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Y M H Jonkers, S M H Claessen, A Perren, S Schmid, P Komminoth, A A Verhofstad, L J Hofland, R R de Krijger, P J Slootweg, F C S Ramaekers, and E-J M Speel

Endocrine pancreatic tumors (EPTs) comprise a highly heterogeneous group of tumors with different clinical behavior and genetic makeup. Insulinomas represent the predominant syndromic subtype of EPTs. The metastatic potential of insulinomas can frequently not be predicted using histopathological criteria, and also molecular markers indicating malignant progression are unreliable because of the small number of cases per subtype studied so far. For the identification of reliable indicators of metastatic disease, we investigated 62 sporadic insulinomas (44 benign and 18 tumors with metastases) by means of comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). In addition, the role of MEN1 (multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1) gene mutations was determined to assess specific chromosomal alterations associated with dysfunction of this endocrine tumor-related tumor suppressor gene. Only one case with a somatic MEN1 mutation was identified (1527del7bp), indicating that the MEN1 gene plays a minor pathogenic role in sporadic insulinomas. CGH analysis revealed that the total number of aberrations per tumor differs strongly between the benign and the malignant group (4.2 vs 14.1; P<0.0001). Furthermore, chromosome 9q gain was found to be the most frequent aberration in both benign and malignant insulinomas, whereas chromosome 6q losses and 12q, 14q and 17pq gains are strongly associated with metastatic disease. Our study shows that chromosomal instability, as defined by ≥5 gains together with ≥5 losses, or total number of gains and losses ≥8, rather than parameters such as tumor size and proliferation index, is the most powerful indicator for the development of metastatic disease in patients with sporadic insulinoma.

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S Fontanière, J Tost, A Wierinckx, J Lachuer, J Lu, N Hussein, F Busato, I Gut, Z-Q Wang, and C-X Zhang

Mutations of the MEN1 gene lead to the occurrence of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). To gain insights into the mechanisms of the tumorigenesis related to MEN1 inactivation, we have used mice in which the Men1 gene was specifically disrupted in pancreatic β-cells. In these mice, we observed full penetrance of insulinoma with defined histological characteristics of tumorigenesis. To identify the genetic factors taking part in the tumour development, we performed gene expression profiling analysis of these insulinomas at different stages. Here, we show that in late stage insulinomas, 56 genes are up-regulated and 194 are down-regulated more than fourfold compared with normal pancreatic islets. Clustering analysis reveals the deregulation of Hox gene family and the genes involved in cell proliferation and cell cycle control. The altered expression of Igf2, Igfbp3 and Igfbp6 as well as cyclin A2, B2 and D2 are confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR, with the overexpression of all the three cyclins found in early stage insulinomas. Moreover, an increased proportion of cyclin A2- and D2-expressing cells and the overexpression of insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) protein are detected in mouse Men1 insulinomas by immunostaining. Interestingly, the analysis of DNA methylation patterns by quantitative serial pyrosequencing reveals that four specific CpGs in the intragenic differentially methylated region 2 (DMR2) region of the Igf2 gene known to augment transcription through methylation are significantly hypermethylated in insulinomas of Men1 β-cell mutant mice at 6 and 10 months of age, even before IGF2 overexpression can be detected. Thus, our data indicate the involvement of both genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in early tumorigenesis of β-cells related to MEN1 inactivation.

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C D E Margetts, D Astuti, D C Gentle, W N Cooper, A Cascon, D Catchpoole, M Robledo, H P H Neumann, F Latif, and E R Maher

Phaeochromocytoma is a neural-crest-derived tumour that may be a feature of several familial cancer syndromes including von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2), neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and germline succinate dehydrogenase subunit (SDHB and SDHD) mutations. However the somatic genetic and epigenetic events that occur in phaeochromocytoma tumourigenesis are not well defined. Epigenetic events including de novo promoter methylation of tumour-suppressor genes are frequent in many human neoplasms. As neuroblastoma and phaeochromocytoma are both neural-crest-derived tumours, we postulated that some epigenetic events might be implicated in both tumour types and wished to establish how somatic epigenetic alterations compared in VHL-associated and sporadic phaeochromocytomas. We identified frequent aberrant methylation of HIC1 (82%) and CASP8 (31%) in phaeochromocytoma, but both genes were significantly more methylated in VHL phaeochromocytomas than in sporadic cases. Of four tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) receptors analysed, DR4 was most commonly methylated (41%; compared with DcR2 (26%), DcR1 (23%) and DR5 (10%)). Gene methylation patterns in phaeochromocytoma and neuroblastoma did not differ significantly suggesting overlapping mechanisms of tumourigenesis. We also investigated the role of 11p15.5-imprinted genes in phaeochromocytoma. We found that in 10 sporadic and VHL phaeochromocytomas with 11p15.5 allele loss, the patterns of methylation of 11p15.5-differentially methylated regions were consistent with maternal, rather than, paternal chromosome loss in all cases (P<0.001). This suggests that 11p15.5-imprinted genes may be implicated in the pathogenesis of both familial (germline VHL and SDHD mutations) and sporadic phaeochromocytomas.

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Sunita K Agarwal

The identification of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) gene in 1997 has shown that germline heterozygous mutations in the MEN1 gene located on chromosome 11q13 predisposes to the development of tumors in the MEN1 syndrome. Tumor development occurs upon loss of the remaining normal copy of the MEN1 gene in MEN1-target tissues. Therefore, MEN1 is a classic tumor suppressor gene in the context of MEN1. This tumor suppressor role of the protein encoded by the MEN1 gene, menin, holds true in mouse models with germline heterozygous Men1 loss, wherein MEN1-associated tumors develop in adult mice after spontaneous loss of the remaining non-targeted copy of the Men1 gene. The availability of genetic testing for mutations in the MEN1 gene has become an essential part of the diagnosis and management of MEN1. Genetic testing is also helping to exclude mutation-negative cases in MEN1 families from the burden of lifelong clinical screening. In the past 20 years, efforts of various groups world-wide have been directed at mutation analysis, molecular genetic studies, mouse models, gene expression studies, epigenetic regulation analysis, biochemical studies and anti-tumor effects of candidate therapies in mouse models. This review will focus on the findings and advances from these studies to identify MEN1 germline and somatic mutations, the genetics of MEN1-related states, several protein partners of menin, the three-dimensional structure of menin and menin-dependent target genes. The ongoing impact of all these studies on disease prediction, management and outcomes will continue in the years to come.

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Zhigang Zhao and Guohua Zeng

Early prostate cancer antigen (EPCA) has been recently suggested as a novel biomarker in malignant and premalignant lesions of the prostate. This study was to examine serum expression of EPCA and to further clarify the relationship between initial serum EPCA levels and the presence of subsequent cancer in the individuals with isolated high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN). An indirect ELISA was used for initial serum EPCA measurement in 112 men with isolated HGPIN, who were enrolled and completed a follow-up of ≥5 years. All patients had a detectable concentration of EPCA in the initial serum, with a mean of 0.64±0.13 absorbance at 450 nm. Thirty-three patients had an initial serum EPCA level of ≥1.10, in which 31 cases were subsequently identified as having prostate cancer on follow-up. However, in the remaining 79 cases, serum EPCA levels were all <1.10, and none was diagnosed with cancer later. Statistical analysis showed a significantly higher serum ECPA level in isolated HGPIN patients with subsequent cancer than those without cancer (P<0.001). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curves showed that serum EPCA level had better predictive accuracy of cancer onset on follow-up than prostate specific antigen velocity and abnormal digital rectal examination findings. Furthermore, univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses demonstrated the predictive performance independently by initial serum EPCA≥1.10 absorbance (relative risk, 3.32; 95% confidence intervals, 2.62–5.03, P<0.001). These preliminary findings first show the potential of serum EPCA to serve as a significant predictor for subsequent cancer in isolated HGPIN.

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C R C Pieterman, S M Sadowski, J E Maxwell, M H G Katz, K E Lines, C M Heaphy, A Tirosh, J E Blau, N D Perrier, M A Lewis, J P Metzcar, D M Halperin, R V Thakker, and G D Valk

The PanNET Working Group of the 16th International Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Workshop (MEN2019) convened in Houston, TX, USA, 27–29 March 2019 to discuss key unmet clinical needs related to PanNET in the context of MEN1, with a special focus on non-functioning (nf)-PanNETs. The participants represented a broad range of medical scientists as well as representatives from patient organizations, pharmaceutical industry and research societies. In a case-based approach, participants addressed early detection, surveillance, prognostic factors and management of localized and advanced disease. For each topic, after a review of current evidence, key unmet clinical needs and future research directives to make meaningful progress for MEN1 patients with nf-PanNETs were identified. International multi-institutional collaboration is needed for adequately sized studies and validation of findings in independent datasets. Collaboration between basic, translational and clinical scientists is paramount to establishing a translational science approach. In addition, bringing clinicians, scientists and patients together improves the prioritization of research goals, assures a patient-centered approach and maximizes patient involvement. It was concluded that collaboration, research infrastructure, methodologic and reporting rigor are essential to any translational science effort. The highest priority for nf-PanNETs in MEN1 syndrome are (1) the development of a data and biospecimen collection architecture that is uniform across all MEN1 centers, (2) unified strategies for diagnosis and follow-up of incident and prevalent nf-PanNETs, (3) non-invasive detection of individual nf-PanNETs that have an increased risk of metastasis, (4) chemoprevention clinical trials driven by basic research studies and (5) therapeutic targets for advanced disease based on biologically plausible mechanisms.

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G Eisenhofer, T-T Huynh, K Pacak, F M Brouwers, M M Walther, W M Linehan, P J Munson, M Mannelli, D S Goldstein, and A G Elkahloun

Pheochromocytomas in von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) syndrome produce exclusively norepinephrine, whereas those in multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) produce epinephrine. This study examined the pathways activated in VHL-associated pheochromocytomas by comparing gene expression profiles in VHL and MEN 2 tumors in relationship to profiles in sporadic norepinephrine- and epinephrine-producing tumors. Larger and more distinct differences in gene expression among hereditary than sporadic tumors indicated the importance of the underlying mutation to gene expression profiles. Many of the genes over-expressed in VHL compared with MEN 2 tumors were clearly linked to the hypoxia-driven angiogenic pathways that are activated in VHL-associated tumorigenesis. Such genes included those for the glucose transporter, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), placental growth factor, angiopoietin 2, tie-1, VEGF receptor 2 and its coreceptor, neuropilin-1. Other up-regulated genes, such as connective tissue growth factor, cysteine-rich 61, matrix metalloproteinase 1, vascular endothelial cadherin, tenascin C, stanniocalcin 1, and cyclooxygenases 1 and 2 are known to be involved in VEGF-regulated angiogenesis. Shared differences in expression of subsets of genes in norepinephrine- versus epinephrine-producing hereditary and sporadic pheochromocytomas indicated other differences in gene expression that may underlie the biochemical phenotype. Over-expression of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor, HIF-2α, in norepinephrine-predominant sporadic and VHL tumors compared with epinephrine-producing tumors indicates that expression of this gene depends on the noradrenergic biochemical phenotype. The findings fit with the known expression of HIF-2α in norepinephrine-producing cells of the sympathetic nervous system and might explain both the development and noradrenergic biochemical phenotype of pheochromocytomas in VHL syndrome.

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Vincenzo Corbo, Irene Dalai, Maria Scardoni, Stefano Barbi, Stefania Beghelli, Samantha Bersani, Luca Albarello, Claudio Doglioni, Christina Schott, Paola Capelli, Marco Chilosi, Letizia Boninsegna, Karl-Friedrich Becker, Massimo Falconi, and Aldo Scarpa

Pancreatic endocrine tumors (PETs) may be part of hereditary multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome. While MEN1 gene mutation is the only ascertained genetic anomaly described in PETs, no data exist on the cellular localization of MEN1-encoded protein, menin, in normal pancreas and PETs. A total of 169 PETs were used to assess the i) MEN1 gene mutational status in 100 clinically sporadic PETs by direct DNA sequencing, ii) immunohistochemical expression of menin in normal pancreas and 140 PETs, including 71 cases screened for gene mutations, and iii) correlation of these findings with clinical–pathological parameters. Twenty-seven PETs showed mutations that were somatic in 25 patients and revealed to be germline in 2 patients. Menin immunostaining showed strong nuclear and very faint cytoplasmic signal in normal islet cells, whereas it displayed abnormal location and expression levels in 80% of tumors. PETs harboring MEN1 truncating mutations lacked nuclear protein, and most PETs with MEN1 missense mutations showed a strong cytoplasmic positivity for menin. Menin was also misplaced in a significant number of cases lacking MEN1 mutations. In conclusion, the vast majority of PETs showed qualitative and/or quantitative alterations in menin localization. In 30% of cases, this was associated with MEN1 mutations affecting sequences involved in nuclear localization or protein–protein interaction. In cases lacking MEN1 mutations, the alteration of one of the menin interactors may have prevented its proper localization, as suggested by recent data showing that menin protein shuttles between the nucleus and cytoplasm and also affects the subcellular localization of its interactors.

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Lisa D Berman-Booty and Karen E Knudsen

Prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the USA and most western countries. Prostatic acinar adenocarcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of prostate cancer. Small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma is less frequently identified at the time of initial diagnosis, but this highly aggressive form of prostate cancer is increasingly observed in patients who have failed first- and second-line hormone therapy. Thus, developing and exploring models of neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NePC) are of increasing importance. This review examines the relevant xenograft tumor and genetically engineered mouse models of NePC, with the aim of addressing salient features and clinical relevance.

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Eva-Maria Duerr, Yusuke Mizukami, Aylwin Ng, Ramnik J Xavier, Hirotoshi Kikuchi, Vikram Deshpande, Andrew L Warshaw , Jonathan Glickman, Matthew H Kulke, and Daniel C Chung

Current classifications of human gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are inconsistent and based upon histopathologic but not molecular features. We sought to compare a molecular classification with the World Health Organization (WHO) histologic classification, identify genes that may be important for tumor progression, and determine whether gastrointestinal NETs (GI-NETs) differ in their molecular profile from pancreatic NETs (PNETs). DNA microarray analysis was performed to identify differentially expressed genes in PNETs and GI-NETs. Confirmation of expression levels was obtained by quantitative real-time PCR. Immunoblotting and mutational analysis were performed for selected genes. Hierarchical clustering of 19 PNETs revealed a ‘benign’ and ‘malignant’ cluster that corresponded well with the WHO categories of well-differentiated endocrine tumor (WDET) and well-differentiated endocrine carcinoma (WDEC) respectively. FEV, adenylate cyclase 2 (ADCY2), nuclear receptor subfamily 4, group A, member 2 (NR4A2), and growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible, beta (GADD45b) were the most highly up-regulated genes in the malignant group of PNETs. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) was expressed in both WDETs and WDECs, and phosphorylation of PDGFR-β was observed in 83% of all PNETs. Malignant ileal GI-NETs exhibited a distinctive gene expression profile, and extracellular matrix protein 1 (ECM), vesicular monoamine member 1 (VMAT1), galectin 4 (LGALS4), and RET Proto-oncogene (RET) were highly up-regulated genes. Gene expression profiles reflect the current WHO classification and can distinguish benign from malignant PNETs and also PNETs from GI-NETs. This suggests that molecular profiling may enhance tumor classification schemes. Potential gene targets have also been identified, and PDGFR and RET are candidates that may represent novel therapeutic targets.