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Rachel S van Leeuwaarde, Joanne M de Laat, Carolina R C Pieterman, Koen Dreijerink, Menno R Vriens, and Gerlof D Valk

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 is a rare autosomal inherited disorder associated with a high risk for patients to simultaneously develop tumors of the parathyroid glands, duodenopancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and tumors of the anterior pituitary gland. Early identification of MEN1 in patients enables presymptomatic screening of manifestations, which makes timely interventions possible with the intention to prevent morbidity and mortality. Causes of death nowadays have shifted toward local or metastatic progression of malignant neuroendocrine tumors. In early cohorts, complications like peptic ulcers in gastrinoma, renal failure in hyperparathyroidism, hypoglycemia and acute hypercalcemia were the primary causes of early mortality. Improved medical treatments of these complications led to a significantly improved life expectancy. The MEN1 landscape is still evolving, considering the finding of breast cancer as a new MEN1-related manifestation and ongoing publications on follow-up and medical care for patients with MEN1. This review aims at summarizing the most recent insights into the follow-up and medical care for patients with MEN1 and identifying the gaps for future research.

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Daniela Cordella, Marina Muzza, Luisella Alberti, Paolo Colombo, Pietro Travaglini, Paolo Beck-Peccoz, Laura Fugazzola, and Luca Persani

Activating mutations of the RET proto-oncogene are associated with inherited syndromes, multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN2A/2B) and with familial and sporadic medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). Single base pair missense mutations in the extracellular Cys-rich domain are responsible for most MEN2A and familial MTC (FMTC) cases. Rarely, somatic deletions and germline duplications have been described in sporadic MTC and in FMTC. We report the detection and functional studies of a deletion/insertion in exon 11 (c.2646delGinsTTCT) associated with FMTC. This in-frame complex rearrangement leads to an Asn to Lys change (Lys666Asn) and to a Ser insertion. The mutation was found in the proband, who was diagnosed with metastatic MTC at 41 years, and in her son, who presented diffuse C-cells hyperplasia at 4 years of age. The mutation displayed a transforming activity stronger than Ret wild type (Ret-WT) at the focus formation assay and functional analyses after transient and stable transfection revealed an increased autophosphorylation, indicating the constitutive activation of the receptor. The transforming activity may be favoured by an increased stabilization of the fully mature form of the mutant receptor. Dimerization assay demonstrated that the activation mechanism of the complex mutation is not mediated by stable dimer formation. Computational analysis predicted nonconservative alterations in the mutant protein consistent with a possible modification of the conformation of the receptor. In conclusion, the first molecular studies on a complex germline RET mutation lying in the juxtamembrane region of the receptor are reported. Functional analyses showed that alterations at this level too can lead to a ligand independent Ret activation.

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Jenny Welander, Adam Andreasson, Michael Brauckhoff, Martin Bäckdahl, Catharina Larsson, Oliver Gimm, and Peter Söderkvist

Pheochromocytomas are neuroendocrine tumors arising from the adrenal medulla. While heritable mutations are frequently described, less is known about the genetics of sporadic pheochromocytoma. Mutations in genes involved in the cellular hypoxia response have been identified in tumors, and recently EPAS1, encoding HIF2α, has been revealed to be a new gene involved in the pathogenesis of pheochromocytoma and abdominal paraganglioma. The aim of this study was to further characterize EPAS1 alterations in non-familial pheochromocytomas. Tumor DNA from 42 adrenal pheochromocytoma cases with apparently sporadic presentation, without known hereditary mutations in predisposing genes, were analyzed for mutations in EPAS1 by sequencing of exons 9 and 12, which contain the two hydroxylation sites involved in HIF2α degradation, and also exon 2. In addition, the copy number at the EPAS1 locus as well as transcriptome-wide gene expression were studied by DNA and RNA microarray analyses, respectively. We identified six missense EPAS1 mutations, three in exon 9 and three in exon 12, in five of 42 pheochromocytomas (12%). The mutations were both somatic and constitutional, and had no overlap in 11 cases (26%) with somatic mutations in NF1 or RET. One sample had two different EPAS1 mutations, shown by cloning to occur in cis, possibly indicating a novel mechanism of HIF2α stabilization through inactivation of both hydroxylation sites. One of the tumors with an EPAS1 mutation also had a gain in DNA copy number at the EPAS1 locus. All EPAS1-mutated tumors displayed a pseudo-hypoxic gene expression pattern, indicating an oncogenic role of the identified mutations.

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Guido Rindi and Frediano Inzani

Neuroendocrine neoplasia is described in almost every tissue, either in the pure endocrine organs, the nerve structures or in the so-called diffuse neuroendocrine system. The current nomenclature contains time-honored, widely accepted definitions; however, it is different according to anatomical sites. Diverse definitions may generate confusion and non-standard patient management. The International Agency for Research on Cancer – World Health Organization (IARC-WHO) proposed a framework for universal classification of neuroendocrine neoplasia. Evidence indicates that neuroendocrine cancer is composed by cells with a distinctive phenotype characterized by the expression of general and specific neuroendocrine markers. The neuroendocrine phenotype is indicated as descriptor of a unique cancer category, now recommended for all organs as neuroendocrine neoplasm. Evidence indicates that neuroendocrine neoplasia may be well or poorly differentiated, with diverse incidence and prevalence in different organs. It is proposed that the well-differentiated neoplasm is universally defined as neuroendocrine tumor (NET) and the poorly differentiated as neoplasm neuroendocrine carcinoma (NEC). Evidence indicates that a cancer grading tool based on a proliferation measure by mitotic count, Ki67 % and/or necrosis assessment is useful to predict NET patient behavior. It is proposed to utilize this tool for grading NET universally, with site-specific cut-offs to be defined. It is also acknowledged that significant biological site-specific differences exist. It is recommended that current pathology reports contain this classification together with the current traditional classifiers. This IARC-WHO common classification framework for neuroendocrine neoplasm aims at uniformizing nomenclature toward different organs and at fostering the definition of a similar site-specific gene signature.

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P A Abrahamsson

The prognostic significance of neuroendocrine differentiation in prostatic malignancy is controversial, but the results of recent studies with markers such as chromogranin A and neurone-specific enolase suggest that neuroendocrine differentiation, as reflected by increased tissue expression or blood concentrations of these neuroendocrine secretory products, is associated with a poor prognosis, tumour progression, and androgen independence. As all malignant neuroendocrine cells are devoid of androgen receptors and the expression of neuroendocrine cells is not suppressed by androgen ablation, clonal propagation of androgen receptor-negative neuroendocrine cells may have an important role in the development of androgen-independent prostatic carcinoma. This has significant implications for the treatment of prostate cancer, because several of the hormones that are secreted by neuroendocrine differentiated, malignant prostatic cells are potential candidates for use in drug treatment. A limited number of hormones have been tested in this context, in particular somatostatin, bombesin, and serotonin. As there is currently no successful treatment for differentiated prostate cancer, new therapeutic procedures and trials need to be developed to test drugs based on neuroendocrine hormones or their antagonists.

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M Cecília Martins-Costa, Lucas L Cunha, Susan C Lindsey, Cleber P Camacho, Renata P Dotto, Gilberto K Furuzawa, M Sharmila A Sousa, Teresa S Kasamatsu, Ilda S Kunii, Márcio M Martins, Alberto L Machado, João R M Martins, Magnus R Dias-da-Silva, and Rui M B Maciel

Germline mutations in codon 918 of exon 16 of the RET gene (M918T) are classically associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN 2B) with highly aggressive medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), pheochromocytoma and a unique phenotype. The objectives of this study are to describe the rare M918V RET mutation discovered in 8 MTC kindreds from Brazil lacking the MEN 2B phenotype classically observed in M918T patients and to investigate the presence of a founder effect for this germline mutation. Eight apparently sporadic MTC cases were diagnosed with the germline M918V RET mutation. Subsequently, their relatives underwent clinical and genetic assessment (n = 113), and M918V was found in 42 of them. Until today, 20/50 M918V carriers underwent thyroidectomy and all presented MTC/C-cell hyperplasia; the remainder carriers are on clinical follow-up. None of the M918V carriers presented clinical features of MEN 2B. Their clinical presentation was heterogeneous, and the age at tumor diagnosis ranged from 24 to 59 years. Lymph node metastases were present in 12/20 patients, and presumable distant metastases in 2/20; in contrast, we observed a carrier of up to 87 years of age without evidence of MTC. Ethnographic fieldwork and haplotype analyses suggested that the founder mutation first settled in that area fifteen generations ago and originated from Portugal. Our study is the first to demonstrate the RET M918V mutation co-segregating in 8 familial MTC kindreds with validated evidence of a founder effect. We suggest that M918V MTC should be clinically considered an American Thyroid Association (ATA) moderate-risk category.

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Günter Klöppel

Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (GEP-NENs) are composed of cells with a neuroendocrine phenotype. The old and the new WHO classifications distinguish between well-differentiated and poorly differentiated neoplasms. All well-differentiated neoplasms, regardless of whether they behave benignly or develop metastases, will be called neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), and graded G1 (Ki67 <2%) or G2 (Ki67 2–20%). All poorly differentiated neoplasms will be termed neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs) and graded G3 (Ki67 >20%). To stratify the GEP-NETs and GEP-NECs regarding their prognosis, they are now further classified according to TNM-stage systems that were recently proposed by the European Neuroendocrine Tumour Society (ENETS) and the AJCC/UICC. In the light of these criteria the pathology and biology of the various NETs and NECs of the gastrointestinal tract (including the oesophagus) and the pancreas are reviewed.

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Jerena Manoharan, Max B Albers, and Detlef K Bartsch

Prospective randomized data are lacking, but current clinical expert guidelines recommend annual screening examinations, including laboratory assessments and various imaging modalities (e.g. CT, MRI, scintigraphy and EUS) for patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). Routine screening is proposed to detect and localize neuroendocrine manifestations as early as possible. The goal is timely intervention to improve quality of life and to increase life expectancy by preventing the development of life-threatening hormonal syndromes and/or metastatic disease. In recent years, some studies compared different and new imaging methods regarding their sensitivity and utility in MEN1 patients. This present article reviews the proposed diagnostic tools for MEN1 screening as well as potential future perspectives.

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S M Sadowski, G Cadiot, E Dansin, P Goudet, and F Triponez

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is a hereditary autosomal dominant disorder associated with numerous neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). Recent advances in the management of MEN1 have led to a decrease in mortality due to excess hormones; however, they have also led to an increase in mortality from malignancy, particularly NETs. The main challenges are to localize these tumors, to select those that need therapy because of the risk of aggressive behavior and to select the appropriate therapy associated with minimal morbidity. This must be applied to a hereditary disease with a high risk of recurrence. The overall aim of management in MEN1 is to ensure that the patient remains disease- and symptom-free for as long as possible and maintains a good quality of life. Herein, we review the changes that occurred in the last 20 years in the surgical management of MEN1-associated functional and non-functional pancreatico-duodenal NETs and thymic and bronchial NETs.

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Samuel A Wells Jr

Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), a tumor derived from the neural crest, occurs either sporadically or as the dominant component of the type 2 multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndromes, MEN2A and MEN2B. The discovery that mutations in the RET protooncogene cause hereditary MTC was of great importance, since it led to the development of novel methods of diagnosis and treatment. For example, the detection of a mutated RET allele in family members at risk for inheriting MEN2A or MEN2B signaled that they would develop MTC, and possibly other components of the syndromes. Furthermore, the detection of a mutated allele created the opportunity, especially in young children, to remove the thyroid before MTC developed, or while it was confined to the gland. The discovery also led to the development of molecular targeted therapeutics (MTTs), mainly tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which were effective in the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic MTC. While responses to MTTs are often dramatic, they are highly variable, and almost always transient, because the tumor cells become resistant to the drugs. Clinical investigators and the pharmaceutical industry are focusing on the development of the next generation of MTTs, which have minimal toxicity and greater specificity for mutated RET.