PGLs, phaeochromocytomas (PCs), renal cell cancers, gastrointestinal stromal tumours and, rarely, pituitary adenomas. Each syndrome is associated with mutation in a gene encoding a particular subunit (or assembly factor) of succinate dehydrogenase (SDHx). The clinical manifestations of these syndromes are protean: patients may present with features of catecholamine excess (including the classic triad of headache, sweating and palpitations), or with symptoms from local tumour mass, or increasingly as an incidental finding on imaging performed for some other purpose. As genetic testing for these syndromes becomes more widespread, presymptomatic diagnosis is also possible, although penetrance of disease in these syndromes is highly variable and tumour development does not clearly follow a predetermined pattern. PGL1 syndrome (SDHD) and PGL2 syndrome (SDHAF2) are notable for high frequency of multifocal tumour development and for parent-of-origin inheritance: disease is almost only ever manifest in subjects inheriting the defective allele from their father. PGL4 syndrome (SDHB) is notable for an increased risk of malignant PGL or PC. PGL3 syndrome (SDHC) and PGL5 syndrome (SDHA) are less common and appear to be associated with lower penetrance of tumour development. Although these syndromes are all associated with SDH deficiency, few genotype–phenotype relationships have yet been established, and indeed it is remarkable that such divergent phenotypes can arise from disruption of a common molecular pathway. This article reviews the clinical presentations of these syndromes, including their component tumours and underlying genetic basis.

Free access

H-C Jennifer Shen, Jennifer E Rosen, Lauren M Yang, Sharon A Savage, A Lee Burns, Carmen M Mateo, Sunita K Agarwal, Settara C Chandrasekharappa, Allen M Spiegel, Francis S Collins, Stephen J Marx, and Steven K Libutti

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is an autosomal dominant syndrome caused by mutations in the MEN1 tumor suppressor gene. Loss of the functional second copy of the MEN1 gene causes individuals to develop multiple endocrine tumors, primarily affecting the parathyroid, pituitary, and pancreas. While it is clear that the protein encoded by MEN1, menin, suppresses endocrine tumors, its biochemical functions and direct downstream targets remain unclear. Recent studies have suggested that menin may act as a scaffold protein to coordinate gene transcription, and that menin is an oncogenic cofactor for homeobox (HOX) gene expression in hematopoietic cancer. The role of HOX genes in adult cell differentiation is still obscure, but growing evidence suggests that they may play important roles in the development of cancer. Therefore, we hypothesized that specific HOX genes were regulated by menin in parathyroid tumor development. Utilizing quantitative TaqMan RT-PCR, we compared expression profiles of the 39 HOX genes in human familial MEN1 (fMEN1) parathyroid tumors and sporadic parathyroid adenomas with normal samples. We identified a large set of 23 HOX genes whose deregulation is specific for fMEN1 parathyroid tumors, and only 5 HOX genes whose misexpression are specific for sporadic parathyroid tumor development. These findings provide the first evidence that loss of the MEN1 tumor suppressor gene is associated with deregulation of specific HOX gene expression in the development of familial human parathyroid tumors. Our results strongly reinforce the idea that abnormal expression of developmental HOX genes can be critical in human cancer progression.

Free access

Misu Lee, Amelie Lupp, Nigel Mendoza, Niamh Martin, Rudi Beschorner, Jürgen Honegger, Jürgen Schlegel, Talia Shively, Elke Pulz, Stefan Schulz, Federico Roncaroli, and Natalia S Pellegata

Gonadotroph pituitary adenomas (GPAs) often present as invasive macroadenomas not amenable to complete surgical resection. Radiotherapy is the only post-operative option for patients with large invasive or recurrent lesions. No medical treatment is available for these patients. The somatostatin analogs (SSAs) octreotide and lanreotide that preferentially target somatostatin receptor type 2 (SSTR2) have little effect on GPAs. It is widely accepted that the expression of specific SSTR subtypes determines the response to SSAs. Given that previous studies on mRNA and protein expression of SSTRs in GPAs have generated conflicting results, we investigated the expression of SSTR2, SSTR3, and SSTR5 (the main targets of available SSAs) in a clinically and pathologically well-characterized cohort of 108 patients with GPAs. A total of 118 samples were examined by immunohistochemistry using validated and specific MABs. Matched primary and recurrent tissues were available for ten patients. The results obtained were validated in an independent cohort of 27 GPAs. We observed that SSTR3 was significantly more abundant than SSTR2 (P<0.0001) in GPAs, while full-length SSTR5 was only expressed in few tumors. Expression of SSTR3 was similar in primary and recurrent adenomas, was high in potentially aggressive lesions, and did not change significantly in adenomas that recurred after irradiation. In conclusion, low levels of expression of SSTR2 may account for the limited response of GPAs to octreotide and lanreotide. Given the potent anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, and anti-angiogenic activities of SSTR3, targeting this receptor with a multireceptor ligand SSA such as pasireotide may be indicated for potentially aggressive GPAs.

Free access

Françoise Galland, Ludovic Lacroix, Patrick Saulnier, Philippe Dessen, Geri Meduri, Michèle Bernier, Stéphane Gaillard, Jean Guibourdenche, Thierry Fournier, Danièle Evain-Brion, Jean Michel Bidart, and Philippe Chanson

Non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs) may be locally invasive. Markers of invasiveness are needed to guide patient management and particularly the use of adjuvant radiotherapy. To examine whether invasive NFPAs display a specific gene expression profile relative to non-invasive tumors, we selected 40 NFPAs (38 of the gonadotroph type) and classified them as invasive (n=22) or non-invasive (n=18) on the basis of magnetic resonance imaging and surgical findings. We then performed pangenomic analysis with the 44k Agilent human whole genome expression oligonucleotide microarray in order to identify genes with differential expression between invasive and non-invasive NFPAs. Candidate genes were then tested in qRT-PCR. Prediction class analysis showed that the expression of 346 genes differed between invasive and non-invasive NFPAs (P<0.001), of which 233 genes were up-regulated and 113 genes were down-regulated in invasive tumors. On the basis of Ingenuity networks and the degree of up- or down-regulation in invasive versus non-invasive tumors, 35 genes were selected for expression quantification by qRT-PCR. Overexpression of only four genes was confirmed, namely IGFBP5 (P=0.02), MYO5A (P=0.04), FLT3 (P=0.01), and NFE2L1 (P=0.02). At the protein level, only myosin 5A (MYO5A) immunostaining was stronger in invasive than in non-invasive NFPAs. Molecular signature allows to differentiate ‘grossly’ invasive from non-invasive NFPAs. The product of one of these genes, MYO5A, may be a useful marker of tumor invasiveness.

Free access

Marie-Lise Jaffrain-Rea, Sandra Rotondi, Annarita Turchi, Gianluca Occhi, Anne Barlier, Erika Peverelli, Lilya Rostomyan, Céline Defilles, Mariolina Angelini, Maria-Antonietta Oliva, Filippo Ceccato, Orlando Maiorani, Adrian F Daly, Vincenzo Esposito, Francesca Buttarelli, Dominique Figarella-Branger, Felice Giangaspero, Anna Spada, Carla Scaroni, Edoardo Alesse, and Albert Beckers

Germline aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) gene mutations confer a predisposition to pituitary adenoma (PA), predominantly GH-secreting (GH-PA). As recent data suggest a role for AIP in the pathogenesis of sporadic GH-PA and their response to somatostatin analogues (SSA), the expression of AIP and its partner, aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), was determined by semiquantitative immunohistochemistry scoring in 62 sporadic GH-PA (37 treated with SSA preoperatively). The influence of Gsp status was studied in a subset of tumours (n=39, 14 Gsp +) and six GH-PA were available for primary cultures. AIP and AHR were detected in most cases, with a positive correlation between AIP and cytoplasmic AHR (P=0.012). Low AIP expression was significantly more frequent in untreated vs SSA-treated tumours (44.0 vs 20.5%, P=0.016). AHR expression or localisation did not differ between the two groups. Similarly, in vitro octreotide induced a median twofold increase in AIP expression (range 1.2–13.9, P=0.027) in GH-PA. In SSA-treated tumours, the AIP score was significantly higher in the presence of preoperative IGF1 decrease or tumour shrinkage (P=0.008 and P=0.014 respectively). In untreated tumours, low AIP expression was significantly associated with invasiveness (P=0.028) and suprasellar extension (P=0.019). The only effect of Gsp status was a significantly lower nuclear AHR score in Gsp + vs Gsp tumours (P=0.025), irrespective of SSA. In conclusion, AIP is involved in the aggressiveness of sporadic GH-PA, regardless of Gsp status, and AIP up-regulation in SSA-treated tumours is associated with a better preoperative response, with no clear role for AHR.

Free access

Caroline Wilson, Hannah Brown, and Ingunn Holen

Multiple factors influence the survival of disseminated breast tumour cells (DTCs) in bone. Whereas gene signature studies have identified genes that predict a propensity of tumours to metastasise to bone, the bone environment is key in determining the fate of these tumour cells. Breast cancer cells locate to specific niches within the bone that support their survival, regulated by host factors within the bone microenvironment including bone cells, cells of the bone micro vasculature, immune cells and the extracellular matrix. Reproductive endocrine hormones that affect bone and clinical studies across the menopausal transition have provided comprehensive understanding of the changes in the bone microenvironment during this time. Menopause is characterized by a decrease in ovarian oestradiol and inhibins, with an increase in pituitary follicle-stimulating hormone and this review will focus on the role of these three hormones in determining the fate of DTCs in bone. Both in vivo and clinical data suggest that premenopausal bone is a conducive environment for growth of breast cancer cells in bone. Adjuvant cancer treatment aims to reduce the risk of tumour recurrence by affecting DTCs. Drugs targeting the bone resorbing osteoclasts, such as bisphosphonates, have therefore been evaluated in this setting. Both preclinical and adjuvant clinical studies have shown that bisphosphonates’ ability to decrease tumour growth in bone is influenced by the levels of endocrine hormones, with enhanced effects in a postmenopausal bone microenvironment. The challenge is to understand the molecular mechanisms behind this phenomenon and to evaluate if alternative adjuvant bone-targeted therapies may be effective in premenopausal women.

Free access

I Bossis, A Voutetakis, T Bei, F Sandrini, K J Griffin, and C A Stratakis

The type 1 alpha regulatory subunit (R1alpha) of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) (PRKAR1A) is an important regulator of the serine-threonine kinase activity catalyzed by the PKA holoenzyme. Carney complex (CNC) describes the association 'of spotty skin pigmentation, myxomas, and endocrine overactivity'; CNC is in essence the latest form of multiple endocrine neoplasia to be described and affects the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and gonadal glands. Primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD), a micronodular form of bilateral adrenal hyperplasia that causes a unique, inherited form of Cushing syndrome, is also the most common endocrine manifestation of CNC. CNC and PPNAD are genetically heterogeneous but one of the responsible genes is PRKAR1A, at least for those families that map to 17q22-24 (the chromosomal region that harbors PRKAR1A). CNC and/or PPNAD are the first human diseases to be caused by mutations in one of the subunits of the PKA holoenzyme. Despite the extensive literature on R1alpha and PKA, little is known about their potential involvement in cell cycle regulation, growth and/or proliferation. The presence of inactivating germline mutations and the loss of its wild-type allele in CNC lesions indicated that PRKAR1A could function as a tumor-suppressor gene in these tissues. However, there are conflicting data in the literature about PRKAR1A's role in human neoplasms, cancer cell lines and animal models. In this report, we review briefly the genetics of CNC and focus on the involvement of PRKAR1A in human tumorigenesis in an effort to reconcile the often diametrically opposite reports on R1alpha.

Free access

Mabel Ryder, Margaret Callahan, Michael A Postow, Jedd Wolchok, and James A Fagin

Novel immune checkpoint blockade with ipilimumab, an antibody blocking the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA4), is revolutionizing cancer therapy. However, ipilimumab induces symptomatic, sometimes severe, endocrine immune-related adverse events (irAEs) that are inconsistently recognized and reported. The objective of this review was to comprehensively characterize the incidence, presentation, and management of endocrinopathies following ipilimumab therapy in a single center that is highly specialized in immune checkpoint blockade. We carried out a retrospective analysis of endocrine irAEs in melanoma patients receiving ipilimumab therapy in clinical trials between 2007 and 2013. A total of 256 patients were included in this analysis. We reviewed pituitary-, thyroid-, and adrenal-related hormone test results, as well as radiographic studies and the clinical histories of patients, to identify and characterize cases of hypophysitis, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and adrenal dysfunction. Following ipilimumab therapy, the overall incidence of hypophysitis was 8% and that of hypothyroidism/thyroiditis 6%. Primary adrenal dysfunction was rare. Therapy with a combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab, an anti-programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, also called PD1) receptor antibody, was associated with a 22% incidence of either thyroiditis or hypothyroidism and a 9% incidence of hypophysitis. Symptomatic relief, in particular, for hypophysitis, was achieved in all patients with hormone replacement, although endogenous hormone secretion rarely recovered. In summary, we observed that CTLA4 blockade alone, and in particular in combination with PD1 blockade, is associated with an increased risk of symptomatic, sometimes severe, hypophysitis as well as thyroid dysfunction. Prompt initiation with hormone replacement reverses symptoms. Evaluation and reporting of endocrine irAEs in clinical trials should be done using standardized diagnostic criteria and terminology.

Free access

G Emons, C Gründker, A R Günthert, S Westphalen, J Kavanagh, and C Verschraegen

Approximately 80% of human ovarian and endometrial cancers and 50% of breast cancers express GnRH and its receptor as part of an autocrine regulatory system. After binding of its ligand the tumor GnRH receptor couples to G-protein alphai and activates a variety of intracellular signaling mechanisms. (1) Through activation of a protein tyrosine phosphatase, autophosphorylation of growth factor receptors is reverted leading to an inhibition of mitogenic signaling and reduced cell proliferation. (2) Through activation of nuclear factor kappa B antiapoptotic mechanisms are induced protecting tumor cells from apoptosis induced, for example, by doxorubicin. (3) Through activation of the Jun kinase pathway AP-1 is induced, leading to cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase. It seems reasonable to speculate that this system enables the tumor cell to reduce proliferation and to activate repair mechanisms while being protected simultaneously from apoptosis. Interestingly, GnRH antagonists show the same activity in this system as agonists, indicating that the dichotomy GnRH agonist-GnRH antagonist defined in the pituitary gonadotrope is not valid for the tumor GnRH system. Recently, a second type of GnRH receptor, specific for GnRH-II, has been identified in ovarian and endometrial cancers, which transmits significantly stronger antiproliferative effects than the GnRH-I receptor. GnRH antagonists have agonistic effects on this type II receptor. In animal models of human cancers, GnRH antagonists had stronger antitumor effects than GnRH agonists. Therefore, we performed a phase II clinical trial with the GnRH antagonist, cetrorelix (10 mg/day), in patients with ovarian or mullerian carcinoma refractory to platinum chemotherapy. Of 17 evaluable patients treated with cetrorelix, 3 obtained a partial remission (18%) which lasted for 2 to 6 months. Furthermore, 6 patients experienced disease stabilization (35%) for up to 1 year. In this very refractory patient population (median number of prior chemotherapies = 3) these results are quite remarkable when compared with palliative chemotherapy. In addition, cytotoxic GnRH analogs have been developed, where for example doxorubicin was covalently coupled to GnRH analogs. These compounds have superior antitumor effects in cancers expressing GnRH receptors as compared with native doxorubicin and allow for a targeted cytotoxic chemotherapy of gynecologic and breast cancers.