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Andreas Machens, Steffen Hauptmann, and Henning Dralle

Rearranged during transfection (RET) germ-line mutations in exon 10 are peculiar because they produce both gain-of-function multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A and loss-of-function Hirschsprung's disease phenotypes. Drawing on 38 medullary thyroid cancer patients harboring germ-line mutations in codon 620 (n=8), 618 (n=19), 611 (n=10), and 609 (n=1), this study aimed to test the hypothesis that closer proximity of RET germ-line mutations in exon 10 to the cell membrane may translate into earlier or more advanced disease. The closer mutations in codon 620, 618, and 611 were located to the transmembrane domain (codons 657–636) of the RET receptor, the greater were mean primary tumor diameters (23.5, 18.7, and 7.5 mm, P=0.020), the frequency of lymph node metastasis (75, 68, and 30%, P=0.11) and pheochromocytoma (38, 16, and 0%, P=0.11). Periods of observation were broadly comparable for these groups (mean age 33.4–39.3 years; P=0.71). When mutations in adjoining codons were collapsed (codons 620/618 vs 611/609), the differences in mean primary tumor diameter (20.1 vs 7.4 mm, P=0.005) and lymph node metastasis (70 vs 36%; P=0.07) were accentuated. Compared with 80 carriers of exon 11 mutations (codon 634, n=78; codon 630, n=2), the 38 carriers of exon 10 mutations, which are rarer and confer a weaker transforming activity in vitro than exon 11 mutations, required significantly more time to develop fewer tumors. Although limited in numbers, these data suggested that membrane proximity is an important determinant of tumor development in carriers of RET mutations in exon 10.

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Stéphanie Durand, Carole Ferraro-Peyret, Mireille Joufre, Annie Chave, Françoise Borson-Chazot, Samia Selmi-Ruby, and Bernard Rousset

About 60–70% of papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) present a BRAF T1799A gene mutation or a rearrangement of RET gene (RET/PTC). In this study, we examined whether PTC without BRAF T1799A mutation and without RET/PTC rearrangement named PTC-ga(−) were distinguishable from PTC-ga(+) (with one or the other gene alteration) on the basis of gene expression characteristics. We analyzed the mutational state of 116 PTC and we compared gene expression profiles of PTC-ga(+) and PTC-ga(−) from data of a 200 gene macroarray and quantitative PCR. Seventy five PTC were PTC-ga(+) and 41 were PTC-ga(−). Unsupervised analyses of macroarray data by hierarchical clustering led to a complete segregation of PTC-ga(+) and PTC-ga(−). In a series of 42 genes previously recognized as PTC ‘marker’ genes, 22 were found to be expressed at a comparable level in PTC-ga(−) and normal tissue. Thyroid-specific genes, TPO, TG, DIO1, and DIO2 were under-expressed in PTC-ga(+) but expressed at a normal level in PTC-ga(−). A few genes including DUOX1 and DUOX2 were selectively dys-regulated in PTC-ga(−). Tumor grade of PTC-ga(−) was lower than that of PTC-ga(+). There was a strong association between the mutational state and histiotype of PTC; 81% of PTC follicular variants were corresponded to PTC-ga(−), whereas 84% of PTC of classical form were PTC-ga(+). In conclusion, we show that PTC without BRAF T1799A mutation or RET/PTC rearrangement, mainly corresponding to follicular variants, maintain a thyroid differentiation expression level close to that of normal tissue and should be of better prognosis than PTC with one or the other gene alteration.

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Cristina Rodríguez-Antona, Judith Pallares, Cristina Montero-Conde, Lucia Inglada-Pérez, Esmeralda Castelblanco, Iñigo Landa, Susanna Leskelä, Luis J Leandro-García, Elena López-Jiménez, Rocío Letón, Alberto Cascón, Enrique Lerma, M Carmen Martin, M Carmen Carralero, Didac Mauricio, Juan Cruz Cigudosa, Xavier Matias-Guiu, and Mercedes Robledo

Therapeutic options for patients with metastatic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) are limited due to lack of effective treatments. Thus, there is a need to thoroughly characterize the pathways of molecular pathogenesis and to identify potential targets for therapy in MTC. Since epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) seems to play a crucial role for RET activation, a key feature of MTCs, and several promising EGFR/vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2)-targeted drugs have been developed, the present study was designed to investigate whether these proteins are altered in MTCs. We used a well-characterized series of 153 MTCs to evaluate EGFR activation by sequencing and FISH analysis, and to perform EGFR and VEGFR2 immunohistochemistry. EGFR tyrosine kinase domain mutations were not a feature of MTCs; however, EGFR polysomy and a strong EGFR expression were detected in 15 and 13% of the tumors respectively. Interestingly, EGFR was significantly overexpressed in metastases compared with primary tumors (35 vs 9%, P=0.002). We also studied whether specific RET mutations were associated with EGFR status, and found a decrease in EGFR polysomies (P=0.006) and a tendency towards lower EGFR expression for the most aggressive RET mutations (918, 883). Concerning VEGFR2, metastasis showed a higher expression than primary tumors (P=2.8×10−8). In this first study investigating the relationship between EGFR, RET, and VEGFR2 in a large MTC series, we found an activation of EGFR and VEGFR2 in metastasis, using both independent and matched primary/metastasis samples. This suggests that some MTC patients may benefit from existing anti-EGFR/VEFGR2 therapies, although additional preclinical and clinical evidence is needed.

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B Cosci, A Vivaldi, C Romei, F Gemignani, S Landi, R Ciampi, A Tacito, E Molinaro, L Agate, V Bottici, V Cappagli, D Viola, P Piaggi, P Vitti, A Pinchera, and R Elisei

Germline and somatic RET oncogene mutations are found in 98% hereditary and 40% sporadic medullary thyroid carcinomas. Our aim was to analyse by in silico and in vitro assays the transforming activity of six rare RET mutations (T338I, V648I, M918V, A883T, S904F and M848T). Six known RET mutations were used as controls. The in silico analysis showed the highest score value (i.e. 65) for S904F, M848T, M918T and C634R, whereas L790F, G691S, T338I and V648I had 0 score. Intermediate score values were obtained by A883T (score=55), M918V, V804M and Y791F (score=15). The in vitro focus formation assay showed that cells transfected with S904F, M918T, M848T or C634R generated the largest number of focus formation units (FFU). Intermediate numbers of FFU were observed in cells transfected with M918V, V804M, Y791F or A883T, while cells transfected with L790F, G691S, T338I or V648I showed a number of FFU similar to control cells. A positive correlation between the in silico score and in vitro FFU was found (P=0.0005). Only cells transfected with M918T or C634R grew faster and generated higher number of colonies in soft agar than control cells. However, the cells that were transfected with V804M produced an intermediate number of colonies. In conclusion, two of the six rare RET mutations, S904F and M848T possessed a relatively high transforming activity but a low aggressiveness; the other four mutations T338I, V648I, M918V and A883T were low or non-transforming, and their ability to induce tumoural transformation might be related to particular genetic conditions.

Free access

Huy Gia Vuong, Toru Odate, Hanh T T Ngo, Thong Quang Pham, Thao T K Tran, Kunio Mochizuki, Tadao Nakazawa, Ryohei Katoh, and Tetsuo Kondo

There are ongoing debates with respect to the prognostic roles of molecular biomarkers in sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). In this study, we aimed at investigating the prognostic value of RET and RAS mutations – the two most common mutations in sporadic MTCs. A search was conducted in four electronic databases. Relevant data were extracted and pooled into odds ratios (OR), mean differences (MD) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) using the random-effect model. We used Egger’s regression test and visual of funnel plots to assess the publication bias. From 2581 studies, we included 23 studies with 964 MTCs for meta-analysis. Overall, the presence of RET mutation was associated with an elevated risk for lymph node metastasis (OR = 3.61; 95% CI = 2.33–5.60), distant metastasis (OR = 2.85; 95% CI = 1.64–4.94), advanced tumor stage (OR = 3.25; 95% CI = 2.02–5.25), tumor recurrence (OR = 3.01; 95% CI = 1.65–5.48) and patient mortality (OR = 2.43; 95% CI = 1.06–5.57). RAS mutation had no significant prognostic value in predicting tumor aggressiveness. To summarize, our results affirmed that RET mutation is a reliable molecular biomarker to identify a group of highly aggressive sporadic MTCs. It can help clinicians better assess patient prognosis and select appropriate treatment decisions.

Free access

S Rossi, L Fugazzola, L De Pasquale, P Braidotti, V Cirello, P Beck-Peccoz, S Bosari, and A Bastagli

We report the simultaneous occurrence of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), presenting as spatially distinct and well-defined tumour components, in three cases. In the first patient, histology, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy demonstrated an MTC in the one nodule and PTC in two additional lesions. Non-neoplastic thyroid parenchyma separated the three nodules. Metastasis from PTC was diagnosed in a regional lymph node. Genetic analysis of both tumour components showed a distinctive mutational pattern: in the MTC a Cys634Arg substitution in exon 11 of the RET gene and in the two PTC foci a Val600Glu substitution in exon 15 of the BRAF gene. The other two patients are members of a large multigenerational family affected with familial MTC due to a germline mutation of the RET gene (Ala891Ser). Both patients harboured, besides medullary cancer and C-cell hyperplasia, distinct foci of papillary thyroid cancer, which was positive for Val600Glu BRAF mutation. Review of the literature disclosed 18 similar lesions reported and allowed the identification of different patterns of clinical presentation and biological behaviour. So far, the pathogenesis of these peculiar cases of thyroid malignancy has been completely unknown, but an underlying common genetic drive has been hypothesised. This is the first report in which two mutations, in the RET and BRAF genes, have been identified in three cases of MTC/PTC collision tumour, thus documenting the different genetic origin of these two coexisting carcinomas.

Free access

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.

Free access

J K Ramage, A H Davies, and EORTC Quality of Life Group

Quality of life is multi-dimensional, including issues relating to symptoms from the disease but also social, emotional, functional and financial domains. Debate remains on the true definition of quality of life and its measurement. Quality of life measurements are best done by patients themselves, although, in some situations a proxy such as carer or relative can be substituted. Healthcare workers can over- or underestimate overall quality of life. Currently used devices for measuring quality of life in cancer include the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ-C30, which is a generic tool for all cancers and which requires the use of add-on modules for specific cancers. We are developing a separate module for carcinoid/neuroendocrine tumours, in accordance with the EORTC guidelines on module development, which will be translated into five languages and will be available for use throughout Europe.

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A H Bootsma, C H J van Eijck, L J Hofland, and S W J Lamberts

INTRODUCTION Breast cancer affects approximately 1 in every 12 women in western countries, where it is the leading cause of cancer death in women. Because of the heterogeneity of disease that has been observed at clinical, biological and genetic levels, investigation of the mechanism of breast cancer development is difficult. Delineating this heterogeneity will give opportunities to gain further insight into the cellular mechanisms that lead to breast cancer. It will also be clinically helpful, aiding the development of diagnostic screening programmes for women at risk, and facilitating the estimation of prognosis and the design of rational therapies adjusted to specific subgroups. In this review we summarize the current understanding of the functional role of somatostatin (SST) receptors (SSTRs) in human breast cancer cells. The distribution of SSTR subtypes, their relationship with the neuroendocrine differentiation of the cancers and genetic and patient characteristics, the role of in vivo SSTR visualization,
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Lucas Leite Cunha, Marjory Alana Marcello, Vinicius Rocha-Santos, and Laura Sterian Ward

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are agents that act by inhibiting the mechanisms of immune escape displayed by various cancers. The success of immune checkpoint inhibitors against several tumors has promoted a new treatment strategy in clinical oncology, and this has encouraged physicians to increase the number of patients who receive the immune checkpoint therapy. In the present article, we review the main concepts regarding immune checkpoint mechanisms and how cancer disrupts them to undergo immune escape. In addition, we describe the most essential concepts related to immune checkpoint inhibitors. We critically review the literature on preclinical and clinical studies of the immune checkpoint inhibitors as a treatment option for thyroid cancer, ovarian carcinoma, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, adrenocortical carcinoma and neuroendocrine tumors. We present the challenges and the opportunities of using immune checkpoint inhibitors against these endocrine malignancies, highlighting the breakthroughs and pitfalls that have recently emerged.