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T Vandamme, M Beyens, G Boons, A Schepers, K Kamp, K Biermann, P Pauwels, W W De Herder, L J Hofland, M Peeters, G Van Camp, and K Op de Beeck

Mutations in DAXX/ATRX, MEN1 and genes involved in the phosphoinositide-3-kinase/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K/Akt/mTOR) pathway have been implicated in pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (pNENs). However, mainly mutations present in the majority of tumor cells have been identified, while proliferation-driving mutations could be present only in small fractions of the tumor. This study aims to identify high- and low-abundance mutations in pNENs using ultra-deep targeted resequencing. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded matched tumor-normal tissue of 38 well-differentiated pNENs was sequenced using a HaloPlex targeted resequencing panel. Novel amplicon-based algorithms were used to identify both single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and insertion-deletions (indels) present in >10% of reads (high abundance) and in <10% of reads (low abundance). Found variants were validated by Sanger sequencing. Sequencing resulted in 416,711,794 reads with an average target base coverage of 2663 ± 1476. Across all samples, 32 high-abundance somatic, 3 germline and 30 low-abundance mutations were withheld after filtering and validation. Overall, 92% of high-abundance and 84% of low-abundance mutations were predicted to be protein damaging. Frequently, mutated genes were MEN1, DAXX, ATRX, TSC2, PI3K/Akt/mTOR and MAPK-ERK pathway-related genes. Additionally, recurrent alterations on the same genomic position, so-called hotspot mutations, were found in DAXX, PTCH2 and CYFIP2. This first ultra-deep sequencing study highlighted genetic intra-tumor heterogeneity in pNEN, by the presence of low-abundance mutations. The importance of the ATRX/DAXX pathway was confirmed by the first-ever pNEN-specific protein-damaging hotspot mutation in DAXX. In this study, both novel genes, including the pro-apoptotic CYFIP2 gene and hedgehog signaling PTCH2, and novel pathways, such as the MAPK-ERK pathway, were implicated in pNEN.

Free access

A Berruti, A Mosca, M Tucci, C Terrone, M Torta, R Tarabuzzi, L Russo, C Cracco, E Bollito, R M Scarpa, A Angeli, and L Dogliotti

The presence of neuroendocrine (NE) differentiation in the context of predominantly exocrine prostate cancer may play a key role in androgen-independent tumor growth. The prognostic significance of plasma chromogranin A (CgA) was assessed in a series of consecutive prostate cancer patients with hormone-refractory disease.

One hundred and eight patients with newly diagnosed hormone-refractory prostate cancer entered the study. Plasma CgA levels and other biochemical parameters, such as serum prostate specific antigen, serum alkaline phosphatase, serum lactate dehydrogenase, serum albumin and hemoglobin concentration, were measured at baseline (i.e. when hormone refractoriness occurred) and their prognostic role was evaluated together with patient performance status, Gleason score (at diagnosis of prostate cancer) and the presence of visceral metastases. Furthermore, plasma CgA was prospectively evaluated in 50 patients undergoing chemotherapy.

At baseline, 45 patients (43.3%) showed elevated CgA values. Plasma CgA negatively correlated with survival, either in univariate analysis (P=0.008) or in multivariate analysis, after adjusting for previously mentioned prognostic parameters (P<0.05). In the patient subset undergoing chemotherapy, median CgA (range) values were 13.3 (3.0–141.0) U/l at baseline, 19.1 (3.0–486.0) U/l after 3 months, 20.8 (3.0–702.0) U/l after 6 months and 39.4 (3.0–414.0) U/l after 9 months (P<0.01). The corresponding supranormal rates were 17/50 (34%), 23/50 (46%), 26/50 (52%) and 34/50 (68%) respectively (P<0.005).

Elevated plasma CgA levels are frequently observed in prostate cancer patients with hormone-refractory disease and correlate with poor prognosis. NE differentiation in hormone-refractory patients is a time-dependent phenomenon and is not influenced by conventional antineoplastic treatments.

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J Cros, O Hentic, V Rebours, M Zappa, N Gille, N Theou-Anton, D Vernerey, F Maire, P Lévy, P Bedossa, V Paradis, P Hammel, P Ruszniewski, and A Couvelard

Temozolomide (TEM) showed encouraging results in well-differentiated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (WDPNETs). Low O 6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) expression and MGMT promoter methylation within tumors correlate with a better outcome under TEM-based chemotherapy in glioblastoma. We aimed to assess whether MGMT expression and MGMT promoter methylation could help predict the efficacy of TEM-based chemotherapy in patients with WDPNET. Consecutive patients with progressive WDPNET and/or liver involvement over 50% who received TEM between 2006 and 2012 were retrospectively studied. Tumor response was assessed according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) 1.1 guidelines. Nuclear expression of MGMT was assessed by immunochemistry (H-score, 0–300) and MGMT promoter methylation by pyrosequencing. Forty-three patients (21 men, 58years (27–84)) with grade 1 WDPNET (n=6) or 2 (n=36) were analyzed. Objective response, stable disease, and progression rates were seen in 17 patients (39.5%), 18 patients (41.9%), and 8 patients (18.6%), respectively. Low MGMT expression (≤50) was associated with radiological objective response (P=0.04) and better progression-free survival (PFS) (HR=0.35 (0.15–0.81), P=0.01). Disease control rate at 18months of treatment remained satisfying with an MGMT score up to 100 (74%) but dropped with a higher expression. High MGMT promoter methylation was associated with a low MGMT expression and longer PFS (HR=0.37 (0.29–1.08), P=0.05). Low MGMT score (≤50) appears to predict an objective tumor response, whereas an intermediate MGMT score (50–100) seems to be associated with prolonged stable disease.

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S M Sadowski, C R C Pieterman, N D Perrier, F Triponez, and G D Valk

Metastatic duodenopancreatic neuro-endocrine tumors (dpNETs) are the most important disease-related cause of death in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1). Nonfunctioning pNETs (NF-pNETs) are highly prevalent in MEN1 and clinically heterogeneous. Therefore, management is controversial. Data on prognostic factors for risk stratification are limited. This systematic review aims to establish the current state of evidence regarding prognostic factors in MEN1-related NF-pNETs. We systematically searched four databases for studies assessing prognostic value of any factor on NF-pNET progression, development of distant metastases, and/or overall survival. In- and exclusion, critical appraisal and data-extraction were performed independently by two authors according to pre-defined criteria. Thirteen studies (370 unique patients) were included. Prognostic factors investigated were tumor size, timing of surgical resection, WHO grade, methylation, p27/p18 expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC), ARX/PDX1 IHC and alternative lengthening of telomeres. Results were complemented with evidence from studies in MEN1-related pNET for which data could not be separately extracted for NF-pNET and data from sporadic NF-pNET. We found that the most important prognostic factors used in clinical decision making in MEN1-related NF-pNETs are tumor size and grade. NF-pNETs <2 cm may be managed with watchful waiting, while surgical resection is advised for NF-pNETs ≥2 cm. Grade 2 NF-pNETs should be considered high risk. The most promising and MEN1-relevant avenues of prognostic research are multi-analyte circulating biomarkers, tissue-based molecular factors and imaging-based prognostication. Multi-institutional collaboration between clinical, translation and basic scientists with uniform data and biospecimen collection in prospective cohorts should advance the field.

Free access

C R C Pieterman, E B Conemans, K M A Dreijerink, J M de Laat, H Th M Timmers, M R Vriens, and G D Valk

Mutations of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) gene lead to loss of function of its protein product menin. In keeping with its tumor suppressor function in endocrine tissues, the majority of the MEN1-related neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) show loss of heterozygosity (LOH) on chromosome 11q13. In sporadic NETs, MEN1 mutations and LOH are also reported, indicating common pathways in tumor development. Prevalence of thymic NETs (thNETs) and pulmonary carcinoids in MEN1 patients is 2–8%. Pulmonary carcinoids may be underreported and research on natural history is limited, but disease-related mortality is low. thNETs have a high mortality rate. Duodenopancreatic NETs (dpNETs) are multiple, almost universally found at pathology, and associated with precursor lesions. Gastrinomas are usually located in the duodenal submucosa while other dpNETs are predominantly pancreatic. dpNETs are an important determinant of MEN1-related survival, with an estimated 10-year survival of 75%. Survival differs between subtypes and apart from tumor size there are no known prognostic factors. Natural history of nonfunctioning pancreatic NETs needs to be redefined because of increased detection of small tumors. MEN1-related gastrinomas seem to behave similar to their sporadic counterparts, while insulinomas seem to be more aggressive. Investigations into the molecular functions of menin have led to new insights into MEN1-related tumorigenesis. Menin is involved in gene transcription, both as an activator and repressor. It is part of chromatin-modifying protein complexes, indicating involvement of epigenetic pathways in MEN1-related NET development. Future basic and translational research aimed at NETs in large unbiased cohorts will clarify the role of menin in NET tumorigenesis and might lead to new therapeutic options.

Restricted access

H Klemen, F M Smolle-Jüttner, and H H Popper


Typical and atypical carcinoids are neuroendocrine epithelial lung tumours which are difficult to distinguish. Confusion has been introduced by designating atypical carcinoids as well differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas and including some tumours which are large cell neuroendocrine carcinomas.

We therefore investigated 32 typical and 23 atypical carcinoids of the lung, and 9 combined forms of atypical carcinoid and small cell carcinoma. The following parameters were each independently correlated in a multivariate analysis with 10-year survival data: nuclear and nucleolar polymorphism, mitotic counts, vascular invasion, lymph node metastasis, structural pattern, location of the tumours, immunohistochemistry, age and sex of the patients.

Typical carcinoids were characterized by an absence of vascular invasion and lymph node metastases, and a mean mitotic rate of 0.75/10 high power fields (HPFs), while atypical carcinoids were characterized by vascular invasion and/or metastases, a mean mitotic rate of 4.25/10 HPFs and nuclear pleomorphism. Combined forms of atypical carcinoid and small cell carcinoma were characterized by vascular invasion, metastases and a mean mitotic rate of 20.7/10 HPFs. Vascular invasion, lymph node metastases, mitotic counts and nuclear pleomorphism significantly correlated with 10-year survival data, whereas location, size and structural pattern of the tumour, age and sex did not correlate with survival. All tumours were positive for cytokeratins and at least two out of three general neuroendocrine markers. However, positive reactivity for different peptides, hormones, and neurotransmitters did not correlate with one of the structural subtypes of carcinoid or with patient survival.

Free access

Jennifer A Chan, David P Ryan, Andrew X Zhu, Thomas A Abrams, Brian M Wolpin, Paige Malinowski, Eileen M Regan, Charles S Fuchs, and Matthew H Kulke

Octreotide and everolimus have demonstrated efficacy in neuroendocrine tumors. Pasireotide is a somatostatin analog with binding affinity to a broader range of somatostatin receptor subtypes than octreotide. We performed a phase I study to evaluate the safety and feasibility of combining pasireotide with everolimus in patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors. Cohorts of patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors were treated with escalating doses of pasireotide (600–1200 μg s.c. b.i.d., followed by pasireotide LAR 40–60 mg i.m. monthly) and everolimus (5–10 mg daily). Twenty-one patients were treated. Dose-limiting toxicities consisting of grade 3 rash and grade 3 diarrhea were observed. Twelve patients were safely treated at the maximum protocol-defined dose level of pasireotide LAR 60 mg i.m. monthly and everolimus 10 mg daily. Hyperglycemia was common; other observed toxicities were consistent with the known toxicities of either agent alone. Partial tumor response was observed in one patient; 17 (81%) patients experienced at least some tumor regression as their best response to therapy. In conclusion, pasireotide LAR 60 mg i.m. monthly in combination with everolimus 10 mg daily is feasible and associated with preliminary evidence of antitumor activity in patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors. Further studies evaluating this combination are warranted.

Free access

Rosalinda M Savoy and Paramita M Ghosh

A new paper by Tawadros et al. in Endocrine-Related Cancer demonstrates a link between macrophage migration inhibitory factor and neuroendocrine differentiation in prostate cancer. This paper may have implications in explaining the effect of prostatitis and chronic inflammation on the development of aggressive prostate cancer.

Free access

J E S Ardill and B Erikkson

The measurement of general and specific biochemical markers in patients with neuroendocrine tumours assists with diagnosis and gives an indication of the effectiveness of treatment and they may be used as prognostic indicators. There is much agreement that chromogranin A is the most universally helpful marker; it is found to be elevated in the circulation of about 90% of patients with metastatic neuroendocrine tumours and there are several excellent commercially available kits which give reliable estimations. Specific markers are useful for diagnosis also, and are helpful indicators of the effectiveness of treatment, particularly where tumour bulk may not change as much as tumour activity. Sporadic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours may secrete more than one peptide and this indicates a worsening prognosis. Because of the wide variation in the progression of neuroendocrine tumours, a prognostic indicator gives a significant advantage to the clinician in order to facilitate optimum treatment at the optimum stage of disease. Both chromogranin A and neurokinin A have been used as powerful prognostic indicators for midgut carcinoid tumours.

Free access

Francesca Carlomagno, Teresa Guida, Suresh Anaganti, Livia Provitera, Svend Kjaer, Neil Q McDonald, Anderson J Ryan, and Massimo Santoro

ZD6474 (vandetanib, Zactima, Astra Zeneca) is an anilinoquinazoline used to target the receptor tyrosine kinase RET in familial and sporadic thyroid carcinoma (IC50: 100 nM). The aim of this study was to identify molecular determinants of RET sensitivity to ZD6474. Here, we show that mutation of RET tyrosine 806 to cysteine (Y806C) induced RET kinase resistance to ZD6474 (IC50: 933 nM). Y806 maps close to the gate-keeper position at the RET kinase nucleotide-binding pocket. Although tyrosine 806 is a RET auto-phosphorylation site, its substitution to phenylalanine (Y806F) did not markedly affect RET susceptibility to ZD6474 (IC50: 87 nM), suggesting that phosphorylation of Y806 is not required for compound binding. Accordingly, the introduction of a phosphomimetic residue (Y806E) also caused resistance to ZD6474, albeit of a lesser degree (IC50: 512 nM) than the cysteine mutation. Y806C/E RET mutants were also resistant to ZD6474 with respect to intracellular signalling and activation of an AP1-responsive promoter. We conclude that Y806 is a molecular determinant of RET sensitivity to ZD6474. Y806C is a natural RET mutation identified in a patient affected by multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B. Based on its rare occurrence, it is unlikely that Y806C will be a frequent cause of refractoriness to ZD6474; however, it may be envisaged that mutations at this site can mediate secondary resistance formation in patients treated with the compound.