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Brandi B Knight, Gabriela M Oprea-Ilies, Arumugam Nagalingam, Lily Yang, Cynthia Cohen, Neeraj K Saxena, and Dipali Sharma

Obese breast cancer patients exhibit a higher risk for larger tumor burden and an increased likelyhood of metastasis. The molecular effects of obesity on carcinogenesis are mediated by the autocrine and paracrine effects of the adipocytokine leptin. Leptin participates in the tumor progression and metastasis of human breast. We show that leptin induces clonogenicity and increases the migration potential of breast cancer cells. We found that survivin expression is induced in response to leptin. In this study, we examine the role and leptin-mediated regulation of survivin. Leptin treatment leads to survivin upregulation, due in part to the activation of Notch1 and the release of a transcriptionally active Notch1 intracellular domain (NICD). Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis shows that NICD gets recruited to the survivin promoter at the CSL (CBF1/RBP-Jk, Su(H), Lag-1) binding site in response to leptin treatment. Inhibition of Notch1 activity inhibits leptin-induced survivin upregulation. Leptin-induced transactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in leptin-mediated Notch1 and survivin upregulation, demonstrating a novel upstream role of leptin–EGFR–Notch1 axis. We further show that leptin-induced migration of breast cancer cells requires survivin, as overexpression of survivin further increases, whereas silencing survivin abrogates leptin-induced migration. Using a pharmacological approach to inhibit survivin, we show that 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme-A-reductase inhibitors, such as lovastatin, can effectively inhibit leptin-induced survivin expression and migration. Importantly, leptin increased breast tumor growth in nude mice. These data show a novel role for survivin in leptin-induced migration and put forth pharmacological survivin inhibition as a potential novel therapeutic strategy. This conclusion is supported by in vivo data showing the overexpression of leptin and survivin in epithelial cells of high-grade ductal carcinomas in situ and in high-grade invasive carcinomas.

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Y Capodanno, F O Buishand, L Y Pang, J Kirpensteijn, J A Mol, and D J Argyle

Insulinomas (INS) are the most common neuroendocrine pancreatic tumours in humans and dogs. The long-term prognosis for malignant INS is still poor due to a low success rate of the current treatment modalities, particularly chemotherapy. A better understanding of the molecular processes underlying the development and progression of INS is required to develop novel targeted therapies. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be critical for the engraftment and chemoresistance of many tumours, including INS. This study was aimed to characterise and target INS CSCs in order to develop novel targeted therapies. Highly invasive and tumourigenic human and canine INS CSC-like cells were successfully isolated. These cells expressed stem cell markers (OCT4, SOX9, SOX2, CD133 and CD34), exhibited greater resistance to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and demonstrated a more invasive and tumourigenic phenotype in vivo compared to bulk INS cells. Here, we demonstrated that Notch-signalling-related genes (NOTCH2 and HES1) were overexpressed in INS CSC-like cells. Protein analysis showed an active NOTCH2-HES1 signalling in INS cell lines, especially in cells resistant to 5-FU. Inhibition of the Notch pathway, using a gamma secretase inhibitor (GSI), enhanced the sensitivity of INS CSC-like cells to 5-FU. When used in combination GSI and 5-FU, the clonogenicity in vitro and the tumourigenicity in vivo of INS CSC-like cells were significantly reduced. These findings suggested that the combined strategy of Notch signalling inhibition and 5-FU synergistically attenuated enriched INS CSC populations, providing a rationale for future therapeutic exploitation.

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María Andrea Camilletti, Alejandra Abeledo-Machado, Pablo A Perez, Erika Y Faraoni, Fernanda De Fino, Susana B Rulli, Jimena Ferraris, Daniel Pisera, Silvina Gutierrez, Peter Thomas, and Graciela Díaz-Torga

Membrane progesterone receptors are known to mediate rapid nongenomic progesterone effects in different cell types. Recent evidence revealed that mPRα is highly expressed in the rat pituitary, being primarily localized in lactotrophs, acting as an intermediary of P4-inhibitory actions on prolactin secretion. The role of mPRs in prolactinoma development remains unclear. We hypothesize that mPR agonists represent a novel tool for hyperprolactinemia treatment. To this end, pituitary expression of mPRs was studied in three animal models of prolactinoma. Expression of mPRs and nuclear receptor was significantly decreased in tumoral pituitaries compared to normal ones. However, the relative proportion of mPRα and mPRβ was highly increased in prolactinomas. Interestingly, the selective mPR agonist (Org OD 02-0) significantly inhibited PRL release in both normal and tumoral pituitary explants, displaying a more pronounced effect in tumoral tissues. As P4 also regulates PRL secretion indirectly, by acting on dopaminergic neurons, we studied mPR involvement in this effect. We found that the hypothalamus has a high expression of mPRs. Interestingly, both P4 and OrgOD 02-0 increased dopamine release in hypothalamus explants. Moreover, in an in vivo treatment, that allows both, pituitary and hypothalamus actions, the mPR agonist strongly reduced the hyperprolactinemia in transgenic females carrying prolactinoma. Finally, we also found and interesting gender difference: males express higher levels of pituitary mPRα/β, a sex that does not develop prolactinoma in these mice models. Taken together, these findings suggest mPRs activation could represent a novel tool for hyperprolactinemic patients, especially those that present resistance to dopaminergic drugs.

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Gerard A Tarulli, Lisa M Butler, Wayne D Tilley, and Theresa E Hickey

While it has been known for decades that androgen hormones influence normal breast development and breast carcinogenesis, the underlying mechanisms have only been recently elucidated. To date, most studies have focused on androgen action in breast cancer cell lines, yet these studies represent artificial systems that often do not faithfully replicate/recapitulate the cellular, molecular and hormonal environments of breast tumours in vivo. It is critical to have a better understanding of how androgens act in the normal mammary gland as well as in in vivo systems that maintain a relevant tumour microenvironment to gain insights into the role of androgens in the modulation of breast cancer development. This in turn will facilitate application of androgen-modulation therapy in breast cancer. This is particularly relevant as current clinical trials focus on inhibiting androgen action as breast cancer therapy but, depending on the steroid receptor profile of the tumour, certain individuals may be better served by selectively stimulating androgen action. Androgen receptor (AR) protein is primarily expressed by the hormone-sensing compartment of normal breast epithelium, commonly referred to as oestrogen receptor alpha (ERa (ESR1))-positive breast epithelial cells, which also express progesterone receptors (PRs) and prolactin receptors and exert powerful developmental influences on adjacent breast epithelial cells. Recent lineage-tracing studies, particularly those focussed on NOTCH signalling, and genetic analysis of cancer risk in the normal breast highlight how signalling via the hormone-sensing compartment can influence normal breast development and breast cancer susceptibility. This provides an impetus to focus on the relationship between androgens, AR and NOTCH signalling and the crosstalk between ERa and PR signalling in the hormone-sensing component of breast epithelium in order to unravel the mechanisms behind the ability of androgens to modulate breast cancer initiation and growth.

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Antonella Verrienti, Giovanni Tallini, Chiara Colato, Amélie Boichard, Saula Checquolo, Valeria Pecce, Marialuisa Sponziello, Francesca Rosignolo, Dario de Biase, Kerry Rhoden, Gian Piero Casadei, Diego Russo, Michela Visani, Giorgia Acquaviva, Marco Ferdeghini, Sebastiano Filetti, and Cosimo Durante

Advanced medullary thyroid cancers (MTCs) are now being treated with drugs that inhibit receptor tyrosine kinases, many of which involved in angiogenesis. Response rates vary widely, and toxic effects are common, so treatment should be reserved for MTCs likely to be responsive to these drugs. RET mutations are common in MTCs, but it is unclear how they influence the microvascularization of these tumors. We examined 45 MTCs with germ-line or somatic RET mutations (RETmut group) and 34 with wild-type RET (RETwt). Taqman Low-Density Arrays were used to assess proangiogenic gene expression. Immunohistochemistry was used to assess intratumoral, peritumoral and nontumoral expression levels of VEGFR1, R2, R3, PDGFRa, PDGFB and NOTCH3. We also assessed microvessel density (MVD) and lymphatic vessel density (LVD) based on CD31-positive and podoplanin-positive vessel counts, respectively, and vascular pericyte density based on staining for a-smooth muscle actin (a-SMA), a pericyte marker. Compared with RETwt tumors, RETmut tumors exhibited upregulated expression of proangiogenic genes (mRNA and protein), especially VEGFR1, PDGFB and NOTCH3. MVDs and LVDs were similar in the two groups. However, microvessels in RETmut tumors were more likely to be a-SMA positive, indicating enhanced coverage by pericytes, which play key roles in vessel sprouting, maturation and stabilization. These data suggest that angiogenesis in RETmut MTCs may be more intense and complete than that found in RETwt tumors, a feature that might increase their susceptibility to antiangiogenic therapy. Given their increased vascular pericyte density, RETmut MTCs might also benefit from combined or preliminary treatment with PDGF inhibitors.

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Luca Morandi, Alberto Righi, Francesca Maletta, Paola Rucci, Fabio Pagni, Marco Gallo, Sabrina Rossi, Leonardo Caporali, Anna Sapino, Ricardo V Lloyd, and Sofia Asioli

Hobnail variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (HPTC) represents a recently described, aggressive and rare group of thyroid tumors with poorly understood pathogenesis. Molecular data about this group of cancers are few, and a more detailed molecular characterization of these tumors is needed. The main objective of the study is to define a comprehensive molecular typing of HPTC. Eighteen patients affected by HPTC, including eighteen primary tumors and four lymph node metastases, were screened for NRAS, KRAS, HRAS, BRAF, TP53, PIK3CA, hTERT, PTEN, CDKN2A, EGFR, AKT1, CTNNB1 and NOTCH1 gene mutations. Sequencing is conducted on the MiSEQ system, and molecular data are compared with clinical-pathologic data and follow-up. The patients include 14 women and 4 men. Ages range from 23 to 87 years. All 18 primary tumors of HPTC showed ≥30% hobnail features. BRAF and TP53 mutations are by far the most common genetic alterations in primary HPTC (72.2% and 55.6%, respectively), followed by hTERT (44.4%), PIK3CA (27.8%), CTNNB1 (16.7%), EGFR (11.1%), AKT1 (5.5%) and NOTCH1 (5.5%). The mutational pattern in primary tumors and metastasis was usually maintained. Univariate Cox regression analyses with bootstrap procedure indicated a significantly increased mortality risk in patients harboring BRAF mutation and BRAF mutation associated with TP53 and/or PIK3CA mutations. The detection of these multiple mutations appears to allow the identification of a subset of more aggressive tumors within the group and to bear information that should be useful for prognostic stratification of these patients including the planning of adjuvant therapy.

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S K Kang, K-C Choi, H-S Yang, and P C K Leung

Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) functions as a key neuroendocrine regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. In addition to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, GnRH and its receptor have been detected in other reproductive tissues including the gonads, placenta and tumours arising from these tissues. Recently, a second form of GnRH (GnRH-II) and type II GnRH receptor have been found in normal ovarian surface epithelium and neoplastic counterparts. The two types of GnRH may play an important role as an autocrine/paracrine regulator of reproductive functions and ovarian tumour growth. In this review, the distribution and potential roles of GnRH-I/-II and their GnRH receptors in the ovarian cells and ovarian cancer will be discussed.

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Rafael Ríos, Carmen Belén Lupiañez, Daniele Campa, Alessandro Martino, Joaquin Martínez-López, Manuel Martínez-Bueno, Judit Varkonyi, Ramón García-Sanz, Krzysztof Jamroziak, Charles Dumontet, Andrés Jerez Cayuela, Marzena Wętek, Stephano Landi, Anna Maria Rossi, Fabienne Lesueur, Rui Manuel Reis, Victor Moreno, Herlander Marques, Artur Jurczyszyn, Vibeke Andersen, Ulla Vogel, Gabriele Buda, Enrico Orciuolo, Svend E H Jacobsen, Mario Petrini, Annette J Vangsted, Federica Gemignani, Federico Canzian, Manuel Jurado, and Juan Sainz

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) has been suggested to be a risk factor for multiple myeloma (MM), but the relationship between the two traits is still not well understood. The aims of this study were to evaluate whether 58 genome-wide-association-studies (GWAS)-identified common variants for T2D influence the risk of developing MM and to determine whether predictive models built with these variants might help to predict the disease risk. We conducted a case–control study including 1420 MM patients and 1858 controls ascertained through the International Multiple Myeloma (IMMEnSE) consortium. Subjects carrying the KCNQ1 rs2237892T allele or the CDKN2A-2B rs2383208G/G, IGF1 rs35767T/T and MADD rs7944584T/T genotypes had a significantly increased risk of MM (odds ratio (OR)=1.32–2.13) whereas those carrying the KCNJ11 rs5215C, KCNJ11 rs5219T and THADA rs7578597C alleles or the FTO rs8050136A/A and LTA rs1041981C/C genotypes showed a significantly decreased risk of developing the disease (OR=0.76–0.85). Interestingly, a prediction model including those T2D-related variants associated with the risk of MM showed a significantly improved discriminatory ability to predict the disease when compared to a model without genetic information (area under the curve (AUC)=0.645 vs AUC=0.629; P=4.05×10 06). A gender-stratified analysis also revealed a significant gender effect modification for ADAM30 rs2641348 and NOTCH2 rs10923931 variants (P interaction=0.001 and 0.0004, respectively). Men carrying the ADAM30 rs2641348C and NOTCH2 rs10923931T alleles had a significantly decreased risk of MM whereas an opposite but not significant effect was observed in women (ORM=0.71 and ORM=0.66 vs ORW=1.22 and ORW=1.15, respectively). These results suggest that TD2-related variants may influence the risk of developing MM and their genotyping might help to improve MM risk prediction models.

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Adrian F Daly, Philippe A Lysy, Céline Desfilles, Liliya Rostomyan, Amira Mohamed, Jean-Hubert Caberg, Veronique Raverot, Emilie Castermans, Etienne Marbaix, Dominique Maiter, Chloe Brunelle, Giampaolo Trivellin, Constantine A Stratakis, Vincent Bours, Christian Raftopoulos, Veronique Beauloye, Anne Barlier, and Albert Beckers

X-linked acrogigantism (X-LAG) syndrome is a newly described form of inheritable pituitary gigantism that begins in early childhood and is usually associated with markedly elevated GH and prolactin secretion by mixed pituitary adenomas/hyperplasia. Microduplications on chromosome Xq26.3 including the GPR101 gene cause X-LAG syndrome. In individual cases random GHRH levels have been elevated. We performed a series of hormonal profiles in a young female sporadic X-LAG syndrome patient and subsequently undertook in vitro studies of primary pituitary tumor culture following neurosurgical resection. The patient demonstrated consistently elevated circulating GHRH levels throughout preoperative testing, which was accompanied by marked GH and prolactin hypersecretion; GH demonstrated a paradoxical increase following TRH administration. In vitro, the pituitary cells showed baseline GH and prolactin release that was further stimulated by GHRH administration. Co-incubation with GHRH and the GHRH receptor antagonist, acetyl-(d-Arg2)-GHRH (1-29) amide, blocked the GHRH-induced GH stimulation; the GHRH receptor antagonist alone significantly reduced GH release. Pasireotide, but not octreotide, inhibited GH secretion. A ghrelin receptor agonist and an inverse agonist led to modest, statistically significant increases and decreases in GH secretion, respectively. GHRH hypersecretion can accompany the pituitary abnormalities seen in X-LAG syndrome. These data suggest that the pathology of X-LAG syndrome may include hypothalamic dysregulation of GHRH secretion, which is in keeping with localization of GPR101 in the hypothalamus. Therapeutic blockade of GHRH secretion could represent a way to target the marked hormonal hypersecretion and overgrowth that characterizes X-LAG syndrome.

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Fazlul H Sarkar, Yiwei Li, Zhiwei Wang, and Dejuan Kong

Among many endocrine-related cancers, prostate cancer (PCa) is the most frequent male malignancy, and it is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States. Therefore, this review focuses on summarizing the knowledge of molecular signaling pathways in PCa because, in order to better design new preventive strategies for the fight against PCa, documentation of the knowledge on the pathogenesis of PCa at the molecular level is very important. Cancer cells are known to have alterations in multiple cellular signaling pathways; indeed, the development and the progression of PCa are known to be caused by the deregulation of several selective signaling pathways such as the androgen receptor, Akt, nuclear factor-κB, Wnt, Hedgehog, and Notch. Therefore, strategies targeting these important pathways and their upstream and downstream signaling could be promising for the prevention of PCa progression. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge regarding the alterations in cell signaling pathways during the development and progression of PCa, and document compelling evidence showing that these are the targets of several natural agents against PCa progression and its metastases.