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Tanupriya Contractor, Richard Clausen, Grant R Harris, Jeffrey A Rosenfeld, Darren R Carpizo, Laura Tang, and Chris R Harris

By the strictest of definitions, a genetic driver of tumorigenesis should fulfill two criteria: it should be altered in a high percentage of patient tumors, and it should also be able to cause the same type of tumor to form in mice. No gene that fits either of these criteria has ever been found for ileal neuroendocrine tumors (I-NETs), which in humans are known for an unusual lack of recurrently mutated genes, and which have never been detected in mice. In the following report, we show that I-NETs can be generated by transgenic RT2 mice, which is a classic model for a genetically unrelated disease, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs). The ability of RT2 mice to generate I-NETs depended upon genetic background. I-NETs appeared in a B6AF1 genetic background, but not in a B6 background nor even in an AB6F1 background. AB6F1 and B6AF1 have identical nuclear DNA but can potentially express different allelic forms of imprinted genes. This led us to test human I-NETs for loss of imprinting, and we discovered that the IGF2 gene showed loss of imprinting and increased expression in the I-NETs of 57% of patients. By increasing IGF2 activity genetically, I-NETs could be produced by RT2 mice in a B6 genetic background, which otherwise never developed I-NETs. The facts that IGF2 is altered in a high percentage of patients with I-NETs and that I-NETs can form in mice that have elevated IGF2 activity, define IGF2 as the first genetic driver of ileal neuroendocrine tumorigenesis.

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Halfdan Sorbye, Grace Kong, and Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) is an established treatment for grade 1 and 2 gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors with an increased uptake on somatostatin receptor imaging (SRI). Patients with metastatic high-grade (WHO G3) gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (NET G3 and NEC) represent a heterogeneous subgroup with poor prognosis and standard platinum-etoposide chemotherapy have limited therapeutic benefit. However, there is promising emerging evidence supporting the effectiveness of PRRT in SRI-positive G3 disease. A review search for studies reporting on PRRT in gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms G3 was performed: four studies with more than ten cases were found. PRRT was mainly given as second- or third-line treatment in patients with progressive disease. Most patients had a pancreatic primary, 50% had well-differentiated tumors, and most had a Ki-67 <55%. Three studies showed similar results with promising response rates (31–41%) and disease control rates (69–78%). Progression-free survival (11–16 months) and survival (22–46 months) were best concerning patients with a Ki-67 <55%. Progression-free survival was 19 months in NET G3, 11 months for lowNEC (Ki-67 ≤55%) and 4 months for highNEC (Ki-67 >55%). PRRT should be considered for patients with increased uptake on SRI, both in gastroenteropancreatic NET G3 cases and as well as in NEC cases with a Ki-67 21–55%. PRRT for NEC with a Ki-67 >55% is less defined, but could be considered in highly selected cases after response to initial chemotherapy where all residual disease have high uptake on SRI. Dual tracer using 18F-FDG PET/CT and SRI provides important information for patient selection for PRRT in this heterogeneous complex high-grade disease.

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Fritz-Line Vélayoudom-Céphise, Pierre Duvillard, Lydia Foucan, Julien Hadoux, Cecile N Chougnet, Sophie Leboulleux, David Malka, Joël Guigay, Diane Goere, Thierry Debaere, Caroline Caramella, Martin Schlumberger, David Planchard, Dominique Elias, Michel Ducreux, Jean-Yves Scoazec, and Eric Baudin

The new WHO classification of gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) neuroendocrine tumors (NET) implies that G3 neoplasms with mitotic index >20 and/or Ki67 index >20% are neuroendocrine carcinomas (NEC), described as poorly differentiated, small or large cell types, by analogy with lung NEC. To characterize the subgroup of non-small-cell-type GEP and thoracic NET with mitotic index >20 and/or Ki67 >20% according to their pathological features, response to cisplatin and overall survival (OS). We reviewed pathological and clinical presentation of G3 non-small-cell-type NET referred to our institution for 5 years. Data from 166 patients with metastatic thoracic and GEP-NET were collected. Twenty-eight patients (17%) fulfill the inclusion criteria. Tumors were classified as well-differentiated NET (G3-WDNET) in 42.8% of cases and poorly differentiated, large-cell NEC (G3-LCNEC) in 57.2% of cases. Plasma chromogranin A or neuron-specific enolase were elevated in 42 and 25% respectively of G3-WDNET and 31 and 50% of G3-LCNEC. Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy was positive in 88 and 50% of G3-WDNET or G3-LCNEC respectively. Complete or partial response to cisplatin was observed in 31% of cases, all classified as G3-LCNEC. The median OS was 41 months for G3-WDNET but 17 months for G3-LCNEC (P=0.34). Short survival was observed in 25% of G3-WDNET but 62.5% of G3-LCNEC patients (P=0.049). G3 ENETS GEP and thoracic neuroendocrine neoplasms (NEN) could constitute a heterogeneous subgroup of NEN as regards diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. If confirmed, future classifications may consider splitting them into two groups according to their morphological differentiation.

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M Heetfeld, C N Chougnet, I H Olsen, A Rinke, I Borbath, G Crespo, J Barriuso, M Pavel, D O'Toole, T Walter, and other Knowledge Network members

Data on gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (NEN) G3 (well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumors (NET G3) and neuroendocrine carcinoma (NEC)) are limited. We retrospectively study patients with NET G3 and NEC from eight European centers. Data examined included clinical and pathological characteristics at diagnosis, therapies and outcomes. Two hundred and four patients were analyzed (37 NET G3 and 167 NEC). Median age was 64 (21–89) years. Tumor origin included pancreas (32%) and colon-rectum (27%). The primary tumor was resected in 82 (40%) patients. Metastatic disease was evident at diagnosis in 88% (liver metastases: 67%). Median Ki-67 index was 70% (30% in NET G3 and 80% in NEC; P<0.001). Median overall survival (OS) for all patients was 23 (95% CI: 18–28) months and significantly higher in NET G3 (99 vs 17 months in NEC; HR=8.3; P<0.001). Platinum-etoposide first line chemotherapy was administered in 113 (68%) NEC and 12 (32%) NET G3 patients. Disease control rate and progression free survival (PFS) were significantly higher in NEC compared to NET G3 (P<0.05), whereas OS was significantly longer in NET G3 (P=0.003). Second- and third-line therapies (mainly FOLFIRI and FOLFOX) were given in 79 and 39 of NEC patients; median PFS and OS were 3.0 and 7.6 months respectively after second-line and 2.5 and 6.2 months after third-line chemotherapy. In conclusion, NET G3 and NEC are characterized by significant differences in Ki-67 index and outcomes. While platinum-based chemotherapy is effective in NEC, it seems to have limited value in NET G3.

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Annemiek Walenkamp, Guillermo Crespo, Felipe Fierro Maya, Reidar Fossmark, Peter Igaz, Anja Rinke, Gianluca Tamagno, Giovanni Vitale, Kjell Öberg, and Tim Meyer

In the past few years, there have been advances in the treatment of neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) and improvements in our understanding of NET biology. However, the benefits to patients have been relatively modest and much remains yet to be done. The ‘Hallmarks of Cancer’, as defined by Hanahan and Weinberg, provide a conceptual framework for understanding the aberrations that underlie tumourigenesis and to help identify potential targets for therapy. In this study, our objective is to review the major molecular characteristics of NETs, based on the recently modified ‘Hallmarks of Cancer’, and highlight areas that require further research.

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Maria Chiara Zatelli, Erika Maria Grossrubatscher, Elia Guadagno, Concetta Sciammarella, Antongiulio Faggiano, and Annamaria Colao

The prognosis of neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) is widely variable and has been shown to associate with several tissue- and blood-based biomarkers in different settings. The identification of prognostic factors predicting NEN outcome is of paramount importance to select the best clinical management for these patients. Prognostic markers have been intensively investigated, also taking advantage of the most modern techniques, in the perspective of personalized medicine and appropriate resource utilization. This review summarizes the available data on the possible role of circulating tumor cells and microRNAs as prognostic markers in NENs.

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C Bouvier

Nurse developments in the management of neuroendocrine tumours have changed significantly over the past three years. At the Royal Free Hospital we set up the nurse specialist role due to the expansion of patients being referred to the specialist unit, and the obvious need for a nursing input into their care. The nurse specialist can make a significant contribution within the context of a multidisciplinary team especially in the production of guidelines and policies to ensure and maintain high standards of practice, education for the patient, and the provision of expertise and security that the patient requires when diagnosed with a rare disease.

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Giovanni Vitale, Alessandra Dicitore, Concetta Sciammarella, Sergio Di Molfetta, Manila Rubino, Antongiulio Faggiano, and Annamaria Colao

Somatostatin analogs have an important role in the medical therapy of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). Octreotide and lanreotide, both somatostatin analogs binding with high affinity for the somatostatin receptor (SSTR)2, can control symptoms in functional NETs. In addition, these compounds, because of their antiproliferative effects, can stabilize growth of well-differentiated NETs. Pasireotide is a novel multireceptor-targeted somatostatin analog with high affinity for SSTR1, 2, 3, and 5. This review provides an overview of the state of the art of pasireotide in the treatment of NETs, with the aim of addressing clinical relevance and future perspectives for this molecule in the management of NETs.

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Charlotte Veyrat-Durebex, Nathalie Bouzamondo, Morgane Le Mao, Juan Manuel Chao de la Barca, Céline Bris, Xavier Dieu, Gilles Simard, Cédric Gadras, Lydie Tessier, Delphine Drui, Françoise Borson-Chazot, Anne Barlier, Pascal Reynier, and Delphine Prunier-Mirebeau

Thirty percent of medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTCs) are related to dominant germline pathogenic variants in the RET proto-oncogene. According to their aggressiveness, these pathogenic variants are classified in three risk levels: ‘moderate’, ‘high’ and ‘highest’. The present study compares the metabolomics profiles of five pathogenic variants, whether already classified or not. We have generated six stable murine fibroblast cell lines (NIH3T3) expressing the WT allele or variants of the human RET gene, with different levels of pathogenicity, including the M918V variant that is yet to be accurately classified. We carried out a targeted metabolomics study of the cell extracts with a QTRAP mass spectrometer, using the Biocrates Absolute IDQ p180 kit, which allows the quantification of 188 endogenous molecules. The data were then subjected to multivariate statistical analysis. One hundred seventy three metabolites were accurately measured. The metabolic profiles of the cells expressing the RET variants were found to be correlated with their oncogenic risk. In addition, the statistical model we constructed for predicting the oncogenic risk attributed a moderate risk to the M918V variant. Our results indicate that metabolomics may be useful for characterizing the pathogenicity of the RET gene variants and their levels of aggressiveness.

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Cristina Rodríguez-Antona, Iván Muñoz-Repeto, Lucia Inglada-Pérez, Aguirre A de Cubas, Veronika Mancikova, Marta Cañamero, Agnieszka Maliszewska, Álvaro Gómez, Rocío Letón, Luis J Leandro-García, Iñaki Comino-Méndez, Lara Sanchez, Cristina Álvarez-Escolá, Javier Aller, Alberto Cascón, and Mercedes Robledo

The therapeutic options for patients with metastatic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) have recently increased due to the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), some of which have achieved remarkable clinical responses in MTC patients. However, the molecular basis for the large variability in TKI responses is unknown. In this exploratory study, we investigated the expression of eight key TKI target proteins (EGFR, KIT, MET, PDGFRB, VEGF (VEGFA), VEGFR1 (FLT1), VEGFR2 (KDR), and VEGFR3 (FLT4)) by immunohistochemistry in 103 molecularly characterized MTC samples and identified the associated clinical and molecular features. A number of MTC samples exhibited a high expression of VEGFR2 and VEGFR3, which were overexpressed in 57 and 43% of the MTC samples respectively. VEGFR1, PDGFRB, VEGF, KIT, and MET were present in 34–20% of the cases, while EGFR was highly expressed in only 10% of the MTC samples. Some proteins exhibited large differences in expression between sporadic and familial cases, suggesting that different RET mutations may be associated with the immunohistochemical profiles. MTC samples with the C634 RET mutation exhibited a higher expression of VEGFR3 and KIT than the M918T RET-mutated and non-mutated RET tumor samples (P=0.005 and P=0.007 respectively) and a lower expression of VEGFR1 (P=0.04). Non-mutated RET MTC cases exhibited a lower expression of PDGFRB (P=0.04). Overall, this is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that multiple TKI targets are highly expressed in a subset of MTCs, suggesting that molecular stratification of patients may have the potential to improve TKI therapies for MTC.