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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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Nele Garbrecht, Martin Anlauf, Anja Schmitt, Tobias Henopp, Bence Sipos, Andreas Raffel, Claus F Eisenberger, Wolfram T Knoefel, Marianne Pavel, Christian Fottner, Thomas J Musholt, Anja Rinke, Rudolf Arnold, Uta Berndt, Ursula Plöckinger, Bertram Wiedenmann, Holger Moch, Philipp U Heitz, Paul Komminoth, Aurel Perren, and Günter Klöppel

Somatostatin-producing neuroendocrine tumors (SOM-NETs) of the duodenum and pancreas appear to be heterogeneous. To determine their clinicopathological profiles, respective data were analyzed on a series of 82 duodenal and 541 pancreatic NETs. In addition, the clinical records of 821 patients with duodenal or pancreatic NETs were reviewed for evidence of a somatostatinoma syndrome. Predominant or exclusive expression of somatostatin was found in 21 (26%) duodenal and 21 (4%) pancreatic NETs. They were classified as sporadic (n=31) or neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)-associated duodenal NETs (n=3), gangliocytic paragangliomas (GCPGs; n=6), or poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas (pdNECs; n=2). In addition, five duodenal and four pancreatic SOM-NETs were found in five patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). Metastases occurred in 13 (43%) patients with sporadic or NF1-associated SOM-NETs, but in none of the duodenal or pancreatic MEN1-associated SOM-NETs or GCPGs. Sporadic advanced (stage IV) SOM-NETs were more commonly detected in the pancreas than in the duodenum. None of the patients (including the 821 patients for whom only the clinical records were reviewed) fulfilled the criteria of a somatostatinoma syndrome. Our data show that somatostatin expression is not only seen in sporadic NETs but may also occur in GCPGs, pdNECs, and hereditary NETs. Surgical treatment is effective in most duodenal and many pancreatic SOM-NETs. MEN1-associated SOM-NETs and GCPGs follow a benign course, while somatostatin-producing pdNECs are aggressive neoplasms. The occurrence of the so-called somatostatinoma syndrome appears to be extremely uncommon.

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Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Kate E Lines, Shani Avniel-Polak, Chas Bountra, and Rajesh V Thakker

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) occur usually as sporadic tumours; however, rarely, they may arise in the context of a hereditary syndrome, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), an autosomal dominant disorder characterised by the combined development of pancreatic NENs (pNENs) together with parathyroid and anterior pituitary tumours. The therapeutic decision for sporadic pNENs patients is multi-disciplinary and complex: based on the grade and stage of the tumor, various options (and their combinations) are considered, such as surgical excision (either curative or for debulking aims), biological drugs (somatostatin analogues), targeted therapies (mTOR inhibitors or tyrosine kinases (TK)/receptors inhibitors), peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT), chemotherapy, and liver-directed therapies. However, treatment of MEN1-related NENs’ patients is even more challenging, as these tumours are usually multifocal with co-existing foci of heterogeneous biology and malignant potential, rendering them more resistant to the conventional therapies used in their sporadic counterparts, and therefore associated with a poorer prognosis. Moreover, clinical data using standard therapeutic options in MEN1-related NENs are scarce. Recent preclinical studies have identified potentially new targeted therapeutic options for treating MEN1-associated NENs, such as epigenetic modulators, Wnt pathway-targeting β-catenin antagonists, Ras signalling modulators, Akt/mTOR signalling modulators, novel somatostatin receptors analogues, anti-angiogenic drugs, as well as MEN1 gene replacement therapy. The present review aims to summarize these novel therapeutic opportunities for NENs developing in the context of MEN1 syndrome, with an emphasis on pancreatic NENs, as they are the most frequent ones studied in MEN1-NENs models to date; moreover, due to the recent shifting nomenclature of ‘pituitary adenomas’ to ‘pituitary neuroendocrine neoplasms’, relevant data on MEN1-pituitary tumours, when appropriate, are briefly described.

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Hermine Mohr and Natalia S Pellegata

Animal models of cancer have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the biology of tumor initiation and progression, in studying gene function and in performing preclinical studies aimed at testing novel therapies. Several animal models of the MEN1 syndrome have been generated in different organisms by introducing loss-of-function mutations in the orthologues of the human MEN1 gene. In this review, we will discuss MEN1 and MEN1-like models in Drosophila, mice and rats. These model systems with their specific advantages and limitations have contributed to elucidate the function of Menin in tumorigenesis, which turned out to be remarkably conserved from flies to mammals, as well as the biology of the disease. Mouse models of MEN1 closely resemble the human disease in terms of tumor spectrum and associated hormonal changes, although individual tumor frequencies are variable. Rats affected by the MENX (MEN1-like) syndrome share some features with MEN1 patients albeit they bear a germline mutation in Cdkn1b (p27) and not in Men1. Both Men1-knockout mice and MENX rats have been exploited for therapy-response studies testing novel drugs for efficacy against neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and have provided promising leads for novel therapies. In addition to presenting well-established models of MEN1, we also discuss potential models which, if implemented, might broaden even further our knowledge of neuroendocrine tumorigenesis. In the future, patient-derived xenografts in zebrafish or mice might allow us to expand the tool-box currently available for preclinical studies of MEN1-associated tumors.

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M T Barakat, K Meeran, and S R Bloom

Neuroendocrine tumours are a heterogeneous group including, for example, carcinoid, gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, pituitary tumours, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid and phaeochromocytomas. They have attracted much attention in recent years, both because they are relatively easy to palliate and because they have indicated the chronic effect of the particular hormone elevated. As neuroendocrine phenotypes became better understood, the definition of neuroendocrine cells changed and is now accepted as referring to cells with neurotransmitter, neuromodulator or neuropeptide hormone production, dense-core secretory granules, and the absence of axons and synapses. Neuroendocrine markers, particularly chromogranin A, are invaluable diagnostically. Study of several neuroendocrine tumours has revealed a genetic etiology, and techniques such as genetic screening have allowed risk stratification and prevention of morbidity in patients carrying the particular mutation. Pharmacological therapy for these often slow-growing tumours, e.g. with somatostatin analogues, has dramatically improved symptom control, and radiolabelled somatostatin analogues offer targeted therapy for metastatic or inoperable disease. In this review, the diagnosis and management of patients with carcinoid, gut neuroendocrine tumours, multiple endocrine neoplasia types 1 and 2, and isolated phaeochromocytoma are evaluated.

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Eric Y Lian, Sarah M Maritan, Jessica G Cockburn, Katayoon Kasaian, Mathieu J F Crupi, David Hurlbut, Steven J M Jones, Sam M Wiseman, and Lois M Mulligan

The RET receptor tyrosine kinase mediates cell proliferation, survival and migration in embryogenesis and is implicated in the transformation and tumour progression in multiple cancers. RET is frequently mutated and constitutively activated in familial and sporadic thyroid carcinomas. As a result of alternative splicing, RET is expressed as two protein isoforms, RET9 and RET51, which differ in their unique C-terminal amino acids. These isoforms have distinct intracellular trafficking and associated signalling complexes, but functional differences are not well defined. We used shRNA-mediated knockdown (KD) of individual RET isoforms or of total RET to evaluate their functional contributions in thyroid carcinoma cells. We showed that RET is required for cell survival in medullary (MTC) but not papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) cells. In PTC cells, RET depletion reduced cell migration and induced a flattened epithelial-like morphology. RET KD decreased the expression of mesenchymal markers and matrix metalloproteinases and reduced anoikis resistance and invasive potential. Further, we showed that RET51 depletion had significantly greater effects on each of these processes than RET9 depletion in both MTC and PTC cells. Finally, we showed that expression of RET, particularly RET51, was correlated with malignancy in a panel of human thyroid tumour tissues. Together, our data show that RET expression promotes a more mesenchymal phenotype with reduced cell–cell adhesion and increased invasiveness in PTC cell models, but is more important for tumour cell survival, proliferation and anoikis resistance in MTC models. Our data suggest that the RET51 isoform plays a more prominent role in mediating these processes compared to RET9.

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Maria Chiara Zatelli, Elia Guadagno, Erika Messina, Fabio Lo Calzo, Antongiulio Faggiano, Annamaria Colao, and NIKE Group

The recent recognition that grade 3 (G3) neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) can be divided into two different categories according to the histopathological differentiation, that is G3 neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and G3 neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs) has generated a lot of interest concerning not only the diagnosis, but also the differential management of such new group of NENs. However, several issues need to be fully clarified in order to put G3 NETs and G3 NECs in the right place. The aim of this review is to focus on those issues that are still undetermined starting from the current knowledge, evaluating the available evidence and the possible clinical implications.

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Raffaele Ciampi, Thomas J Giordano, Kathryn Wikenheiser-Brokamp, Ronald J Koenig, and Yuri E Nikiforov

Chromosomal rearrangements of the RET proto-oncogene (RET/PTC) are the common feature of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). In this study, we report the identification, cloning, and functional characterization of a novel type of RET/PTC rearrangement that results from the fusion of the 3′-portion of RET coding for the tyrosine kinase (TK) domain of the receptor to the 5′-portion of the Homo sapiens hook homolog 3 (HOOK3) gene. The novel fusion was identified in a case of PTC that revealed a gene expression signature characteristic of RET/PTC on DNA microarray analysis, but was negative for the most common types of RET rearrangement. A fusion product between exon 11 of HOOK3 and exon 12 of RET gene was identified by 5′RACE, and the presence of chimeric HOOK3-RET protein of 88 kDa was detected by western blot analysis with an anti-RET antibody. The protein is predicted to contain a portion of the coiled-coil domains of HOOK3 and the intact TK domain of RET. Expression of the HOOK3-RET cDNA in NIH3T3 cells resulted in the formation of transformed foci and in tumor formation after injection into nude mice, confirming the oncogenic nature of HOOK3-RET.

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Alastair Davies, Amina Zoubeidi, and Luke A Selth

Tumours adapt to increasingly potent targeted therapies by transitioning to alternative lineage states. In prostate cancer, the widespread clinical application of androgen receptor (AR) pathway inhibitors has led to the insurgence of tumours relapsing with a neuroendocrine phenotype, termed neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC). Recent evidence suggests that this lineage reprogramming is driven largely by dysregulation of the epigenome and transcriptional networks. Indeed, aberrant DNA methylation patterning and altered expression of epigenetic modifiers, such as EZH2, transcription factors, and RNA-modifying factors, are hallmarks of NEPC tumours. In this review, we explore the nature of the epigenetic and transcriptional landscape as prostate cancer cells lose their AR-imposed identity and transition to the neuroendocrine lineage. Beyond addressing the mechanisms underlying epithelial-to-neuroendocrine lineage reprogramming, we discuss how oncogenic signaling and metabolic shifts fuel epigenetic/transcriptional changes as well as the current state of epigenetic therapies for NEPC.

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Atsuko Kasajima, Yuichi Ishikawa, Ayaka Iwata, Katja Steiger, Naomi Oka, Hirotaka Ishida, Akira Sakurada, Hiroyoshi Suzuki, Toru Kameya, Björn Konukiewitz, Günter Klöppel, Yoshinori Okada, Hironobu Sasano, and Wilko Weichert

In the light of novel cancer immune therapies, the status of antitumor inflammatory response and its regulation has gained much attention in patients with lung cancer. Ample datasets exist for non-small-cell lung cancer, but those for pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are scarce and controversial. Here, tumor-associated inflammation, CD8+ cell infiltration and PD-L1 status were evaluated in a cohort of 57 resected carcinoids and 185 resected neuroendocrine carcinomas of the lung (58 large cell carcinomas and 127 small cell carcinomas). Data were correlated with clinicopathological factors and survival. Moderate or high tumor-associated inflammation was detected in 4 carcinoids (7%) and in 37 neuroendocrine carcinomas (20%). PD-L1 immunoreactivity was seen in immune cells of 73 (39%) neuroendocrine carcinomas, while tumor cells were labeled in 21 (11%) cases. Inflammatory cells and tumor cells in carcinoids lacked any PD-L1 expression. In neuroendocrine carcinomas, PD-L1 positivity in immune cells, but not in tumor cells, was associated with intratumoral CD8+ cell infiltration (P < 0.001), as well as with the severity of tumor-associated inflammation (P < 0.001). In neuroendocrine carcinomas, tumor-associated inflammation and PD-L1 positivity in immune cells correlated with prolonged survival and the latter factor was also an independent prognosticator (P < 0.01, hazard ratio 0.4 for overall survival, P < 0.001 hazard ratio 0.4 for disease-free survival). Taken together, in neuroendocrine tumors, antitumor inflammatory response and PD-L1 expression are largely restricted to neuroendocrine carcinomas, and in this tumor entity, PD-L1 expression in inflammatory cells is positively correlated to patient survival.